Disney settles with DeSantis
Disney settles with DeSantis Creative Commons

Three months after a settlement ended an extended litigation process between Disney and the Ron DeSantis administration, both parties are set to approve an agreement that could lead to Disney investing $17 billion into its Florida resort, potentially paving the way for a fifth major theme park at Walt Disney World.

This new development agreement, which is poised to last 15 years, will be voted on by the five DeSantis-appointed supervisors who oversee the Disney World district.

Under the terms of the deal, Disney would be allowed to build a fifth major theme park and two additional minor parks, such as water parks, over the next decade or two. The company would also be allowed to increase its hotel capacity from nearly 40,000 rooms to over 53,000 and expand its retail and restaurant space by more than 20%. Disney would retain control over building heights to maintain its immersive environment.

In return for the approval, Disney would be required to donate up to 100 acres of its 24,000-acre property for district-controlled infrastructure projects. Additionally, Disney must ensure that at least half of its construction projects are awarded to Florida-based companies and allocate a minimum of $10 million for affordable housing in central Florida.

The March agreement between both parties came after nearly two years of litigation. Tensions arose in March 2022, after then-CEO Bob Chapek denounced a conservative push to introduce an initiative unofficially dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" bill (formally titled House Bill 1557, or the Parental Rights in Education bill) that passed through the Florida Senate at the time,

The law, which banned classroom lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades, was championed by the Republican governor, who criticized Disney in his speeches until he suspended his presidential campaign earlier this year.

In retaliation to Disney's stance against the controversial law, DeSantis enacted legislation to take over the governing district and appointed a new board of supervisors. Disney responded by suing DeSantis and his appointees, alleging that the company's free speech rights were violated. Although a federal judge dismissed this lawsuit in January, Disney appealed the decision. As part of the March settlement, Disney agreed to put this appeal on hold.

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