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Outgoing Amherst Town Board accepts environmental statement on Westwood

The current Amherst Town Board on Monday night put its final stamp on the Westwood project – less than three weeks before three new members join the board as of Jan. 1.

The board voted unanimously to accept the findings statement of the environmental review of the project, which calls for transforming the former country club into housing for 1,700 people, retail and commercial space and parkland.

A hotel, senior housing, townhouses and office buildings are all part of the plan.

In the statement, the board asks the developer, Mensch Capital Partners, to consider a plan that eliminates the hotel, works within sanitary sewer capacity and is smaller in size.

"I think the document we've been working on for months speaks for itself," said Town Supervisor Barry A. Weinstein. "We've asked the Mensch partnership to downsize the project for months and it has not been significantly done."

The findings statement was based on a 200-page final generic environmental impact statement, which was prepared by a consultant hired by the town and adopted by the Town Board last month.

Lameduck town board OKs Westwood environmental statement

Mensch's attorney, Sean Hopkins, told the board that to accept the findings is "premature."

Hopkins noted the town's Planning Board has not yet weighed in with its recommendations on the project and that Mensch is committed to working with the town on a solution to the sanitary sewer constraints. He also said the conceptual master plan included in the findings statement is not meant to be the final one.

"We would like to continue to engage with stakeholders, including nearby property owners, involved interested agencies and, of course, the incoming Town Board," Hopkins said.

Mensch, in a statement issued after the vote through a spokesman, criticized the turn of events.

Deputy Town Supervisor Steven D. Sanders said he was "encouraged" by Hopkins' comment that the conceptual master plan is a working document open to changes.

"My hope is we will see something which is smaller in scope, more in line with the neighborhood and with what our findings are here," said Sanders, who marked his final meeting as a council member, along with Weinstein and Ramona Popowich. "My hope is this will direct a future project, if there is one."

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