Just when it seemed like the “Disney vs. DeSantis” battles were over, the media brought another loophole forward, reportedly giving Disney power and leaving the new oversight board hand-picked by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis fuming.
The last-minute agreements set by the now-disbanded Reedy Creek Improvement District Board of Directors appear to keep Walt Disney World’s land development freedoms intact and somehow include the UK’s Royal Family. the new board of the renamed Central Florida Tourism Oversight District might seek to take the issue to court.
Read More: Disney Invokes Royal Family to Keep Control of Reedy Creek
As the Orlando Sentinel reiterated,
At issue is a 30-year development agreement and restrictive covenants quietly approved by the previous board, which was controlled by Disney. Approval was given on Feb. 8, just as state lawmakers prepared to approve a plan to have the state take over the district and put DeSantis in charge of picking the board members.
Those agreements granted Disney maximum development rights and put other restrictions on new board members, according to a review by the new board’s lawyers.
Governor DeSantis’ office has reviewed these agreements and said that they “have significant legal infirmities that would render the contracts void as a matter of law.” However, according to Jacob Schumer, a Central Florida local government tax attorney, this development agreement was filed and legally approved by Florida law at the time and cannot be rescinded.
Related: Ron DeSantis Releases Statement After Reedy Creek Debacle
“Governments can’t pass laws that change their contractual obligations and impairs a contract,” Schumer said. “I would say the development agreement on its face seems quite valid.”
But whether or not Tallahassee can supersede these old agreements in court might fall second in priority to just getting the case to court because whether they win or lose, The Walt Disney Company will most likely be the one left with both sides’ legal bills.
“Reedy Creek is going to be spending Disney’s own money fighting Disney,” Schumer said. “If they go all the way with all the agreements, it will certainly cross seven figures, eight figures.”
The Districts Board of directors reserves the ability to use taxpayer money to fund their own legal teams, and Disney just so happens to be the largest single landowner and taxpayer within the district’s boundaries. While there may not be immediate financial repercussions felt in the funding of its domestic opposition, the new board is able to enact measures “essential to the public health, safety, or welfare,” which arguably include fighting these undermining measures, and this utilization of taxpayer dollars could result in the need to increase taxes within the boundaries to compensate and pay for other matters such as infrastructure projects.
But the board hopes to solve this matter without taking the matter to court.
“We’re not taking an adversarial position to Disney,” said board member Brian Aungst Jr. “We are defending ourselves, and we’re defending the people and we’re going to be prepared for what the next steps are. My hope is that those next steps are collaborative.”
Disney has not shown any sign of willingness to renegotiate, and it is not hard to understand why.
“Whether you love Mickey Mouse or hate Mickey Mouse, I can understand it from a business decision,” said Florida professional engineer Bill Brewer, who remarks that this was a precautionary measure to ensure that the Imagineering plans already in progress will be able to go ahead without any government interference. “All the politics aside, Disney’s motivations may not be entirely nefarious. It may just be a self-preservation motivation, so it has the flexibility to continue to do innovative things.”
We at Disney Fanatic will continue to update our readers on this story as more developments come to light.