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Disney, DeSantis allies settle fight over development of Disney World

Robert Besser
31 Mar 2024

TALLAHASSEE, Florida: Allies of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Disney have reached a settlement agreement in the fight for the future development of Walt Disney World.

The lawsuit follows the takeover of the theme park resort's government by DeSantis.

Ending almost two years of litigation stared by DeSantis' takeover of the district from Disney supporters following the company's opposition to Florida's "Don't Say Gay" law, members of the board of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District approved the settlement agreement.

The district provides various municipal services, such as firefighting, planning and mosquito control, and was controlled by Disney supporters for almost five decades.

Under the agreement, covenants and a development agreement made by Disney supporters with the board just before the state takeover would be dropped and the new board agreed to operate under an earlier plan.

In a statement, Jeff Vahle, president of Walt Disney World Resort, said the company was pleased with the settlement.

"This agreement opens a new chapter of constructive engagement with the new leadership of the district and serves the interests of all parties by enabling significant continued investment and the creation of thousands of direct and indirect jobs and economic opportunity in the state," Vahle said.

At a news conference in Orlando, DeSantis said, "I am glad that they were able to do that settlement. Those 11th hour covenants and restrictions were never going to be valid. We knew that."

Under the terms of the settlement agreement, Disney will allow a determination by the board of DeSantis appointees that the comprehensive plan approved by the Disney supporters before the takeover is null and void to stand.

The media giant also agreed that a development agreement and restrictive covenants passed before the takeover are not valid, and instead, a comprehensive plan from 2020 will be used with the new board able to make changes to it.

Disney and the new board are set to negotiate a new development agreement soon.

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