Legoland Tax Deal Discussed in County Committee Meeting

September 21, 2016 Updated: September 22, 2016

GOSHEN—The 30-year Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreement the Orange County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) is considering for Legoland was a hot topic of discussion at the county’s Sept. 19 Education and Economic Development Committee meeting.

Orange County Legislator Chris Eachus said he felt “squeamish” about the proposed length of the deal, saying he had seen companies “in that period of time move out,” and wanted assurance that the county would not see Legoland leave shortly after the PILOT ended.

The PILOT that was proposed by Merlin Entertainment PLC, Legoland’s parent company, was for a base payment of $1.4 million a year split between the Town of Goshen, the school district, and the county, and would increase annually by 1.5 percent. 

In addition to that, they proposed a host fee worth 65 cents per ticket for the first 2 million tickets, and 20 cents for every ticket sold after that per year.

What Merlin would pay on year 31 had not been proposed as of the July 6 meeting where Merlin presented their proposal to the Orange County IDA.

The deal, which is still being negotiated, was defended by Orange County Partnership’s President and CEO Maureen Halahan who said a PILOT was necessary to attract the theme park because New York has some of the highest taxes in the country. 

New Jersey and Connecticut are wooing Legoland, she said, and if Orange County doesn’t find a way to sweeten the deal, “they’re not coming.”

“And anyone who thinks any state in the entire country doesn’t give away something, they’re wrong,” she said.

As for Legoland leaving during or shortly after those 30 years, she only said none of the companies they had awarded 15-year PILOTS to had done that.

Bill Fioravanti, the Partnership’s director of business attraction, said this was a unique PILOT in that Legoland would be paying a host fee and hotel tax, levied on the 250-room hotel planned for the site, during its PILOT period so the entirety of the deal should be looked at, not just the length of the PILOT.

Plans call for the seasonal amusement park to be built on 153 acres of land in the Town of Goshen that would target children ages 2 through 12. The roughly $500 million park would at some stage include an aquarium, Merlin representatives say, and would be encompassed by a 523-acre parcel off Rt. 17 near exit 125. 

Stephen Brescia, the Chairman of the Legislature and a member of the Orange County IDA, said that the only other 30-year PILOT agreement he could remember in his 14 years with the IDA was for Glen Arden, an independent living facility for seniors in Goshen.

“We’re still negotiating that [Legoland PILOT], that’s not carved in stone,” he said.

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