Amherst Seeks State OK for Next Step in Reuse of Westwood Course, Town Sports Venues

May 22, 2019

Amherst will seek the state’s permission for a future exchange of town parkland to ease the way for development near the town’s Northtown Center athletic facilities while preserving most of the former Westwood Country Club as green space.

The Town Board Monday voted, 5-0, to begin that process — known as alienation — after holding a public hearing earlier the same meeting.

The resolution was amended to ensure information about the alienation is public and to undo Monday’s vote if progress on a deal with the developer, Mensch Capital Partners, isn’t reached within nine months of state approval.

Supervisor Brian J. Kulpa said about 14 people spoke at the hearing, most in favor.

The town is asking the state to preemptively alienate nearly its entire Audubon recreational complex — about 240 acres — to give it flexibility as it hashes out details with Mensch.
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13 Responses to “Amherst Seeks State OK for Next Step in Reuse of Westwood Course, Town Sports Venues”

  1. Ann says:

    Very few spoke in favor of alienating our largest park.
    Most spoke against it with good reasons. This is a sell off of
    our recreational space and a give away to developer friends.
    A continuation of the hotel give away earlier in the year.
    The details of alienation have to be public by law, so adding
    that to their resolution was hilarious.
    So much for preserving green space and redevelopment over
    green field development.

  2. John Snyder says:

    Ann: Not only are the developers favored! The Westwood neighbors seem to have more clout ($$$)and priority than do the Audubon neighbors. Politicians buying votes with our tax money again. Higher taxes obviously are coming. Amenity costs are never published. Quality of life provided by government (with your tax money) always trumps. Socialism?

  3. Phil says:

    Of all the Amherst citizens and Supervisors who spoke at last weeks Westwood Hearing Judy Ferraro cut right to heart of the issue:

    “Get Westwood entirely out of the controlling hands of the Developers except for plans to restore the Clubhouse.”

  4. William says:

    I just watched the video of Monday’s meeting. Everyone should. Link below. There are fascinating facts that come our through the speeches. Michelle Marconi and Mary Shapiro (who we have seen schooling many on the Planning Board about laws and common sense protection of the environment and wetlands) provokes many disturbing questions.

    http://amherstny.iqm2.com/Citizens/SplitView.aspx?Mode=Video&MeetingID=3493&Format=Agenda

    Off the bat, it was said the accelerated process is illegal. That many steps are being ignored or short-circuited.

    I find the disproportional values of 260 acres of town land versus the 170 acres of Westwood to be critical and wonder why all the fuss. The Mensch Group should be ecstatic with 34 acres of town land for Westwood. That would be a fair value. Anyone can do the math but, Marconi did it for us. How much rescuing of these developers are the town’s taxpayers expected to do. Weinstein did the math and refused to deal with Mensch’s lopsided proposals.

    The video also reveals that Ciminelli wants our town to take over acres of wetlands on Muir Woods using more twisted logic. Muir Woods is another failure of Ciminelli. Buy land cheap and transform it into something huge that engenders an obscene profit for him and destroys nearby neighborhoods. Unfortunately, having money and a big mouth doesn’t matter when faced with the powers of Mother Nature. Muir woods is a giant wetland. No one should be building on or near it. Amherst taxpayers should not relieve another Ciminelli blunder. Would that mean, therefore, the town is willing to bail out all residents who have been victimized by development that never should have been allowed near their homes and have lost value because of it?

    We are told now it goes to Cuomo, a protector of environment matters and NYS parklands. If it is approved, we’ll know that money trumps all. And, when Mother Nature rears again, the expense and burden will fall on the taxpayers.

  5. Money Talks says:

    Judy Ferraro, Michelle Marconi, and Mary Shapiro have more integrity, intelligence, and concern for our community than any member of “our” Town Board. The Town Board always vote 5-0 for everything, not an independent, questioning mind among the bunch.

    The Supervisor is now in accelerated “sales” mode on this land swap acting more like Captain Ahab every day. He has made his mind up on what he wants, and now the only thing left to do is convince the rest of us how great that decision is going to be.

    But the devil is in then details, and all we getting is a sales pitch. Time for the Town Board and especially the Supervisor to stop the hype, start to listen, and give the residents the facts and information they are asking for.

    This Town Board and the Supervisor must now EARN our trust by their actions in listening to us, sharing information with us, rigorously following the law, and behaving ethically and transparently in all their actions.

    A good place to start is to tell us EVERYTHING they have already discussed, done, and with whom. Without FULL TRANSPARENCY they will lose our trust!

    -$$

  6. Alex says:

    I am grateful for the posting of the video of the public hearing about the alienation of 260-265 acres of the peoples’ parkland. Marconi and Shapiro, especially, called out the abuse of power and lack of common sense in trying to gain control of remaining parkland. Sounds like they’d arrest them all, if they could.

    Westwood Central Park is being used as an excuse to distribute remaining parkland to the very developers who have tried repeatedly to foist off their meager Westwood investment to make millions off the taxpayers. One of these developers has a family member who is a convicted felon. Another is being investigated for fraud. This should be all anyone needs to know. Why are any representatives of the people entangling themselves with any of these partners. Weinstein knew better. He held them all at bay.

    Ferraro has the right idea. Get the land out of the hands of these developers. They themselves deemed the land worth zero. Make Westwood a magnificent park, Kulpa’s signature issue when campaigning. Central Park should not be mixed in with the trade of 260-265 acres of our green parkland. They get 34 acres, max, just as Marconi calculated.

  7. Peter says:

    Something is seriously wrong. Even Weinstein would not have tried to wholesale trade off 260 acres of parkland under the guise of acquiring Westwood from the Mensch LLC Group. Never would he engage in such perfidy with the Mensch Group or any other developer to pick the people’s parkland apart for greedy, selfish reasons. Where is Kulpa, Mr. Protect the Environment Guy? Doesn’t he know that more development of virgin land contributes to pollution of the air we breath and the water we drink? Is he oblivious to the fact that Amherst’s infrastructure needs a major overhaul? Amherst has yet to catch up with development filling every nook and cranny, creating an unhealthy environment for everyone.

    Muir Woods is nature’s wetland aka swampland All those trying to tamp it down, divert it, bury it or whatever else the self-serving, money grubbing “experts” come up with are engaging in a fool’s errand and no match for Mother Nature. Ciminelli is caught in a quagmire of his own making. No one wants his swamp. Not for a nickel and certainly not for a swap of taxpayer parkland.

  8. sandra says:

    Does this need the state to approve an alienation this week? is this wired for sound or are reasonable people in Albany (are there any?) taking a hard look at something that looks half baked?
    Is this a serious proposal or a trial balloon meant to sniff out the opposition? Does this have legs?

  9. Lynne says:

    If anyone has any doubt, go back to the beginning and watch the video where “half-baked” doesn’t even begin to cover it.

    Have the people in Albany insisted on getting the land values before considering anything else? Do the people of Amherst know the values? We must all remember that Weinstein made the land values a central issue when Mensch tried to rip-off the people and their parkland before. Sounds like a different tack in the hopes of reaching a comparable result by still scamming the public out of their parkland but now under the guise of obtaining Westwood.

    If this isn’t enough gifting to the Mensch Developers, wait till they start the next round of fleecing Amherst taxpayers by going through the IDA for tax
    credits.

  10. Doug says:

    For crying out loud, watch the video all you “mushrooms” out there. There should be a revolution of “mushrooms.” Because we’ve all been there.

    The Central Park promise should not be tied to the mega give away of town parkland. Marconi says 17 to 34 acres of parkland equals all of Westwood. Could it be less? Westwood has deteriorated badly since the Mensch partners left it to rot, years back. Central Park is an entity of its own. A straight up swap should have been done months ago. There has been no need for kabuki theater and shell games. Why weren’t the appraisals done, at the outset? Why is anything being done before the completion of them?

    What happened with the board who wanted to preserve land two years ago, and now sit silent while developers are about to rape acres of parkland under the pretense of securing part of Westwood?

    Does anyone else smell a rat? Where are all the proponents of protecting and preserving the environment for the citizens of NYS. Or is that merely lip service reserved for “mushrooms?”

  11. Michele says:

    I would like to correct my guesstimate of a fair swap of acreage. I guessed publicly that a fair swap was somewhere btwn 17 and 34 acres of Audubon for all of Westwood. However, having Foiled for the NOrthtown appraisal for the alienation for the Hampton hotel, that parcel of 2.95 acres was appraised at $770,000 or $261,016 per acre. Given that NOrthtown and Audubon are similarly situated and located, my revised guess is a fair swap for all of Westwood is 11 acres of Audubon. Still a guess. but a refined guess and still more info than our elected officials have provided to the mushrooms.
    The public is not a field of mushrooms to be kept in the dark and fed horse manure.
    Fasten your seatbelts for a Home Rule message to be suspended in at the tb meeting on monday. This is necessary for the state alienation bill to move forward. But this will be on the agenda on Monday (another guess!)

  12. Hank says:

    Maybe someone can explain “home rule.” Certainly our board would not “suspend in” something like giving away town parkland without giving sufficient explanation and time for the people to digest. Most are still trying to digest alienation of supposedly protected parkland. Is this another mushroom move to give it all to developers to crap up more of our town?

    To Phil’s point..on a grander scale, wait for the give away of tax credits to these same developers to help with their business costs by forcing them off on taxpayers through the selected-to-comply IDA.

  13. Michele says:

    A Home Rule message is the towns request to the state that this is a bill they support and want them to pass. Neither house of the legislature can act on the Audubon alienation without a Home Rule message passed by a super majority of the town board. It is NOT on the published tb agenda. It is a guess (an educated guess) on my part that it the tb will dispense with their rules which require public notice of all agenda items and that only “time is of the essence’ agenda items can be added in by suspending their own rules. It is also my guess that the home rule message was intentionally not disclosed to the public in order to keep the mushrooms in the dark. this was done purposefully,I believe.
    the only other thing the tb can do tonight that might be more egregious would be to approve the HOME RULE msg by acclimation on consent. and yeah, I would also guess that the IDA thru its LDC will take the lead on all this development if this goes forward. Using the IDA as shadow government agency shields the electeds from accountability on items that may be distasteful to the public. so stay tuned for that.