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ORLANDO-Commercial and residential growth, wanted or unwanted, is catching up to the boondocks of this tourist destination. The growth will be in an area few tourists will see as they leave their airplanes.

A city of 20,000 homes, one million sf of offices, 5,000 hotel rooms, 3,500 timeshare units and a population of 50,000 is slowly becoming reality on about 20,000 acres in the Orlando International Airport perimeter.

Grazing cows, wild turkeys, deer and sandhill cranes that have survived in the area for hundreds of years will be forced out by mechanical cranes and backhoes.

Some longtime residents will be leaving as well. They don’t like it but no one has come up with an idea on how to stall the growth, or at least be able to live with it comfortably.

The location is only 15 minutes from Downtown. Although the complete transformation from rural to urban is possibly 20 years away, planners say the outline is already on the horizon and on the land itself.

For example, the 800-employee Campus Crusade for Christ group and the Wycliffe Bible Translators organization envision their own community of at least 3,825 homes. Lake Nona, a 22-year-old upper-end, laid-back subdivision that is only now gearing up for growth, will have 9,000 homes.

Maury L. Carter, the dean of land brokers in Central Florida, plans to develop a 3,000-home golf course-oriented community nearby. Carter was the only broker in the area to spot the niche in 1978. He bought 6,700 acres and sold it to British investors who started, but did not complete, the Lake Nona community. The championship 18-hole golf course was completed, however, and is highly successful.

Another 4,240 homes is planned off Narcoosee Road (County Road 15) almost overlooking the airport’s runways. The PGA Golf Resort is under construction. Three golf courses and a hotel will be on the site. Other developers are submitting city approvals for at least 5,000 more residences and at least one million sf of commercial/retail space.

Orlando city planner Paul Lewis has no doubts the activity will result in the creation of a small city. “We’re hoping Lake Nona will set the tone for the rest of the area,” he says.

Residents have been working with city planners for over a year, hoping to come up with a buffer idea that would protect at least some of the established neighborhoods from the predicted runaway growth that no one expects to diminish.

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