“Disney Picked the Fight” — DeSantis-Appointed Board Declares Reedy Creek Agreements Invalid

Some Disney agreements have just been declared INVALID by the DeSantis-appointed Reedy Creek Improvement District Board and it could cause some big complications.

©Reedy Creek Meeting Livestream

Disney entered into some important agreements with the old Board of Supervisors for the Reedy Creek Improvement District (now called the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District). These agreements gave Disney a lot of power over developments in the District for many years to come, despite what the new board may say or do. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the new board have threatened a variety of actions against Disney and some of those are starting to take shape, and now we have a critical update.

The new board of the District met on April 26th, 2023 (you can watch a livestream/recording here), and discussed some things that could seriously impact Disney’s agreements with the old board. Let’s break it all down.

Declaring the Disney Agreements “VOID”

During their previous meeting, the board heard some arguments from their legal counsel about potential issues with Disney’s agreements. Their counsel argued that:

  • Disney failed to give proper notice to other property owners in the District about the Development Agreement
  • the old board didn’t have proper procedures in place to approve the agreements
  • the government can’t delegate powers to private parties (and these agreements allegedly do that)
  • the agreements don’t comply with the law of contracts
  • the agreements are inconsistent with public policy

©Reedy Creek Meeting Livestream

During their latest meeting (on April 26th) the board unanimously approved legislative findings prepared by their special counsel (which are included in the board’s agenda for this meeting). In doing so, they’ve effectively voted to declare Disney’s Development Agreement and Declaration of Restrictive Covenants as “void ab initio” (a.k.a. void from the beginning).

According to the legislative findings:

  • The District didn’t post copies of its agendas prior to their January 25th and February 8th meetings regarding these documents (they allege the agendas weren’t posted until “early March 2023 after the new Board of Supervisors appointed by the Governor took office”)
  • Copies of the agreements weren’t posted in advance of the meetings
  • The District didn’t give proper notice to property owners impacted by the Development Agreement
  • The city counsels of Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista didn’t properly approve the Development Agreement

©Reedy Creek Meeting Livestream

The legislative findings also address some amendments made to the District’s comprehensive plan regarding future developments in May 2022, along with amendments to the land development regulations approved by Lake Buena Vista and Bay Lake in February 2023, and some approved by the District in January 2023. Essentially, the Board’s counsel argued:

  • The comprehensive plan amendments that were most made weren’t properly approved (their purpose had changed since they were initially introduced in 2017/2018 to when they were approved in 2022)
  • The District and the cities failed to properly attach the exhibit that would show the changes being made

It appears some of this could be related to the land-use regulation changes we reported on back in January of 2023. Overall, the comprehensive plan has to do with just what things Disney could build in the District in the future — from minor parks to major parks and new hotel rooms.

©Reedy Creek Meeting Livestream

The District’s counsel argued that the new development tables that have updated development ranges/maximums that were agreed to in May of 2022 and February/January of 2023 should not be considered as having been adopted into the land development code or comprehensive plan. And if that’s the case, then the later Development Agreement (which claims to exist under the prior comprehensive plan amendment) can’t exist.

Alan Lawson, former Florida supreme court justice and another individual working with the new board said that Disney had previously been given a unique and special privilege with this District, but “that era has ended.” He argued that Disney’s latest agreements with the old board were invalid because (1) the board attempted to act without the proper legal authority, (2) the action was attempted without following the proper notice and procedural steps required by law, and (3) the agreement violated the constitution and other substantive laws.

©Reedy Creek Meeting Livestream

So basically, for now, the new board has adopted the full legislative findings and essentially declared the Development Agreement and Restrictive Covenants invalid. But the board discussed a need to address the comprehensive plan situation in the future, so they’ll likely take action on that in the future as well with another formal motion.

That could mean that the 2032 comprehensive plan (which appeared to allow for some greater development by Disney in the District in the future) would go away and Disney would be “stuck” with the limits of the 2020 comprehensive plan.

Obtained via ClickOrlando Livestream

In discussing the situation with the Development Agreement, the chair of the new board (Martin Garcia) talked about how members of the board had met with a vice president at Disney and both sides had expressed that they wanted to work together.

Garcia said that he felt like they were off to a good start, but weeks later the new board learned about these agreements Disney had signed with the old board which restrict the new board’s powers. According to Garcia, “That’s not working together.” He argued that “Disney picked the fight with this board.”


©Reedy Creek Meeting Livestream

Keep in mind that declaring the Development Agreement invalid is a move that DeSantis had previously indicated would likely happen. But he also alluded to the possibility that those actions by the board may lead to litigation. That is why amendments have also been introduced to 2 Florida bills (one in the House of Representatives and one in the Senate) that could also impact the Development Agreement, prevent the current board from complying with it, and ultimately give the board the authority to choose not to comply with it.

The bills containing these amendments have not been passed yet, but we’ll be on the lookout for updates.

“Superior Authority”

During the prior meeting, the board held its final reading of Resolution No. 639, which amends parts of the Land Development Regulations that govern the District. The Resolution was initially approved during the April 19th meeting and once again unanimously approved at the April 26th meeting (which marked the final reading of this resolution).

So what does it do? Well, first it essentially does away with the Planning Board and gives the Board of Supervisors all of those planning board powers. For these planning matters it also makes the Board of Supervisors the “final decision-making authority for the District and no further administrative appeal is available.”

Reedy Creek

On top of that, the Resolution functions as an assertion of the Board’s control over development and planning decisions for both of the cities within the District (the City of Lake Buena Vista and the City of Bay Lake). The cities are essentially controlled by Disney. But, under this Resolution, the Board has claimed it has “Superior Authority” over planning, zoning, land development regulations, and more, even within those 2 cities.

It also forbids the cities from adopting “land development regulations that are less stringent than or in conflict with the District’s Land Development Regulations.”

COVID-19 Regulations

During this April 26th meeting, the board also considered Resolution 640 which prohibits certain COVID-19 restrictions and mandates by businesses within the District, which presumably would include Disney.

Reedy Creek

Limiting Disney’s ability to require its guests or employees to wear masks is something one of the new board members seemed eager to tackle previously and something Governor DeSantis previously mentioned as well. But it seems this Resolution doesn’t quite do that.

One part of the Resolution addresses COVID-19 policies within buildings where private businesses (like Disney) operate. For those, the Resolution says that the business shall NOT require customers to provide documents providing COVID-19 vaccination or post-infection recovery or impose a COVID-19 testing mandate to gain access to the business’ buildings.

Mask Sign

The Resolution does, however, prohibit the District itself from requiring its own employees to wear masks and states that no one will be required to wear a mask to enter buildings “of the District,” but stops short of applying that to private businesses within the District.

This (presumably) would limit Disney’s decision-making regarding COVID-19 policies in the future to some extent, but does not seem to prohibit Disney from imposing a mask mandate.

Other Matters

The Board also discussed other matters including hiring a new administrator and hearing from local businesses about their concerns regarding the Board’s actions and how those would impact the businesses.

Things are constantly changing here so we will keep an eye out for more details and let you know what we find. To read about DeSantis’ threats to build a prison near Disney World click here, or click here to see what he’s said about Disney ride inspections.

Click here to see how Disney has started to respond to the situation

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The post “Disney Picked the Fight” — DeSantis-Appointed Board Declares Reedy Creek Agreements Invalid first appeared on the disney food blog.

source https://www.disneyfoodblog.com/2023/04/26/disney-picked-the-fight-desantis-appointed-board-declares-reedy-creek-agreements-invalid/

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