2017-12-13 / Front Page

Town believes significant impacts still ‘not avoided’

Westwood Neighborhood
by KEATON T. DEPRIEST Associate Editor

The Town Board on Monday unanimously approved the issuance of a findings statement, a document that cites “the potential significant adverse environmental impacts” of the planned Westwood Neighborhood “have not been avoided or mitigated.”

The statement, which is the final step of the environmental quality review process, comes following the Town Board’s Nov. 20 acceptance of the final generic environmental impact statement as it relates to Westwood.

The FGEIS was prepared by Stantec Consulting Services with input from a Sept. 18 public hearing on the draft generic environmental impact statement.

While the Town Board deemed the FGEIS complete as the head agency in the state environmental quality review process, the accepted findings statement does contend that not enough of the negative impacts to the environment have been mitigated in the proposal for Westwood. Such impacts noted by the town included increased traffic in areas surrounding Westwood in addition to flooding of sanitary sewers during heavy rain.

“These findings aren’t really a surprise to anybody,” Deputy Supervisor Steven Sanders said. “There are wet weather sanitary sewer capacity issues.”

Sanders added that he was glad that Sean Hopkins, attorney for Mensch Capital, said the recent plan presented to town officials will not be the final proposal and the project ultimately will “fit better into the community.”

“My hope is that we will see something that is smaller in scope and fits the neighborhood and is in line with what our findings are here,” Sanders said.

Supervisor Barry Weinstein added that town officials have been requesting that Mensch Capital present a lower density project that would not have as many negative effects on the neighborhood or environment.

“I don’t think it’s necessary to say anything,” Supervisor Barry Weinstein said. “I think the document we’ve been working on for months speaks for itself. We’ve asked the Mensch partnership to downsize the project for months, and it has not been significantly done.”

Mensch Capital is proposing to build a $250 million mixed-use project on the 171-acre site of the former Westwood Country Club, 772 N. Forest Road at Sheridan Drive.

According to Mensch officials, the development is planned to include a hotel, parks, residential properties and areas for retail, senior living and green space features, such as pocket parks.

The residential uses would be divided into 41 houses, 83 patio houses, 130 attached townhouses, 180 multifamily apartments and 212 upper story apartments.

According to the resolution, the Town Board received more than 400 written and oral comments regarding the DGEIS.

Another aspect of Mensch Capital’s project is rezoning. The firm is seeking to rezone about 140 acres of the property of the former Westwood Country Club, as follows:

131.79 acres to Traditional Neighborhood Development

• 5.13 acres to Multifamily Residential

• 1.16 acres to General Business

According to Mensch officials, 30 acres will remain zoned Recreation Conservation.

Following the board’s decision, Kevin Keenan, a spokesperson for Mensch Capital, expressed the firm’s disappointment in the town’s ruling.

“Despite ongoing analysis and discussions with the Planning Board and the town’s environmental consultants, the outgoing Town Board has acted irresponsibly in a futile attempt to scuttle the Westwood project in its final days in office,” Keenan said.

He added that adoption of the FGEIS is not the last step in this process and the Town Board has not made a final decision on the Westwood rezoning application.

“In January 2018, Mensch will seek input and feedback from the new Town Board to create a new Master Plan for Westwood,” Keenan said. “Mensch will amend its rezoning application based on this new Master Plan, which will require Mensch and the Town of Amherst to amend the SEQRA review the town prematurely completed in the fourth quarter of 2017.”

In another matter, Monday’s session was the final town meeting for Weinstein, Sanders and Council Member Ramona Popowich. Each was presented with plaques for their service prior to the start of the board meeting.

For Weinstein, the meeting caps his eight years as supervisor in addition to also serving as an Erie County legislator and Williamsville School Board member.

Prior to adjourning the meeting several minutes before 10 p.m., Weinstein offered brief but heartfelt remarks that were followed by a standing ovation from the remaining members of the audience, which included his wife, Lois.

“I am thankful for the opportunity to serve for the last 34 years as a public official,” he said. “Thank you, Amherst.”

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