Legoland boosts community pact

03 May 2017 | 12:23

BY ERIKA NORTON
The developer of Legoland added onto its proposed community host agreement with the Town of Goshen, the site of their planned $500 million New York theme park. On top of the host community fee to be paid to the Town of Goshen over 30 years, Merlin Entertainments is now bolstering its offer:
To host two Community Days and donate half of the ticket sale revenue to the Town of Goshen.
Provide half-price Legoland New York tickets for Goshen residents.
Pay $500,000 of the host community fee at the beginning of each year, with the rest of the fee — which depends on actual attendance — to be paid at the end of the year.
And pay the town to develop additional drinking water resources for Arcadia Hills, the housing development nearest to the proposed amusement park site.
The Community Days will create a fundraising opportunity for the town, according to Merlin, with similar days at the Legoland California park generating $899,259 in donations to community organizations since 1999. To give an idea of what Goshen residents would pay with half-price tickets, same-day Legoland California tickets cost $84 and Legoland Florida tickets cost $86.
Annual host feeThese new perks are in addition to annual community host fee payments first proposed by Merlin in March. The developer plans to pay 65 cents per visitor for the first two million visitors each year and 20 cents for every visitor thereafter in that same year.
There would be a minimum annual payment based on 800,000 visitors, which would come to $520,000, if attendance is under 2 million, with a fee rate increase of 1.5 percent per year. Merlin estimates the fee would generate about $1.3 million a year for the Town of Goshen annually.
In total, Goshen stands to make $71 million over 30 years from the host fee and Merlin’s tax payments, according to Merlin, which is seeking a 20-year PILOT, or payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, from the Orange County Industrial Development Agency under the plan.
“If approved, and there is a successful completion of the environmental review by the Planning Board and the zoning is modified as proposed, this Host Community Benefit Agreement will go into effect and be a tremendous benefit to all the residents and property owners in the Town,” said Town Supervisor Doug Bloomfield, according to a statement released by Merlin. “The addition of these most recent benefits again shows that Legoland is doing more than its part in being a good corporate neighbor and truly benefiting the community in a substantial and meaningful way.”
OppositionBut Legoland opponents are not as impressed.
Michael Sussman, the attorney for the main Legoland New York opposition group Concerned Citizens for the Hudson Valley, said that “increased bribery doesn’t change anything.”
“It’s not on the right site, and that can’t change by giving another $500,000 a year to the village or the town or anyone else,” Sussman said. “The impacts of it being misplaced are far greater — incalculable environmental impacts — the impact on water, air pollution, congestion, time wasted, you can’t calculate those impacts, they’re that immeasurable. So I don’t think this will have any impact on the discussion.”
Brad Barnhorst, also from Concerned Citizens, echoed Sussman’s position, saying that he doesn’t think any of the perks added are “game-changers.” He said the town board needs to complete an independent cost benefit analysis to truly know the total cost of the project to the town.
Barnhorst also pointed out that Merlin already committed to donating two wells on the 523-acre Harriman Drive park property back to the town for use by Arcadia Hills, so while water is still a concern, the promise of additional water resources for Arcadia Hills doesn’t really add to what they had already pledged.
Overall the proposed site is still fundamentally flawed, Sussman said, adding that if Legoland wants broader community support, it should find an appropriate site. Plans fell through for a Legoland in Rockland County, where there was also substantial community opposition.
“We know it’s been difficult for them to find an appropriate site because these other communities have rejected them left and right,” Sussman said, “but that doesn’t mean Goshen is the right place for it and another few dollars or trinkets is not going to change that.”
Needs approvalThe additional perks will be included in the Host Community Benefit Agreement, according to Merlin, and it will then be voted on by the Town Board. It was not clear when that vote would take place.
Town master plan changes to allow amusement parks and commercial development zoning for the theme park site still need to be made and approved, as well as a completed and approved final environmental impact statement for the project.