Experts Say Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board’s ‘Superior Authority’ Resolution Won’t Work

Shannen Ace

Experts Say Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board’s ‘Superior Authority’ Resolution Won’t Work

The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board’s new “Superior Authority” resolution to undo Reedy Creek and Disney’s final agreements may not be effective, experts told Orlando Business Journal.

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Resolution No. 639 will be introduced at April 19 meeting. It intends to add a new section to the RCID Land Development Regulations: section 7-20.13. This section would ensure the new board has authority over the “reviewing, processing, evaluating, commenting on and approving, approving with conditions or denying applications for development orders throughout the District, including within the jurisdictional limits of City of Lake Buena Vista and the City of Bay Lake.”

This resolution is an attempt to take back control from Disney after the previous Reedy Creek Improvement District passed a number of restrictive covenants that keep Disney in power for at least thirty years, but potentially longer. The new board feels that these agreements are an “overreach” and are preparing for a legal battle.

Experts told OBJ that more than Resolution No. 639 would need to happen in order for the new board to truly secure power.

“The resolution is largely about making [district] regulations prevail over the rules of the cities, which are still controlled indirectly by Disney,” said Jacob Schumer, a government law expert and attorney with Shepard, Smith, Kohlmyer & Hand PA. “I’m not sure if they plan to use this resolution to later pass regulations targeting the development agreement, but there shouldn’t be any questions of legal weight — if the resolution or any subsequent regulations or other actions violate the agreements, then they violate the agreements, and Disney would have a cause to stop them.”

Schumer said that if the resolution declares Disney’s agreement is void or otherwise violates the agreement, then Disney would have cause to litigate.

Aubrey Jewett, associate professor and assistant school director at the University of Central Florida’s School of Politics, Security and International Affairs, also said the resolution may not be effective.

“A resolution typically is not sort of legally binding as say an ordinance or law or rule,” Jewett said. “To me, that basically puts them on record of saying we are making an official statement.”

Other anonymous experts questioned how any of the board’s potential power grabs could override Disney and Reedy Creek’s legally-binding documents.

DeSantis v. Disney: Part II

bob iger ron desantis reedy creek

While tensions cooled between Governor DeSantis and Disney as last year came to a close, the spark reignited once again earlier this year when Disney passed several laws which restricted the power of his newly-appointed Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board, designed to replace the Reedy Creek Improvement District. The new board was designed as retaliation for Disney’s outspoken response to a bill last year which restricted educators from teaching any LGBTQ+-related concepts to students.

Though they were publicly available, Reedy Creek and Disney’s final agreements shocked DeSantis and his board, who expressed disbelief at Disney’s actions and retained multiple law firms to fight the agreement in court. DeSantis later ordered a criminal investigation into Disney and the old board.

At the time, the Executive Office of the Governor reached out to WDWNT with this statement from Communications Director Taryn Fenske:

“The Executive Office of the Governor is aware of Disney’s last-ditch efforts to execute contracts just before ratifying the new law that transfers rights and authorities from the former Reedy Creek Improvement District to Disney. An initial review suggests these agreements may have significant legal infirmities that would render the contracts void as a matter of law. We are pleased the new Governor-appointed board retained multiple financial and legal firms to conduct audits and investigate Disney’s past behavior.”

Disney responded with their own 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.”

At Disney’s annual shareholder meeting, CEO Bob Iger accused Gov. DeSantis of punishing Disney for exercising their right to free speech. “We love the state of Florida,” he said, citing the company’s various investments in the community over the years and saying he respected and appreciated what the state has done for Disney in the past. “Any action that thwarts these efforts simply to retaliate is anti-business and anti-Florida.”

DeSantis also promised to double down on his efforts to punish Disney through methods both in the Legislature and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board. Notably, he promised to hike Disney’s hotel taxes and institute tolls on the roads around Walt Disney World Resort property now administered by the CFTOB.

In an interview with Time, Iger said, “If the governor of Florida wants to meet with me to discuss all of this, of course, I would be glad to do that.”

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