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Proposed Town of Amherst resolution “highly inappropriate (6.19.17)

Mensch Capital Partners, developers of the former Westwood Country Club on Sheridan Drive at North Forest Road in Amherst, say they find “highly inappropriate” that the Amherst Town Board will consider a resolution during its meeting Monday evening (June 19, 2017) for the town to hire outside legal counsel for purposes, "Including but not limited to condemnation issues, eminent domain issues, land redevelopment issues, and litigation" of the Westwood property.

This may be the first time in town history that such offensive and threatening action has been taken prior to the town board first giving a proposed development matter consideration.

In July 2014, Mensch unveiled the nearly $250 million project that has several components, including single-family homes, patio homes, townhouses, senior living, significant park and green space, apartments, and the Westwood Neighborhood Center, which consists of residential living over neighborhood retail and restaurants, a hotel, professional office space and new public gathering spaces.

The plan was recently updated and now reserves 48.7 percent of the 170-acre site for permanent open space, while creating a new town park that is almost 45 acres, featuring a new lake and a network of pedestrian trails.

“We feel this request for proposal is inappropriate because the town and its officials are supposed to approach governance, including proposals from land owners and public comment with an open mind,” Andrew J. Shaevel, Mensch’s managing partner said.  

“We continue to meet and proactively make changes to our Master Plan, addressing specific issues and concerns raised by neighbors, town departments and other stakeholders.  Our plan has yet to be presented to the town board for its consideration and now it appears that the town board, in this resolution, has decided to hire outside legal counsel to explore condemnation, eminent domain and other litigation matters concerning the Westwood site.”
           
Shaevel said he considers the move by Supervisor Barry A. Weinstein and/or the town attorney on his behalf, “Offensive, inappropriate and further proof that certain elements within town government are not acting in a professional, ethical, open-minded and equitable manner.” 

In a letter to the town attorney, Sean W. Hopkins of Hopkins Sorgi & Romanowski PLLC, Mensch’s legal counsel, wrote, “A valid question the Town Board should answer before considering adoption of Resolution 2017-773 is why would there be any consideration of spending taxpayer funds to acquire the privately owned Project Site via eminent domain when Mensch is proposing to permanently preserve 83.3 acres of the approximately 170 acre Project Site as Permanent Open Space (48.7% of the Project Site), including nearly 45 acres of publicly accessible parkland.”

Hopkins also noted, “The use of taxpayer funds to acquire the privately owned Project Site would clearly not be in the best interests of the Town’s taxpayers and would require the Town to not only spend millions of dollars to provide the required fair compensation to Mensch, but would also require the Town incur millions of dollars of clean-up costs in the event the Town’s future use of the Project Site was anything other than its current use, which is an enclosed brownfield not accessible by the public.”

The letter advised Supervisor Weinstein that, “Mensch is requesting and is entitled to a fair review of the Project on its merits in accordance with the procedures specified in the Town’s Zoning Code, NYS Town Law and the State Environmental Quality Review Act (“SEQRA”).”    

Since proposing Westwood Amherst, Mensch officials have conducted a series of meetings and open houses, offering Westwood neighbors, town residents, interested agencies and government officials the opportunity to discuss the development and make suggestions.  Updates to the Master Plan are a direct result of feedback from those sessions.

Shaevel pointed to the irony of the fact that Mensch has offered to donate almost 45 acres for a new town park and fire substation after the site is remediated, yet the town wants to explore condemnation.

On Jan. 19 of this year, the Town Planning Board opened a public hearing on Mensch’s request to rezone the property from Recreation/Conservation to Traditional Neighborhood District, Multi-Family Residential and General Business.  The hearing was adjourned, then repeatedly scheduled and postponed.

“We are earnestly and appropriately responding to various development and environmental review requests at the direction of the town, pursuant to New York's State Environmental Quality Review Act.

“To learn that the town has issued an RFP to hire outside counsel to explore condemnation and eminent domain before we have even had a chance to present our proposals to the town board, means that they are not approaching these matters in a fair and open manner,” Shaevel said.

“These actions imply a preconceived bias and continued gamesmanship on the part of Supervisor Weinstein and others. The supervisor and other elected town officials have a duty to fair process. which they appear to have breached by their recent actions.”

Shaevel went on to say, “With this resolution, it appears as though the town board is preparing to initiate a long and expensive condemnation proceeding to acquire a parcel of land designated by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation as a brownfield, with remediation estimated between $6 and $9 million.” 

“Mensch is proposing a project that will create jobs and generate significant tax revenue to the town and the Williamsville School District. It is frankly shocking that the town board is willing to act against the best interests of all Amherst taxpayers,” Shaevel said.

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Westwood plans may not be changed

The Amherst community needs to be alerted to what appears to be a misconception regarding the Westwood project. Some believe that once rezoning of the property is approved, Mensch Capital Partners can freely change the proposed redevelopment plan within the approved uses of the new zoning classifications.

 

That is not true.

 

In May of 2013, the Town of Amherst enacted a new Planned Unit Development law for any site 30 acres or larger, which includes Westwood, requiring developers to meet a higher standard of planning and implementation.

 

The PUD law requires eligible sites be planned in keeping with a Town of Amherst Bicentennial Comprehensive Plan, which Mensch has done. Once approved, both the Conceptual Master Plan and a Development Agreement between Mensch and the town will be binding on the property and registered with Erie County as a Deed Restriction.

 

It may only be changed with an affirmative vote of a majority of the town board, which may impose certain conditions or restrictions, as well as any mitigation measures for any potentially significant environmental impacts.

 

The development agreement will require development of Westwood to be generally consistent with the approved Conceptual Master Plan.

 

Mensch does not have unchecked flexibility to implement whatever we want within the zoning code (as may be the case with other properties). In fact, we are compelled to implement the Conceptual Master Plan consistent with the terms of the Development Agreement or seek approval from the town board to amend the Conceptual Master Plan.

 

To date, no other parcel has been subject to these requirements since there are very few, if any, other development sites over 30 acres.

 

It is important that all residents are properly informed with the facts to arrive at informed opinions.

 

Andrew J. Shaevel
Managing Partner
Mensch Capital Partners

 



 


 

 

Mensch Capital Partners submit updated Westwood Conceptual Master Plan (Dec. 20, 2016)

Mensch Capital Partners, owners of the former Westwood Country Club on Sheridan Drive in Amherst, has submitted an Amended Rezoning Application to the Town of Amherst that includes an updated Conceptual Master Plan for the mixed-use redevelopment project.

The Amended Rezoning Application reflects numerous project modifications that have been made in response to comments received during the public hearing held by the Planning Board on Nov. 17, as well as input from town departments, committees and the public.

“We listened to our neighbors, town residents, and our town officials, and then modified the Conceptual Master Plan to incorporate as many of these ideas and suggestions as possible while still providing for an economically viable development,” said Andrew J. Shaevel, Mensch managing partner.

“The main objective was to substantially increase the publicly accessible permanent open space and further integrate the pedestrian friendly mixed use components to be included in the proposed neighborhood. The updated plan reserves 47 percent of the 170-acre site for permanent open space, while creating a new park that is almost 40 acres, featuring a new lake and a network of pedestrian trails,” Shaevel said. Read more


 

 

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Everyone will benefit from cleanup of Westwood site (Op-ed by Andy Shaevel, published in The Buffalo Nes, Apr. 24, 2016)

The supervisor of the Town of Amherst has decided not to pursue his prior plan to acquire Glen Oak and Westwood and sell off part of the Audubon Golf Course, so the logical next step for the town is to approve the rezoning of the Westwood site to allow for its cleanup and development.

In July 2014, Mensch Capital Partners unveiled an innovative $238 million plan for Westwood, proposing a traditional, walkable and sustainable neighborhood, rooted in the planning goals and objectives of Town of Amherst’s Comprehensive Plan.

Following a series of Mensch-sponsored community “town hall” meetings, the Erie County Health Department asked Mensch to conduct a Phase 2 environmental study. The test results revealed traces of arsenic in the soil of the tee boxes, greens and some fairways, with concentrations that often exceed New York State Department of Environmental Conservation soil cleanup objectives for residential, commercial or industrial uses.

After much research, Mensch traced the sources of arsenic to historic applications of pesticides, fungicides and herbicides consistent with industry-accepted golf course maintenance protocols. As a result, Mensch applied to and was accepted into the DEC’s Brownfield Cleanup Program.

Mensch then developed a remedial work plan with the DEC that includes more extensive testing (remedial investigation), including a broader testing to confirm the presence of arsenic. The first of these more extensive studies revealed other contaminants not previously detected in the initial testing, including cadmium, chromium, copper, mercury, lead and zinc. These new metals were also consistent with the historic maintenance of the golf course.

Pursuant to state DEC standards, the site is currently unacceptable for either residential or recreational uses, including both active and passive recreation.

These new soil test results further underscore the importance of implementing a cleanup and remediation plan in cooperation with the DEC that meets or exceeds its stringent standards for residential and/or recreational uses of the site.

Remediation of the Westwood site will be very expensive, but will result in a “clean” site, certified by the DEC, meeting its rigorous standards for residential and/or recreational uses. This will increase the value of the Westwood property and will have a positive impact on the value of neighborhood properties. Remediation will only be economically viable with the support of the DEC Brownfield Cleanup Program. The vast majority of the brownfield cleanup credits are tied to the redevelopment of the site, so without an approved development plan with the town, there is no pathway to clean up the Westwood site.

Mensch continues to reach out to Amherst officials to extend our willingness to collaborate and create a solution that would allow all parties to approve a plan that solves the brownfield problem and allows the Westwood site to be a productive generator of economic, social and environmental benefits for the entire town. We hope that Amherst and its officials recognize the need to solve this problem and will accept our offers to collaboratively find the solution that enables the Westwood site to be cleaned up.

We will continue to make progress on the site investigation phase and are happy to clean up the property as part of a development plan, but if we cannot reach a compromise on development of Westwood, we cannot otherwise fund cleanup of the site. No development rights means no cleanup and an unremediated brownfield remains in the center of town that will result in depressed property values in surrounding neighborhoods.

Andrew J. Shaevel is managing partner of Mensch Capital Partners, LLC, owners of the former Westwood Country Club.


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Westwood needs to be cleaned up (Published in Amherst Bee, Apr. 6, 2016)

Conversation about the future of the former Westwood Country Club now focuses on site clean up.

Mensch Capital has proposed an innovative, $238 million plan for Westwood:  a walkable, sustainable, traditional neighborhood in the heart of Amherst.

In 2014, the Erie County Health Department recommended a study of the fertilizer and chemicals applied to the fairways and greens.  Soil tests revealed traces of arsenic, with concentrations often exceeding New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Soil Cleanup Objectives for residential, commercial or industrial uses.

Mensch then applied to and was accepted into NYSDEC’s Brownfield Cleanup Program.

A full spectrum of follow-up testing in select locations confirmed the presence of arsenic, and a number of metals not previously detected in the initial testing:  cadmium, chromium, copper, mercury, lead and zinc, consistent with the historic use of pesticides, fungicides and herbicides that were regularly applied by the former country club and in keeping with then generally industry accepted golf course maintenance protocols. 

These new soil test results further underscore the importance of developing and implementing a cleanup and remediation plan in cooperation with NYSDEC that meets or exceeds its stringent standards for residential and/or recreational uses of the site.

By NYSDEC guidelines, the site in its current condition is unacceptable for any use, including residential or recreation uses.  The only economically feasible way to remediate the contamination and cleanup the site for future reuse, whether as a park or any residential or commercial uses will require the Town to provide Mensch development rights for some or all of the site.

Remediation and cleanup of the Westwood site will result in a “clean” site certified by NYSDEC.  This will have a positive impact on neighborhood properties values and enable the site to enhance the tax base of the town, county, and school district.

We will continue to make progress on the site investigation phase and are happy to clean the site as part of a development plan, but if we cannot reach a compromise on development of Westwood, we cannot otherwise fund cleanup of the site.

Andrew J. Shaevel
Managing Partner
Mensch Capital Partners 


Read complete statement about proposed land swap, from Andrew J. Shaevel, managing partner, Mensch Capital Partners  (Mar. 16, 2016)


Mensch Capital Partners submits draft sampling report to New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (Feb. 1, 2016)

Mensch Capital Partners, LLC, who have proposed the $238 million dollar, multi-use redevelopment of the former Westwood Country Club in Amherst, has submitted a draft sampling report to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), providing updated soil sampling test results pursuant to the Brownfield Cleanup Agreement (BCA) entered into between Mensch and  NYSDEC for the remediation of environmental contamination identified at the former Westwood Country Club site.

Soil testing commissioned in the fall of 2014 by Mensch, at the request of the Erie County Department of Health, uncovered levels of arsenic that exceed NYSDEC’s Soil Cleanup Objectives for residential, commercial or industrial uses.  

The updated soil test results recently submitted to NYSDEC confirmed the presence of arsenic and found a number of additional metals not previously detected in the initial testing, including cadmium, chromium, copper, mercury, lead and zinc.  The test screen for this latest round of soil sampling was approved by NYSDEC as part of the Remedial Investigation Work Plan for the Westwood Site.  Read more


Safety and Security fence to be installed around former Westwood Country Club

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A 9,000 foot safety and security fence is to be erected around the property of the former Westwood Country Club in Amherst.

“The site is a brownfield and was designated as such upon the discovery of arsenic in excess of what is deemed safe by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation,” said Andrew J. Shaevel, managing partner of Mensch Capital Partners, LLC, owners of the property. “Over the course of the past several months, a number of trespassers have been seen on the site and were asked to leave the property.  We are concerned about the safety of our neighbors, and the security and liability of the property relating to the site's recent brownfield designation.” 

It will take several weeks to install the permanent, galvanized steel fence, which will stand five feet tall and will be located approximately 10 to 15 feet inside the Westwood property line, along North Forest Road, Sheridan Drive, Frankhauser Road, Fairways Boulevard, Maple Road and portions of the Audubon Par 3 Golf Course.  
 
“This is the first step in our efforts of advancing remediation work and is consistent with conversations we have had with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation,” Shaevel said. "We are erecting the fence in accordance with the Community Health and Safety Plan as per the DEC’s regulations.  There will be heavy equipment and substantial activity on the site during this process. The fence will help to protect the safety of neighborhood residents, children and family pets.  Appropriate signage will be placed on the fence, so that everyone is aware that access to the site is strictly limited to work personnel only.”

Mensch has developed an innovative conceptual master plan for the former country club to create Westwood, a new traditional neighborhood in the heart of Amherst that will feature significant public spaces, a variety of residences and a neighborhood center that are all complementary to the surrounding community and the entire Town of Amherst. The Plan mirrors the vision set forth in the Town’s Comprehensive Master Plan for sites like the Westwood.  The Draft Generic Environmental Statement for the project is currently being reviewed by the Town Board and its Planning Department.  Mensch has indicated that it will remediate the arsenic and clean up the site as part of its redevelopment of the site. 




Mensch Capital Partners, LLC, a proud sponsor of Mathewson McCarthy Baseball

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Westwood Country Club equipment slated for auction

Green mowers, fairway mowers, rough mowers and golf carts are among the items that will be auctioned at the former Westwood Country Club in Amherst, on Tuesday, Apr. 21, at 10 a.m.


Only golf-related assets will be auctioned.  All banquet and catering assets from the former country club will be maintained for future use.

Blackbird Asset Services, LLC, of Williamsville, will oversee the auction at the former country club, located at 772 North Forest Rd., Amherst.  The auction will be conducted live onsite and also webcast live via Bidspotter. Inspection will be Monday, Apr. 20,  between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., and again on sale day at 8 a.m.

Mensch Capital Partners, LLC, of Williamsville, owners of the property, announced last July plans for a $238 million project for Westwood that will create housing diversity through a variety of residential types and styles, pedestrian-friendly design and the strategic placement of new mixed-use centers, plus 64 acres of parks, lakes, ponds, and pedestrian and bike trails (38 percent of the site).  The new Westwood follows the Town of Amherst vision for livable neighborhoods and pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use developments.  Westwood respects quality of life, expands the Town’s tax base and values community character.

Mensch announced the closure of the golf course last December.  when soil tests revealed traces of arsenic on the greens and some fairways in amounts that are moderately in excess of New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Soil Cleanup Objectives.

On Mar. 10, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) accepted the Westwood Country Club site into the Brownfield Cleanup Program (BCP).  Mensch has entered into an agreement with NYSDEC for supervised cleanup of the property, which will take place in conjunction with the redevelopment project.

Auction Link: http://blackbirdauctions.com/current-auctions/westwood-country-club.html


Westwood Country Club Golf Course Closes
Course owners apply to Brownfield Cleanup Program


The Westwood Country Club golf course and pool have permanently closed, while the club house banquet facility and Windows on the Green restaurant will close for good on Dec. 21.  The property is located at Sheridan Drive and North Forest Road in Amherst.


“The golf course has not been economically viable for many years and the only reason it has remained open for the past three seasons is because Mensch has heavily subsidized its operations,” said Andrew J. Shaevel, managing partner of Mensch Capital Partners, LLC, the owner of the golf course.

Shaevel also announced that Mensch is applying for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (NYS DEC) Brownfield Cleanup Program (BCP). 

"In the process of preparing the Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS), the Erie County Health Department recommended we conduct a study of the fertilizer and chemicals applied to the fairways and greens on the course,” Shaevel said.  “The soil tests revealed traces of arsenic on the greens and some fairways in amounts that are moderately in excess of DEC’s Soil Cleanup Objectives (SCO).”  

Agricultural herbicides had been typically used for lawn and turf purposes at golf courses throughout the United States as a method to control weeds and other nuisance plants without damaging grass. 

In 2009, EPA cancelled all product registrations for these herbicides and the authorized use of these materials for golf courses was terminated as of December 31, 2012, except for spot treatment.  According to the Westwood greens keeping staff, these agricultural herbicides have not been used at Westwood since 1994.

Upon learning of the contamination at the Westwood’s golf course, Mensch promptly notified NYS DEC and has committed to remediating the property under the provisions of BCP and NYS DEC oversight and approval.  Shaevel emphasized, “Any contamination at the Westwood will be cleaned up under the provisions of the BCP in full compliance with NYS DEC criteria, with NYS DEC approval, and in accordance with NYS DEC policy and regulations resulting in a Certificate of Compliance confirming all required remediation has been completed.” 

Mensch Group officials briefed Amherst Town Supervisor Barry Weinstein and Town Board Members on the course closure and BCP application during a series of meetings on Nov. 18.

Westwood neighbors, Fairway Management, LLC, operators of the golf course and golf course members are in the process of being informed of Mensch’s application into the Brownfield Cleanup Program, as well as the immediate closure of the golf course.  (Read letter to Westwood neighbors)

“This is not an unusual situation,” Shaevel said.  “Soil testing is a normal part of the environmental review of a proposed project pursuant to the State Environmental Quality Review Act, which requires the potential environmental impacts of a project to be identified and evaluated before any decision-making.  As responsible stewards, our focus is now on remediation, which, when completed, will result in a clean site, ready for our project to move forward.”

“We remain committed to developing the new Westwood into a traditional neighborhood in the heart of Amherst, featuring great public spaces, a variety of residences and a neighborhood center that are all complementary to the surrounding community and the entire Town of Amherst and consistent with the Town’s redevelopment planning goals in the Town’s Comprehensive Plan,” Shaevel said.
              
Mensch Capital Partners, LLC purchased the Westwood Country Club in 2012.  Shaevel said "with the golf industry in recession, the decision to close the Westwood Country Club was inevitable and consistent with a nationwide trend - since 2005, 536 golf courses have closed nationwide, including 157 in 2013."


Letter to Westwood Neighbors (Nov. 18, 2014)

Announcing the closure of the golf course, pool, banquet facility and Windows on the Green Restaurant.  Read


The Westwood project and the Town’s Comprehensive Plan

Approved by the Town Board in 2007 and amended in 2011, the Amherst Bicentennial Comprehensive Plan (CP) is
intended, “to guide future growth and redevelopment in the Town.”

Golf Course and Large Parcel Redevelopment – the CP anticipates the redevelopment of a golf course, “in the event that continued operations become difficult due to challenging demographics, economic or social trends.”

The major components of the CP clearly establish development criteria – all met or exceeded by the Westwood conceptual plan. Read more


Update on Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement

The Amherst Town Board has begun its formal review of the Draft Generic Environmental Impact Statement (DGEIS) for the new Westwood, our plan to redevelop Westwood Country Club into a traditional neighborhood in the heart of Amherst, in accordance with the vision and objectives of the Town’s Comprehensive Master Plan.

Required by the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act, a DGEIS provides for the comprehensive evaluation of potential environmental impacts associated with a development proposal and requires mitigation planning for any significant impacts. It has been submitted to the lead agency, in this case, the Town of Amherst, for their initial review and coordination with interested and involved agencies. While the DGEIS includes a complete listing of all interested and involved agencies, a few examples include the New York State Department of Environmental Conversation and the New York State Department of Transportation.

Read more


Neighbor meetings provide valuable input

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We held the first of our Neighbor Meetings July 29, July 31, and Aug. 2, 2014, at the Amherst Youth Foundation.  This was an opportunity for us to brief neighbors living within 600 feet of Westwood.  We will have more meetings in the future.

Reiew the Westwood Neighbor Presentation


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Neighbors invited to collaborative review of Westwood master plan

Hundreds of letters have been mailed to residents living near Westwood Country Club, inviting them to a series of meetings as Mensch Capital Partners seek to provide more information about the conceptual master plan for Westwood, the new, traditional neighborhood being proposed for the heart of Amherst. (See story below)

"We are inviting our neighbors to these information sessions so we can listen to their input," said Andrew J. Shaevel, Managing Partner for Mensch.  "We are also looking for feedback  and suggestions.  These neighbor information sessions reflect our commitment to include residents in the planning process, to listen to their ideas and concerns, and to answer their questions, all part of our dedication to remain open, honest and available as the review process for the new Westwood moves forward."

The informational meetings will be held at the Amherst Youth Foundation, 5005 Sheridan Drive, on the following dates:

  • Tuesday, July 29, 7:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, July 31, 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, Aug., 1, 10 a.m.

Read the neighbor letter


July 10, 2014

Westwood redevelopment plan revealed
Innovative conceptual master plan calls for traditional neighborhood
in the heart of Amherst
$238 million project will generate $58 million in property tax revenue,
create 2,300 construction jobs

 

Mensch Capital Partners, LLC, owners of the Westwood Country Club property on Sheridan Drive at North Forest Road in Amherst, has developed an innovative conceptual master plan to create Westwood, a new traditional neighborhood in the heart of Amherst that will feature great public spaces, a variety of residences and a neighborhood center that are all complementary to the surrounding community and the entire Town of Amherst.

“This is smart development using traditional neighborhood design, which includes residential, recreation, neighborhood shops, hospitality and professional office space elements,” said Andrew J. Shaevel, managing partner for Mensch.  “Our design includes key components of the Town of Amherst Bicentennial Comprehensive Plan, which envisioned this very scenario, ‘when continued operation (of a golf course) becomes difficult due to changing demographic, economic or social trends.’” Read more

Announcements 



Join us! Amherst Planning Board Meeting May 18, 2017

YOU TALKED. WE LISTENED!

Come and learn more about the Revised Westwood Conceptual Master Plan based on your input! Join us at the Amherst Planning Board Meeting, Thursday, May 18 at 6:30 pm at the Town Hall, Amherst Municipal Building, 5583 Main St. Williamsville. SEE YOU THERE!

 

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