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Letter: Mensch should not hold town hostage over cleanup

Mensch should not hold town hostage over cleanup

In the recent News article regarding the future of the former Westwood Country Club site in Amherst, Mensch Capital Partners’ Andrew Shaevel said “brownfield remediation is not economically viable” unless the Town of Amherst approves Mensch’s plan to turn the 170 acres of green space into a densely developed residential and commercial center. The article strongly implies that Mensch may choose to never clean up the site, unless it fully gets its way.

Amherst and its citizens shouldn’t be bullied by this type of threat. All speculative real estate development projects carry inherent (and often hidden) risks, and Mensch certainly wasn’t immune from taking on such risks when it voluntarily purchased the property in 2012. The four remaining investing members of Mensch are all experienced developers (with deep pockets) and they should have been prepared for possible negative financial consequences when they decided to buy the land.

The fact that the soil at the site has subsequently been found to be contaminated is most unfortunate. But as the owner of the property, this unacceptable situation is now solely Mensch’s responsibility to correct, regardless of the direct costs it may have to incur or the negative impact it may have on the economic viability of its investment or development plans.

For Mensch to now hold the town and its citizens hostage for a cleanup of the site is flat-out wrong. Property values in the surrounding neighborhoods will continue to fall as long as the Westwood brownfield is a chain-link fence enclosed eyesore and public nuisance. The town should immediately use all means within its powers to force Mensch to fully complete a state-approved remediation program as quickly as possible, and then and only then, should the town engage with Mensch to develop a master plan for the site that balances responsible repurposing development with significant long-term benefits for the citizens of Amherst.

Donald and Dian Tucker

East Amherst