After months of debate and rancor, the fate of the controversial Legoland amusement park planned for Goshen is in the hands of the town.
Merlin Entertainment Group, developer of the 523-acre parcel, submitted its final environmental review to the Goshen Planning Board on May 18. The Planning Board has 30 days to look it over, then the public gets 10 days to comment on it. After that, if the Planning Board decides the review is sufficient, it goes to the Town Board for a final decision.
There has been a war of words and Facebook posts between the residents who oppose the building of Legoland and those who view it as an opportunity for growth and expansion.
Those in favor of the proposed $500 million park, which would actively cover 150 acres of the 523-acre plot near Exit 125 of Route 17, cite an increase in real estate value, job opportunities and several incentives offered by Merlin. The town would receive $500,000 at the start of the year, as well as “host fees” of $.65 for each guest of the park in the first two years, and $.20 in the following years, for 30 years. With an average of 1.5-2.5 million guests a year, the incentive could be worth as much as $1.6 million in the first two years alone.
The opposing faction, “Stop Legoland,” has done its research — and their list of complaints is long. Foremost, they contend that real estate prices would plummet, and that the park would destroy the atmosphere of the quaint Hudson Valley town. There are also concerns about traffic congestion, water usage in a town that’s suffered recent droughts, overtaxed and undermanned municipal services, and the park being a general nuisance.
The conflict recently climaxed over, of all things, a hamburger. A mainstay on Main Street for 25 years, Catherine’s Restaurant debuted the “Legoland Burger,” with cheddar mac ’n’ cheese, pulled pork, and coleslaw piled on top. A Facebook picture of the burger quickly became an impromptu public forum/public opinion poll, with both sides taking shots at the other. Opponents of Legoland have called for a boycott of Catherine’s, while pro-Legoland supporters characterized their opponents as “loud, rude and obnoxious.”
The burger that heated a debate
“I’ve definitely lost friends over this [the Legoland] issue,” says Deb Corr, co-vice president of Stop Legoland, a community organization opposing the project. “There are people I’ve known for years and now we don’t speak. It’s absolutely divided the town.”
The issue has sparked multiple protests, including one at the Orange County Partnership MVP breakfast on June 1, at which County Executive Steve Neuhaus was honored.
“In our democracy, which so many have sacrificed and died fighting for, people are free to make their voices heard. That is what makes America the great country it is,” responded Justin Rodriguez, director of communications and media relations for Neuhaus. “One of the County Executive’s top priorities has been and will continue to be to focus on economic development and job creation. He is proud that the County has attracted several respected corporations, which has resulted in the creation of thousands of jobs for our residents.”