Amherst took another step toward a vast Central Park Monday evening, with unanimous approval by the Town Board of terms for a deal with the owner of what was Westwood Country Club.
There seemingly weren’t many supporters of the plan attending the virtual meeting, perhaps because the details unveiled by Supervisor Brian Kulpa came out not long before the session. Big issues already include protests by golfers who don’t want to give up Audubon golf course with 18-holes and supporters of girls’ softball who have already seen some playing fields dug up.
Kulpa election opponent Jay DiPasquale blasted the initial agreement.
"I’m objecting to the resolution coming before the board tonight in its current form. The resolution should be voted down tonight to allow the Town Board to gather all of the financial information necessary to make an informed decision," DiPasquale said. "There are holes a mile wide regarding the immediate and long-term cost to the town’s taxpayers. In its current form, the town will be on the hook for tens of millions of dollars."
In a broad brush, Westwood owners Mensch Capital Partners would trade the property to the town in exchange for 38 acres of town land housing three holes of the Audubon course and athletic fields. Mensch has vast development plans for the property it will acquire, while the town would build a nature park, a theater, playing fields and a nine-hole Audubon course.
This is not the final stage on what might eventually be a $300 million plan. While the Town Board approved the generalities of the deal, there are more legalities to come, including an actual sale agreement.
"If it were a sale agreement, I wouldn’t even bring it like this because we would be subject to public hearing," said Kulpa. "Instead, what our board has decided to do is take our current synopsis, cast it into a resolution, so we can indicate both to the general public and to Mensch how we would like to proceed and around what terms we would like to proceed with the sale agreement."
Neighboring Morningside Community Association President Nathan Hartrich said his group backs the deal.
"If anything, this pandemic has shown us how important greenspace is and open space in general," Hartrich said. "All the organizations that I belong to have been working for almost a decade to make sure all greenspace we have in the town is protected. We believe that this project should be given the go-ahead to give people what they want: a park at Westwood."