The Goshen town board in Orange County has approved zoning changes necessary to move a proposed Legoland theme park forward. Thursday night’s approvals came following a packed and heated public hearing that lasted nearly three hours.
Legoland New York’s head of community and project relations Phil Royle says town board approval is the last major hurdle for the $500 million project in Goshen.
“We’re absolutely thrilled to be moving forward tonight with a fantastic voting from the town board,” Royle says. “There are still a few more processes to complete as we move along, but this is a highly significant move for us.”
Town Councilman Kenneth Newbold was the only “no” vote on the zoning changes, including one that changes a ban on amusement parks. He takes issue with the process and timing.
“How in the world do you pass a law after you accepted the project? It’s generally the opposite way in my world,” Newbold says. “You have a law. Either do I fit it or I don’t fit it. No, we accept an application that we know that presently, before these last laws were passed, illegal, weren’t even allowed. We shouldn’t have even discussed them. In all the years I’ve been here, I’ve never seen a project done this way. It was done backwards.”
Newbold says his job is to keep the town united, not divided. Legoland opponents said the same. And they criticized wording on the agenda that said “discuss and approve” resolutions. Goshen Town Supervisor Doug Bloomfield responds.
“Well, I think all the board members had been working on this for a year-and-a-half, and they’ve drawn their conclusions,” says Bloomfield. “The purpose tonight was to approve it, not to disapprove it. So we put in discuss and approve.”
He says Goshen needs Legoland and its attendant economic benefits for its residents to afford to live in the area. Bloomfield asked that both sides welcome Legoland into their community.
“You want to be liked in the community that you go to,” Bloomfield says. “And I hear the hatred, and the, I just, I mean, even the comments, I finally tonight had to lash out then and said, I’ve got to defend myself. I can’t let you talk to me that way with total disrespect.”
Paul Compitus lives very close to the proposed site. He says Legoland will swallow Goshen.
“And I honestly thought that it wouldn’t get to this point because, legally, they’re not entitled to the land,” says Compitus. “And the fact that the town would put it upon themselves to bend the rules or change them I just find it outrageous.”
Compitus believes home values will drop and the area will become gridlocked despite proposed traffic improvements.
“My road’s basically going to become a Google roadmap shortcut,” Compitus says.
Too much traffic and too little water have been central contentions with the project. Opponents have wanted the proposal put to a referendum. Goshen resident Jon Stein opposes Legoland.
“We don’t have an abundance of water, which was proven when the stables at the racetrack burnt down and some firemen said there’s not enough water pressure,” Stein said. “What happens if Legoland catches on fire and other houses, where’s the water coming from?”
He refers to the August 23 barn fire at Goshen Historic Track, the oldest active harness racing track in the world. The horses were rescued. Union members and other supporters were out in force, waving such signs as “Legoland, yes.” Sam Fratto is business manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 353.
“I’ve been doing my job for 30 years right now. This is probably the cleanest and best project I’ve ever run into. It’s 3-year-old kids playing with plastic blocks,” Fratto says. “This is about 400 acres of property or 350 acres of property and they’re building it right in the middle, like a pupil of an eyeball, so I don’t understand why this is such a terrible thing. It seems like it’s a, some people feel it’s an acid factory or something but it’s a good project.”
The proposal calls for Legoland to be constructed on 150 acres of a 522-acre site. Royle says, if all is approved, Legoland would be on track to open late summer 2019.