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Go Slow on Moratorium, Developer Urges

Hampshire Country Club's new proprietor, owner of one of the last pieces of privately held land big enough to build multiple homes, challenges a temporary ban on that sort of construction.

The owner of Hampshire Country Club, one of Mamaroneck Village’s last great expanses of privately held open space, urged officials Monday to rethink a moratorium on large lot subdivisions.

In an unscheduled appearance at a village board work session, Daniel K. Pfeffer, executive managing director of a Manhattan-based real estate firm, did not discuss any development plans beyond what he described as his company’s effort to restore the country club’s onetime luster. Still, it has been clear for weeks that Hampshire officials see themselves as the principal—if not only—target of village plans to impose a six-month moratorium on subdivisions of four or more units. 

Pfeffer, a Larchmont resident whose firm partnered to buy the venerable—but shuttered—club a year ago for $12.1 million, said he had bristled at hearing the village was “going to do something” to the Hampshire’s 100-plus acres off Cove Road. “We don’t want the first part of our relationship to be adversarial,” Pfeffer said from his seat beside the club’s lawyer, Mark P. Weingarten of White Plains.

And to that end, Pfeffer kept his remarks resolutely positive, focused on what his firm, New World Realty Advisors LLC, had done, among other things, to improve drainage, hire local workers and even eliminate mosquitoes at the 67-year-old club. “We feel like we’ve been ambassadors for the village,” he said, attracting movie and television film crews, for example, and encouraging them to spend at village restaurants and other businesses.

“Let us know what the issues are,” Pfeffer said. “We always react well to issues.”

The chief issues, however, appeared to go largely unspoken on both sides. For its part, the board refused, with some heat, to identify any privately held land in the village—other than the club’s—that could accommodate developments of four or more units. And neither Pfeffer nor Weingarten explained why the proposed development moratorium would impact their country club. Weingarten could not be reached after the meeting and Pfeffer did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Even the suggestion of a development ban, however temporary, had been sufficient to bring club officials to an earlier, unannounced meeting with Mayor Norman S. Rosenblum and Village Attorney Michael McDermott. The propriety of that private meeting, held in the mayor’s Regatta office, has been challenged by Trustee John Hofstetter, who charged that the rest of the board had been kept in the dark.

Hofstetter—the dean of a three-member board coalition frequently at odds with Rosenblum—reportedly lashed out when the Hampshire representatives appeared for Monday’s work session. With Rosenblum and Trustee Toni Pergola Ryan—his rival in this year’s mayoral contest—absent at that point, Deputy Mayor Louis Santoro—Rosenblum’s lone ally on the board—was presiding. After the fireworks over Hampshire—not a part of the publically distributed work session agenda—and an abrupt adjournment to executive session, Santoro reconvened the public meeting and announced the board would not respond to any points raised in Hampshire’s presentation.

Weingarten, noting that the meeting had “started out on the wrong foot,” introduced Pfeffer, who briefly described developments since New World and Westport Capital Partners joined forces in June 2010 to buy the club, which had closed up shop the previous December. While the bulk of the club lies within the village, several acres are in the Town of Mamaroneck and both governments had expressed an interest in partnering to buy the local landmark. Both ultimately dropped those plans.

Pfeffer said the club was undergoing a $3-$4 million restoration “to restore the grandeur it once was.” What the club does not have, he said, was any restriction on membership. “You don’t need to know somebody” to join, he said.

The board is scheduled to take up the development moratorium at its next regular meeting, Monday at Village Hall. Weingarten, wrapping up the work session presentation, recommended both sides, “take a deep breath, take a step back and have a discussion [next week] of what’s going to happen.”

SRT August 10, 2011 at 01:46 PM
Tom, It was my understanding that the board did not go into executive session, but went into a private meeting with their attorneys. Can you check and clear that up. Weingarten's saying that Hampshire had "started out on the wrong foot" has to be the understatement of the year. First they have a questionable private meeting with the Mayor and then they, in what appears to be, large numbers show up uninvited at a work session and expect to be accomodated. If they had concerns about the moratorium they could have come to the public hearing on the matter. Kudos to Hofstetter for standing up to their intimidating tactics.
Allison August 11, 2011 at 04:34 AM
Looks like Hampshire's all lawyered up and ready for some battle based on the picture above and questions posed. What's this PRIVATE MEETING with NORMAN S. and the Village Attorney all about? Here's a perfect example of how the village gets itself into trouble. What was so private and secret that couldn't be discussed in an open public meeting with the full board in attendance Norm?
Thomas Dunne August 12, 2011 at 01:16 AM
I don't get it. Does Hampshire want to become more competitive as a golf club or do they want to sell real estate? I'm fairly new in town and haven't seen the site, but if it's only 100 acres, those two goals would seem to be mutually exclusive.
Steven August 13, 2011 at 09:29 PM
Allison, Saying that the village gets intro trouble is an understatment. There is a history of lawsuits - always with the Village on the losing end. Maybe we should look at who is running this Village. At last count, from what I understand, there are several lawsuits, totaling closed to $100 million. Let's not forget the nonsense that occurred with the Westchester Day School. How much did that cost us? Why do we as a Village continue to elect people that like to play games? Aren't our propery taxes high enough? C'mon people!!!!
Harold R. August 13, 2011 at 11:10 PM
They are mutually exclusive. People who should know say that Hampshire has a plan ready to go to develop the entire sight into residential housing. If you are not familiar with the site you should go take a look, you can drive through it. A large portion of it is very low and floods at the drop of a hat, in fact there is an elaborate pump system that keeps the from being a shallow lake under the best of conditions. A few years ago a guy got stuck on the road in the middle of a storm and drowned.
SRT August 15, 2011 at 11:55 AM
Steve, Certainly not 100 million but maybe close to 10 million, bad enough! I think the day school settlement was 4.5 million, day laborers was another 2 or 3 millilion. People should not forget that both these lawsuits were avoidable but Village officials, either out of stupidity, ignorance or willful illegality, so egregiously violated the law that both lawsuits were slam dunks for the plaintiffs. With our new leadership we seem to have restarted the lawsuit production line and gravy train for plaintiffs. I think there are like a half dozen lawsuits filed against the Villlage in the last year. I would agree. "C'mon people!!!!"
Nancy C. Wasserman August 18, 2011 at 10:00 PM
Blah,blah,blah,blah,blah, As I recall all the prior lawsuits had nothing to do with the present BOT. And what may have been filed recently may also be the responsibility of prior administrations. As I remember a village official defamed a retired police officer and he sued. Justifiably so.Settled amicably and fairly. Lots of talk by all you guys. Start getting the facts prior to attacking. Sooner or later if you speak enough you will stick your foot in your mouth with your vituperative rhetoric. Maybe if we make an effort to work together and stop bickering and wasting time we will be able to achieve goals and move along with the business of The Village of Mamaroneck. Nancy C. Wasserman

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