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ORLANDO-Universal Orlando today starts planning its $100 million, 70-acre timeshare venture after winning an eight-year court battle with a 92-year-old property owner for a contentious two-acre tract in southwest Orlando, directly across the street from its theme parks.

The two acres on Turkey Lake Road were the missing part of Universal’s originally planned project.

Orange Circuit Judge Joe Baker ruled Thursday Clarence Moore couldn’t back up his claim that his California-based granddaughter forged his name to a property transfer deed in 1987.

Moore, a retired baker and citrus grove hand, can’t read or write and signs his name with an X.

Baker’s ruling ends an eight-year legal fight in which the case was thrown out three times by separate courts. Moore’s lawyers can appeal Baker’s ruling to the 5th District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach, FL.

After winning the case, Universal dropped its countersuit against Moore for $80,000 allegedly owned in Orange County property taxes for the past eight years. Universal paid the taxes while the litigation was pending.

Universal is also allowing Moore to remain in his aging cottage for the rest of his life but he will have to pay the annual $8,000-a-year taxes from now on. Moore’s only income is a $600-a-month Social Security check, court records show.

“That will eventually remove Mr. Moore from the two-acre property permanently since he obviously is in no position to pay $8,000 a year property taxes,” a real estate lawyer following the case but not associated with it, tells GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity.

Moore, Universal and Moore’s granddaughter, Mary Jean Smith-Snagg of Oakland, CA agreed to have a bench trial instead of a jury trial to expedite the case. That means Baker’s ruling is final unless the appellate court overturns it and orders still another trial.

Universal bought the two acres from Smith-Snagg of Oakland, CA in 1993 for $1 million or $500,000 per acre ($11.48 per sf). If Universal didn’t own the tract today, the property would have an estimated market value of $2 million or $1 million per acre ($22.96) per sf, land brokers familiar with the southwest Orlando submarket tell GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity.

The dispute surfaced a year after Universal’s purchase when Moore and his late wife, Savannah, 96, learned of the deal and questioned why they hadn’t been paid for the land, court testimony shows.

Smith-Snagg pocketed the entire $1 million and testified she didn’t tell the Moores because she planned to take care of their needs for the rest of their lives.

Smith-Snagg denies having forged Moore’s X to the deed which transferred the property to her name.

In 1999, court filings show Moore signed his X to an affidavit stating he thought he had signed a will and not a property transfer deed in 1987.

The judge’s ruling criticized Smith-Snagg and her Orlando lawyer, Arthur Leonhardt, who prepared the deed. The ruling suggested Smith-Snagg and Leonhardt could have explained the significance of the property transfer deed to Moore in simplified terms.

Smith-Snagg testified during the five-week July trial that Moore knew he was transferring the property to her as a gift. Moore denies that.

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