LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA — Today, the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board of supervisors, appointed by Governor DeSantis, met to assert the board’s “superior authority” within the entire district – including the city limits of Lake Buena Vista and Bay Lake.
The board ratified a resolution that removes the former Disney planning board entirely and gives the new board sole authority to act as the “local planning agency” within the district.
“These contracts are unconscionable,” said David Thompson, the board’s legal counsel. “They are completely one-sided. Disney takes governmental powers for itself for decades and offers the District nothing in return. The bottom line is that Disney engaged in a caper worthy of Scrooge McDuck to try to evade Florida law.”
Meanwhile, a new measure adopted today by Florida lawmakers in the Senate would retroactively nullify the agreements Disney pushed through in a February 8 land-use agreement. Senator Blaise Ingoglia (R-Spring Hill) made amendments to general bill SB 1604 regarding land use and development regulations after appearing Monday with Governor DeSantis in the district.
“We are going to respond swiftly and protect what we are doing as a legislature and protect future boards so they are able to do their job,” Ingoglia said.
55 YEARS OF CONTROL
Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Chairman Martin Garcia said Disney is the only one who believes the old Reedy Creek Improvement Act is a good deal for the Sunshine State.
“Disney’s lobbying and marketing campaign succeeded for 55 years because nobody in Tallahassee was willing to shine a light on the arrangement,” Garcia said. “Then Governor Ron DeSantis courageously called it out for betraying not only fair-market competition but also the citizens of Florida.”
Board members said they were genuinely looking forward to working with Disney in a productive and collaborative manner and even met with Disney’s vice president of external affairs to launch what they hoped would be a mutually beneficial relationship.
“Unfortunately, we were unaware that Disney had no intention of abiding by the new legislation,” said Garcia.
DEVELOPING FOR THE FUTURE
A primary focus of the new board is to develop more affordable housing on district property. The district board’s general counsel said Disney’s unlawful agreement specifically prohibited residential development on vacant land “essentially forever” – but board members said the land could be used to build workforce housing for Disney’s 70,000+ employees.
The board is also considering granting voting rights to future residents of the district, further breaking Disney’s control of the territory by allowing the cities within the district to function as normal municipalities.
Additionally, board members are seeking alliances with neighboring Osceola and Orange counties to fight lawsuits Disney has filed to avoid paying its ad valorem taxes – an issue DeSantis said needs to be addressed to level the playing field with other theme parks.