Eminent Domain Should Be Pursued for Westwood

Aug. 18, 2019

The angry owner of the former gas station at Kenmore Avenue and Niagara Falls Boulevard has it all wrong. Amherst is not closed for business.

The welcome mat has been rolled out for businesses and developers, big and small. The Town of Amherst is open for business and welcomes all who are good neighbors and pay their fair share of taxes.

The successful eminent domain action against this property, the public taking of private land, was initiated after 20 years of neglect and intransigence. So, bold move by our town supervisor. It’s about time. But there is yet another bad neighbor in Amherst who deserves the same attention and the same treatment.

Westwood is a giant parcel smack dab in the middle of town: surrounded by a chain link fence displaying stark hazard warnings, blighting our town, marking it as a dangerous contaminated site, scaring away those who dare to come near it.

The owners, who laughingly call themselves the Mensch Group, purchased this former golf course eight years ago. Westwood lacks access to infrastructure (water and sewer), and it is cost-prohibitive to bring it onsite. It will never be developed.

In the same manner in which the Red Apple millionaire bought the Kenmore/Niagara Falls Boulevard site as a defensive move to stave off competition to his other gas stations, the Westwood partners bought Westwood in a preemptive action in order to swap land with the town and develop the Audubon golf course, which does have access to infrastructure.

The land value of Westwood is about $10,000 per acre; the value of Audubon is about $400,000 per acre. So a land swap is also unlikely, given the value imbalance.

Well eight years later and after lots of teeth gnashing, 45,000 cars each day speed by this faux contaminated site in the heart of upstate New York’s largest town. The Westwood partners act more like the Red Apple eyesore owner than the “menschen” they call themselves, and are thus deserving of the same treatment.

Eminent domain action should commence post haste.

Michele F. Marconi
Livingston Parkway
Amherst

13 Responses to “Eminent Domain Should Be Pursued for Westwood”

  1. John Snyder says:

    Westwood needs to be developed as per Mench proposals. We need quality patio homes in that location – Patio homes similar to Hampton Hill. The Westwood location is better. The town would benefit greatly from the property tax revenues.

    Income verses expenses is always better. A park would cost taxpayers money to acquire, develop and maintain.

    Please develop cost comparisons to share with your readers. Disclosure!

  2. Donna says:

    If the town is desperate for infusions of cash, perhaps they should stop giving millions and millions to developers in tax credits via the IDA.
    They, along with the patio home scam should all be paying their fair share.

    It is about time that all developments are filled before ravaging any more land resources. Will it not end until these natural resources are gone? How short-sighted can these self-interested characters be?

    The Mensch Partners should get their act together. Westwood land is losing value every day. The Audubon land is gaining.
    They are in no position to play hardball with their lousy hand while their land continues to diminish commensurate with public opinion.
    “Mensch” is a joke and an insult. At least, change the name.

  3. John Snyder says:

    Self Interest? – Westwood development would be a net positive dollar infusion for Amherst. Run the numbers – Acquisition costs, development costs and maintenance costs verses development tax base increases. It’s quite a swing. Numbers..

    Amherst State Park is certainly under utilized. Another taxpayer supported park at the Westwood site is not necessary.

    COSTS?

  4. Phil says:

    Eminent Domain should be considered.
    But it shouldn’t be hollow words used as bargaining pressure. Eminent Domain has been misused in recent years but in this instance, where a public park is the result, it is certainly what Eminent Domain was intended for.
    Because it would be a long process and because negotiations with Mensch don’t seem to be going anywhere the process should be started immediately. Recent discussion about what sports would be permitted in the park and such seem like putting the cart before the horse – there is no park yet. And time is ticking away.
    Forget the fluff and concentrate on making it a park. Start Eminent Domain action now.

  5. John Snyder says:

    COSTS: Start now and tell the taxpayers what it will cost.

    Cost is the difference between property acquisition, building the park and annual park maintenance verses annual property taxes from proposed development.

    DO IT – no blank checks for politicos.

    Easy to spend other people’s money isn’t it without recourse…

  6. Harold says:

    Cost? How about adding up all the millions in tax credits given to these developers. They pay less, the regular taxpayers pay more. Same goes for the patio home scammers. What exactly are those figures?

    Then figure in additional infrastructure that will burden the same taxpayers and the residents that suddenly have more structural and drainage issues in their homes that they are also responsible for.

    We can always count on the self-interested charlatans to throw out the buzzword-“taxes.” Look around at all the development. Each one promised lower taxes. Yet our taxes are consistently going up.

    Not all places are worthy of development, not in 2019. Today these same developers or their offspring should redevelop what is obsolete or decaying – or find another town to exploit.

  7. John Snyder says:

    OK -good.. What ARE the numbers Harold? Take them out for about ten years. It’s sure easier to spend other people’s money especially when it will buy votes and the TOTAL cost verses benefits revenue will never be compared prior to a project being approved.

    COSTS? What are the actual estimated dollar figures? Maybe some of the geniuses at UB could figure it out and a reliable CPA firm could verify it.

    It’s cash verses BS.

  8. Alex says:

    Marconi has laid out facts about Westwood that should awaken everyone about the arrogance, entitlement and residents-be-damned attitude by these developers.

    The Mensch Group has managed to blight a once picturesque piece of property in the center of Amherst. They have not been good, responsible neighbors. E.g. The contamination con story to justify a spite fence that serves only to park and store hundreds of cars. A use that trashes the area even more.

    If it takes Eminent Domain to get these developers off the dime and acknowledge their mistake in purchasing land not suited or zoned for their greedy venture, it should happen now. Or, if the land value is, in fact, $10,000 per acre, smart capitalists would and should take the money and run.

    Either way Amherst is tired of hearing and dealing with the shenanigans played out for years by these developers. It is well-nigh time they move on to harass another town.

    Yes, they should at least change their name.

  9. John Snyder says:

    DEVELOP WESTWOOD: Why? Add to the tax base rather than the cost of government. It’s a big swing. Develop and publish the numbers.

  10. Chris says:

    DEVELOP WESTWOOD: Why? You continue to ignore the facts that have been outlined again on this site and known by most engaged people. Tell your developer buddies that people from all over Amherst are paying higher taxes plus paying dearly for sewage and drainage issues flowing in and around their homes as a result of developers’ lies. Facts do not support your persistent and loyal peddling of garbage. Besides most people, after years of out-of-control development are now more interested in clean air, clean water, and an overall protection of what is left of God-given green land. What is the cost of that? What are the priorities of an informed public in 2019?

    It is encouraging that Kulpa is soliciting developers to build what the town needs and wants, not what developers tell the town they want and need for the sole purpose of keeping their pockets lined.

  11. John Snyder says:

    COST? Seems you NIBY’s don’t care as long as it’s someone else’s money. COSTS verses revenues need to be part of this friendly discussion so all that pay can make an informed decision. When you spend your own money don’t you want to know how much you are spending?

  12. Phil says:

    Amherst is at a critical point – hopefully a turning point.

    The 5th largest population center in NYS, bigger than Albany and only 16,000 behind Syracuse, needs to make a vital decision. Concede as usual to Developer greed and let them ruin the beautiful Westwood Property or end the relentless overdevelopment of Amherst by protecting Westwood with Eminent Domain.

    Eminent Domain has been abused lately as Developer’s have misrepresented their pipelines, apartments, multi-use whatever’s as “being in the Public Interest” but profits always seem to end up in their pockets – it’s confiscating private land for Corporate profit . But in this case of Westwood, the outcome being a public park, it would seem to be exactly what Eminent Domain was created for.

    If you are thinking it’s not your fight because it’s not in your neighborhood then I urge you to think again; at well over 100 acres this will be the backyard of everyone in Amherst. Westwood, the 2 adjoining Audubon Golf Courses, and the former Gun Club land present a fantastic opportunity to reverse the loss of greenspace in Amherst. This is a chance to create a Park System which will rival Delaware Park’s importance to Buffalo. This will be the centerpiece of Amherst.

    Mensch has done nothing in 5 years except to fence off this property and declare it contaminated. If Westwood is contaminated then so is every other golf course in Erie County because they are all maintained the same way. In fact, after lying fallow since 2014 it’s probably some of the cleanest soil in Amherst. Mensch does nothing, is reluctant to participate in meaningful dialogue, and 5 precious years have passed. The bottom line is there is no possible way to add the necessary water & sewer infrastructure to Westwood as it is constricted downstream so development as Mensch proposed is not possible.

    Let’s stop lining the pockets of these Developers who don’t give a hoot about the neighborhoods they ruin and do something for us; the people who live here and pay taxes here.

    Start Eminent Domain procedures now.

  13. Bill says:

    Phil, right on the money.

    The trolls agonizing over who is paying for what should attach themselves to the other entries on this site regarding the IDA. The IDA historically gives generous tax breaks to all these developers for promises that rarely materialize. It is time they pay their fair share. Imagine what could be done with those millions and millions in tax breaks that translates to money. Money that could be used to benefit us all.

    Two of the people running for town board are on the IDA. Will they have the integrity to resign from one decision board or the other, if elected? Sanders was on both while serving under Weinstein. The perception was always one of in-your-face corruption.