Oakland residents fight rezoning of land owned by Osama bin Laden's brother

Developer wants to build 242 apartments on site in east Orange County

By Erik Sandoval - Reporter

OAKLAND, Fla. - The Oakland Planning and Zoning Board approved a plan Tuesday night that could see a plot of land once owned by the brother of Osama bin Laden rezoned from agricultural to residential.

The 11 acres sit next to Lake John along the Orange and Lake County border, and a home that sits next to the land was once a vacation home for Khalil bin Laden. 

It's currently owned by Gary English, who wants to sell the land and develop 242 apartments.

At Tuesday's meeting, one of his neighbors offered to buy the land.

"I'll tell you today that I'm here to offer $3.75 million for the property," said the resident to resounding applause from the standing-room-only crowd.

Many in the room wore red shirts, signaling their opposition to the construction of apartments on the land.

One man said the move would signal an end to Mayberry.

English vowed nothing would change.

"This apartment complex is not going to change downtown Oakland at all," he said.

For more than 90 minutes, board members heard from the public.

Some of them were concerned about traffic, and others were concerned about their property values.

Others were afraid more apartments would be in the city's future.

"If you open a Pandora's Box, you won't be able to put it back in," said Ray Peace, who lives next door to the proposed site.

The Planning and Zoning Board voted three-to-two in favor of recommending approval for the zoning change.

It will be up to the Oakland Town Commission to decide on final approval at a later date.

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