CLERMONT, FL-Opposition is mounting for at least the fourth time in 17 years against the proposed 1,434-acre, mixed-use Sugarloaf Mountain venture atop Central Florida’s highest peak.

Gov. Jeb Bush is being asked to overturn a judge’s decision in July which gave the property owners a second five-year extension to develop the rural tract into an estimated $1.2 billion mixed-use development.

Telegrams, e-mails, letters and phone calls are flooding the governor’s office. Sugarloaf Mountain protesters have even opened an Internet site at to showcase their concerns.

Even the local newspaper, the Lake Sentinel, has jumped into the fray. The paper asks, “Are state leaders willing to pay for the schools and roads necessary to support the development? Will state leaders compensate landowners when their country neighborhood grows congested and dangerous?”

Harpo Zaniels of Lady Lake, FL, a founder of the Friends of Lake Griffin, argues in a letter to the newspaper, “People all over Lake County should united behind the effort to resist this unwise development.” He says “a war is raging to destroy our area and way of life.”

Lake County, where the property is located, had earlier refused the extension. The site is 25 miles west of Downtown Orlando between County Road 561 and County Road 455. The 350-foot-high tract overlooks Lake Apopka.

The governor’s decision, expected no later than November, will either make or break a multimillion-dollar deal that Orlando landowners Willoughby Cox, a retired banker, and Stephen and Karick Price have with businessman John Reaves and a consortium of private investors.

Reaves’ group plans to master-plan the mountain dirt for 2,259 single-family homes; 175 condominiums and apartments; two 18-hole golf courses; and an undetermined amount of commercial and retail space. Reaves is a former quarterback at the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL.

The project would take an estimated 20 years to build out with an initial resident population of 5,000. Nearby Clermont’s population is 16,000.

The area has been used for years as a family recreation spot and a bicycling-hiking trail. There are no roads, utilities or other amenities in the immediate area.

“Even if Sugarloaf Mountain were not in an environmentally sensitive region, it would not make business sense to approve the project when the infrastructure for it will take years and millions of taxpayers’ dollars to complete,” a nearby Groveland, FL resident and land owner tells on condition of anonymity.

Judge Donald R. Alexander, who serves in the administrative law division of the state government, has ruled Lake County should give a second five-year development extension to the land owners.

The families of Karick and Stephen Price have owned 500 acres of the 1,434-acre former citrus grove for 60 years.

When back-to-back winter freezes struck the region in 1985 and 1986, numerous grove owners, including the Prices, decided their only avenue left to recoup any part of their investment would be to sell the land to commercial and residential developers for homesites and retail development.

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