The proposal, which looks to trade the Williamsville, N.Y., property for the town-owned Audubon Golf Course, has been met with concern over getting fair market value through the swap. Council members claim the potential commercial development value of Audubon easily overshadows Westwood.
After discussing the possibility of a trade proposal, the owners of Westwood Country Club officially submitted a 10-page proposal letter to trade the Williamsville, N.Y., property for the town-owned Audubon Golf Course across the street, The Buffalo News reported.
Club & Resort Business reported the preliminary stages of the proposal (“Westwood CC Owners Look to Swap Courses with Town”).
The proposal included four color maps outlining preliminary concepts for the land-swap arrangement, which did not impress Amherst Supervisor Barry Weinstein, the News reported.
“Their proposals are all fluff and puff,” Weinstein said. “These guys are being less than candid. Their development scenario is really, quite frankly, irrelevant. This is pie in the sky. The concept is appealing, but unless they come up with the money that the Audubon is worth as a potential development parcel, we’re not going to get anywhere.”
Weinstein said that an acre-for-acre swap of the club for Audubon would shortchange taxpayers if it’s not accompanied by millions of dollars, the News reported.
“I’m speculating the Audubon Golf Course is worth $200,000 an acre, if not more,” Weinstein said.
Andrew Shaevel, managing partner for Mensch Capital Partners, said both sides need to come to an agreement on whether the land swap and Audubon development is a “smart growth” idea, after which appraisals would need to be done, the News reported.
Each side seems to disagree on the worth of Audubon, with Mensch declaring the two parcels are “similar in terms of value and cost.” Weinstein and the council members, however, said Audubon’s proximity to the University of Buffalo and local highway make it one of the last major commercial growth areas in town, and thus worth much more.
Weinstein said the 34 acres of the former Buffalo Shooting Club, located next to Audubon, sold for $10.5 million in May, while Mensch bought Westwood for $2.5 million. Weinstein added that a straight appraisal of the property would not determine its actual value, because it should be based on its commercial development potential, the News reported.
Appraisal firm KLW has been hired by Mensch to determine the operating golf course value of Audubon and its value as vacant land. Mensch stated that the town would see tremendous property tax revenue and job growth while gaining a country club-style golf course.
The map submitted with the proposal shows two main commercial arteries through the property, a 30- to 40-acre “memorial park,” and the relocation of some athletic fields to make room for a hotel and conference center complex. Though the council was intrigued by the prospect, they expressed concern over getting fair market value for Audubon, the News reported.
“I think it’s a bold initiative and opportunity,” said Council Member Richard “Jay” Anderson. “It’s an exciting proposal.”
Council Member Steven Sanders said, “This could potentially be a huge benefit to the town, but I’m not going to get my hopes up until I see what’s really being proposed, and we have a chance to analyze it.”
Council Member Guy Marlette said privatization of the property would be given serious consideration, but first steps need to be taken, the News reported.
“If we can’t get the deal done based on the price,” Marlette said, “there’s nothing left to look at.”