I’m writing in response to Larry Capp’s Jan. 7 letter, Miami-Dade blew Disney World opportunity, which supports Miami-Dade Commissioner Dennis Moss’ statement that “Dade County told Disney to take a hike” and rejects Benedict Kuehne’s letter that stated that Disney never intended to build in Miami-Dade. I would like to offer my knowledge of the situation.
In the 1960s I was in management at the Florida Gas Co.’s Miami division to counteract General Electric and Westinghouse Electric’s plans to build all-electric housing on our gas system.
I had written a proposal to corporate headquarters recommending that Florida Gas get into the home-building business. This led to a series of events where Florida Gas purchased land next to Disney World with plans to build homes.
I attended meetings at the main office where the president of Florida Gas revealed the how and why of the Disney Company’s acquisition of the land, which covered five different counties, and the installation of its own natural gas-fired electricity-generation plant. Florida Gas owned the natural-gas transmission lines from Texas to Florida and was the planned supplier with a gas allocation for Disney World.
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We learned that Disney wasn’t going to make the same mistake it made when it built Disneyland. In that development, it didn’t own the land around Disneyland, and the real money was made by others who owned and developed the land around their park.
In Florida, Disney would own large tracts of land and its own development company, which would build on-site hotels, restaurants, golf courses and housing.
Its own electric, water and sewer and natural-gas utility companies to serve its businesses along with its own bus fleet fueled by compressed natural gas.
Disney would develop its own special taxing district, Reedy Creek, with authority similar to a county.
A review of Disney’s plans for Disney World would quickly reveal that Dade County could never accommodate those plans.
At the time, John D. MacArthur, who knew Disney through his brother, the Hollywood writer and movie producer, owned large tracts of land in Dade County’s northwest area.
Walt Disney looked at McArthur’s land and rejected it for all the reasons mentioned, as well as the area being susceptible to hurricanes.
The strategies and tactics employed by Disney to acquire the large tracts of land at the prices he did required a successful deception program in other areas.
If he had Mayor Stephen Clark believing he wanted to come to Dade County, his deception program was successful. Benedict Kuehne had it right.