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.”