Reedy Creek Improvement District

Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Gearing Up For Fight With Walt Disney World Resort

Governor DeSantis’ new Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, which replaced the Reedy Creek Improvement District, is gearing up for a fight with Disney. The disagreement is over a 30-year development agreement between the district and Disney that was made before Reedy Creek was replaced.

A Disagreement Over an Agreement

The 30-year development agreement was quietly approved ahead of the Desantis’ expected take over of Reedy Creek Improvement. This eventually did happen and now the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District is finding itself bound to a deal its predecessor made.

The new board of directors for the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District has voted to bring in outside legal representation to examine the agreement. This includes a conservative law firm from Washington D.C. that has defended some of Governor DeSantis’ initiatives.

“We’re going to have to deal with it and correct it,” board member Brian Aungst Jr. said. “It’s a subversion of the will of the voters and the Legislature and the governor. It completely circumvents the authority of this board to govern.”

Disney, on the other hand, is defending the agreements saying that they are legally binding and made in public.

“All agreements signed between Disney and the district were appropriate and were discussed and approved in open, noticed public forums in compliance with Florida’s Government in the Sunshine law,” an unsigned company statement read.

The Agreement

The deal allows Disney to build projects at the highest density. It also allows Disney to sell or assign development rights to other district landowners without the board’s approval. This is according to a presentation by the new district’s legal counsel. Other property owners will need Disney’s permission to expand within the district, and they and the new board leaders will need to seek Disney’s approval if they made any aesthetic changes to their properties within the district. The district is also not allowed to permit advertisements of any companies that compete with ones that operate within the district.

Board member Ron Peri said, “I cannot tell you the level of my disappointment in Disney. I thought so much better of them. This essentially makes Disney the government. This board loses, for practical purposes, the majority of its ability to do anything beyond maintain the roads and maintain basic infrastructure.”

“I’m going to read to the term of this restrictive covenant. ‘This declaration shall continue in effect until 21 years after the death of the last survivor of the descendants of King Charles III, King of England, living as of the date of this declaration,’” Peri said. “So, I mean, I don’t know what else to say. I think these documents are void ab initio, I think they were an extremely aggressive overreach, and I’m very disappointed that they’re here.”

“On the day that the legislation was passed by the Florida House, the former board and Disney entered into a development agreement and deed restrictions that essentially stripped most of the governing authority of the district and also made certain promises and concessions to Disney for many, many years out into the future,” Board Member Brian Aungst said. “They have tried to take that away from this board, the ability to provide that oversight, and we’re not gonna let that stand.”

“We gave governmental control to Disney,” Aungst summarized.

The agreement between Reedy Creek Improvement District and Disney was made on February 8, 2023. The following day, the Florida House of Representatives voted to give the Governor control over the district. This bill would go on to be approved by the Senate and then signed by Governor DeSantis. He promptly filled the new board of directors for the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, which now has oversight over the district.


Behind the Disagreement

There have been plenty of questions asked about the legal technicalities related to evolution of the district. While Disney appeared to want to avoid a public fight over the future of the former Reedy Creek Improvement District, it now appears that it might be headed toward one either way. The changes to the Reedy Creek Improvement District come as Florida passed a bill into law last year dissolving the entity. This came after a feud between then Disney CEO Bob Chapek and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. The feud has continued, albeit not as publicly, since Bob Iger returned to Disney as CEO late last year.

Daps Magic will continue to follow this story and provide updates as they become available. What do you think about this development? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!