DeSantis-appointed Disney district board votes to give itself superior authority over district

Board tries to reclaim powers from Disney, Reedy Creek deal

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla.Gov. Ron DeSantis’ board that oversees Walt Disney World’s taxing district voted to give itself superior authority over the district Wednesday, including over the cities of Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista.

Board members from the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District came together two days after the governor announced steps he’s taking to reclaim power over Disney’s special district.

In the wake of DeSantis taking control of Disney’s “corporate kingdom,” the Reedy Creek Improvement District, and renaming it “Central Florida Tourism Oversight District,” state officials learned of the last-minute deal struck between the theme park company and the former board granting direct control of the district’s development rights and privileges to Disney, a move DeSantis said on Monday was in direct defiance of the people of Florida.

Legislation to invalidate the development agreement — which DeSantis deemed “legal fiction” — formed between the Walt Disney Company and the former Reedy Creek Improvement District board passed committees in the Florida House and Florida Senate on Wednesday and are now headed for full floor votes in their respective chambers.

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A lawyer for the board on Wednesday called Disney’s actions a caper “worthy of Scrooge McDuck.”

In response to the board’s and DeSantis’ recent moves, Disney stated that Florida approved the plan the development agreement was based upon on July 17, 2022.


Additionally, DeSantis said a bill would be introduced that would end an exemption from ride inspections by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for major theme parks.

On Wednesday the district’s board also fired the planning and zoning board and appointed themselves in the role, giving them greater control over development.

They also suggested raising property taxes to shore up reserves and pay for legal fees against Disney.

The board also talked about building affordable housing and giving people living in those properties voting rights.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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About the Authors:

Mark Lehman became a News 6 reporter in July 2014, but he's been a Central Florida journalist and part of the News 6 team for much longer. While most people are fast asleep in their bed, Mark starts his day overnight by searching for news on the streets of Central Florida.

Christie joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021.