In their final days in control of the Reedy Creek Improvement District Board of Directors, Disney executives and attorneys found a way to effectively oversee development in the area by poisoning the powers of incoming members appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis. rice field.
On February 8, 2023, when Florida House passed legislation granting new powers to DeSantis, Reedy Creek’s board of directors decided to allow Disney to grant maximum development powers in its territories to develop with the company. signed the contract.
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Disney is allowed the highest possible density and building height within Walt Disney World, according to new board members, now known as the Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board, and their attorneys. must obtain permission from Disney to expand within the District, and they and Reedy Creek leaders must seek Disney’s approval if they make any aesthetic changes to any property within the District.
The district is also not allowed to advertise for companies that compete with those operating within Reedy Creek, according to committee members.
Read: What Will Disney’s New Reedy Creek District Look Like?
“We have lost control over everything but maintaining roads and maintaining infrastructure,” said one board member.
Board members said they learned about the agreement after being appointed.
Both they and their newly appointed attorney called the contract various synonyms for insane and extreme, and said that due to its sheer scale, the contract should be void.
Read: Disney World has no plans to oppose Reedy Creek changes, president says
One section in particular focused on where board members said development rights to certain lots were locked until 21 years after the death of Prince Charles’ youngest descendant, or until Disney abandoned the resort. was given.
“We gave Disney control over the government,” summed up Brian Angust.
Other board members were more demanding in their evaluation.
READ: DeSantis Signs Law Dissolving Reedy Creek, Puts Disney Improvement District Under State Control
“Disney tried to be king for one day,” said chairman Martin Garcia, referring to the company’s most famous park.
Board members can hire multiple politically connected law firms to represent them, analyze agreements, and up to four different legal firms while trying to break up a well-funded company. Garcia mentioned taking the case to the Supreme Court of the United States if necessary.
Some board members said they hope Disney executives and lawyers will come to the negotiating table and reach a compromise agreement before legal action is taken, but others are less optimistic. It wasn’t.
READ: Reedy Creek Board Ushers in New Era, Defends itself at First Meeting
Disney’s communications team did not answer multiple questions about whether to compromise or fight and why. The company chose to hand over control of Reedy Creek without a fight. However, they emailed a requested statement outlining their position.
“All contracts signed between Disney and The District are in good standing and have been publicly discussed and approved in compliance with the Florida government’s Sunshine Act,” a spokesperson said.
WFTV worked with an independent attorney who specializes in government law to analyze the agreement Wednesday morning. In its initial review, attorneys said the contract appeared to be valid.
Read: See the bill that could disband Disney’s Reedy Creek
“I’m having a hard time finding out why it’s illegal,” the attorney said, adding that the types of contracts made between large developers and the government were normal, properly notified, and reedy The Creek leaders were happy to sign the deal.
Attorneys said the unusual part was the powers that the contract locked in. But the attorneys said there was nothing normal about Reedy Creek’s existing structure, and in that context the contract made sense. .
They also said they could run into constitutional trouble if lawmakers from Reedy Creek and Florida tried to cancel the deal because the government can’t undermine existing contracts.
READ: Florida Special Session: 189-Page Bill Proposes Future for Reedy Creek
Lawyers cautioned that the judge’s interpretation of the law could not be predicted, but said it would likely be contested in federal court.
Despite setting the early stages of a legal battle, some Reedy Creek board members said their focus was not on fighting Disney, but on upholding democracy and the will of voters. .
“We are not taking an adversarial stance against Disney,” Angust said. “We are going to protect ourselves, protect our people, and prepare for the next steps. My hope is that these next steps will be supportive.”
WFTV reached out to DeSantis’ office to ask if his team was aware of the February 8 agreement before the appointment was made. There was no immediate response.
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