In Orange County, the Goshen Planning Board Thursday night approved the final environmental impact statement for a proposed Legoland New York theme park. Opponents say they will fight the project to the end.
Merlin Entertainment’s proposed $500 million Legoland park took a step forward with the planning board’s approval of the final environmental impact statement, or FEIS, under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, or SEQR. Planning Board Chairman Lee Bergus says the vote comes after 13 months of work.
“I’m relieved in the sense that a lot of work into the preparation of the FEIS,” Bergus says. “There was a lot of work done by this board and by our consultants to get that FEIS to the point that it’s at, addressing the public’s concerns to the extent that we possible could as well as the various agencies that weighed in on the project.”
Town of Goshen resident Debra Corr is with Concerned Citizens for the Hudson Valley, and sees the timeframe differently.
“I think that it’s rushed,” says Corr. “And I think they have an agenda as to pushing this forward so that they can get this project through.”
Corr and dozens of other Legoland opponents attended the meeting wearing red, many in t-shirts stating “Stop Legoland in Goshen, NY”.
“It’s a disaster,” Corr says. “It’s a disaster. Goshen will never be the same.”
Legoland supporters also filled the auditorium, applauding the vote. Prior to the vote, though, opponents interrupted with comments, and Bergus shot back.
“Right now, you should be listening to us. Right now, we’re the ones speaking. You should be listening,” Bergus said. “You have opportunities, you’ve had opportunities to speak at public hearings No, there was… from the scope, right from the start of the scope, and you also…”
At one point, Bergus told those in opposition to the project he could have them removed from the building. Phil Royle is head of project and community relations for Legoland New York. He calls the planning board’s approval a significant milestone for the process.
“We thank the Goshen Planning Board for its thorough review of the FEIS. We believe the decision to deem the FEIS as complete recognizes the full transparency and complete responsiveness of Legoland and its consultants have put into the process,” says Royle. “We look forward to the board’s findings statement and the town board’s review.”
Dave Gawronski was the only “no” vote among the six members, voicing concerns about the area’s quality of life. Specifically, he said he could not wrap his head around the visual impacts of a proposed reconfiguration of Exit 125, to include a bridge over Route 17 and other facets.
“There is no depiction of a viewshed of what the new improvements are going to be,” Gawronski says.
When others pointed him to appendices and cross-sections, Gawronski said he saw those but was still left without a clear visual idea. He also raised concerns about potential disturbances to water features and wetlands.
“I did see it, I was just, didn’t get a good depiction on that scale,” says Gawronski. “And it would have been nice if there was some sort of photo representation or virtualization of what it would look like, that’s all. I think it would have helped with the visual impact analysis.”
The discussion persisted. Bergus says the FEIS is slated to become publicly available July 25.
“The 10-day clock will start for the public and agency consideration period. And that’s where they could write in any of their concerns, which would be considered in the preparation of the findings statement, which will be the next document that we work on,” Bergus says. “The findings statement is the last piece of the SEQR review.”
The findings statement identifies potential problems and offers mitigations. Bergus says the next phase is working on the site plan. Corr says that despite the board’s approval, her group’s opposition will continue.
“It’s not over yet. It’s not a done deal," says Corr. “We have a lot to go. And we have a lot of fight in us, and we’re going to continue to fight till we stop Legoland.”
Corr says environmental concerns remain, as do concerns about water and sewer impacts. Bergus says project revisions have allayed the traffic concerns while Planning Board member Phil Dropkin says Legoland has addressed the water and sewer concerns. Legoland New York aims to open in summer of 2019.