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Village officials cite concerns about proposed Westwood development

The proposed development of the former Westwood Country Club will likely negatively affect the nearby Village of Williamsville, village officials say, especially in terms of increased traffic and storm water runoff.

“They’re proposing to build over 1,000 units, which commonly comes with 1.5 vehicles each. So it’s pretty easy to do the math and realize that you’re talking about putting another 1,500 vehicles on Sheridan Drive and North Forest (Road),” said Christopher J. Duquin, deputy mayor.

Amherst Supervisor Barry A. Weinstein, Duquin and Village Mayor Brian J. Kulpa, in a letter, expressed concern that major transportation arteries surrounding the village are not equipped to handle a project with the density of what Mensch Capital Partners proposes.

The $238 million development calls for a mix of single-family housing, apartments, condominiums, office space, a nursing home and a four-story hotel. It also would include 64 acres of public green space, including pedestrian and bike paths, representing about 38 percent of the entire parcel, according to the developers.

Duquin said the type of development proposed is likely to exacerbate flooding problems from storm water runoff.

“At the end of the day, the little Village of Williamsville controls the dam at Island Park which, whether or not we pull the panel determines whether it floods upstream in Cheektowaga or downstream at this property,” he said, referring to the former golf course.

“If you take these 160 acres of basically grass that already does a very good job of mitigating flood water and slowly putting it into the creek, and you pave over that, and you put up buildings with roofs and you create all of these impervious surfaces, that creates runoff ... which ends up in the creek,” Duquin said.

With the Town Board’s acceptance of the developers’ environmental impact statement last month, the document will be open to public review and comment by both the town planning board and the Town Board before a decision is made as to whether or a not a negative declaration on the proposal’s environmental impact is issued by the town. The village has no formal role in that action but, as an interested agency, can submit its concerns to the Town Board.

“This document already admitted that there’s going to be environmental impacts by building there,” Duquin said of the environmental impact statement that was accepted by the Town Board.

“We are basically claiming that there are going to be impacts on us as a separate municipality,” he added.

Andrew J. Shaevel, managing partner at Mensch Capital Partners, said the company proactively developed a draft environmental impact statement precisely because it was aware of the potential environmental impacts.

While the document approved by the Town Board offers proposed mitigation measures to properly manage those impacts, Shaevel said Mensch looks forward to refining its proposed solutions in collaboration with local residents, town officials and various regulatory agencies.

In November, Weinstein proposed a blockbuster land deal aimed at preserving green space at the Westwood site. It included having the town buy Glen Oak Golf Course in East Amherst for $4.6 million. The town also would sell 25 to 75 acres of Audubon Golf Course along Millersport Highway across from the University at Buffalo’s North Campus and then use the leftover money from the Audubon sale to buy the Westwood, which would be turned into a state park.

Money from the sale of the Audubon also could go toward buying the former gun club on Maple Road, or it could be part of a land swap with more Audubon land.

Weinstein said he has since met with officials from the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, as well as with someone delegated to negotiate a purchase of Glen Oak.

“I’m not sure what’s going on with that,” he said.

The supervisor added that he also has been in discussions with the attorney for the owner of the former Buffalo Gun Club on Maple Road.

“I’ve had the planning department try and figure out what we’re going to put up for sale and what we’re going to alienate and create a traffic pattern. I had discussions with recreation about what we would do with the former gun club site, and some of the other issues. We sent off a letter to the owners of the Westwood, Mensch Capital Partners on Nov. 4. We haven’t heard anything back from them,” Weinstein said.