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In a settlement agreement reached between allies of Gov. Ron DeSantis and Disney, a state court battle over the future development of Walt Disney World has come to an end. The conflict was triggered by DeSantis’ takeover of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District from Disney supporters after the company opposed Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law. This law, which prohibits classroom discussions on sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades, was championed by the governor. The district provides various municipal services and had been controlled by Disney supporters for decades.

Following Disney’s opposition to the “Don’t Say Gay” law, DeSantis seized control of the oversight district through legislative action and appointed a new board. In response, Disney filed a lawsuit, claiming its free speech rights were violated. A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit in January. Prior to the change in district leadership, Disney supporters had signed agreements transferring control of design and construction at Disney World to the company, which the new DeSantis-appointed board claimed limited their powers. The district then sued Disney in state court to void these agreements.

As part of the settlement agreement, Disney has agreed to acknowledge the nullification of the comprehensive plan and development agreements approved by the Disney supporters before the takeover. Instead, a 2020 comprehensive plan will be used as a basis for development, with the new board having the ability to make changes to it. The agreement also indicates that Disney and the new board will engage in negotiations for a new development agreement in the near future. This resolution allows for continued investment, job creation, and economic opportunities in the state.

Jeff Vahle, president of Walt Disney World Resort, expressed satisfaction with the settlement and highlighted the potential for constructive engagement with the new leadership of the district. Vahle emphasized that the agreement serves the interests of all parties involved by enabling further investment and job creation. The settlement brings an end to almost two years of litigation and discord between Disney and DeSantis’ administration, reflecting a shift towards cooperation and mutual benefit.

The conflict between Disney and DeSantis stemmed from the company’s opposition to the “Don’t Say Gay” law and subsequent takeover of the oversight district by the governor. The legal battle that ensued over control and development rights at Walt Disney World has now been resolved through the settlement agreement. Both parties have agreed to move forward in a spirit of collaboration, focusing on future investment, job creation, and economic growth in the state. This resolution marks a new chapter in the relationship between Disney and the state of Florida, allowing for continued development and prosperity in the region.

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