Amherst residents voted overwhelmingly Tuesday against allowing the town to borrow up to $12 million to buy and preserve green space.
The proposition was defeated with the help of an aggressive mail and phone campaign spearheaded by the Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors, the Amherst Chamber of Commerce and the Buffalo Niagara Builders Association.
"I have no problem with them taking a position," said William Kindel, the Town Council member who sponsored the proposition. "But when you're ashamed to put your name to it, it shows you the integrity of what's going on."
Several anonymous mailers, newspaper ads and an automated phone message went out in recent days urging Amherst residents to vote down the proposition. The campaign, which cost $50,000 to $60,000, was financed by the Buffalo Niagara Association of Realtors through its statewide issues mobilization fund.
Kindel and some conservation proponents say the resolution would have given the town the flexibility to buy and preserve open swaths of land that are becoming increasingly scarce. Not all $12 million would be borrowed at once, and public hearings would be held before any purchases were made, Kindel said.
But opponents said Kindel's concept was based on unsound planning and could cost taxpayers more money in the long run.
Representatives of the Chamber of Commerce and Association of Realtors said Kindel had promised to work with them on a resolution to protect green space without affixing a $12 million price tag that could harm taxpayers, but he never followed through.
"We have no problem with a resolution that supports green space," said Dan Locche, therealtors' director of public affairs. "But he called for a proposition without any plan in place. He stormed this through, and from our perspective, it was so he could get re-elected."
Kindel said voters were unable to weigh the proposition's merits because he didn't have a big pot of money to fight special interest "propaganda."
The open space proposition was not the only proposition to fail Tuesday.
Voters also soundly defeated allowing the town to borrow $3.1 million to finance needed improvements to the Audubon Golf Course.
Finally, voters killed a proposition to require the supervisor to select a deputy supervisor solely from among elected Town Board members.