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Neighbors get another chance to oppose apartments on bin Laden property in west Orange

Neighbors get another chance to oppose apartments on bin Laden property in west Orange
Developers want to build luxury apartments in west Orange County on property formerly owned by Khalil bin Laden, brother of 9/11 terrorist Osama bin Laden. The bin Laden mansion would be spared -- and perhaps restored by current owners Gary and Dana English -- if the apartments are built. (Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda / Orlando Sentinel)

Foes of a three-story apartment project in the bedroom town of Oakland will get another chance to argue against the multi-family development calling for 242 luxury units on 11 acres once owned by a brother of 9/11 terrorist Osama bin Laden.

The rehearing Tuesday night before the planning and zoning board is an effort to make sure the panel properly identified the property by parcel number at an earlier meeting.

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Jay Marder, Oakland’s planning and zoning director, said the advisory board is holding the rehearing to "make sure we crossed all the t’s and dotted all the i’s” when developers argued for a land-use change to build apartments on the south side of State Road 50 near the Orange-Lake county line. He believed the previous hearing followed the rules.

Residents in the nearby community of Deer Island on Johns Lake lobbied against the project, saying it would hurt their property values and ruin the neighborhood.

Many were dismayed last month by Town Commission’s 3-2 decision to send the proposed change to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity for review.

The agency’s reply is due Thursday.

Planning documents show amenities of the proposed luxury apartments on the former bin Laden property in west Orange.
Planning documents show amenities of the proposed luxury apartments on the former bin Laden property in west Orange. (Orlando Sentinel / Orlando Sentinel)

About 11 acres of the 18-acre estate was used as a vacation home by Khalil bin Laden, who fled Central Florida with his wife, Isabel, and son Sultan eight days after 9/11.

An Orange County sheriff’s motorcade provided an escort for bin Laden and his family to Orlando International Airport. They never returned.

His company, Desert Bear, sold the property for $4 million in 2006, more than double the $1.6 million price it paid in 1980.

Current owners Gary and Dana English have a contract with Birmingham-based LIV Development to sell 11.3 acres for the luxury apartments.

Gary English said he and his wife intend to keep and restore bin Laden’s waterfront Mediterranean mansion, constructed in 1928.

Much of the debate during the previous meetings have focused on the potential impact of the project on traffic, property values and neighborhood character.

Developers say their project, when built, would generate $271,000 a year in property taxes for sleepy Oakland.

Stephen Hudak can be reached at [email protected] or 407-650-6361

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