9 Investigates: Helipad built, forced to remove following no proper permits, appeal underway

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — The developer behind the Coca Cola Orlando Eye and I-Drive 360 projects wants to add helicopter rides to his list of attractions.

9 Investigates reporter Karla Ray learned developer Chuck Whittall's business partner constructed a helipad without any permits or permission.

The illegal pad was taken down after Orange County Code Enforcement received a complaint, but Eyewitness News learned it could be back up and ready for flights soon.

Whittall partnered with Orlando Helitours owner Rick Violette, and even purchased a new helicopter to be launched from the rooftop of the parking garage next to the Coca Cola Orlando Eye.

“It was a completely honest mistake,” Whittall said.

Whittall says confusion stemmed from the process to get approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.  After Code Enforcement got involved, the County’s Development Review Committee refused to retroactively approve the helipad that had already been constructed.

“We're bringing a million people here a year, and when they come here, we're trying to create a destination where they can do various different things,” Whittall said.

Violette wasn’t available for an interview, but tourists Eyewitness News spoke with thought the project was a good idea.

The business partners have already made a $1 million investment on equipment, according to Whittall.  They’re banking on the Board of County Commissioners to approve the project on appeal in September.

“He's assembled it, he’s disassembled it, and if we're approved we'll have to reassemble it.  I hope the County Commission can realize it was a mistake and go past that,” Whittall said.