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Amherst wants more details on Westwood redevelopment

Those waiting for a decision on the redevelopment of the Westwood County Club in Amherst may want to settle in. It could be awhile. The proposal is still stuck in the environmental review process.

In fact, a few town officials suggested the sprawling mixed-use neighborhood wouldn’t come up for a vote until next year when a new Amherst Town Board takes over.

Town of Amherst and Mensch Capital Partners LLC, the developer proposing the large-scale project in the heart of Amherst, are still trying to find common ground over what questions about the project need answering so plans can be made available for public review and comment.

Mensch last July submitted what’s called a “draft generic environmental impact statement,” a lengthy document detailing how the plans for housing, storefronts, offices, a hotel and parkland on 170 acres would impact the environment and surrounding Westwood neighborhood. The town responded in September by sending the draft back along with a six-page list of issues that it wanted addressed as part of the review. Mensch countered in March by submitting a revised version of the document.

The town, however, says the developer still has not addressed all the issues. That includes submitting an alternate plan with fewer homes; an alternative to the proposed road running between Maple Road and Sheridan Drive; and more details about how the project would impact sewer and storm water issues in the neighborhood.

The discussion between the town and the developer continued during a Town Board work session Monday. Both sides met in hopes of coming to some agreement about what exactly is needed so this process can move along.

The meeting was “not whether you’re in favor of the project or against the project, it’s whether the draft generic environmental impact statement is complete or not,” Amherst Supervisor Barry A. Weinstein said at the start of the hour-long session.

Eric W. Gillert, the town’s planning director, said he wants to make sure the document is as complete as possible before it is disseminated for public comment. Sean W. Hopkins, attorney for the developer, agreed that parts of the document could be updated, but raised concern that this back and forth would continue to drag on. Instead, more questions and answers will come out during the public comment stage – if they could only get there.

Mensch Capital, the investor group that purchased the struggling country club two years ago, rolled out plans for the $238 million development in July.

Plans show a mix of housing, including patio homes, townhouses, single-family homes and senior housing with nearly 300 assisted-living and independent units. Also proposed is 100,000 square feet of first-floor retail shops with 280 apartments above them; a four-story hotel with 130 rooms; and six two-story buildings with professional or medical office space.

About 64 acres would consist of a park, lakes and ponds with two miles of pedestrian bicycle trails.
If completed, the project will stretch the entire length of the property from Maple Road to Sheridan Drive. The northern half would be dominated by the residential developments, while the retail shops, offices, hotel and parking would be situated closer to Sheridan. Full development would likely take seven to 10 years, depending on demand and how many other partners Mensch can bring in.

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