Disney Sued by Florida for Control of Theme Park’s Expansion

Within the newest chapter of the tussle between Disney and the state of Florida, the newly appointed board for a particular tax district encompassing Walt Disney World sued the corporate in Orlando on Monday to attempt to regain management over growth on the theme park advanced.

The district’s criticism entails a pair of contracts that Disney World struck with a previous board that Disney managed. The agreements — adopted at public boards — lock in a complete plan for development on Disney’s 25,000-acre property close to Orlando, together with the potential development of a fifth theme park and 14,000 extra lodge rooms.

“These agreements reek of a again room deal,” the district’s new board mentioned in its 188-page lawsuit filed in state court docket. “Out of haste or ignorance, Disney’s offers violate fundamental ideas of Florida constitutional, statutory and customary regulation. Because of this, they’re null and void — not even well worth the paper they had been printed on.”

Disney declined to remark.

The lawsuit, which had been anticipated, is the most recent volley in a 14-month dispute between Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Disney World, the state’s largest tax payer and the nation’s largest single-site employer. Final week, after the brand new board voted to nullify the event agreements, Disney sued Mr. DeSantis and the brand new board members, claiming “a focused marketing campaign of presidency retaliation.” Disney filed its lawsuit in federal court docket in Tallahassee.

The battle began in March 2022, when Disney joined different corporations in criticizing a contentious state training regulation that, amongst different issues, prohibits classroom dialogue of sexual orientation and gender identification for younger college students. (Opponents labeled it “Don’t Say Homosexual.”) Mr. DeSantis and his Republican allies within the Florida Legislature instantly began to assault Disney as a “woke” firm and commenced efforts to limit its long-held autonomy within the state.

On the heart of the struggle is a 56-year-old particular tax district that features Disney World. The district successfully turned the property into its personal county, giving Disney uncommon management over hearth safety, policing, waste administration, highway upkeep, bond issuance — and, crucially, the planning of actual property growth.

In February, lawmakers stripped management of the district’s five-member board from Disney and handed it to the governor. When Mr. DeSantis’s appointees reported for responsibility, nevertheless, they had been incensed to find that the outgoing board had accepted sure growth agreements, limiting the brand new board’s energy for many years to come back.

Disney has repeatedly described the agreements as “applicable” and struck in public conferences marketed in The Orlando Sentinel. Florida attorneys who will not be affiliated with Disney and consultants on growth contracts in Florida have mentioned that Disney acted legally.

In its lawsuit on Monday, the brand new board mentioned in any other case, contending that the agreements had been unlawful. The board mentioned that the notifications within the Sentinel, for example, “didn’t absolutely inform the general public or different property house owners of the needs or contents of the event settlement.”

Notably, the brand new board members try to wrest again management over a development plan that was already cleared by the DeSantis administration.

However that was earlier than Disney — involved {that a} new, politicized board might intervene with the expansion plan — took the extra step of locking within the approvals.

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