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Scenic Southern Calif. Town Weighs Amusement Park Project

May 31, 1994

CARLSBAD, Calif. (AP) _ Harry Johnson moved here 23 years ago to escape the rampant growth around Disneyland. So he’s made up his mind how to vote on a plan to build a theme park in this scenic beach town.

″Look at Orange County. Look at what happened around Disneyland,″ said Johnson, who will vote no in next Tuesday’s primary election on a proposal to build Lego Family Park USA in this upscale community 25 miles north of San Diego.

While Proposition D is just an advisory referendum, it will determine the future of the proposed 40-acre, $100 million amusement park planned by the Danish building-block toymaker.

Supporters say the project will bring a relatively harmless source of badly needed revenue to Carlsbad, hurt by Southern California’s recession.

The amusement park, for children ages 2 to 13, would feature rides and models of famous landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty, all made of Lego bricks.

″I think mostly it’s a very small, very classy, superior quality, small children-oriented park that will bring prestige for Carlsbad,″ said Elaine Lyttleton, campaign manager for Carlsbad CARES. It’s expected to attract 1.8 million visitors a year.

But opponents say it will create traffic and environmental problems for the city of 65,000, spawning the kind of fast-food restaurants and budget hotels that sprang up around Disneyland in neighboring Orange County.

″It’s like putting a square peg in a round hole,″ said commercial real estate agent Jim Young. ″In our opinion, it’s just not good planning.″

Detractors warn that once Lego gets a foothold in the competitive Southern California amusement park market, it will be forced by economic forces to build bigger and more thrilling rides to bring in the customers.

Lyttleton says that’s just not so.

″They’re going to bring small, old-fashioned, European values to a small, old-fashioned Southern California town,″ she said.

Carlsbad was picked as the site for the amusement park after officials of California, Connecticut and Virginia duked it out in a public relations war, with promises and economic incentives aimed at the Danish company.

If the park doesn’t pass muster with voters, Lego says it will leave town and take the park somewhere else.

That’s fine with Johnson. He figures that when tourists are done visiting the amusement park, they’ll check out the beach. And that means they’ll park on his street, which runs along the picturesque coastline.

″I’m not knocking the park,″ he said. ″Just send it back to Connecticut or Virginia or wherever they want to go.″

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