But they learned a hard lesson Wednesday at Orange County's Development Review Committee: Don't hold your own community meeting with residents and expect it to count in the eyes of planning staff.
Norberto Duarte and daughter Erika Duarte own Norbridge Properties, a commercial development, sales and leasing business. They currently operate Air Force Fun's ticket office out of a suite at their own Regency Village Business Center, located on Regency Village Drive just a block from the outlet mall.
Right next door to that ticket office is an 0.88-acre parcel owned by Erika's Alafaya II Development LLC, which they currently use as the helipad for Air Force Fun flights. But demand for the chopper tours, and for that office space, has motivated the Duartes to build a three-story building just for Air Force Fun on that vacant parcel.
It would be relatively simple, with 1,000 square feet on the ground floor for parking, another 1,000 square feet for a second-floor ticket office, and an open-air third floor with two helipads.
The company's sole helicopter currently seats four, but if they can get this building they could buy a new chopper that seats up to seven, allowing tours to accommodate larger families.
Erika Duarte said the company would only operate one helicopter at a time, but would benefit from parking both there and having the seating options to meet demand.
The perceived conflict lies with area residents, namely the Williamsburg subdivision near SeaWorld. Those residents have regularly filed complaints to the District 1 county commissioner's office over helicopter noise above their homes, from various tour operators that fly visitors over SeaWorld for an aerial view.
The Duarte family and their engineer, Russell Maynard of Central Florida Engineering Consultants, have been trying to get their PD Change Determination through Orange County's DRC for a year, and have held three previous community meetings with Williamsburg residents, the latest in July. They have agreed not to fly in the future over Williamsburg.
But because that recent meeting wasn't formally scheduled by Orange County Government, with planning staff and a representative of the District 1 commissioner present, DRC can't recognize it, said John Smogor, planning administrator.
Maynard and the Duartes left Wednesday's hearing with the hope they can schedule another community meeting with area residents within the next four to six weeks.
Architect on the project is Paul Medley of PNM Architecture in Altamonte Springs. The Duarte family has yet to select a general contractor for future construction.