GROVE CITY — Winds from last week's cold front whipped up the sugar sands of the undeveloped 170-acre Island Lake Estates.
Luckily, the accompanying rains dampened down the sand. But for more than three years, Smith Street and other nearby residents have endured periodic Sahara-like sand storms blowing from the undeveloped Island Lake Estates into their yards and homes.
"It was 30 feet tall, but it wasn't blowing our way," said Scot Myers of a cloud of sand Friday on the undeveloped property before the rain.
Myers and his wife, Kathy, filed a civil suit against Canadian-based developers of Island Lake Estates in April 2018. The attorneys in the case are still taking depositions, Myers said. The couple, who are winter residents, will be heading back to Michigan soon.
Myers expects no changes when they return next fall.
Charlotte County approved 400 homes to be built on the Island Lake Estates property in 2017, according to Charlotte County and court documents. The Meyers' suit alleges the developer clear-cut the land, bulldozing 7,329 trees with trunk diameters of at least 4 inches thick. The property remained bare, mostly sand with small islands of weeds until this year.
Smith Street resident John Warner isn't suing the developer, but he, too, said there have been times when sand and dust blanketed their street like a thick fog regularly one or two years ago. Lately, while the wind can stir up the sand, especially in the dry winter months, the clouds of sand have been lighter, less all-encompassing of his neighborhood, Warner suggested.
"But any given day, it can pick up," he said.
Regina Raymond, originally from New Jersey, moved to Florida more than 25 years ago so she could enjoy the outdoors more and leave her windows open most of the year.
"You could not sit outside, and I couldn't hang my laundry outside which cost me money," Raymond said of the sand blowing from Island Lake Estates. "It just ruined our whole way of living."
Both Warner and Raymond said the sand clouds diminished somewhat since weeds and grasses have taken root on most of the 170 acres. Raymond said she's still waiting for the developers to keep their promise and pressure clean her home.
The residents aren't the only ones frustrated.
"We are as frustrated as the residents," said Joanne Vernon, a county engineer. County Public Works staff and county attorneys are working together to determine how the county can strengthen its legal oversight of the property.
One of the issues the county faces, Vernon said, is Island Lake Estates has seen a series of contractors — four by Myers' count — overseeing its development.