To the Editor:
We believe Mr. Nappi mischaracterized the nature of the options available for Hampshire Country Club, and that Hampshire’s one-sided public relations efforts permeate both the article itself and the options listed in the reader poll.
Hampshire was acquired in 2010 by distressed real estate investors whose only objective was to make a financial killing by rezoning the property and building a massive condominium complex. The owners are Westport Capital (a distressed real estate private equity firm) and Dan Pfeffer, Tom Nappi and their associates (real estate developers). They are not golf course operators and never had any intention of operating a stand-alone golf course. Once the condos are built and sold, Westport, Dan Pfeffer and Tom Nappi will be gone, after cashing out huge profits, with no interest in the long-term viability of the golf club.
When the condo development was unveiled, Hampshire faced significant community opposition stemming from concerns about flooding, traffic and safety, destruction of community character and lack of long-term plans for the rest of the property. In the face of that opposition, Hampshire engaged in a PR campaign to scare the community by threatening a 106-McMansion subdivision that would destroy the entire golf course – something they knew would be very distasteful. This is an empty threat. The 106- home subdivision would not be feasible – or legal. Most of the property is barely above sea level and would have to be raised significantly to meet current FEMA guidelines, requiring at least 1,000,000 cubic yards (50,000 truckloads) of fill. Hampshire has been inundated several times in recent years with storm surges, including in the 1992 Nor’easter, when a man drowned when his car was pushed into the flooded golf course, and again in Superstorm Sandy.
The property, which is a floodplain, has a special status under FEMA rules. In addition, the project would constitute a solid waste landfill requiring New York State approvals that would be unlikely to be granted for a floodplain. And, in any event, Village law does not permit such a landfill in a floodplain or any solid waste landfill in a residential zone. In addition, the project would not be feasible from an economic perspective, given the amount of land reconfiguration and costly “clean” fill that would be necessary.
In contrast to the stark choices presented in the reader poll (121 condo complex, 106-home subdivision or closing of the golf course), we believe there are other alternatives available, including alternative limited development and maintaining Hampshire as a true membership club. The Village has processes in place to develop and analyze those alternatives. Hampshire should do what the rest of us would have to do — submit a legal and feasible plan to the Planning Board, which then would evaluate the plan and reasonable alternatives in connection with the required analysis under New York State’s Environmental Quality Review Act.
However, Hampshire has no desire to go through a process that develops reasonable alternatives. Their only objective is to maximize profit, and there is no doubt that an immediate rezoning allowing the condo development will maximize their profit. They have, therefore, chosen not to go through the Planning Board process, but have submitted a petition to the Village Board of Trustees to immediately rezone the property to allow the condo development. The Trustees should reject the petition.
We also note that Mr. Nappi dismissed the entire $25 billion golf industry as “unsustainable”. However, until recently, Mr. Pfeffer and Mr. Nappi stated publicly that Hampshire is operating profitably, with membership that was up more than 50% compared to pre-recession membership. We’ve even heard that a group of current members expressed interest in buying Hampshire.
Thus, the options available in The Loop’s reader poll presented false and skewed alternatives that played into the hands of the PR campaign undertaken by Hampshire – by communicating that if you don’t vote for 121 condos you have to either vote for 106 homes or closing down the Club.
Messrs. Pfeffer and Nappi argue that the condo plan is the only way to preserve the golf course as open space. In reality, whether it is a golf course or not, the vast majority of the land will remain open space because it is simply undevelopable.
President, Mamaroneck Coastal Environmental Coalition