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“It’s a swamp right now”: Buckingham landowners battle flooding, blame new construction

Neighbors seek solutions after they claim construction blocked a drainage ditch, leading to flooded yards and garages
Posted at 6:33 PM, Jul 10, 2024

BUCKINGHAM, Fla. — Landowners are battling flooding, and they believe new construction caused it.

Fox 4’s Austin Schargorodski went there after a man called him because water got in his yard and garage. Now, he and his neighbors are working to find a solution.

Golf cart tires sloshed though inches of standing water in Tim O’Hara’s yard, despite not seeing rain for days.

Aerial view of a golf cart sloshing though inches of standing water in Tim O'Hara's yard.
Aerial view of a golf cart sloshing though inches of standing water in Tim O'Hara's yard.

O’Hara is from Connecticut - he’s lived here part-time for four years and said he’s loved every second…up until now.

“My property - it’s a swamp right now. You can’t go outside because it’s full of mosquitoes and it stinks,” said O’Hara.

Tim O'Hara, Buckingham resident.
Tim O'Hara, Buckingham resident.

O’Hara isn’t the only one dealing with this.

Michelle Sullivan lives next door in Buckingham and said the flooding is affecting her horses.

“My poor horses are standing in water, which is not healthy for their feet. They start to get foot rot and it’s painful for them,” said Sullivan.

One of Michelle Sullivan's horses, hoof-deep in standing water in her yard.
One of Michelle Sullivan's horses, hoof-deep in standing water in her yard.

They say the water used to run out through a ditch until the construction blocked it off. Sullivan believes they have property rights to prevent this, so they complained to Lee County.

O’Hara said Lee County sent an inspector, who determined the contractor did nothing wrong and that the former property owner had illegally dug the drainage ditch.

Aerial view of the drainage ditch blocked by the new construction.
Aerial view of the drainage ditch blocked by the new construction.

“His feeling on this was to build a bigger berm so the water wouldn’t come on my property. That’s not a way to fix things, that only creates a problem for someone else,” said O’Hara.

The neighbors want the water to flow as it used to, so they turned to the South Florida Water Management District for help. An agent confirmed that the developer meets all de-watering requirements.

Aerial view of the new construction behind Tim O'Hara and Michelle Sullivan's houses.
Aerial view of the new construction behind Tim O'Hara and Michelle Sullivan's houses.

A Lee County spokesperson said this situation is a civil matter between property owners. So, the engineer of the development will work with the property owners to find a solution.

“Not looking to cause problems, just looking for some help,” said Sullivan.

Michelle Sullivan, Buckingham resident.
Michelle Sullivan, Buckingham resident.

“I’d just like to get this figured out, get my lot dried out, and move on with life,” said O’Hara.