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ORLANDO-Universal Orlando, a multi-billion-dollar entertainment company, and Clarence Moore, a 90-year-old, retired citrus grove worker living out his years on a meager Social Security allotment, are headed for Orange Circuit Court in December to try for the final time to resolve a seven-year land dispute.

In a last-ditch, out-of-court settlement attempt, Moore and Universal failed to settle the argument at an Oct. 31 mediation session.

The dispute is holding up development of a 70-acre, $100 million timeshare venture and championship 18-hole golf course Universal had long planned for the southwest Orlando site.

The 1994 lawsuit alleges Universal fraudulently bought Moore’s prime two acres off Turkey Lake Road from his granddaughter, Mary Jean Smith-Snagg of Oakland, CA, who told Universal she owned the land.

Universal paid Smith $1 million or $500,000 per acre ($11.48 per sf), the going market price seven years ago.

The land is in a commercially hot retail, residential and attractions area and today commands an estimated price of at least $1 million per acre ($22.96 per sf), land brokers intimate with the southwest Orlando submarket tell GlobeSt.com.

Another broker, speaking on condition of anonymity, tells GlobeSt.com, “With all of Universal’s current and past development in place, and that’s probably close to $1 billion of development and infrustructure, those two acres might even go for $2 million an acre ($46 per sf).”

Moore and his late wife, Savannah Moore, paid $1,000 or $500 per acre (one cent per sf) for the dirt in 1959, according to court documents. Savannah Moore died Sept. 13 of this year at 96.

Moore maintains the granddaughter forged his signature to the property deeds. He has told several court hearings over the years finding his signature on a deed or any legal document would have been impossible because he never learned to read or write. When he has to sign a check or similar instrument, he signs with a distinct “X” mark.

The granddaughter denies forging Moore’s signature but acknowledges she used part of the $1 million proceeds to buy a $380,000 home in Oakland, according to court-filed pleadings. Moore lives rent-free in a ramshackle house on the edge of Universal property. The theme park is allowing him to live there until he dies.

Lawyers for Universal and Moore declined GlobeSt.com’s request for comment on the case, since it is approaching a trial date. Universal says in court pleadings it did the deal with the granddaughter, not knowing the land would later be disputed or that allegations of forgery would surface.

Moore’s lawyers, who have taken the case on a contingency payment basis since they first filed the suit in 1994, are expected to ask the jury for total compensatory and punitive damages of about $3 million, other real estate lawyers following the suit tell GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity.

“Universal could have settled this thing for way under a million a long time ago,” a lawyer not associated with the suit tells GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity. “Why they would hold up a $100 million project to fight this thing is a puzzle.”

Universal needs the two-acres to complete the 70-acre assemblage.

Had Moore received the $1 million from Universal in 1994 instead of his granddaughter, GlobeSt.com research shows his total return on the $1,000 investment over the 35 years he owned the land would have been 99,900% or an internal rate of return of 21.8% annually.

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