County code concerns put brakes on I-Drive project

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - A major project on International Drive appears to have hit a roadblock.

A developer wants to build a giant Ferris wheel, along with other attractions, in hopes of bringing in tourists.

The development would be built at the site of the old Mercado shopping center.

The attraction called I-Drive Live is being retooled again after Orange County commissioners delayed a vote on final constructions plans Tuesday.

The biggest issues are signs and lighting. Those items are enough to bring the project to a temporary halt.

"This project is shovel-ready and it will create thousands of jobs, today," said I-Drive Live developer Chuck Whittal.

Whittal said 67 neighboring businesses have signed a petition in support of his project, but a few holdouts have their concerns.

Some are concerned over giant advertising murals that would go up on Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum and the Sealife Aquarium, along with a huge sign on the anchor attraction, a Ferris wheel that would rival England's enormous London Eye.

Susan Godorov, of Pointe Orlando, is concerned about the new huge signs and bright lights.

"What he's asking for is not currently allowed under Orange County code, so he needs to work within the code," said Godorov.

The I-Drive Live developers are retooling the signage plan. They'd like for county commissioners to reconsider it on Sept. 11.

They said they will argue that they are trying to make concessions to attract major anchor attractions that will help other business on the strip.

Other International Drive developments have received signage exceptions from the county, including Pointe Orlando when FAO Schwartz put up a giant teddy bear.

But some critics said that I-Drive Live developers are asking for more than a dozen such exceptions and variances.