The Reedy Creek Improvement District is no more, but it’s legacy will live on. For approximately “21 years after the death of the last survivor of the descendants of King Charles III. King of England.”
It seems that on February 8th, while the Florida Legislature was voting to establish the Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board to replace Reedy Creek, the improvement district board was finalizing a covenant with the Walt Disney Company that gave Disney self-management rights over the Walt Disney World Resort in perpetuity, from the ability to add attractions, build resorts, build new power plants, build entire new theme parks.
All the CFTOS board can do, reportedly, is fill potholes. They are not even sure if they have the authority to hire a lawyer to challenge the covenant in court.
For the better part of a year, Disney has been quiet in response to Florida’s stated intention to wrest the governing authority it had granted to Disney after Walt’s death in 1966, which led to the development of four theme parks, numerous golf courses and water parks, and dozens of resorts. During all this discussion, it was claimed that Disney had abused its self-governing authority but it was never explained how. In the meantime, Florida went from a coastal economy to a robust tourist destination, and Orlando grew from a small town to a major city.
Some took Disney’s silence as cowering, especially as former CEO Bob Chapek was fired last year and Bob Iger restored to head the company. And he is following through on a promise to slash billions from the budget, including shuttering the company’s metaverse entertainment plans (not to be confused with the multiverse, which will continue to impact Marvel movies for years to come) and severing seven thousand cast members, mostly from corporate, R&D and operations consolidations with 20th Century Studios.
But apparently, the legal minds were hard at work. Perhaps this was a plan on the shelf all along, a What-If legal exercise the Boards of Disney and RDIC had hoped to never have to put in play. Or perhaps it all fell together over the last few months. But just before the Florida Legislature passed a bill to replace the RDIC with a state-appointed governing board, RDIC and Disney agreed to a covenant that stripped RDIC of almost all of its authority, granting Disney exclusive self-management rights that covered land management, development approval, utilities and security services and more.
The CFTOD board members held their first meeting only to find that the RDIC had left them with nothing to govern but the roads. Their first action was to move the RDIC appointed civilian administrators. The CFTOD Board Chair promised to fight Disney all the way to the Supreme Court.
For its part, Disney released a simple statement:
All agreements signed between Disney and the District were appropriate, and were discussed and approved in open, noticed public forums in compliance with Florida Government in the Sunshine law.
Who expects this move on Disney’s part will not be taken graciously by the state government, but Disney would not likely have made this move without having prepared for the legal challenge, the political fallout and the Board’s approval…
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