GOSHEN—Some 30 people came to the June 30 Goshen Town Board meeting to express their concerns about the proposed LEGOLAND project and lobby their representatives to turn down what they said would be a threat to their way of life and the character of the town.
“They’re not doing anything for us but clogging our roads, polluting our air, raising our taxes, putting a burden on our services,” said Town of Goshen resident Debra Corr, who wore a red T-shirt with “Stop LEGOLAND Goshen, NY” written on it.
“My biggest concern is my quality of life.”
Many were concerned about the traffic from the 6,000 cars a day that are projected to visit the theme park, something Merlin Entertainments PLC, the company that owns and runs LEGOLAND, has said it is working on mitigating.
Another big concern was water. On the Environmental Assessment Form (EAF), the company says LEGOLAND will use approximately 236,000 gallons a day and is seeking water and sewer services from the Village of Goshen, which it says has the capacity to provide these resources.
“Our infrastructure, it’s already delicate. We already have problems with it,” said Goshen resident Lanie Herbst. “Last year we couldn’t water our lawns.”
Residents also complained that Merlin, which calls itself the world’s second largest visitor attraction operator, is seeking tax abatements from the Orange County Industrial Development Agency (IDA).
The company has applied for a 30-year Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) and exemptions on sales and property taxes.
In December 2015, the state granted $1 million to Merlin for site development and infrastructure work if LEGOLAND was built in Orange County.
“They say they want to be part of our community. Why are they taking a … tax rebate?” said Jon Stein, a Village of Goshen resident.
The proposal as it stands is for LEGOLAND to be built in two phases, the first phase being the theme park and 250-room hotel, and the second phase a SEA LIFE Aquarium.
The proposal calls for development of 153 acres of the 523-acre site on Route 17 between Arcadia and Reservoir roads. Merlin is hoping to start construction by 2017.
Herbst said she was also worried about the discrepancy between what Merlin representatives told the public and what they said on their EAF about wetlands.
At the June 14 Town Board meeting at the Emergency Services Center in Goshen, the company claimed there would be no disturbance to the property’s wetlands, yet the EAF says that minor wetland disturbance may be necessary for road grading.
“Not only they have now mislead the public, they have mislead the residents of Goshen,” she said.
Merlin is seeking a zoning variance because the district is currently zoned residential and rural. Corr warned that changing the zoning for LEGOLAND would leave a loophole for other developers seeking zoning changes in the town.
“Spot zoning is going to leave the door wide open for the next person to say, just like a little child, ‘But mommy, you gave him the candy before he had dinner, I want the candy now before I have dinner,'” she said.
At the root of their fear was that the Town Board was already sold on the idea of the theme park, and that the allure of the revenue, in a town where about 52 percent of property is tax exempt, would cloud board members’ vision when looking at the project’s impact on the community.
Town Supervisor Doug Bloomfield said that is not so.
“We’re trying to listen to everybody,” he said. “We’re for investigating it and quantifying it and determining what’s right … That’s our job.”
There will be at least three more opportunities for members of the public to express their concerns; the next one will be at the scoping session the town Planning Board will hold on July 21 at C.J. Hooker Middle School at 7 p.m.
Merlin is also holding another information session for the public at 3 p.m. on July 7 at Palacio Catering and Conference Center, 1700 Route 17M.
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