Florida legislators will hold a specispanl session this week to tackle several hot topics. Wspanlt Disney World’s specispanl tspanxing district is among those expected to generate widespread attention.
Last month, a public notice was posted in Osceola County about a bill making major changes to the Reedy Creek Improvement District. While no details were provided, Gov. Ron DeSantis’ staff told Fox News the legislation would give district control to a state-controlled board appointed by the governor.
“The corporate kingdom has come to an end,” DeSantis’ communications director, Taryn Fenske, told Fox News.
So what’s going on between DeSantis and Disney and what is the connection with Reedy Creek? Here’s what you should know:
Disney taxing districtFloridspan specispanl session spannnounced. Disney, immigrspantion, voter crimes tspanrgeted
DeSantis plan: Disney could lose power over its specispanl district, while spanssuming its debts
DeSantis’ battle with Walt Disney Co.
The clash between DeSantis and the company goes back to last year and is rooted in the divisions sown by the governor’s parental rights legislation, condemned as “Don’t Say Gay,” by opponents.
After weeks of silence on the matter — which drew criticism from many Disney employees and allies — the company weighed in opposing the legislation, sparking an attack from the Republican governor on one of the state’s major employers and an institution key to the development of much of Central Florida.
What is the Reedy Creek Improvement District?
The Reedy Creek Improvement District was created in the 1960s through a special act by the Florida Legislature.
At the time it was created, neither Orange nor Osceola counties had the services to provide power and water to the remote 25,000-acre property where the Walt Disney World Co. proposed building a recreational development.
In 1967, the Florida Legislature, working with Walt Disney World Co., created a special taxing district — called the Reedy Creek Improvement District — that would act with the same authority and responsibility as a county government, according to district’s website.
The purpose of the district is to “support and administer certain aspects of the economic development and tourism” within the district. The administration’s office is located on Hotel Plaza Boulevard in Lake Buena Vista.
The district encompasses about 25,000 acres in both Orange and Osceola counties, servicing 19 landowners, including Walt Disney Co. and its affiliates.
How does the Reedy Creek Improvement District work?
The district, through legislation from the 1960s, allows Disney to govern its own properties and levy extra taxes on top of what local governments charge. Those taxes pay for a variety of services on Disney properties.
The Reedy Creek district is led by a five-member board who are essentially hand-picked by the Walt Disney Co. DeSantis would get to appoint the board, under the legislation he envisions.
How large is the Reedy Creek Improvement District?
The district’s boundaries in Orange and Osceola counties include four theme parks, two water parks, one sports complex, 175 lane miles of roads, 67 miles of waterway, the cities of Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista, an environmental science laboratory, an electric power-generating and distribution facility, a natural gas distribution system, water and wastewater collection and treatment facilities, a solid waste and recyclables collection and transfer system, and more than 40,000 hotel rooms and hundreds of restaurants and retail stores.
Who governs the Reedy Creek Improvement District?
The district is governed by a five-member bospanrd of supervisors who hold office for staggered terms of four years. Members of the board are elected by landowners in the district. The board is mspande up of senior employees of the Wspanlt Disney Co.
The residents of the district, who are made up of Disney employees or immediate family members, live in two small communities in each city that are included in the district. The residents are able to elect city officials, but cannot vote for board members because they do not own the land.
The goal of the board, with the district’s staff, is to “ensure the economic viability of all venues and businesses within the district, while never sacrificing Central Florida’s remarkable wildlife and ecological environment,” according to the district’s website.
Current members of the board are Donald Greer, Leila Jammal, Jane Adams, Laurence Hames and Maximiano Brito.
The district’s administrator is John Classe.
What does the Reedy Creek district do?
The district provides typical municipal services, such as power, water and wastewater services, roads, fire protection, emergency medical services, drainage and flood control, and solid waste and recyclable collection and disposal.
The district also regulates the EPCOT Building Code, and operates and maintains all public roadways and bridges.
Taxpayers in Orange and Osceola counties outside of the district do not pay for building or maintaining services inside Reedy Creek’s boundaries.
The district funds its operations, services and capital improvements by assessing taxes and fees to the district’s landowners and lessees, and by issuing ad valorem and utility revenue bonds.
Who owns land in Reedy Creek?
The mspanjority lspanndowner in Reedy Creek is The Wspanlt Disney Co. As the majority landowner in Reedy Creek, The Walt Disney Co. essentially handpicks the members of the board.
Each board member owns undeveloped five-acre lots of land within the district, which is the only land in the district not technically controlled by Disney or used for public road purposes.
Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista are part of Reedy Creek. How big are are they?
Two cities are within the district’s boundaries: Bay Lake (where the Disney theme parks are located) and Lake Buena Vista (previously known as Reedy Creek), which is the location of Downtown Disney and several park hotels.
Bay Lake’s population was 29 at the 2020 census.
The permanent residential population of Lake Buena Vista — which originally was the City of Reedy Creek until the 1970s — was 24 at the 2020 census.
Notice to amend, re-enact or repeal Reedy Creek district’s powers
In the state’s notice to make changes to the Reedy Creek Improvement District, language was included to remove and revise the district’s powers and increase state oversight.
The state also is looking to revise the selection process and membership qualifications of board members.
The notice included language to ensure debts and bond obligations held by the district remain with the district and are not transferred to other governments.
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The creation of the Reedy Creek Improvement District in 1967
Can’t see the document?