Disney Leaving Florida, but Locals Don’t Want Them in Their Town

Disney Florida Expansion
Disney's Asteria, North Carolina. Credit: Disney

With the announcement that The Walt Disney Company plans to spend more than $60 billion on its parks and experiences over the next decade, Disney fans can expect significant expansions to come to its parks. However, parks aren’t the only aspect of Disney that is expanding.


Credit: Cotino by Disney

Disney is also creating a residential community in California. The Cotino Community in the Coachella Valley will be the first of what Disney is calling Storyliving by Disney Community. The California Storyliving Community is the first but won’t be the last.

The Walt Disney Company announced last December that it plans to build its next development in Chatham County, North Carolina. Disney’s Asteria will include 4000 residential units on 1,500 acres, green space, community buildings, neighborhood parks, and access to the natural beauty surrounding the development, including the Haw River. Disney expects sales to begin on the new development in 2027.

Disney’s Asteria is part of a larger development in Chatham Park, the largest planned community in North Carolina. When it’s finished, Chatham Park will attract more than 60,000 new residents to the region.

The Disney signature development is considered to be in a prime part of Chatham Park because it has river views. But its prime location is causing concern for local residents and environmentalists.

The town of Pittsboro, where the new development is located, currently has only around 4,500 residents. The development plans are causing friction in the rural town, as local residents have concerns about infrastructure, population growth, and the potential for sky-high housing costs with the opening of the new development.

Jamie Saunders, who has lived in Pittsboro for 16 years, said:

Whoever heard of Disney building houses? Who wants to live in a Mickey Mouse house?

The Chatham Park Development

While Disney’s Asteria has not started construction, the Chatham Park Development is already underway. The Preston Development Company has worked on the project for over a decade.

In 2015, the town of Pittsboro voted to zone Chatham Park as a planned development district, which allows it to operate according to an independent set of environmental rules called Elements. This governs all environmental issues, including erosion, green space, tree protection, and water runoff.

According to The Assembly of North Carolina, the Preston Development Company has not always complied with local environmental laws. Since 2019, the company has been cited 15 times for violating sediment and erosion rules.


Credit: D23

So, with locals and environmentalists against the project, the Preston Development Company turned to Disney.

Haw River Assembly Executive Director Elaine Chiosso said:

Chatham Park has just been pretty unwilling, over all these years, to do more to protect the environment than they can get away with. Because Disney is a publicly traded company, and it has a huge brand, right? Who doesn’t know Disney?

With the area expanding so quickly, there are concerns about water. The town will grow more than 15 times its current size, so it will need to increase its water capacity and have a place for all that wastewater.

The town has tried to address that by merging its water and wastewater services with the nearby city of Sanford. That will alleviate the problem for now, but with Disney’s Asteria opening in 2027 and Chatham Park continuing to grow, it may not be enough.

Cotino concept art for the Laughing Place Ranch

Credit: Disney Parks Blog

There are also the issues of a small town suddenly becoming massive and the infrastructure issues that come with that expansion. But for some residents, that growth means that Disney is coming to town.

Jenna Oldham, who was born and raised in Pittsboro, said:

Is it surprising? No. Is it annoying? Yes, but that’s what happens with growth. For a company as magical, inventive, unique, and storytelling as Disney is—for them to see the potential in Pittsboro, North Carolina? It literally brings me to tears. Because this is my town. And I’ve always seen that potential.

Despite local concerns, Disney is moving forward with Asteria. Now’s your chance to participate in Disney’s development in North Carolina. 

Would you consider moving to a Disney Storyliving community? 

About Rick

Rick is an avid Disney fan. He first went to Disney World in 1986 with his parents and has been hooked ever since. Rick is married to another Disney fan and is in the process of turning his two children into fans as well. When he is not creating new Disney adventures, he loves to watch the New York Yankees and hang out with his dog, Buster. In the fall, you will catch him cheering for his beloved NY Giants.

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