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The Villages
Thursday, June 30, 2022

Punishing Disney is wrong

To the Editor:

Robert’s letter is very interesting, and a good well written letter. I basically agree his main premise that any Florida resident anywhere should not pick up the expense associated with the cancellation of the agreement that formed the Reedy Creek district.
I think the solution is much simpler than is suggested in Robert’s recent letter. Just repeal the laws that were recently passed and signed by the Governor that abolished the Reedy Creek District. No matter how you feel about Disney’s recent comments on Florida HB 1557 the actions by our elected officials regarding the law canceling the Reeding Creek Improvement District was a pure political hack job. I am not expressing my opinion on the social issues associated with this, if you support them or not, that’s what you believe and I respect that.
Disney expressed their opinion and I suspect they now wished they responded differently. Our elected officials express their feelings too, but in this case their actions were spiteful and deleterious to all Florida residents. A resolution, censure, or similar action “against” Disney (or “for”) would be what should have happened, if anything. There is a zero relationship between Disney’s recent comments, the laws creating the Reedy Creek district or the dismantling of this very successful set of laws that has worked so well for all involved. What is left is an ugly mess adversely affecting a valuable long time Florida Corporation and again unnecessarily pitting Florida residents against their neighbors by playing with their emotions for elected officials benefit.
The Reedy Creek laws passed many years ago (and modified over the years) were an amazing set of regulations that established a new partnership between business and government. Disney has and is paying their fair share. Without this vehicle Disney may not be as successful as it is today. There are many parts to this arrangement, but it gives the Disney Corporation the ability to better plan, quickly expand, and the flexibility to respond to the Local/National changing environments. It also gave them better methods to finance their growth which are still used today. It is extremely rare for corporations/developers to build fire stations, major roads, etc., that the local community and others benefit from. This has been a WIN WIN situation for all involved. This is exactly the type of government everyone wants.
For our elected official to punish Disney in this way is wrong. Disney took great risks coming to Orlando and continues to reinvest many millions for future growth. Yes they have a “good deal” that benefits them but think about all that came with their success that we all now enjoy. Jobs, direct and indirect all come from Disney’s growth fueled in part by the advantages gained from this new district arrangement. Would you and I be here today without Disney? Would The Villages just be a one village mobile home park if Disney was not here.

The arrangement set up long ago for Disney was the beginning of what we all know as Community Development Districts, CDDs. I suspect that these arrangements played an important role in the The Villages developers previous and current decisions for expansion. The Villages has the flexibility much like Disney to build their brand name and manage growth that is critical for future success. I suspect there are very few examples of other developers constructing golf cart bridges across major roads, even fewer examples across major interstates. In a hurry for that new bridge? Imagine how a toll tag on the windshield of your golf cart would look.

I am still amazed at what is here at The Villages. I have never met the developers and I don’t know what they are thinking, so I don’t know how much CDDs influence their decisions. I have built a few homes years ago and it ain’t easy. We are very lucky to have a builder that is continually committed to a quality product and future growth. Yes they are making lots of money. I think the CDDs have benefited our developers (and home owners) just like Disney. It would be so very wrong to punish our developer like they are doing to Disney for an opinion no matter how right or wrong you feel.
Today is my first day as a owner in The Villages and I feel very lucky to be with you. I don’t want to change your mind on who you vote for or where you stand on todays hot social issues. I know I would have no success in doing that as I know you would also have zero success in changing mine. I rather know about your kids, grand kidos, favorite place for pizza (I already have mine), what cool bird you saw today, or maybe how to tan alligator hide to make boots (just kidding).
For those that have a strong feeling maybe a letter to the governor and your state representative is in order. I suspect you won’t have any luck changing minds on the underlying social issues. For me our elected officials actions ending the laws creating the Reedy Creek Improvement District is just plain wrong. Our elected officials are just playing with our feelings hoping to garner support for their own political advantage. There is not a single advantage to anyone else by repealing the Reedy Creek laws but there will be a cost to all of us. No one knows the actual costs. Restricting Disney’s ability to remain agile and quickly respond to market conditions, and carefully manage their financials will always drive costs up. This will delay future projects, reduce jobs, and negatively impact the communities in central Florida.
The solution is simple, call the politicians back to Tallahassee for correcting their mistakes, reinstated the laws that created the Reedy Creek Improvement District. It’s worked for years and we still need it. Florida’s politicians are there to work for us and on that day they did not! We all need better elected officials. If they won’t fix their mistake send them packing.

Tom Evans
Village of Chitty Chatty

 

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