The Orange County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously earlier this week to create a special district for the 719 acres that encompass Universal Orlando Resort and ongoing expansions. Taxes and fees collected in that area will fund the district. All of the land is owned by Universal Orlando or the company that owns the Hilton Orlando adjacent to the park.
The special district will reportedly use $174 million in bonds to fund infrastructure, including a planned rail service station that will connect the Orlando airport to an area near the park.
The train is the key part of the deal. Officials are concerned about the influx of traffic to the area with Universal’s upcoming expansion. (Disney also plans to expand its parks.) The new line would also connect to the Orange County Convention Center.
All board positions in the special district will be filled by Universal employees. That’s very different from the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which oversees Walt Disney World and other Disney theme parks in Florida. The board that oversees that area was handed over to DeSantis allies after the state dissolved Reedy Creek’s special status.
That could add a new twist to the ongoing legal battle between Disney DeSantis. The entertainment giant has alleged that the governor’s actions were retaliation against Disney because the company exercised its First Amendment rights by opposing the state’s “Don’t Say Gay” law.
“A targeted campaign of government retaliation, orchestrated at every turn by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protected speech, now threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights,” it said. Disney.
In September, the company narrowed the lawsuit to just a free speech claim, alleging a “weaponization of government.”