Eight years on, Hampshire CC housing plan moves a ‘step forward’

The article below was written by Ryan Deffenbaugh and Published May 17, 2018 in Westfair Communications

The development team planning a residential community at the Hampshire Country Club celebrated a small milestone earlier this month in the review of its proposal to build 105 luxury homes on the course.

Hampshire Recreation LLC, the owner of the golf course and club, announced May 11 that the public comment period has closed on the draft environmental impact statement for its proposal to build homes on part of the golf course. The developer now moves into prepping its final environmental impact statement, which will be reviewed by the village of Mamaroneck’s Planning Board.

It’s a small step in the project’s review and the proposal is still a long way from the putting green. But, to the developer, the move is a “step forward” for plans that have hooked and sliced in the face of community and municipal opposition over the eight years Hampshire Recreation has owned the golf course.

The latest proposal calls for 105 residential units on 29 acres of the 116-acre property, including 64 carriage homes that will target empty nesters looking for low-maintenance property ownership. The 18-hole golf course will be redesigned into a 9-hole course. Country club amenities, such as the clubhouse, tennis courts and swimming facilities, would remain.

The course would continue to operate as a country club with about 50 acres of the property preserved.

The golf course, on Cove Road, borders Delancey Cove on the Long Island Sound. The country club has operated on the land since 1944, though the course was designed in 1928.

Financial troubles forced the sale of the country club property to Hampshire Recreation for $12.1 million in June 2010.

Daniel Pfeffer, one of the principals of Hampshire Recreation, said the location in Mamaroneck is scenic and is a quick commute to New York City.

“The size of this property provides an opportunity to design a significant number of beautiful and efficient homes in an area that has mainly older housing stock,” he told the Business Journal in an email. “In addition, integration of walking and bicycle paths will add to the appeal of this location.”

This proposal is a shift from the company’s initial plans. An earlier proposal to the village asked its board of trustees to rezone a portion of the property to allow for condominium development. Different plans would have had either 96 or 121 condo units on a smaller portion of the property. The golf course would have been preserved as 18 holes.

Hearing opposition from neighbors, the village board denied both zoning change requests. Hampshire Recreation sued in 2014, claiming the village board had acted improperly in the review. The case was eventually dismissed by a federal appellate court in 2016. A separate lawsuit filed by Hampshire Recreation claiming the village board violated New York open meetings law while denying its zoning request is still in the courts.

The developer said the current plan is permitted under Mamaroneck’s residential zoning code, meaning it would only require site plan approval from the village planning board.

The condominium plan is included in the project’s draft environmental statement as an alternative proposal for the site. But the planning board would be unable to approve the condominium plan without the village board agreeing to rezone a portion of the course.

Neighbors of the site and other village residents, led by the Mamaroneck Coastal Environment Coalition civic group, have pushed back against both residential proposals at the course.

David Wenstrup, secretary of the environmental coalition, said the group isn’t opposed to development on the site. But the developer has not presented a plan the group views as compliant with the village’s regulations.

“They’re trying to create this false choice, they’re trying to say, ‘Well which proposal is better?’” Wenstrup said. “The reality is that neither is as-of-right. Both have enormous problems.”

The coalition has argued that the new home construction is in a flood zone that has flooded as recently as Hurricane Sandy. Building homes could increase the flood risk for neighbors and run afoul of village law, the opponents have argued. The Mamaroneck Coastal Environment Coalition has also argued the proposal goes against the village’s comprehensive plan, could overburden its schools and increase traffic.

In its draft environmental impact statement, the development team said the project’s proposed grading changes would allow all new buildings and roadways to be located outside the 100-year and 500-year floodplains on the site. A flood analysis by the developer’s engineering team found there would be no impact to neighboring properties.

“These houses will be the only residences in the area designed around the new FEMA standards,” the project’s attorney, David Cooper, said at a public hearing in April. “They’ll be elevated two feet above even the most conservative of estimates for sea-level rise.”

The environmental coalition has described the analysis as inadequate.

To address traffic and school concerns, the developer stated that the carriage homes will likely appeal to empty nesters who generate less traffic and have fewer school-age children. The DEIS estimates the new homes would add 57 school-age children to the village’s school district.

Hampshire Recreation has argued the residences would have a beneficial impact on the village, citing an expected tax increase of $4.8 million a year and the addition of new housing options for downsizing residents.

Pfeffer said the updated, smaller golf course concept should attract a larger membership.

“A nine-hole course is appealing to many since it requires less time to play,” Pfeffer said. “The integration of the nine-hole course into the overall development plan will be an attractive feature for many prospective home buyers who may enjoy the benefit of walking out their front or rear doors and playing a few holes after a long day at work.”

The final public hearing on the draft environmental impact statement lasted just under four hours. With the close of the public hearing, Hampshire Recreation will next respond in writing to the written comments by residents and the village planning board.