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Hampshire Proposed Development – Update

The Village Planning Board held two public hearings (on February 14 and April 11) to review a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) submitted by the owners of Hampshire for the proposed 105-home housing development proposed for golf course property.  Although the public hearing was closed following the second meeting, comments from the public will be accepted until May 10, 2018 by email to the Planning Board at bsherer@vomny.org, copying our Mayor and Board of Trustees at tmurphy@vomny.org, vtafur@vomny.org; nlucas@vomny.org; lpotok@vomny.org; and kwaitt@vomny.org.

As presented in the public comment portions of the two meetings, there are many significant issues that have not been adequately addressed in the DEIS, including:

  • Impact of arsenic, lead and pesticide contamination (found during preliminary testing on the property);
  • Added pressure on our already overcrowded schools;
  • Massive amounts of fill to be added to a flood plain, which is prohibited by our Village Code;
  • Concerns regarding flooding, access during storms and storm water runoff;
  • Major community impacts of a massive construction project, including increased traffic and congestion throughout the Village, but especially around the Hommocks School and on Route 1;
  • Inconsistency with the Village Comprehensive Plan and Local Waterfront Revitalization Program;
  • Likely failure of the residual proposed 9-hole golf club, leaving the Village with a large unusable (given contamination and flooding) tract of land;
  • Health and safety issues for neighbors, and students and staff at the Hommocks School, resulting from disruption of contaminated land and massive number of construction vehicles and construction workers, including thousands of construction trucks containing required land fill;
  • Possible alternative for the sale of the property to allow continued operation as an 18-hole golf course; a proposal to purchase the Club for the purpose of continuing operation of the current club with an 18-hole golf course has been submitted to Hampshire;
  • Incomplete or misleading information regarding the economic impact of the project on Village and School District finances; and
  • Failure to provide accurate information regarding additional pressure on recreational facilities, particularly playing fields.

 

A tape of the February 14th Planning Board meeting can be viewed at:  http://lmctv.org/videos_list/village-of-mamaroneck-planning-board-meeting-2-14-18/ Following an opening presentation by representatives of Hampshire, public comments were made:

  •  Dr. Shaps, Superintendent of Schools, commented on Hampshire’s flawed estimate of the development’s impact on schools (begins at Part 1, minute 39).
  • MCEC gave a presentation with comments from experts (lawyers, engineer, planner, geologist, and golf course financial expert) that included detailed reviews of issues of extreme importance to the community, pinpointing the deficiencies of Hampshire’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement and presenting the development’s actual and potential dangers to the community (begins at Part 1, minute 46).
  • Following the MCEC presentation, several other members of the community made comments (begins at Part 2, minute 52).

 

The tape of the April 11th Planning Board meeting can be viewed at:

http://lmctv.org/videos_list/village-of-mamaroneck-planning-board-meeting-4-11-18/ (Item 5 & 8). After a presentation by Hampshire in which the developers attempted to discredit submissions from the last meeting, and following a handful of comments by people, some of whom were employed by or affiliated with the developers, many members of the community (beginning at minute 1:28:30), including representatives of MCEC, commented on additional serious issues with the proposal and the need for further supplemental information to be included in the DEIS.  An attorney representing a group of community members willing to fund a purchase of the property to ensure it continues as a full 18-hole course golf club, officially informed the Planning Board of this offer (at minute 58:45).

 

A copy of the complete DEIS is on the Village website at http://www.village.mamaroneck.ny.us/Pages/MamaroneckNY_planning/Hampshire%20Application/SEQRA%20Documents/DEIS_FULL%2012_2017.pdf

 

Background

Shortly after Hampshire Country Club was acquired in 2010 by real estate developers, the new owners proposed that part of the property be rezoned to allow for the development of a 120-unit massive five-story luxury condominium complex. The request for rezoning was not entertained by the Village Board of Trustees.

As a result of the refusal to consider rezoning, Hampshire’s only option was to submit a proposal that might fall within current zoning laws.  Therefore, in 2016, Hampshire submitted to the Planning Board a proposal to build a Planned Residential Development consisting of 105 homes (44 single family homes and 66 town houses) on a portion of the golf course property. A Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) prepared by Hampshire was accepted by the Planning Board for review a few weeks ago, and a public hearing on the DEIS was held at two meetings – on February 14 and April 11, 2018.  Hampshire has made it clear in the DEIS and in statements and communications made to the Planning Board and to the community that its real objective is to build the originally proposed condo project.  Hampshire is using the threat of the 105-home housing development to pressure the community to support a rezoning for the condo development.

The issues relevant to the community include:

  • Flooding/Storm Water. The golf course and its surrounding roads have flooded several times in the last 25 years – most notably during Superstorm Sandy and during the 1992 Nor’easter (when an Orienta resident drowned when his car was washed into the golf course during the storm surge). In addition, due to the high water table and nature of the property, the golf course floods several times a year due to significant retention of storm water. The information in the DEIS addressing with flooding and storm water issues is inadequate.
  • Construction.  The DEIS states that the construction period will last for 5 years. During this period there will be a significant number of large construction trucks (many needed to bring in the huge amount of required landfill), possible blasting and added traffic which will impact the community, create additional traffic congestion along Boston Post Road and disruption for the Hommocks School. During the first year of the project, given the number of trucks estimated by the developers, there will be a steady stream of heavy construction trucks rumbling past the Hommocks School throughout the school day. This will also adversely impact air quality in and around the site, including by the Hommocks Middle School. In addition, with a projected construction period of 5 years, and with homes being built only as they are sold, if the project encounters technical or economic difficulties during construction, the community would be faced with a partially built massive project that will be difficult to deal with.
  • Environmental Contamination. Several core test results from the site showed the presence of arsenic, lead and toxic pesticides (not unusual for property that served as a golf course for almost 100 years). While the presence of arsenic, lead and pesticides does not raise concerns while embedded in land used only as a golf course, the disturbance of these toxins in connection with years of construction and cutting and moving of over 300,000 cubic yards of golf course dirt, may present health dangers for neighbors and for the children and staff at Hommocks School.
  • Compliance with Village Law and Consistency with Village Comprehensive Plan. The proposed project does not comply with provisions of Village law regarding floodplain integrity and density and is not consistent with the Village Comprehensive Plan in connection with management of the Hampshire Critical Environmental Area. Our Village law prohibits adding any fill at all to a designated floodplain, such as the Hampshire golf course. In addition, use of the Village Planned Residential Development statute, which the developers are relying on to cluster the homes on the property, is not intended for this type of cluster development.
  • Pressure on our Schools. Enrollment in the School District has been consistently expanding over the last many years. In fact, enrollment over the last 8 years has increased by approximately 600 students – the size of an entire elementary school. Several elementary schools are currently beyond optimum capacity; the District has held meetings recently about this crisis and is considering different alternatives to deal with it. The addition of 105 new homes will significantly exacerbate the elementary school overcrowding problem, especially at Central School.  The information in the DEIS analyzing the impact of the proposal on school enrollment used inappropriate methodologies and supplied misleading information (as clearly explained by Dr. Shaps at the February 14th Planning Board meeting).
  • Financial Impact; Property Values. The information in the DEIS regarding projected financial impact of the development on the Village is woefully insufficient.  We believe that the estimate assessed values of the proposed homes are overstated (leading to an inflated projection of additional tax revenues) and the estimated costs of providing services (especially with respect to impacts on our schools) are understated.  The values used in the DEIS are significantly inflated based on current sales comparisons for homes sold in Orienta.  In addition, when taking into account the issues that will be presented for these new homes (contamination, flooding risk, etc.), together with the fact that adding over 20% to the available Orienta housing stock at one time will likely depress values throughout the area, the inflated values are even more problematic. The developers should provide independent financial analyses that can be relied upon by the Planning Board and the community.
  • Sewer Issues. The DEIS provides that the 105 new homes would have sewers that connect directly to the sewer line on Orienta Ave. The sewer system in the Village is already under significant stress and the Village has been the subject of a Consent Order with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation regarding its sewers.
  • Traffic.  Growth in the community over the last several years has created significant traffic congestion, particularly along Weaver Street, Boston Post Road and Hommocks Road leading to the Hommocks Middle School. The addition of 105 homes that will use Hommocks Road and Orienta Avenue as the primary means of access will exacerbate these traffic problems – particular around the Hommocks School.
  • Egress/Ingress. The three roads proposed to be used for primary access to the community – Cove Road, Eagle Knolls Road and Cooper Avenue, are all private roads and Hampshire does not have the legal right to have those roads used for the proposed development.
  • Viability of Remaining Club. The reduction in size of Hampshire to a 9-hole golf course is likely to threaten the continued existence of the entire Club while the developer profits from the sale of the new homes and is then free to walk away from the property. The DEIS has not provided sufficient information to allow the Planning Board to determine if the residual 9-hole golf course is viable.

Beware of the False Choice

The developers’ ultimate objective is to build their grossly oversized 120-plus unit condo complex. They made that clear in the DEIS and in recent statements and communications made to the Planning Board and to the community.  The strategy is to have the public falsely believe that there is a choice that must be made – the housing development or the condo complex. That is NOT the case. They would like residents to conclude that the condo complex is the lesser of two evils, because the condominiums are more lucrative to the developers. There are serious issues with the condo complex (so that neither of these two projects should be approved) such as:

  • Setting a dangerous precedent. Rezoning of property currently zoned Marine Recreation, which would be necessary for the condo development, could lead to a rezoning other Marine Recreation and Marine Commercial properties for high rise development – in areas such as the boatyards on Rushmore and the other clubs in Orienta.  Immediately the values of all of those properties would skyrocket given the ability to build high rise condos, and we would face a significant risk that our harbor will be surrounded by high rise development.  This could conversely have a negative impact on value of single family homes in Orienta.
  • The flooding risk for residents of the condo complex would be significant. All VOM taxpayers would be impacted by an increase in expenses related to emergency services, water/sewer line repairs, etc.
  • Egress/Ingress issues similar to those discussed in connection with the housing development proposal.
  • Pressure on the sewer system.
  • Huge increase in traffic in and around Orienta and the Hommocks, leading to congestion and safety issues.
  • Impact of construction on the community.
  • Likely failure of the remaining golf course given that it would be owned by a shell entity not in control of the facilities included in the condo buildings.

Other alternatives must be reviewed.  One alternative is to have the entire Hampshire property rezoned as open space/recreation, similar to the way in which the Town of Mamaroneck rezoned Bonnie Briar Country Club several years ago, thereby ensuring that the property will remain as open space in perpetuity.  This alternative has been raised several times, most recently at the April 11th Planning Board meeting.  Other alternatives include much more modest development – in line with the true as-of-right development of approximately 20 homes.

We must let the Planning Board process play out to understand what is truly able to be built on the property before we seriously consider other problematic alternatives, such as the luxury condo development.