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Deal sealed between Disney and Disney World governing district with approval by DeSantis reps

Updated on: June 13, 2024 / 5:07 PM EDT / AP

Orlando, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis' appointees on Wednesday gave final approval to an agreement that buries the hatchet between Disney and the governing district for Walt Disney World, which the Florida governor took over after the company two years ago publicly opposed a state law critics dubbed "Don't Say Gay."

The five DeSantis-appointed board members to the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District unanimously voted to approve a 15-year development deal in which the district committed to making infrastructure improvements in exchange for Disney investing up to $17 billion into Disney World over the next two decades.

The agreement followed a detente in March in which both sides agreed to stop litigating against each other in state court and work toward negotiating a new development agreement and a new comprehensive plan no later than next year. The district provides municipal services such as firefighting, planning and mosquito control, among other things, and was controlled by Disney supporters before the takeover by the DeSantis appointees.

District board member Brian Aungst said at Wednesday night's board meeting that the agreement provides a lasting and stable framework for Disney and the board to work together.

"This is the day we all have been looking forward to," Aungst said. "I was always extremely optimistic and knew we would get here because it was the right outcome."

Disney DeSantis

Terms of the accord  

Under the deal, Disney will be required to donate up to 100 acres of Disney World's 24,000 acres for the construction of infrastructure projects controlled by the district. The company also will need to award at least half of its construction projects to companies based in Florida and spend at least $10 million on affordable housing for central Florida.

Disney would then be approved to build a fifth major theme park at Disney World and two more minor parks, such as water parks, if it desired. The company could raise the number of hotel rooms on its property from almost 40,000 to more than 53,000 and increase the amount of retail and restaurant space by more than 20%. Disney will retain control of building heights due to its need to maintain an immersive environment.

Leaders of Orlando's tourism industry praised the agreement, telling the district's board members that it will bring boundless jobs, tourists and attention to central Florida.

"It very clearly demonstrates to the world that the district and Disney are eager to resume working together for the great state of Florida," said Robert Earl, founder and CEO of Planet Hollywood International, Inc.

In a statement from DeSantis' office, communications director Bryan Griffin said: "Disney and the state of Florida continue working well together under [Central Florida Tourism Oversight District's] new governance structure, and we are pleased to see CFTOD and Disney reach a new development agreement that secures up to $17 billion in future investment in the state of Florida. This agreement is a big win for central Florida and will lead to numerous jobs and improved guest experiences."

A remaining legal issue  

Still up in the air was an appeal of a federal lawsuit Disney had filed against DeSantis and his appointees. After the settlement was reached in March, Disney asked the appellate court to put that case on hold while the development agreement was negotiated. The company has until next week to file a brief with the court if it wants to move ahead with the case.

Disney didn't respond to an email Wednesday afternoon seeking comment on how the company planned to proceed. The DeSantis appointees to the district had planned to hold a closed-door discussion about the lawsuit after their board meeting Wednesday but cancelled that meeting.

Matthew Oberly, a spokesperson for the district, said Wednesday night that the district didn't have any comment on the future of the federal litigation.

The March settlement ended almost two years of litigation sparked by DeSantis' takeover of the district following the company's opposition to the 2022 law that bans classroom lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades. The law was championed by the Republican governor, who used Disney as a punching bag in speeches during his run for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination until he suspended his campaign earlier this year.

As punishment for Disney's opposition to the controversial law, DeSantis took over the governing district through legislation passed by the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature and appointed a new board of supervisors. Disney sued DeSantis and his appointees, claiming the company's free speech rights were violated for speaking out against the legislation. A federal judge dismissed that lawsuit in January, but Disney appealed.

Before control of the district changed hands early last year, the Disney supporters on its board signed agreements with the company shifting control over design and construction at Disney World to the company. The new DeSantis appointees claimed the "eleventh-hour deals" neutered their powers, and the district sued the company in state court in Orlando to have the contracts voided.

Disney filed counterclaims that included asking the state court to declare the agreements valid and enforceable. Those state court lawsuits were dismissed as part of the March settlement.

  • Disney World
  • Ron DeSantis

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The Disney vs. DeSantis Battle Far From Over as Entire District Board Summoned for Testimonials

in Disney , Walt Disney World

Ron DeSantis and Mickey Mouse in front of the Disney World Governing district building.

Walt Disney World Resort is hitting back hard against Ron DeSantis and its Governing District, the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD), as preparations are underway for all board members to be videotaped under testimony.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis smiling and waiving in front of the former Reedy Creek building as Mickey Mouse looks on in shock.

Disney Seeks Out Recorded Depositions From Entire CFTOD Board as It Seeks Victory Against Ron DeSantis

Walt Disney World Parks has taken a significant legal step by filing a document today indicating their intent to record videotaped depositions of the entire Board of Supervisors for the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. The notice outlines the schedule for the depositions, which includes even resigned former Board member Michael Sasso:

  • Martin Garcia | March 22
  • Charbel Barakat | April 2
  • Ron Peri | April 2
  • Bridget Ziegler | April 3
  • Brian Aungst Jr. | April 11
  • Michael Sasso | April 12

These depositions are part of the ongoing lawsuit originally initiated by CFTOD against Disney, seeking to nullify existing contracts between the District and Disney. The District asserts that these contracts were structured to diminish its local governing powers. These contracts were finalized before Florida Governor Ron DeSantis appointed the current Board of Supervisors. In response, Disney has filed a countersuit against the District. In the Disney DeSantis battle, Gov Ron DeSantis seems to be victorious in more ways than one. The Walt Disney Company is seeking a victory win in its lawsuit in Orlando between WDW and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

Disney's governing district - An image to the left of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis with a photo to the right of the Magic Kingdom castle with a vs. graphic in the middle.

The Lawsuits Between the House of Mouse and the CFTOD – Secret Meeting?

The deposition process is a crucial component of the discovery phase currently underway. The Board of Supervisors recently convened in a closed-door session with District attorneys to discuss “strategy and settlement negotiations related to litigation expenditures.”

The District finds itself embroiled in three lawsuits with Disney:

  • A federal lawsuit, presently under appeal in the Eleventh Circuit, concerning First Amendment retaliation by DeSantis, with the CFTOD listed as a defendant.
  • The District initiated A state-level lawsuit against Disney, alleging improper contracts between Disney and the former Reedy Creek Board of Supervisors.
  • Another state-level lawsuit initiated by Disney against the District, alleging violations of the Florida Public Records Act.

The option to record all of the board members comes after it was announced that CFTOD Administrator Glen Gilzean would be asked to come in for a deposition hearing and videotaped before Disney to use the testimony in court.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis laughing as meteors strike Walt Disney World Resort.

Depositions aside, Ron DeSantis is coming off high after a significant win in the Federal Court where the landmark First Amendment case between himself and Disney World was officially dismissed, which landed things in DeSantis’ court.

The Florida Governor also held a press conference last week where he and other State officials took a victory lap around Walt Disney World to celebrate its one-year takeover of the former Reedy Creek Improvement District. The press conference highlighted all the positive things that have been done and improved since DeSantis took over in 2023.

With April next month, Disney is also dealing with the upcoming Disney Board of Directors voting session , which it hopes will keep the company in charge and away from billionaires like Nelson Peltz or Blackwells Capitol.

central florida tourism oversight district board of supervisors meeting

Tourism district considers $100M in Disney World road upgrades

A s political tensions ease, Florida’s tourism oversight district is considering a nearly $100 million plan to upgrade bridges and roads at the Disney World resort.

The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District’s board voted Wednesday to explore issuing bonds for six transportation projects by autumn.

The project list includes the third phase of the World Drive North improvement plan, which involves the construction of 1.6 miles of four-lane road. Funds would also go to replace aging bridges, widen Western Way, resurface roads and improve interchanges.

“It’s great we are able to take a positive step,” said Charbel Barakat, acting chairman of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District’s Board of Supervisors.

The transportation upgrades come as Disney plans what one executive said would “ probably be the largest expansion ever ” of the Magic Kingdom. Details are thin on the project dubbed “beyond Big Thunder,” but it’s expected to involve about 11 or 12 acres of land.

Meanwhile, Disney’s competitor, Universal Orlando, is expected to open a new theme park , Epic Universe, next year.

Disney: Big Magic Kingdom expansion is in the works

In the past, the Gov. Ron DeSantis-appointed tourism oversight board directed fiery rhetoric at Disney as the two sides tussled in court. But as of late, the meetings have focused on the nuts and bolts of running the special district, which oversees fire protection, transportation and other key government services for Disney World.

Disney and the district settled a lawsuit over development agreements in March. The settlement said development agreements and covenants approved by a Disney-friendly board shortly before the state takeover are null and void.

A federal lawsuit filed by Disney is still pending. At its meeting Wednesday, the oversight board approved new regulations for adopting development agreements, setting the stage for a new plan to be brokered with Disney. Disney officials did not respond to an email seeking comment about the new regulations.

Disney is working with new leadership at the district, which DeSantis seized control of in February 2023 after the Legislature gave him the power to appoint its five board members. For decades before that, Disney essentially self-governed the district because it elected the board.

Stephanie Kopelousos, a top DeSantis adviser who worked as his legislative affairs director, replaced another DeSantis ally, Glen Gilzean, as the district’s administrator. Her background includes stints as Clay County manager and secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation.

Board Chairman Martin Garcia also resigned from his leadership post. DeSantis appointed Orlando businessman Craig Mateer to the board, but a new chairman has not yet been selected.

©2024 Orlando Sentinel. Visit at orlandosentinel.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Ron DeSantis- appointed tourism oversight district is considering a $100 million plan to upgrade some of the roads and bridges near Disney World.

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  1. DeSantis-appointed board will countersue Disney

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  2. Details From Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board Meeting

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  3. Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board of Supervisors

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  4. New Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board Meets for the

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  5. Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board Meeting 5/24 Livestream

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  6. Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board Meeting 6/21

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COMMENTS

  1. Meetings Archive

    CFTOD Board of Supervisors Meeting. Date & Time: Jul 24, 2024 at 10:30AM. Location CFTOD Administration Building 1st Floor Boardroom. Board of Supervisors Meeting Agenda Link to CFTOD YouTube Channel (Live Stream)

  2. Board of Supervisors

    Board of Supervisors 2024 Meetings. 10:30 a.m. unless otherwise indicated. April 24 May 22 June 26 July 24 August 28 September 11 @ 5:05 p.m. (Budget-1st reading) September 25 @ 5:05 p.m. (Budget-final reading) October 23 November 20 December 18. Board Meeting Documents. Click on a folder to expand, then click the download icon to download the ...

  3. PDF BOARD OF SUPERVISORS

    Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board of Supervisors Meeting . Agenda . July 26, 2023 . 9:30 a.m. 1. CALL TO ORDER . 2. OPENING INVOCATION 3. PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE 4. SAFETY MINUTE ... CENTRAL FLORIDA TOURISM OVERSIGHT DISTRICT ADOPTING A FUND BALANCE POLICY. - Page 258 .

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    Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board of Supervisors Meeting Agenda September 27, 2023 5.05 p.m. 1. CALL TO ORDER 2. OPENING INVOCATION 3. PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE 4. SAFETY MINUTE 5. PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD 6. CONSENT AGENDA 6.1 September 13, 2023 Meeting Minutes - Page 4 6.2 Proclamation for Mike Rickabaugh - Page 58

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  6. 4/19/23 Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board of Supervisors

    4/19/23 Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board of Supervisors; 4/19/23 Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board of Supervisors. Courtesy of WESH. There are audio difficulties originating from the source throughout this meeting.

  7. Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board Meeting With Attorneys

    As requested by the Acting General Counsel, pursuant to Section 286.011(8), Florida Statutes, the Board of Supervisors of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District will hold an Attorney/Client Executive Closed Session to discuss strategy and settlement negotiations related to litigation expenditures in the following cases: Walt Disney ...

  8. Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board Passes Whistleblower

    The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board of Supervisors passed a new resolution to establish a whistleblower policy in today's board meeting. The board claimed staff within the area felt their grievances or concerns were "falling on deaf ears," and as a board they wanted to ensure their policy was to be "open, honest ...

  9. Details From Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board Meeting

    The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD) held its third board meeting Wednesday morning. Let's review some of the main points that were brought up. Board Chair Martin Garcia referred to the new Developer Agreements put into place in Disney's "11th-hour deal" are "illegal.". He said that what Disney tried to do by ...

  10. CFTOD Board of Supervisors Meeting

    Under Florida law, e-mail addresses are public records. If you do not want your e-mail address released in response to a public record request, do not send electronic mail to this entity. Instead contact this office by phone or in writing.

  11. Latest board meeting signals new chapter for Disney and Central Florida

    The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District held its first board of supervisors meeting yesterday, the first time since the settlement agreement with Disney was reached. In a significant shift from its beginnings in 2023 as a Ron DeSantis-directed takeover of Disney's Reedy Creek Improvement District, the meeting felt more like an actual ...

  12. PDF CFTOD Board of Supervisors Meeting Agenda

    CENTRAL FLORIDA TOURISM OVERSIGHT DISTRICT . Board of Supervisors Meeting . Agenda . March 27, 2024 . 9:30 a.m. 1. CALL TO ORDER 2. OPENING INVOCATION 3. PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE 4. SAFETY MINUTE 5. PUBLICCOMMENT PERIOD 6. CONSENT AGENDA 6.1 February 28, 2024 Meeting Minutes 7. REPORTS 7.1 Management Report 8. NEW BUSINESS 8.1 Board Consideration ...

  13. What to Expect From Today's Central Florida Tourism Oversight District

    Apr 19, 2023 8:34 AM. Topics. Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. Later this morning, the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board of Supervisors will meet for the third time, and we expect that significant action will be taken to establish authority over the District and Walt Disney World.

  14. Next Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Meeting Dedicated to

    The next meeting of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD) Board of Supervisors will be almost exclusively dedicated to a discussion of "Historical Issues" with the former ...

  15. Next meeting of DeSantis' Central Florida Tourism Oversight District

    The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District has released the agenda for the next Board of Supervisor meeting, to be held on December 6, 2023, at 9:30 am. ... The CFTOD Board of Supervisors meeting to discuss the Developer's Agreement is about to begin:

  16. Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board of Supervisors

    The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD) Board of Supervisors approved a groundbreaking development agreement with Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, U.S., Inc. (WDWPR). This historic agreement underscores the District's commitment to responsible oversight and economic growth in Central Florida.

  17. Central Florida Tourism Oversight District to Discuss New Development

    You will please take notice that on June 5, 2024 at 10: 30 a.m., or as soon thereafter as practicable, the Board of Supervisors of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District will meet in the ...

  18. PDF Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board of Supervisors Meeting

    Anyone with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation should contact the Clerk of the Board, by telephone at (407) 934-7480 or via email (currently at [email protected]), no less than one business day (i.e. Monday through Friday, excluding legal holidays) in advance of the applicable meeting to ensure that the District has ...

  19. Deal sealed between Disney and Disney World governing district with

    The five DeSantis-appointed board members to the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District unanimously voted to approve a 15-year development deal in which the district committed to making ...

  20. The Disney vs. DeSantis Battle Far From Over as Entire District Board

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  21. 'Disney Defenders' Petitioning to Restore Reedy Creek, Give Central

    A group called "Disney Defenders" handed the members of the Governor DeSantis-appointed Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board of Supervisors "pink slips" during their meeting on ...

  22. PDF BOARD OF SUPERVISORS

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  23. Tourism district considers $100M in Disney World road upgrades

    1w • 2 min read. As political tensions ease, Florida's tourism oversight district is considering a nearly $100 million plan to upgrade bridges and roads at the Disney World resort. The Central ...