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ORLANDO-The rolling hills and peaceful pastures of Sorrento, FL, one of the last unheralded hideaways known mostly to locals, opens its rustic portals to the world this week as Hewitt Properties breaks ground on Sorrento Hills, a $20 million subdivision, 20 miles north of Downtown Orlando.

Developer Bobby Hewitt plans to build 678 homes, a shopping plaza and an 18-hole golf course on 680 acres on the Lake County-Orange County border near State Road 44 and County Road 437. Sorrento has 765 permanent residents, according to the last U.S. Census.

Projected home prices are $120,000 to $300,000. The golf course is expected to open by year end. Total buildout is anticipated in 2008.

The development has been on Lake County’s approval list for 17 years but never attracted a developer to follow through on the project, county planning department staffers tell GlobeSt.com. The master plan calls for 35% or 238 acres of the 680 acres being preserved as green space.

The area’s major attraction is the 14,000-acre Rock Springs Run State Reserve purchased by the state in 1983 for habitat preservation and public recreational use. The protected wilderness encompasses parts of Lake and Orange counties.

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