Legal action and threats entangle Hampshire project review in Mamaroneck

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A contentious proposal to develop housing at Hampshire Country Club in Mamaroneck has already resulted in one lawsuit and more legal action could be looming.

Hampshire Recreation LLC is turning to the courts to compel the village Planning Board to push ahead with a process that would determine whether developer Dan Pfeffer can build 105 single-family homes on part of the club’s golf course.

Hampshire filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court in November, claiming the Planning Board is illegally refusing to accept its Final EnvironmentalImpact Statement. Hampshire submitted its draft statement on Oct. 10, 2018, but more than a year later, village Planning Board members continue to ask questions.

The board must accept the statement before the approval process can continue.

The village, county, Town of Mamaroneck and Mamaroneck school district would receive $5.5 million in annual property tax income from the project. But there are concerns the development would harm the environment, worsen traffic, add to the school population and increase the risk of flooding.

The development

Pfeffer would build housing on 65 acres, with an additional 31 acres for open space. The golf course would go from 18 holes to nine.

Whenever the Planning Board decides whether or not to move the project forward, interested parties from both sides have signaled they’re willing to sue the village. The board did not take any action at its Jan. 22 meeting, but requested that Hampshire provide additional information.

If Hampshire doesn’t get the approvals it needs, Hampshire’s attorney, David Cooper, said it’s “very possible” further legal action could be taken.

Celia Felsher, who leads the Mamaroneck Coastal Environmental Coalition, which is against the project, said the nonprofit advocacy group could take legal action if the development is approved.

“My guess, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Planning Board already understands this, that one way or another there will be a lawsuit,” Felsher said.

Planners stalling or ‘incredibly responsive’?

Cooper said the Planning Board has reviewed the environmental statement for the past 17 months, blowing past deadlines that are mandated by the state’s Environmental Quality Review Act. He said a small group of vocal opponents is leading the board to delay the approval process.

Hampshire’s lawsuit says the Planning Board’s own consultant told the board at a Sept.  10, 2019, meeting that the board had the information to finalize the impact statement.

“This process has to end. They’ve got to come to a decision here,” Cooper said.

Village Attorney Robert Spolzino placed blame on Hampshire for any ongoing delays in finishing up the environmental statement. “The Planning Board has been incredibly responsive,” Spolzino said. “It’s a complicated matter.”

Cooper said the board has all the information it needs.

Felsher commended the board for its diligence and called the current lawsuit a “tactic.”

Mayor Thomas Murphy called the potential project the “biggest proposed development in the history of the village.” The Planning Board wants to obtain as much information as it can from the development team, he said.

Murphy said that Hampshire has not fully cooperated. He scoffed at the suggestion that a minority of loud voices is influencing the board. Any decision the board makes will be “fully defensible” in the courts, Murphy said.

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