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Amherst plans to educate its residents about the need for smarter development.

The Amherst Town Board this week supported the idea of an educational task force on "smart growth."

The basic idea behind smart growth -- promoted at the state level by Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, D-Buffalo, and State Sen. Mary Lou Rath, R-Williamsville -- is that it makes more sense first to consider developing areas with existing infrastructure, than building on land that requires more water and sewer lines, roads, schools and other services financed with tax dollars.

The task force will consist of town officials and planners who would visit schools, civic groups and other community organizations to promote and explain the smart-growth philosophy, officials said.

Amherst also hopes to enlist the help of the University at Buffalo's Institute for Local Governance and Regional Growth. Amherst wants to involve groups such as the League of Women Voters, which also has embarked on an initiative to enlighten the public about sprawl.

The idea for a town task force on smart growth came out of a regional planning summit in Amherst earlier this year.

Amherst, where for years construction boomed and gobbled up open space, has taken more of an interest in curbing sprawl and developing planning strategies now that it finds itself faced with dwindling farmland and neighborhoods in need of redevelopment.

"If the town is going to move forward with smart-growth reforms, we need to bring the public along and keep them informed and educated every step of the way," said Amherst Council Member Todd E. Shatkin, who sponsored the resolution calling for a task force.

While the Amherst Planning Board backed the idea, it insisted on first establishing a clear definition of smart growth.

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