BY ERIKA NORTONGOSHEN — The developers of the planned $500 million Legoland New York theme park cleared a major hurdle last week, when the Goshen Town Board approved amendments to the town’s comprehensive plan and zoning law. The measures were approved in a 4-1 vote of the Goshen Town Board after a packed public hearing held at the C.J. Hooker Middle School on Thursday, Sept. 14.The first law approved, Local Law No. 5, amended the comprehensive plan to allow “commercial tourism/recreation uses” on the planned theme park site off of Harriman Drive in the Town of Goshen due to “its close access to Route 17.” The second law approved, Local Law No. 6, amended the town’s zoning law by adding a “Commercial Recreation Overlay district,” incorporating the site planned for Legoland New York, which was previously zoned for residential development. Local Law No. 5 states that the goal of the Comprehensive Plan is still to preserve Goshen’s “fragile and beautiful rural environment and provide for the needs of its people.” What was added is a new goal to provide “tourism/recreation business opportunities along State Route 17.”The law states: “The goals of open space and environmental preservation must be pursued at the same time as the goals of providing appropriate rural development involving diverse housing opportunities, supporting local businesses, especially in the Village of Goshen center, addressing adequate Town infrastructure and facilities, and diversifying its Town-wide economic base, including attracting tourism/recreation related businesses at locations that can accommodate local and non-local tourists.”It also adds to the comprehensive plan a recommendation to change the zoning of the 523-acre Harriman Drive property planned for Legoland New York. The law states: “This change is recommended to avoid uses with a highway or heavy traffic orientation adjacent to an approved residential development in the Village of Goshen and proposed development in the Town of Goshen, except if such uses incorporate sufficient buffers and other mitigations. This area has a steeper gradient and a portion of the area also contains a substantial wetland and is therefore better suited for low-density residential development or a commercial tourism/recreation facility that are designed to accommodate to a reasonable extent the natural contours of the land and the protection of the wetland area.”Local Law No. 6 heads this recommendation by allowing a commercial recreation facility to be developed on the Harriman Drive land. The law allows for all of the elements of the theme park, including indoor commercial recreation, like interpretive learning centers, aquariums, food service and theaters; and outdoor commercial recreation, such as motorized rides, food stands, and retail sales. Hotels, restaurants, parking lots, access roads, utilities, and drainage facilities are all now permitted on the Harriman Drive parcel.The zoning law has an expiration date. The Commercial Recreation Overlay District will cease to exist without further action by the town board if the town planning board does not approve a special permit and site plan for a commercial recreation facility within six months of the effective date of Local Law No. 6. If no special permit and site plan are approved, the commercial recreation facility will be abandoned.Reaction“We are thrilled to be moving forward with the next steps for the Legoland New York project,” said Phil Royle, Legoland New York’s head of project and community relations. “If successful, we hope that Legoland New York will become a valued and trusted neighbor to people who live and work here and who own a business here in the future. We are committed to making a long-lasting, positive difference in Goshen and surrounding communities.”But Concerned Citizens for the Hudson Valley, the main Legoland opposition group in the town, seemed poised to continue its fight. “We fully expect to challenge the decisions and to demonstrate their illegality,” said Michael Sussman of Chester, an attorney working for the group.Previously, Sussman and the opposition group questioned the choice of site for Legoland, the legitimacy of the approval process, and the effect the park would have on the town’s water supply, environment and traffic.