Hampshire Recreation LLC got what it asked for and what it expected on May 6 when the Village of Mamaroneck Planning Board rejected its plans for a proposed residential project at Hampshire Country Club.
After nearly five years of deliberations and hearings and demands for more information, the board denied Hampshire Recreation LLC a special permit for a planned residential development, subdivision plan, site plan, wetlands permit and floodplain plan.
“The proposal would result in significant unmitigated environmental impacts,” according to the board’s 75-page findings statement under the State Environmental Quality Review Act. “It is inconsistent with the goals of the village’s planned residential development zoning and it is inconsistent with the village’s flood damage prevention laws.”
Hampshire Recreation attorney David Cooper said that a lawsuit is inevitable, during a May 4 online public hearing, in criticizing the board’s handling of the proposed project.
The proposed project includes 44 houses and 61 carriage houses. The 18-hole golf course would be downsized to 9 holes, and about 31 acres of land would be set aside as open space for public use.
The country club is in the Orienta section of the village, with large portions within a 100-year floodplain that is vulnerable to tidal surges from the Long Island Sound.
Neighbors of the country club, led by Celia Felsher and organized as the Mamaroneck Coastal Environmental Coalition, have opposed the development.
“The Village of Mamaroneck had everything to lose and little to gain from such a development,” Felsher said in a press release issued after the board rejected the project.
Last year, Hampshire Recreation sued the village, claiming that the planning board was illegally refusing to act on the proposed development.
The developers had repeatedly revised its proposed environmental impact statement, at the behest of village officials, and ultimately produce 3,000-plus pages in its environmental impact statement.
This past March, a Westchester Supreme Court judge ordered the board to accept the developer’s environmental statement as complete and to issue its own findings.
The planning board found that the project would generate traffic, noise and dirty air during construction. Nearly 56 acres would have to be regraded with soils trucked in to the site. Nearly 30 acres of open space would be lost. The removal of 432 trees would impair the habitat of nesting and migratory birds until new trees matured. Cooper Avenue, the only road in or out, is prone to flooding.
“For all these reasons,” according to the findings statement, “the project does not promote environmental protection” or “the most appropriate use of land.”
The developers claim that the project would create a safe way out of the neighborhood, for the first time, during floods. It would increase tax revenue for the village and new jobs for residents.
“Unfortunately, the board is intent on painting us as villains,” Dan Pfeffer, one of the developers said during the planning board’s online public hearing.
Cooper said that every time the developers demonstrated how the board’s concerns would be addressed, “the facts presented have been met with skepticism and … outright disdain.”
Cooper was particularly peeved by the board’s doubts about the financial viability of the 18-hole golf course. The developer had submitted several years of tax returns showing negative operating income, and market studies that demonstrate that the industry is in trouble nationwide.
The board implied that the tax returns are fabricated, Cooper said, “and that Hampshire is in fact making money hand over fist in a hurting industry.”
Felsher praised the planning board for “hard work, patience and due diligence in coming to the right conclusion that this project, for numerous reasons, was simply not viable.”
But the “fate of The Residence at Hampshire,” Pfeffer stated at the public hearing, “will ultimately be resolved through yet another costly legal battle over rightful development.”