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Amherst Town Board takes step toward Westwood redevelopment

The Amherst Town Board took its first vote on long-running fight over development of the former Westwood Country Club Monday night, although over a relatively minor environmental issue.

Mensch Capital Partners submitted its development plan for the former golf course in 2014. It is still locked in the process, with many people opposed to doing anything with the old Westwood site. It has limited sewer service, possible drainage issues, terrible traffic and some soil contamination from golf course chemicals.

The board has now approved the next-to-last stage of the state environmental quality review regulations, with the final approval set for December 11, the next board meeting. Amherst Supervisor Dr. Barry Weinstein said the December 11 meeting may be important.

"If we approve the final generic environmental impact statement at this meeting, we will faced with a findings statement at the December 11 meeting," Weinstein said. "This document will be used for specific findings. So some of the problems that we have identified in the final generic environmental impact statement could turn up in the findings statement."

Town Attorney Stanley Sliwa said there are a lot of approvals to go.

"They don't even have site plan approval. They don't have any of the approvals necessary to do anything," Sliwa said. "They must start with the rezoning. Without the rezoning, they can't go anywhere - at least as relates to this project - and the rezoning step has not even been initiated because it requires the applicant, Mensch, and the Planning Board to weigh in."

Sliwa said the environmental process could lead to a big shift.
"This process on the environmental side could put an end to their view that they have of what they want to do and have them rethink the process," he said, "because one of the alternative findings was that they rethink how intensive and how dense the project is."

He also said it could be a while before Mensch has a final approval, that is, if everything falls their way. The current plan includes housing for 1,700, including senior housing and townhouses, with retail and commercial space and parkland.

There was a push for the current board to stand aside and let the board that takes office January 1 move forward. That was rejected.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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