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Tonawanda should take up Amherst’s offer for joint planning along Niagara Falls Boulevard

Seems Town of Tonawanda officials put on a happy public face when it comes to the idea of sitting down with their neighbors in Amherst over planning for a better Niagara Falls Boulevard. But in private, it’s a different matter.

That reluctance to sit down and at least discuss joint problems is the wrong reaction, even if they think the invitation is politically motivated.

Sometimes what’s in the best interest of their constituents requires elected officials to put their bruised egos aside, along with suspicions of political motives. Sometimes what’s good politics is also good government.

Niagara Falls Boulevard forms much of the border between Amherst and Tonawanda. For decades the towns have made planning decisions without considering the potential effects across the road. The result has been a less than pleasant driving experience, especially around the holidays.

Former Amherst Supervisor Daniel J. Ward raised the subject of joint planning more than 20 years ago, but the idea went nowhere at the time.

Ward has continued to raise this issue, and now Amherst Deputy Supervisor Guy Marlette has taken up the cause of trying to bring everyone together.

As News staff reporter Jay Rey recently wrote, planners in Tonawanda publicly indicated they were on board with the concept and even spoke to their counterparts in Amherst about taking a seat at the table. It seems reasonable to want to have this discussion and input, as Tonawanda officials are concerned about several issues, including the height of future buildings, drainage and walkability on long sections of the boulevard.

Behind the scenes was another matter. Some officials are saying that they were caught off guard by the proposal and that they were surprised Amherst proceeded with little or no notice. Fair enough. One councilman said they don’t need another layer of government, while another went as far as to question what Amherst officials are trying to accomplish.

But it seems the crux of the suspicion swirls around Marlette’s motives. He’s running for County Legislature; we get that, but there is a glaring need to do something, especially given the possibility that the boulevard could serve as part of the route for light rail or bus rapid transit service linking the University at Buffalo’s North Campus with the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

Tonawanda officials also have a right to be suspicious that tighter regulation of development will mean little in Amherst, which has already seen its dense buildup of strip plazas. However, refusing a seat at the table is not the way to ensure a better deal for their own residents going forward.