Mamaroneck Group: Hampshire Suit Act of ‘Desperation”
20 Aug, 2014
By Polly Kreisman
In response to the $55 million lawsuit filed against the Village of Mamaroneck by Hampshire Country Club, the Mamaroneck Coastal Environment Coalition, a group formed to oppose plans by developers to build a condominium complex on the site, released the following:
The Mamaroneck Coastal Environment Coalition today characterized the lawsuit filed against the Village of Mamaroneck by the owner of the Hampshire Country Club as an act of desperation and a continuation of the developer’s arrogant sense of entitlement and bullying tactics.
David Wenstrup, a member of the Board of Mamaroneck Coastal, said that “While it is regrettable that the developer’s tactics will force the Village to divert funds from other services in order to refute the lawsuit, Mamaroneck Coastal strongly supports the Village in its defense and stands ready to assist the Village when and as appropriate.”
With the plan for major development on the environmentally sensitive club property failing, the lawsuit brought by the real estate development firm led by Daniel Pfeffer of Larchmont, alleges that his company is entitled to damages because the Village Board declined to change zoning laws to allow the club to develop a large condominium complex, and because the Village moved to enforce existing laws that prohibit commercial for-profit operations in Residential and Marine Recreational zones.
The suit claims “The board reacted swiftly by blunting any conversation about the plans, holding illegal executive sessions behind closed doors, in clear violation of New York State’s Open Meetings Law,” according to Developer Tom Nappi.
“The Village has also attempted to destroy the club by issuing spurious zoning violations and requesting that the State Supreme Court prevent them from conducting all club activities, which would have had the impact of shutting down Hampshire,” he added.
Mamaroneck Coastal’s statement further says,
Celia Felsher, President of Mamaroneck Coastal, explained that “While continuing to violate the Village’s zoning code since purchasing the club in 2010, Pfeffer’s real estate firm, with financial backing from Westport Capital, a distressed real estate private equity firm, sought a zoning change to allow it to build a massive condominium complex on the site (originally proposed at 290,000-square-feet and then re-proposed with only a very small reduction in size). Because the club property is in the Marine Recreational and Single Family Residential zones, the zoning change, which would constitute a change in law, requires legislative action by the Village Board of Trustees.“
She added: “The Board declined to consider the requested change in law. It is clearly within its rights to do so. The Board also appropriately moved to enforce existing Village laws that require clubs operating in the Marine Recreational and Residential zones to be not-for-profit membership clubs.”
Hampshire’s lawsuit continues a pattern of bullying tactics the developer has employed in Mamaroneck in its efforts to get the club property rezoned. Over the past two years Pfeffer and his associates have threatened the entire Mamaroneck community by maintaining that if they weren’t granted a rezoning to allow development of the condominium complex, they would, instead, destroy the club property by hauling in tens of thousands of truckloads of landfill to allow the construction of 106 single-family homes on the site. The company has continued to make that threat despite the fact that bringing in this massive amount of landfill to the Hampshire floodplain is both unfeasible and illegal.
In fact, notwithstanding the constant threats of subdivision development, Hampshire has not submitted any plans for a subdivision even though its rezoning petition has been rejected twice. The Board of Trustees and the community should stand up to such bullying tactics intended to change our Village laws solely to allow developers to reap tens of millions of dollars of profit at the expense of the community.
Ms. Felsher and Mr. Wenstrup also refuted Hampshire’s statement that Mamaroneck Coastal is opposed to any plan to preserve the golf course. According to Mr. Wenstrup, “This is patently false. Mamaroneck Coastal has not opposed any legal use of the club property, including the operation of a legitimate not-for-profit membership club, which according to village law would be permitted to have some number of non-member events.”