Back in February, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill dissolving the Reedy Creek Improvement District. Dissolving the district stripped Disney of its right to self-govern — something that had been in place since 1967. After that, DeSantis picked a new board to oversee the District. It is called the Central Florida Tourism Oversight Committee. Almost immediately, the new board realized they had a big problem. The former Reedy Creek board had given all of its power to Disney. That power is set to last until 21 years after the death of the youngest descendant of King Charles III.
Both the new board and Governor DeSantis were shocked to see the clause in the land agreement. What was equally surprising was that the bill that the clause was in was signed into law by both the state legislature and the governor. The new board immediately said that it was preparing to sue Disney over the agreement. The governor then announced that he was starting an investigation into whether any ethical or legal violations were committed when Reedy Creek and Disney made their deal.
On April 11, it was announced that the new Tourism Oversight Committee would be introducing a new resolution that would cancel the deal between Reedy Creek and Disney. The resolution would give the Central Tourism Oversight Committee “superior authority” over the area formerly known as Reedy Creek. The vote on this new resolution is set to take place on April 19. However, it looks like the fight with Disney will not fall in favor of the new board.
Government law expert, Jacob Schumer, spoke to The Orlando Business Journal about how Disney has the upper hand in this legal battle.
“The resolution is largely about making [district] regulations prevail over the rules of the cities, which are still controlled indirectly by Disney. I’m not sure if they plan to use this resolution to later pass regulations targeting the development agreement, but there shouldn’t be any questions of legal weight — if the resolution or any subsequent regulations or other actions violate the agreements, then they violate the agreements, and Disney would have a cause to stop them,” said Jacob Schumer, a government law expert and attorney with Maitland-based Shepard, Smith, Kohlmyer & Hand PA.
For example, Schumer said if the resolution declares Disney’s agreement null and void or the district takes some action violating the agreements, then the theme park giant could have cause to litigate.
Aubrey Jewett is an associate professor and assistant school director at the University of Central Florida’s School of Politics, Security and International Affairs. He said that the resolution is not really legally binding. It is mainly the board making an official statement, but it doesn’t hold much weight legally. Even if the resolution was passed, the board’s legal standing is iffy, at best.
If the new board really wanted to challenge the legality of the agreement between Disney and Reedy Creek, they would most likely have to take it to court. However, even there, it is unlikely to be overturned.