Sinkholes opened on Venture Drive between Steve Reynolds Boulevard and Pleasant Hill Road in Duluth, a block away from the Gwinnett Place Mall.
Photo: John Spink/AJC
Photo: John Spink/AJC

Gwinnett sues companies over sinkholes, calls them ‘imminent danger’ 

If two sinkholes on Venture Drive continue to grow, they could cause “catastrophic” damage to Gwinnett County’s storm water system, according to a lawsuit filed by the county Friday.

Gwinnett County is suing Venture Outlet Mall LLC and Best Friends Development, Inc. over the sinkholes, which have grown since forming in Duluth on Thursday. The sinkholes are on Venture Outlet Mall’s property, and Best Friends Development owns the adjacent property, according to the lawsuit. 

The county does not believe Venture Outlet Mall will repair the sinkholes without court intervention, and is asking Gwinnett County Superior Court to force Venture Outlet Mall or Best Friend Development to make the repairs. If the court will not force either company to make the repairs, the county requests authorization to move in and make the repairs itself, with Venture Outlet Mall and Best Friend Development to be held responsible for the costs. 

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The registered agent for Venture Outlet Mall, Fred Filsoof, did not respond to emails requesting comment, and multiple phone numbers associated with him had been disconnected or changed. The lawsuit says Filsoof refused to speak with the county about the sinkhole, and hung up on county employees when they called him. An assistant manager at Santa Fe Mall, which is owned by Venture Outlet Mall and sits near the sinkholes, said Filsoof was out of town, but aware of the lawsuit and trying to find someone to fix the sinkholes. 

The registered agent for Best Friends Development, Young R. Oh, did not answer an email requesting comment. Phone numbers associated with him were disconnected.

The sinkholes were caused by the failure of a pipe leading to a stormwater detention pond controlled by both companies, according to the lawsuit. They have grown “multiple feet” since Thursday and have caused parts of the parking lot area to collapse, the lawsuit says. One is next to a county manhole and storm water structure and the other is next to the pond shared by Venture Outlet Mall and Best Friends Development, the lawsuit says.

Soil surrounding the county’s manhole has been washed away by the sinkhole, “threatening the integrity of the supporting structure,” the lawsuit says. If that structure were to collapse, it would have “catastrophic” effects on the storm water system serving the surrounding area, the county contends. 

The county has been pumping water out of one of the sinkholes “on an emergency basis” in order to protect a county sewer line, the lawsuit says. The sinkholes put Venture Drive, closed since Thursday morning, in a precarious position: a “moderate to heavy rainfall” could cause portions of the road to collapse, the lawsuit says.

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County officials say the sinkholes are about 20 to 30 feet across.

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