DeSantis vs Disney: Here's where the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District may build housing

The site, which is currently being used as a parking lot, could one day be home to affordable housing units.

DeSantis vs Disney: Here's where the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District may build housing

Affordable housing is a hot topic in metro Orlando. Recently, the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board members said they might want to build this type of project near Walt Disney World.

The board members of the district -- appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, who replaced the Reedy Creek Improvement District Special Government earlier this year in the wake of a feud between Disney and the governor for a year, expressed an interest in developing the district's land around Walt Disney World.

The board discussed the topic at its April 19th meeting. Its members also talked about a controversial land-development agreement that Disney and the district's former leadership had entered into.

Martin Garcia, the new district board chair, spoke about the creation of a new zoning which would allow the development of workforce housing and affordable housing as well as creating voting rights for these residents within the district -- but he did not go into further detail.

Attorneys presenting to the board on April 19, shed some light as to possible areas of district owned land that are prime for development.

As an example, the 193 acres district-owned property just north of Disney’s Flamingo Crossings Mixed-Use Development was cited as a property that could be developed for affordable housing, among other uses.

Hartzog Road is near the intersection with State Road 429, and Western Way. The land is currently used for rapid infiltration basins, which are basically irrigation systems or water processes used to replenish Florida's aquifer.

"The district has lots of land that can be used for this purpose. This is an example where we have a restrictive covenant that says that forever, we must spray water on empty fields and cannot use them for any other purpose." said Daniel W. Langley during the meeting. Langley is the district's General Counsel and Equity Partner with Winter Park-based Law Firm Fishback Dominick.

This area could be part of an affordable housing or workforce site near Disney and other businesses in this district, where employees would be able to commute within a short time instead of having to drive 45 minutes to one hour. These deed restrictions state that the property cannot be used for any other purpose than to drain water from fields.

Disney and district representatives were unavailable for comment.

Disney has also announced its own affordable housing project, which is set to open by 2026. The Michaels Organization, based in Camden, NJ, will build, own, and operate the Disney Land community west of Walt Disney World, and north of Flamingo Town Center.

The Walt Disney Co., based in Burbank, California, protested against the controversial Parental Rights in Education Bill, also known by its opponents as "Don't Say Gay", which forbids the discussion of sexual orientation in school.

Industry experts claim that DeSantis was prompted by the backlash to pass a bill in April last year to dissolve Disney's Reedy Creek special governing district this year.

Reedy Creek Improvement District, now replaced, was the 39-square mile governing jurisdiction as well as special taxing district that Walt Disney World Resort created in 1968. It had the same authority and responsibilities of a county government.


Walt Disney World is the number one visitor attraction in Orlando. More than 50 millions people have passed through its gates over the past few years, many of them repeat visitors.

Disney owns Blizzard Bay and Typhoon Lagoon as well as themed hotels, golf clubs, timeshares, a residential area called Golden Oak at Walt Disney World Resort and ESPN Wide World of Sports.