LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA — Within days of the Florida Legislature passing HB 9B, which created the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, Disney’s hand-picked board of supervisors gave the company thirty-year vested rights and control over all development rights throughout what was then known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District – not just Disney’s property.
The legislation was designed to level the playing field between Disney and all other theme parks, property owners and developers in the Sunshine State. But the new district board, appointed by the governor, uncovered land use contracts that obstruct its authority.
But Disney’s strategic move backfired. Under the law, the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District has the power to tax Disney to fund the special district. Consequently, Disney will end up paying the legal fees of the five high-powered attorneys hired by the new board to defend its legal status.
WHAT’S IN THE AGREEMENT?
The agreement, drafted by Disney’s board of supervisors on February 8, 2023, requires the district to borrow and spend money in future years for road and utility projects for the benefit of Disney-specific projects. The agreement also interferes with the district’s authority and ability to make annual ad valorem [taxes levied against property] taxation, budget and appropriation decisions.
“The agreement unlawfully delegates the District’s legislative authority to a private corporation, subverts the provisions of the new Act, and binds the hands of the new Board,” attorneys for the new board wrote in a statement.
The covenant is so restrictive that it strips away all potential uses of the district’s property except for public/government purposes. Additionally, it gives Disney veto authority over the District’s public projects through an architectural review process and expressly states that its purpose is to protect Disney’s business interests.
DISNEY’S POWER GRAB
“The lack of consideration, the delegation of legislative authority to a private corporation, restriction of the Board’s ability to make legislative decisions, and giving away public rights without compensation for a private purpose, among other issues, warrant the new Board’s actions and direction to evaluate these overreaching documents and determine how best the new Board can protect the public’s interest in compliance with Florida Law,” the statement reads.
The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District also hired forensic accountants to comb through financial documents related to the special district. As a private corporation, Disney’s previous board of supervisors was not required to publicly disclose decisions made behind closed doors.
Law firms representing the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District include Fishback Dominick LLP, Acting General Counsel; Cooper & Kirk PLLC, special counsel; Lawson Huck Gonzalez PLLC, special counsel; Waugh Grant PLLC, special counsel; Nardella & Nardella PLLC, special counsel.