In a recent development, it appears that The Walt Disney Company has outmaneuvered Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and his attempts to punish the company for its socially responsible stance.
DeSantis had enlisted the help of his buddies in the Florida Legislature to replace the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID) with a new committee. We noticed at the time that the Walt Disney Company seemed strangely quiet during this whole process. However, the Walt Disney Company was not sitting idly by during this process. Instead, it was working the system as provided for by a state law meant to protect developers from governmental overreach.
It turns out that a few weeks before DeSantis was able to sign the new law, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts entered into a development agreement with RCID that would grant them the powers that DeSantis was trying to take away for at least 30 years and potentially until the last currently living descendant of King Charles III dies, plus 21 years.
Development agreements like this are common in multi-phase, master-planned projects (such as The Villages or Sunbridge by Tavistock), and are meant to provide financial certainty to investors whose construction and other related costs might be at risk if governments change.
Given that The Walt Disney Company has a real estate development arm, it’s unsurprising that they decided upon this option as a legally sound response to DeSantis’ attempts to punish them for wanting to live up to the company’s values of equality for all its employees.
As long as RCID followed all the proper procedures, which it appears they did at a meeting on February 8, 2023, then Disney has effectively bought itself at least 30 years to execute its plans for the Walt Disney World property without having to worry about outside political influence. This was, after all, the point of the original RCID agreement that Walt Disney made with Florida’s legislature.
In a meeting held earlier today by the members of the new Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD), it was revealed that the agreement adopted by RCID in February 2023 had stripped them of the power they thought they had. As you might expect the new board was not happy with the situation.
Walt Disney World president Jeff Vahle’s above statement made just three days after the agreement in February now makes sense in a different light. It turns out that the “New Framework” referred to in Vahle’s statement was the one passed by RCID on the 8th of February, not the one that would later be signed into law by DeSantis.
As a bonus, a related agreement includes restrictive covenants that prevent CFTOD from using the Disney name or any of its characters without Disney’s permission.
It remains to be seen how this eventually plays out, but it’s likely to end up in the courts. For now, the score is Mickey Mouse 1, Ron DeSantis 0.