GOSHEN — The town Planning Board approved an umbrella resolution for Legoland New York on Thursday, giving the $500 million theme park approvals for its site plan and clearing and grading permits, completing a 17-month-long review process.
“This is a big deal, this is a good thing for us,” said Phil Royle, Legoland’s community relations head, after Thursday’s vote. The vote was 6-0 with one member on the seven-member board, Dave Gawronski, abstaining. Gawronski voted against the Final Environmental Impact Statement on Legoland when that vote was taken July 20.
“It’s been a long process, but now it’s complete,” said Goshen Supervisor Douglas Bloomfield, commending the “quality” of the Planning Board’s review. Bloomfield, who declined to take a position on Legoland until a few months ago when he came out in favor, has said he sees it as a way to offset escalating costs and declining revenues. Roughly 52 percent of the properties in the Town of Goshen are public lands and therefore not taxable. The Village of Goshen is Orange’s county seat. Merlin Entertainments, Legoland’s developer, had to win zoning changes, upgrading the parcels from residential to commercial and to permit a commercial recreation facility to allow the park to proceed. The Town Board OK’d those changes Sept. 14.
Opponents had pledged to take the Legoland issue to court once the approvals were done, but there was no immediate announcement Thursday. After the vote, Debra Corr, the acting president of Concerned Citizens for the Hudson Valley, an opposition group, lambasted the approvals saying they were the result of “back-room deals.” She warned of detrimental effects on the environment because the Otterkill flows through the site. Water and traffic have been key concerns among opponents. Public comment was not permitted at Thursday’s session.
Corr called on town residents to vote out the entire Town Board because of the Legoland approval. The controversy over Legoland has been so intense in the town that Brad Barnhorst, the former head of Concerned Citizens, is challenging Bloomfield in the November election.
The Legoland review pitted neighbor against neighbor in the town. Economic development and union interests have strongly supported the project. Opponents have voiced concerns about traffic on Route 17; quality-of-life, water and environmental issues; and fears that the town, which dates to the 1700s, would lose its “slow motion Goshen” flavor.
Last Friday, opponents filed petitions, calling for a permissive referendum on the sale of about 8 acres of scattered town-owned lands that would figure into Legoland New York. The resolution the Planning Board approved Thursday reflected that move, with the original 522-acre scope of the project reduced to 514 acres. The town has gone to court, seeking to get the referendum tossed. If the town’s challenge fails, the referendum would be held in December. The change would not stop the project, just reconfigure it slightly, Planning Board Chairman Lee Bergus said.
Merlin has often said it wants to start construction in 2017 and open in 2019. The park would be expected to draw between 1.5 million and 2.5 million visitors a year.
Credit to: Richard Bayne, Times Herald Record