“It smells bad”: Baymeadows retention pond drained, leaves neighbors full of concerns

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A lake in the Meadow Walk neighborhood in Baymeadows attracted many new homebuyers. It’s the same reason many now wish they could move out.

Randy Fridkis was one of those buyers in March of last year. He said the lake would be perfect for his 2-year-old grandson.

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“I bought this house because of that — so he could be feeding the ducks, and we would enjoy that together. Can’t do that anymore,” he told Action News Jax’s Robert Grant.

In June the retention pond was drained by about three feet for a new construction project by D.R. Horton.

According to permits obtained by Action News Jax, the retention pond was drained to increase the storage level and reduce flooding from big storms.

But neighbors said the result has a negative side effect.

“It’s effected our shorelines; we’re already experiencing erosion,” Fridkis, who also serves as the HOA president, said. “When the wind blows in the right direction, and even in the wrong direction, it smells really bad.”

Neighbors said the muck left behind attracts bugs and algae bloom. The lake is also now too shallow to maintain it and some are concerned about the negative impact to wildlife.

According to D.R. Horton, the original pond was built in the early 1970s, before the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) was established and prior to D.R. Horton’s involvement with the development.

In a statement, a company representative said crews drained the pond as a direct result of the permit for its new construction site.

“The outfall structure was subsequently constructed in accordance with the approved design plans and [SJRWMD’s] issued permit, and the outfall and corresponding water levels are a direct result of what the [SJRWMD’s] requires per their permits.”

Action News Jax spoke with the director of SJRWMD’s Division of Regulatory Services, who said they never required D.R. Horton to lower the pond.

Fridkis reached out to the mayor’s office, which is now investigating.

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In a statement to Action News Jax, a city representative said, “Our Planning and Development Department is aware of this issue and is conducting an investigation of the plans, site, and permits surrounding this neighborhood. They will also be contacting DR Horton directly.”

On Friday, Aug. 27, D.R. Horton did apply for a permit to raise the water level of the pond. SJRWMD said it will only go up by 7.5 inches.

“It’s like putting a band aid on a wound that needs surgery and it’s insulting,” Fridkis said.

He wants the water raised to the pond’s original state. If it’s not done, he said he’ll consider hiring an attorney.