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Amherst set to make bid on Westwood Country Club property

The Town of Amherst will make an offer for the Westwood Country Club property, but now comes the big question: How much?

The town is still doing its homework before making an offer to the property owners, Mensch Capital Partners, Supervisor Barry A. Weinstein said Monday.

But don’t expect Amherst to break the bank for the 170-acre site at Sheridan Drive and North Forest Road.

When asked how much the town might be willing to pay for the property, Weinstein said: “Obviously, it’s not going to be very much. It’s contaminated.”

Mensch purchased Westwood in 2012 for $2.5 million and wants to develop the property into a $238 million mixed-use residential, commercial and retail community with housing options for 1,700 people. Mensch, however, needs to clean up the site, after environmental tests discovered traces of arsenic in soil samples from past use of pesticides.

Meanwhile, Amherst officials – who have to approve the project – recently asked Mensch about buying the property, or part of it, to be used as parkland.

Mensch indicated last week it would listen to a serious offer from the town. The town, though, is trying to use the brownfield designation as leverage to strike a deal in its favor.

In fact, Mensch is seeking a lower tax assessment for Westwood and asked Amherst to reduce the property’s value to a negative $3 million based on what the developers believe it will cost to clean up the site, town officials said.

And Weinstein is backing off his stance that the fence being erected around the property needs town approval.

“It doesn’t need a permit and there are no environmental issues that prohibit them from putting up a fence,” Weinstein said. Mensch said it is putting up 9,000 feet of fencing to secure the site in preparation for remediation work. The supervisor believes the 5-foot-tall fence is out of “spite” to pressure officials into moving on the project.