Court dismisses suit against Legoland, town

Court says the case is premature because the town hasn't yet made decisions on theme park or zoning change

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  • A Lego structure at a Merlin-sponsored open house last year (Photo by Frances Ruth Harris)

— A court challenge to stop Legoland New York has been dismissed.

NYS Supreme Court in Goshen denied the Article 78 petition brought by Concerned Citizens for the Hudson Valley against the Town of Goshen Planning Board and Merlin Entertainment.

An Article 78 proceeding seeks to challenge decisions by administrative agencies and other government bodies. In this case, Concerned Citizens argued that the project, which will develop 153 acres of a 500-acre site for a major theme park, is not ready for review.

The Court sided with Merlin's argument that it "lacks personal jurisdiction over Merlin," and that the petitioners' objections are "premature." The town has yet to either change the zoning or approve the ongoing project, the ruling notes.

The petitioners seek "to inject the Court in an ongoing administrative proceeding, to shape the environment review process in a manner that is more consistent with their vision of how it should be shaped, and to compel the Court to apply a standard of review that is significantly more restrictive than the Court would otherwise apply" in such a case, the ruling states. The Court has not found any reason that would allow it to "take the extraordinary step of injecting itself into the proceedings."

The site is zoned rural, and current zoning prohibits amusement parks there. The town plans to change both its zoning code and its Comprehensive Plan so that Legoland may build.

Petitioners for the Concerned Citizens, who live within one-half of a mile of the proposed site, say the land is environmentally sensitive. In April 2016, they said, the planning board rejected a proposal to build several hundred residents on the site, citing water shortages and other potential harm to the environment.

The opponents also argue that the draft environmental review submitted by Merlin and accepted by the town board is insufficient. They say the proceedings were rushed, with little notice given to the public, and not enough time for the public to read and respond to the 3,000-page review.

The petitioners further say the environmental review provides studies for the how various stages of the proposed project will affect the environment, but not address its cumulative impact. They accuse the planning board of demonstrating bias in favor of the project.

The Court pushed back against Merlin on one point.

Merlin alleged that Reynell Andrews, a longtime former planning board member married to one of the anti-Legoland petitioners, Judith Andrews, presented a conflict of interest and asked the Court to keep him from reviewing the project.

"Reynall Andrews is not a party to this action, or before the Court in any capacity," the ruling stated. "The Court has no power to grant relief against an entity not named as a party and not properly summoned before the Court."

But the point is now moot. The town declined last month to reappoint Andrews to the planning board.

A spokesperson for Merlin said the company withdrew its request.

(Editor's note: This story has been updated.)

See related story, "Resistance against Legoland continues":

Editor's note: This article has been updated to correct a statement that Reynall Andrews recused himself from Legoland discussions while on the planning board. Andrews told The Chronicle he had not recused himself.

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