Walt Disney World Resort

Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Approves Walt Disney World Resort Development Deal

The conflict between Disney and Governor DeSantis and his board on the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District appears to be over. Today, the five-member board unanimously approved a 15-year development deal. With this deal, the district commits to making infrastructure improvements and Disney commits to investing up to $17 billion into Walt Disney World over the course of the next twenty years.

Central Florida Tourism Oversight District

Unanimous Approval

The unanimous approval of this development deal came after both Disney and DeSantis and his allies agreed to stop litigation each other in state court and negotiate a new development agreement along with a new comprehensive plan no later than next year. The Central Florida Tourist Oversight District was formerly known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District. It is in charge of providing municipal services that include firefighting, planning and mosquito control, and other things. Previously, the district had a board that was comprised of board members who were more agreeable to Disney. However, Governor DeSantis and his allies dissolved the district and replaced it with the new district and name. This version of the district has a board that is comprised of appointees chosen by the Florida Governor.

Brian Aungst, a board member for the district, said at Wednesday’s board meeting that this new agreement will provide a lasting and stable framework for the board and Disney to work together moving forward. “This is the day we all have been looking forward to,” Aungst said. “I was always extremely optimistic and knew we would get here because it was the right outcome.”

About the Development Deal

The new deal will have Disney donating up to 100 acres of Walt Disney World’s 24,000 acres toward the construction of infrastructure projects that are controlled by the district. Disney will also be required to award at least half of its construction projects to companies that are based in Florida and also spend at least $10 million on affordable housing for central Florida.

The agreement also allows for the possibility of fifth major theme park to be built at Walt Disney World Resort along with two minor parks, like water parks, if the company were to desire that. More hotel rooms are also allowed under the new agreement. The company could raise the number of hotel rooms from nearly 40,000 rooms to over 53,000 rooms and also increase the retail and restaurant space by over 20%. Disney will continue to control building heights due to its need to maintain an immersive environment.

Leaders of Orlando’s tourism industry spoke positively about the agreement. They told the board that this will bring boundless jobs, tourists, and more attention to central Florida. “It very clearly demonstrates to the world that the district and Disney are eager to resume working together for the great state of Florida,” said Robert Earl, founder and CEO of Planet Hollywood International, Inc.

The Controversy

While this does seem to settle the issue between Governor DeSantis and his allies with Disney, it doesn’t close the matter completely at the federal level. There is still question about what will happen to a federal lawsuit that Disney had filed against Governor DeSantis and other Florida leaders. Disney had appealed a ruling against it but in March after the settlement was reached, Disney asked the appellate court to put the case on hold temporarily. Disney needs to file a brief by next week with the court if it wants to move ahead with the case.

Disney and DeSantis

The controversy initally began when Disney spoke out against Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law. This led to Governor Ron DeSantis first speaking out against the company and then moving to first dissolve the Reedy Creek Improvement District and then replace it with the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. Through the course of this controversy, Disney sued Governor DeSantis and other Florida officials in federal court. The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District then counter sued in state court. Disney then also countersued in state court. While this was happening, Governor DeSantis frequently made statements about reigning in “woke Disney” and how there is a new sheriff in town. Most recently, a federal court had dismissed Disney’s court case but Disney had then appealed. This appeal is what was paused as was mentioned above. At this point it would be unsurprising if this lawsuit is dropped as well.

What do you think about this development between Disney and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District? Do you think it is good for Florida? Do you think it is good for Disney? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!