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Parking lot hole soon will be filled
Rain halted repairs Wednesday morning on a sinkhole in the parking lot of a shopping center on Dawsonville Highway, but officials say the hole should be paved over by the end of next week.

Parking at a shopping center on Dawsonville Highway in Gainesville soon will become easier as crews finish work on a large sinkhole that's been there for about seven months.

Depending on the weather, "we should be having it paved by the end of next week," said Jason McClug, whose Carrollton company, Sharp Creek Grading and Hauling, is doing the work at the Westbrook Shopping Center on Dawsonville Highway between McEver and Shallowford roads.

The hole in front of Best Buy and surrounded by chain-link fencing, ended up 17 to 20 feet deep and grew to about 140 feet wide and 140 feet long, McClug said.

Gainesville Public Works Director David Dockery said the double-stacked plastic stormwater retention system collapsed and is being replaced by a new concrete system, which would typically cost several hundred thousand dollars.

There could have been either a structural problem or something wrong with the installation for the system put in place in 2006, he said.

Usually retail developers will address drainage issues by creating a retention pond, but the shopping center was built with a parking lot over it's drainage system, Dockery said. That's acceptable if done correctly.

"We encourage some of this kind of stuff because it cuts down on sprawl," he said.

Dockery and McClug said it took months to fix the hole because officials had to determine who would be responsible for the cost and then how to fix it. The shopping center is owned by SWM Westbrook LLC, which couldn't be reached for comment.

McClug said his seven-man crew filled the hole with dirt and gravel after the Sept. 14 permit was granted and next week will finish it with curbing and pavement.

On Wednesday, shoppers ignored the hole, while Sharp Creek's excavators, track loaders and compactors were in motion.

But McClug said his company's work has drawn much curiosity, including one day when 15 people stood outside the fence in the rain, watching the repairs.

"I bet I've had 200 people ask what's going on," he said.