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Controlling the Disney Expansion

July 18, 1993

* According to The Times ("Disney Plan Over Main Hurdle," June 23), Disney expects city, state and federal agencies to pay about $800 million to cover some of the costs of the amusement park's expansion in Anaheim. Before Orange County taxpayers rush forward with financial support for the Anaheim project, it would be wise to study Disney's record in Florida.

How does Disney control its large Epcot acreage? One agent of Disney control is an interesting governmental agency authorized in 1967 by the Florida Legislature. That agency is the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which has the same boundaries as Walt Disney World. The five supervisors who run the district are elected on the basis of one vote for each acre owned and, of course, all of the votes are cast by Disney. The Reedy Creek supervisors accept federal grants, exercise eminent domain, issue municipal bonds, and contract with the federal government.

And the act of the legislature exempts Reedy Creek from zoning and land use laws and building regulations. The Reedy Creek Improvement District, a government agency, appears on Form 10-K of the Securities and Exchange Commission as a "governmental unit of the state of Florida." It is one governmental unit that is listed in the assets category on a corporate financial statement.

While Disney profits from this arrangement, the county government is left to face the cost of an expanded municipal infrastructure, necessitated by the development of the Epcot park.

Orange County taxpayers would do well to visit with citizens' groups in the Orlando area and get a foretaste of what might come to Anaheim--$800 million is quite a lot of money, even in these days. What should we want for Orange County: a new, bigger amusement park, or maybe better schools and libraries?



* The green light go-ahead for Disney expansion in Anaheim was not only expected but essential.

Anti-Disney groups may have lost the battle, but they won the war. Very few developers, agencies or cities could be more responsive and accommodating to their concern. The decision made by the council was based on the real world: without expansion would remain the status quo--a continuing deterioration and problems that have plagued the area, plus the loss of a great opportunity.

These same anti-Disney groups may be surprised to find that the Disney project will not only be a good neighbor but actually clean up and help alleviate so many of the things that they are concerned about.

All of us must use and build on our strengths and the Southern California economy relies on tourism for a large slice of its pie. Thank God there are still a few decision makers in the state, county and city that don't live in Fantasyland but know that we need it and welcome an increase in jobs, tax revenues and prestige.


Newport Beach

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