A crowd of more than 100 Wheatfield residents, political figures and other onlookers were introduced to Mombi, the Nome King and Tik-Tok Monday night.

After Oz Central President Richard Burch laid out some of the characters, rides and site plans imagined for his proposed $800 million theme park, the residents introduced him to their concerns.

Traffic, wetlands, sights and sounds dominated the topics raised in Wheatfield Community Hall during the “draft scoping session,” the public’s chance to weigh in on what they feel should be studied during a review of the park’s potential environmental, social and economic impact.

Wheatfield Supervisor Timothy Demler started the session by telling a packed room that he could understand skepticism about large projects announced in Niagara County.

Unlike many of those projects, Demler said, the “Magical Lands of Oz” project proposed for more than 200 acres in the southeast corner of town would be privately funded, and would pay taxes. And with $50 to $70 million more in sales taxes each year, Demler said Wheatfield would press the county to put that money toward property tax reductions.

“We do have a hammer, we do have a lever over the county to see that sales tax revenue go toward property tax relief,” Demler said. “Then we could be competitive again.”

Conceptual sketches presented by Burch showed a theme park made up of five distinct areas — four areas dubbed Gillikan Country, Munchkin Country, Winkle Country and Quadling Country, with the Emerald City in the center, based on the mythology laid out by L. Frank Baum in more than 100 books.

Burch emphasized, however, that roughly 80 percent of the park’s attractions would be in indoor buildings to make the park a year-round attraction. As a “tier one” attraction, the park could expect more than 4 million visitors each year, he said.

Each land would have its own “e-ticket,” or digitally-created, event, Burch said. Other ideas include a three-story carousel, a haunted forest and witch’s castle pitched more toward teenagers, and an attraction labeled the “Kansas Landmark Tower,” which would stand up to 1,000 feet tall and occasionally recreate a “tornado” with steam and lights.

“Our goal is to create a theme park that will make you feel you’ve been transported to the land of Oz,” Burch said.

Some residents, however, had concerns about Oz being transported near their houses.

Antonia Smith, a Lancelot Drive resident, told Burch and the engineers, planners and other partners he brought with him that she thought they had a “wonderful vision.”

But she said she was concerned what that vision would look like — especially the “tornado” attraction — “while I sit in my chaise lounge in my backyard.”

Many residents voiced concerns over a map that showed exit points for the park on Jagow Road, River Road and other nearby streets. Town Engineer Timothy Walck said those plans have been proposed primarily as emergency access points for fire and ambulance services.

While the first phase of the park would be contained in an area away from most residential development north of River Road, phases two and three would build retail and hotel spaces north and west of the main grounds. A number of residents expressed concern over having hotels built up Jagow Road.

Demler and Walck said in response that structures built along the road would still go through reviews before the planning board and Town Board, allowing for consideration of height, traffic and other concerns.

Local historian Paul Gromosiak noted that in years past, area politicians have turned away Walt Disney’s theme park proposal and the Ghermezian brother’s idea for a Mall of America for the Niagara region.

“I hope and pray that the people, this time, will not turn away the likes of Mr. Burch,” Gromosiak said.

Demler said the park could bring 5,000 full-time and part-time jobs, along with 8,000 construction jobs over its three-year construction. Lakeside Drive resident Chris Mercurio and another resident, however, questioned the effect the project could have on property values.

While a GAR Associates representative said it was too early to definitely tell what the impact of a theme park could be, he referenced Orlando as an area that, over more than 40 years, had seen a marked increase in value. Tim Collins, a Danielle Drive resident, said his own research showed that the land around Disney World, however, converted to commercial use, although the outer-ring residential properties did see value increases.

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