Hundreds Of Area Residents Attend Legoland NY Open House
A community open house Thursday drew hundreds of area residents to learn about a proposed Legoland New York for Orange County. Though many say they favor the theme park being built in Goshen, some voiced a continuing concern about traffic.
Many who attended the open house at the Palacio Catering and Conference Center in Goshen brought their kids, who reveled in the various Legoland play areas. Ten-year-old Joshua from Monroe played with his sister and friends.
“It’s a nice place and, like, I really wish that it could be here, like, forever,” Joshua says.
With Lego blocks in hand, Joshua bore no worries about traffic. But Ann Marie Accetta from Goshen did.
“I mean the whole thing seems nice. I can’t say it’s negative. It might do a lot for Orange County,” says Accetta. “But, right now, I think the main problem is the traffic. And especially on Sunday, I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like.”
Merlin Entertainments is set to invest half-a-billion dollars into the development of Legoland New York over five years, with plans to build on 123 acres of a 523-acre site off Route 17 in Goshen. Senior Divisional Director of Legoland Development John Ussher says the open house provided residents opportunities to not only hear brief presentations, but to ask him and other Legoland officials questions one-on-one. Ussher says he fielded the most questions about:
“Traffic. Traffic, traffic, traffic,” Ussher says.
The open house comes less than one month after the public got its first look at the proposed theme park during a presentation to the Goshen Town Board. Concerns about traffic arose then. John O’Rourke is an engineer with Orange County-based Lanc & Tully Engineering and Surveying, which is consulting for the proposed project.
“Our traffic is kind of opposite the traffic flow but we anticipate six-to-seven Sunday afternoons in the summer where we have the same issue as everyone does around here. Unfortunately, locals can use back roads and they know those. People leaving our site, they don’t know that. And the worst thing we want is somebody leaving Legoland having had wonderful day and tired kids stuck in traffic for three hours,” says O’Rourke. “So we’re looking at doing some maybe some internal things, either extending park hours for a couple more hours with discount food to keep them a little bit longer or giving them discount tickets if they leave earlier on a Sunday that they can get back at a different time. It’s very preliminary but there’s all sorts of things that they’re looking to do to alleviate that problem.”
The theme park would be geared toward families with children ages 2 to 12. Goshen resident Marie Jane Panzer has two kids in this age group and supports the project.
“I’ve lived here my entire life. My father is a farmer. And, actually, he used to farm where the proposed site is,” Panzer says. “And I would love for it to remain farmland but I know the reality, that’s just not going to happen, and our town needs something.”
She says though the village has been working to breathe life back into itself, current efforts are just not enough.
“We’re hoping this might bring a grocery store because we don’t have a grocery store and that’s a bone of contention for us,” says Panzer. “And I just feel that it’s something that won’t impact the schools but it will benefit the area.”
Ussher says Legoland would pay Orange County’s hotel tax, generating about $850,000 annually to the county, and sales tax receipts at Legoland would generate some $6 million annually. Plus, Ussher says, Legoland officials met with county Industrial Development Agency (IDA) officials Wednesday to work out a PILOT, or payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, agreement.
“Well, we’re setting up a 30-year agreement to provide taxes to the local community which is $3 million a year or $108 million over the term of the PILOT,” says Ussher. “It’s broken down between $1.5 million for the Town of Goshen and $1 million for the school district.”
And half-a –million dollars for the county and other local service fees. Goshen Town Supervisor Douglas Bloomfield says Legoland officials will have to address and mitigate concerns such as traffic and noise.
“Is your mind made up?” asks Dunne.
“I think so. I mean it’s made up to the point that I want to entertain it. I think it’s of great value to us,” says Bloomfield. “However, it has to go through the planning process. And if the planning process were to show that it wouldn’t work here, well, then I would have to accept that. I don’t think that’ll be the case. I don’t want to bring anything to Goshen that’s going to do any harm. I just don’t. I grew up here.”
Meanwhile, an opposition group called Stop Legoland in Goshen NY has formed, with a petition on change.org. The group hopes to convince the Goshen Town Board to oppose what petitioners call a harmful development proposal. To this, says Ussher:
“I think that it’s part of the democratic process and part of the planning process,” says Ussher.
The proposed Legoland New York theme park would have more than 50 rides, shows and attractions and a 250-room Legoland Hotel. The project would create 800 construction jobs, along with hundreds more full-time, part-time, and seasonal jobs. Legoland New York would be the third Legoland in the U.S., joining parks in California and Florida. If approved, it could open in 2019.