Many people around the country know central Florida as the home to Walt Disney World and its major theme parks, but fewer know about the Reedy Creek Improvement District, an independent tax district that encompasses the whole of Walt Disney World and gives the Disney company essentially the ability to govern itself.
However, Florida lawmakers backed by Governor Ron DeSantis recently passed a law that would dismantle the special district and Disney’s effective self-governance — and this could have a direct impact on the way that Disney is able to work with contractors and complete construction on its theme parks.
As per the Washington Post, Reedy Creek oversees its own building code and issues construction permits. This cuts out a certain number of obstacles when it comes to bidding in Florida and gives Disney a higher level of control over what it builds — and, of course, if the district doesn’t exist any longer, that level of control leaves Disney’s hands.
Reedy Creek’s own website notes that the district “competitively bids contracts for services and goods needed in areas like construction and maintenance (buildings, roads, bridges, landscaping, irrigation, etc.), professional services (engineering, legal, architectural, surveying, etc.) and supplies (construction materials, equipment, and consumables),” claiming its focus is to work with contractors “who deliver high quality goods and services at competitive prices.”
The potential increase in red tape won’t be more than an annoyance to Disney, noted Florida Association of Special Districts leader David Ramba.
However, with the company no longer able to grant itself permission for its projects, construction would be held up in ways that the district currently doesn’t see in any situations.
“Disney is not the one being punished by this bill,” said State Senator Victor Torres. “All Floridians will be punished if this number one economic industry — tourism — declines because of this bill.”
The district has been busy with its infrastructure over the years, as Reedy Creek has built and maintained 134 miles of roads and 67 miles of waterways. According to a report by FOX Business, the area has “2,000 vendors, suppliers, and contractors who provide public services to over 200,000 daily visitors.”
A report from Bloomberg added that the district “is exempt from all Orange County and Osceola County regulations regarding building, zoning, construction, safety, sanitation, and more,” meaning that new regulations could change the way that Disney interacts with contractors in the bidding and building process.
Florida taxpayers would also become financially responsible for certain construction projects, which could potentially also impact what would get approved at the park — and of course what jobs were available for contractors to work on. Prior situations have shown how much of a hindrance this can be for theme parks in the area; a 2019 $150 million renovation of a road for Universal Studios’ Epic Universe project caused negative publicity after an outcry from upset Florida taxpayers.
It’s unclear what direction the situation will go for Reedy Creek, as Florida and Disney remain at odds. Ramba noted that neither side will go down without a fight, and legally it won’t be an easy process: “This is too big of an issue to just say, ‘Hey, we’re gonna get rid of you.’”