BY ADAM LUCENTE
Are Legoland’s eyes still on Rockland County? Reports are again emerging that the theme park may come to the county, this time at the site of the soon-to-close Novartis plant, which is on the border of the villages of Suffern and Montebello within the Town of Ramapo.
In fact, the town moved during this week’s board meeting to partner with Legoland’s parent Merlin Entertainment in purchasing the Novartis property, pending many environmental approvals. The town already owns the adjacent former Tilcon quarry property. In its motion, passed 4-0 (Brendel Charles absent), the town mentions both the Novartis property and the quarry as being of possible interest to Merlin.
The town’s contribution to the potential purchase would come in the form of an income tax credit for Novartis’s 2016 property tax payment on the 162-acre lot of land, with Merlin or related companies picking up the rest of the bill for the purchase. The town motion did not estimate how much the property might be worth. The Novartis plant does not close completely until later this year.
Opponents of the regime of Supervisor Chris St. Lawrence have expressed concern over what harm the supervisor might do with the property if the Legoland project falls through and the property remains in his hands. Some solace was offered to critics of the regime, however, by the fact that the villages of Suffern and Montebello control the zoning of the land in question.
News 12 reported that executives from Merlin Entertainment toured the potential new facility in the Village of Suffern on February 18. The Journal News reported on February 21 that Town of Ramapo supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence met with Merlin Entertainment officials during the visit.
“It was really a conceptual meeting to see if there was interest in the site and where we could go from here,” he told the paper. St. Lawrence previously told local media that Legoland “would be a great tourism boost for Rockland County, for the state of New York.”
Legoland had been on the table for the Town of Haverstraw for much of 2015. In October, amidst a sudden gale force of opposition from residents, the Haverstraw Town Board rejected Legoland’s proposal to put a theme park at the site of the old Letchworth Village.
Ramapo United, a political organization that opposes St. Lawrence, urged residents to speak to local officials in Suffern and Montebello on the project. “To Legoland or not to Legoland that is the question,” they posted.
County Executive Ed Day noted during Legoland’s talks with Haverstraw in 2015 that the sales tax receipts from the theme park would be enough to cover most of the county’s deficit note payments. The state has also been behind the project locating in Rockland County, promising grant money through the Regional Council program.