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ORLANDO-Lake Paxton Reserve is the name of a planned 2,000-acre mixed-use development on the Rybolt Ranch bordering the protected east side of the Econlockhatchee River in Orange County, about 15 miles south of Downtown and near the University of Central Florida campus and the Central Florida Research Park.

But ranch owner Eloise Rybolt denies to friends and associates any venture is being planned for the controversial river area which has served as a haven for wildlife and a barrier to commercial development for the last 30 years at least, Orlando brokers intimate with the east Orange County submarket tell GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity.

Rybolt couldn’t be reached at GlobeSt.com’s publication deadline. But county staffers tell GlobeSt.com no formal rezoning application has been received from either Rybolt or any third party purportedly representing her interests. Staffers say such an application would receive a cool reception since the county is committed to keeping the east side of the Econlockhatchee free from development interests of any kind.

The mystery man in the purported project is Hugh Harling, a successful engineering consultant and partner in Harling Locklin & Associates, Orlando. Harling couldn’t be reached at GlobeSt.com’s publication deadline.

But brokers and Orange County staffers who have worked with the former Altamonte Springs, FL mayor in the past say he has informally described Lake Paxton Preserve to various county officials but found no strong interest from them.

“That doesn’t mean a thing since deals of this magnitude often take years to gel,” an east Orange County broker not associated with the project tells GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity. “I would bet Mr. Harling will be returning to the county again and again as this project reaches the drawing boards in its first stages.”

Orlando area brokers who have heard bits and pieces of the estimated $1 billion project in the past year tell GlobeSt.com Lake Paxton Preserve is planned for an undetermined amount of single-family and multifamily units; commercial, retail, hotel and industrial development; at least two schools; and a small airport.

The site is just south of the Seminole County border. To make the project work, McCulloch Road would be extended across the Econlockhatchee River where it would connect to Chuluota Road.

County staffers confirm about 80,000 new residents have moved to the Econ’s basin in Seminole and Orange counties in the past 10 years. Robust development already is taking place on the east side of the Econ in the Chuluota area of Seminole County and along State Road 50, five miles south of the planned Lake Paxton Preserve project, knowledgeable Seminole County brokers tell GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity.

“This is a big one, for sure, and it will take time to get done, but if I were a betting person, I would bet it will get done over the next 10 years,” a Maitland, FL broker familiar with Harling’s successful track record as a development consultant tells GlobeSt.com.

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