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Westwood owners submit 'final offer' for golf course swap

The owners of Westwood Country Club said Monday they have submitted their "final offer" for a proposed golf course swap with the Town of Amherst.

But town officials aren’t rushing to accept the deal just yet.

The latest version of the proposed golf course swap involves two scenarios offered to the town by Mensch Capital Partners, which owns Westwood and is seeking the land on which the town’s Audubon course sits.

One option is for the town to give up 160 acres of the Audubon course and receive the 170-acre Westwood course and $2 million in cash.

As a second alternative, Mensch proposes the town give 140 acres of the Audubon course for the 170-acre Westwood course and $500,000 in cash.

“We believe the offer on the table is really a win-win for the town,” said Andrew J. Shaevel, managing partner of Mensch.

The initial terms submitted by the developers calls for the town to support the proposal by May 7.

But the offer is by no means a done deal.

Supervisor Barry A. Weinstein, who is leading negotiations for the town, declined to comment on the offer, saying he has not fully discussed the matter with the Town Board.

And Deputy Supervisor Guy R. Marlette also declined to comment because the matter was discussed in the executive session of Monday’s regularly scheduled Town Board work session.

Several conditions are proposed, though, that might limit the town’s flexibility if it were to accept the deal.

Chief among them is a stipulation that if the town adds new terms or “does not fulfill its obligations ... in a timely manner” – and the deal falls through – the town would be forced to fully reimburse the expenses of the developers.

Mensch would also have the option to withdraw from the deal at any time.

In addition, the town would need to restrict certain types of development on the part of the Audubon course not included in the swap as well as the nearby Northtowns recreation site for 20 years after the signing of the deal.

The town would also enter into a development agreement with Mensch for the future development of the Audubon site.

The Audubon site is seen as a prime piece of land because of its proximity to the University at Buffalo’s North Campus.

Mensch proposes a mixed-use complex that would include retail shops, restaurants, residences and hotels.

The concept has been dubbed a “Village Center” that the developers say would transform the golf course into the Town of Amherst’s version of Buffalo’s Elmwood Village or the Chautauqua Institution’s center square.

The plan also seeks to make Millersport Highway more permeable for foot traffic between the university and the surrounding community.

Originally, the developers proposed a clean swap of 170 acres of the Audubon land for 170 acres of the Westwood land.

But town leaders said the value of the undeveloped Audubon land around the university should not be underestimated.

Benderson Development attempted to turn the nearby Buffalo Shooting Club – adjacent to the Audubon course – into the Amherst Town Centre years ago but ran into neighborhood opposition.

And Shaevel said the developers have other plans if the “final offer” is not accepted by the town.

“We’re hoping we can create a win-win, but if the Audubon site doesn’t work, we’ll likely look at long-term development opportunities at the Westwood site,” he said.