The board picked by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to oversee Disney World’s governmental district voted Wednesday to hire outside law firms for a new fight with Disney.
The battle would be over a 30-year development agreement passed by the former Reedy Creek Improvement District just before a DeSantis-backed law created a new board composed entirely of his appointees. Its provisions included:
- Allowing Disney the maximum possible density and building heights within Disney World property;
- Requiring Disney’s approval for other property owners to expand within the district;
- Allowing Disney to sell or assign development rights without the board’s approval;
- Allowing Disney to build one more theme park and two smaller parks.
- Barring the new board from making aesthetic changes to properties without Disney’s approval.
While the agreement was passed in a public meeting on Feb. 8, 2023, members of the new Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board claimed to have only now learned about it.
“I can’t think of a more naked attempt to circumvent the will of the voters and the will of the Florida Legislature,” board member Brian Aungst Jr. said. “That is offensive to me.” (Notably, Florida’s Republican-dominated legislature rejected an amendment that would have included elected officials from Central Florida on the new board.)
One clause in the Feb. 8 agreement states that its terms will not expire until “21 years after the death of the last survivor of the descendants of King Charles III, King of England” – essentially making it permanent.
Martin Garcia, chair of the new board and a DeSantis donor, said the board may have to challenge the agreement in “protracted litigation,” even suggesting that the case could go to the U.S. Supreme Court, according to WESH.
DeSantis spokesperson Taryn Fenske said in a statement, “An initial review suggests these agreements may have significant legal infirmities that would render the contracts void as a matter of law. We are pleased the new Governor-appointed board retained multiple financial and legal firms to conduct audits and investigate Disney’s past behavior.”
Disney, however, defended the agreements in an unsigned statement which said, “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.”