Thousands of acres – including parks, golf courses and country clubs – are being reclassified by the Town of Amherst in a strategy to provide additional protection for recreation and open space.
More than 100 public and private properties totaling 3,400 acres will be tagged with the new zoning designation, “recreation conservation,” as part of a lengthy rezoning process undertaken by the Amherst Town Board.
“How the property will be used will not change,” said Gary Black, assistant planning director for the town.
Instead, the sweeping changes – while technical and mundane – are a calculated move to address some broader, underlying concerns about the future of large swaths of green space.
Town officials in recent years have raised concerns about what might happen to some of the privately held green spaces, including golf courses and country clubs, if they are sold off.
Right now, those properties are zoned “community facilities,” which allows a variety of other uses – including government buildings, churches, schools and senior housing – with little or no input from the Town Board.
Changing the zoning to “recreation conservation” limits their use for that purpose only, and forces any new development to seek approval from the Town Board.
“This provides additional protection to the town’s recreation and open space resources,” Black said.
Roughly 90 percent of the 102 targeted sites are publicly owned. They include Audubon Golf Course on Maple Road, Oakwood Golf Course on Tonawanda Creek Road, the Northtown Center and recreation complex on Amherst Manor Drive and Bassett Park on Klein Road.
The rest are privately owned, including Transit Valley Country Club on Transit Road, Park Country Club on Sheridan Drive, Country Club of Buffalo on Youngs Road and Westwood Country Club on Maple Road.
Town officials said this plan has been in the works for several years.
There is widespread speculation that the process is now moving forward because the 170-acre Westwood property is in play.
Mensch Capital Partners LLC, the investor group that bought the 68-year-old country club from its members in 2012, is eyeing the land for development, but no plans have been filed with the town yet.
A public hearing on rezoning the private parcels was held last month, and the Town Board could vote Monday to make those changes. A public hearing on two dozen of the town-owned recreation areas is also scheduled during Monday’s meeting in the Amherst Municipal Building, 5583 Main St., Williamsville.
The process of rezoning all 102 properties is expected to continue for the next several months.