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Amherst Town Board OKs 60 percent cut in Westwood assessment

The assessed value of land at the former Westwood Country Club in Amherst was reduced by nearly two-thirds under a settlement the Amherst Town Board approved Tuesday night.

The settlement will end a civil action brought against the town by an investor group that bought the club five years ago and is planning a $250 million mixed-use project there.

Town Assessor David Marrano told the Town Board assessments are based on current use and "this property's current use is a vacant, contaminated golf course."

The vacant, fenced-in site has been accepted into the state's Brownfield Cleanup Program after tests found traces of arsenic and other toxins from pesticides once used on the golf course.

The owner of the 170-acre site, Mensch Capital Partners, wants to redevelop the vacant golf course at Sheridan Drive and North Forest Road into a new mixed-use neighborhood that includes a variety of housing for 1,700 people – along with retail and commercial space and parkland.

The club at 772 North Forest Road and two small vacant lots at 391 and 385 Maple Road were previously assessed at a combined $2,543,300. But that figure was reduced to $928,200 – a nearly 64 percent drop – under the terms of the settlement approved.

"We thought the best interest of the town is reaching this settlement that reflects the value," Marrano said. "I think this is a fair settlement for both sides."

He noted that an appraisal of the property would cost about $40,000 and litigation would result in additional costs. Mensch petitioned last year in State Supreme Court for a judicial review, arguing that the land was overvalued.

"I think it's a fair settlement to avoid the town a lot of extra attorney costs and certainly appraisal costs," he said.

If the site reopens as a golf course or changes to another use, it is subject to a new reevaluation, Marrano added.

The $250 million plan includes a range of single-family homes, patio homes, townhouses, apartments, a senior living facility with 200 assisted-living and up to 104 independent-living units, and the "Westwood Neighborhood Center," which combines residential living on top of neighborhood retail shops and restaurants, plus a hotel and professional office space.

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