Merlin Entertainments is trying to sweeten the pot for its proposed Legoland New York theme park in Orange County. The Legoland parent company has proposed additional community benefits and says it will help fund the revamp of a state highway exit. Traffic has been a major concern of area residents and officials.
The added community benefits for the proposed $500 million Legoland New York in Goshen came as a result of discussions between Merlin Entertainments and Goshen Town Board members. That’s according to Legoland New York spokesman Josh Sommers.
“Some additional things that were recently discussed and is in front of the town board in the very near future is adding two community days where 50 percent of the revenue from the sale of tickets to the park would go to the Town of Goshen. That’s something that will be part of the proposed agreement, and also a 50 percent discount on one-day tickets to Legoland for Goshen residents,” Sommers says. “There’s also been an advance of when the Town of Goshen would be paid the minimum of $500,000 for the community fee, and that would happen at the beginning of each calendar year and with the balance depending on actual attendance.”
The provisions will be included in a Host Community Benefit Agreement that the town board will vote on. In addition, to help allay major concerns about traffic, Sommers says there is another proposal.
“In the coming weeks, Merlin Entertainments will be submitting the final Environmental Impact Statement, which will answer the questions that have been raised by the community and will also include some changes to the plan, including a reconfigured Exit 125, which will, instead of guests from the New York City metro area using the main Goshen exit of 124, now 125 will be reconfigured and include an overpass to the other side of the highway where Legoland is located,” says Sommers. “So we think that that is one example of how we’ve been responsive to community comments and making this project the best project it can be.”
In addition, Merlin will pay $40 million toward the Exit 125 revamp, but says the state needs to contribute as well. Town of Goshen resident Debra Corr is with Concerned Citizens for the Hudson Valley, trying to stop Legoland. She balks at the $40 million.
“Again, they’re Lego lies or they’re lies of omission because they leave out the fact as to who’s actually paying for the majority of that and that is the New York state taxypayers,” Corr says. “Forty million dollars does not even start to cover the bridge that would be built over the highway. It does not start to cover all the additional lanes within the town.”
Sommers says that over 30 years, the Town of Goshen is anticipated to receive about $71 million in revenue from the host community fee, PILOT, or payment in lieu of taxes, payments and tax payments. The proposed Legoland New York would be built on 140 acres of a 523-acre site. Plans call for a theme park with rides and attractions, an aquarium, restaurants and hotel. Again, Corr.
“Goshen’s laws prohibit amusement parks so why are they here to begin with?” says Corr. “The property that they want to build on is in the Moodna watershed, 68 percent of it is in the Moodna Creek watershed, which regenerates for the wells for the neighboring housing development.”
That housing development is Arcadia Hills. And Corr questions whether there is enough water for the wells. Sommers says Merlin has proposed the following additional benefit in response to community concerns about water resources.
“There’s also the addition of Legoland New York paying for the town’s actual costs to develop drinking water resources for Arcadia Hills,” Sommers says. “We’ve previously discussed donating the two wells. Now those other costs will be paid for by Legoland New York.”
Meanwhile, the town board still has to vote on two proposed laws to make the proposed theme park viable. One is a proposed law amending the zoning code to create a commercial recreation overlay zoning district to allow a commercial recreation facility. The second is a proposed law to amend the comprehensive plan to allow for commercial/tourism recreation uses in certain areas.
In a statement included in a Merlin Entertainments press release, Goshen Town Supervisor Doug Bloomfield says, “The addition of these most recent benefits again shows that Legoland is doing more than its part in being a good corporate neighbor and truly benefiting the community in a substantial and meaningful way.”
If all approvals are granted and the project moves forward, Legoland officials say a 2019 timeline for the park’s opening still stands. Meanwhile, Legoland Japan just opened in April.