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Billionaire’s former estate in Palm Beach could end up as 6 lots

 Billionaire’s former estate in Palm Beach could end up as 6 lots.
A Palm Beach developer’s plan to subdivide the former John W. Kluge compound in the Estate Section into six vacant lots will be reviewed for the first time by the Town Council this week.
And the property at 89 Middle Road has already stirred up a bit of controversy among some of its neighbors.
Sir Peter Wood is seeking approval Wednesday to carve a new subdivision out of the vacant 3.4-acre property his development company owns on the west side of El Bravo Way and east of South County Road. Wood plans to either develop and sell houses on the lots or divest them.
“Some lots I might build on, some I might build on with other people, and some we’ll sell,” he said an article in the Spring 2017 issue of Palm Beach Lifemagazine, a publication of the Daily News.
Five of the non-waterfront lots would measure a little more than a half-acre each, with one a bit larger. All would meet code requirements.
Wood, a seasonal resident who is building himself an oceanfront house nearby, is requesting approval “to replat 11 existing platted lots” on the former Kluge estate, according to the official description of the project. The original lots date to 1921 and don’t comply with today’s codes.
Before Wood’s company bought it in April last year, the land housed a 12,712-square-foot main residence and two outbuildings, all of which have since been demolished.
The proposed subdivision’s prime location – within walking distance of Worth Avenue and out of the flight path of airplanes – and the size of the lots mean they might bring between $7 million and $9 million each, several Palm Beach real estate observers estimated. The property also is north of the area closed to through-traffic during President Donald Trump’s visits to Mar-a-Lago.
 
Concerns raised
The property already has generated concerns among neighbors. They are represented by attorney Timothy Hanlon, who said he plans to speak at Wednesday’s council meeting but declined to provide specifics.
Hanlon has already told town officials how irked neighbors were that landscape buffers and trees weren’t properly installed or protected after several buildings on the property were demolished several months ago. The land also went unsodded for months, generating dust.
The Architectural Commission sympathized with the neighbors at its May 24 meeting and sharply rebuked the developer, whose representatives assured officials that the problems would shortly be rectified.
Among those who keenly felt the impact of the poorly maintained landscaping was one of Hanlon’s clients, Robert S. Keefer Jr., who for years has lived with his wife, Uta Ortiz Patino, next door at 598 S. County Road.
Worried that the subdivision’s plan for six new houses will overwhelm the character of his neighborhood, Keefer authorized a friend, Billy Brady, to speak to the Daily News on his behalf.
“This is the Estate Section. There is the opportunity for the town to protect the historic footprint of the area,” said Brady, a West Palm Beach resident who grew up in Palm Beach. “Here is an opportunity to preserve a section of Palm Beach that historically has not seen that sort of density.”
But Wood’s attorney, Gregory Young, defended the subdivision plan.
“Sir Peter Wood and everyone on the development team wish to make this project a ‘home run’ for all involved – our neighbors, the town and those who will ultimately reside at the redeveloped site, as well as Sir Peter,” Young said. “We believe strongly that the present subdivision application is the best way for that to happen.”
 
Landmarked house
 
Wood paid a recorded $39 million for the property, including an adjacent 1921 landmarked house facing the ocean. He has since listed that Addison Mizner-designed house, known as Audita, at 91 Middle Road for sale at $21.9 million. It is not part of his proposed subdivision.
In the 1990s, Kluge, who died in 2010, assembled as many as five properties to create his estate. The late communications billionaire knocked down two houses in the process, but retained Audita as a guesthouse while expanding the main house. The majority of his land, however, was devoted to gardens.
Two months after Wood bought the property, the Landmarks Commission granted approval to demolish the main house and outbuildings. As part of their approval, commissioners directed that landscaping buffers must be maintained to protect neighboring properties.
A native of England, Wood made his fortune in the British insurance industry. He is developing on speculation an oceanfront mansion at 530 S. Ocean Blvd., next door to the house he is building for himself at 101 Via Marina.
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