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Can a Mouse, a King, and a Governor Tell You What You Can Do on Your Property?

This question is asked in a legal battle brewing in the state of Florida between the Disney Corporation and Gov. Ron DeSantis. The case turns on the application of a restrictive covenants clause tied to King Charles’ and his descendants’ longevity.

Prior to a recent attempted takeover by the Florida Legislature and Gov. DeSantis, the property where Disney’s amusement parks are situated in Florida were, in essence, independently controlled and governed by the Reedy Creek Improvement District. Anticipating the takeover attempt, the District placed into effect a restrictive covenants clause. The clause is a contractual agreement that, at least on its face, restricts the new board put in place by the Florida Government from making any changes impacting how the Disney Corporation grows its business in Central Florida.

Generally, contractual agreements cannot be made in perpetuity (in other words, they cannot be put in place to exist forever), so oftentimes parties to an agreement will tie the contract’s term to the life of a person. In this case, the contract ties back to the British Monarchy, stating that the clause is effective until 21 years after the death of all descendants of the current British Monarch, King Charles.

The previous Board implemented this clause one day before Gov. Ron DeSantis replaced the Disney-allied Board members of the Reedy Creek Improvement District with five hand-picked Republicans. Disney has explained that it debated the clause in a public forum and complied with the previous Board’s rules and procedures and with Florida state law. Florida is a Sunshine Law state requiring actions such as this one to be transparent.

Ron DeSantis and his newly minted Central Florida Tourism Oversight District’s new Board of Supervisors disagree and brought in outside counsel to review the previous Board’s actions. They found that the new Board can basically only take action on things like roads and infrastructure. Under the new restrictive covenants, they do not have any power in managing Disney’s growth in Central Florida.

The case is still pending.

The restrictive covenants in this case are unique to the issue at hand. However, restrictive covenants come into play in a variety of ways. You may be familiar with them in conjunction with your Homeowners Association (HOA). If your HOA requires that your house be a certain color or limits the types of structures or plantings you can have in your yard, your home may be subject to a restrictive covenant. Other examples of activities that could be limited or regulated this way include raising livestock, taking in renters, or opening a home as an AirBnb.

Property law can be complex and nuanced. If you or someone you know is dealing with a property issue, the attorneys at Leonard Sciolla are here to help.

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