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Insisting that growth has been good for Amherst, Supervisor Jack Sharpe Wednesday night debunked criticism that the town is expanding beyond its means.

"This idea that all we do is rezone and build is absolutely asinine," Sharpe said.

Speaking before a receptive Amherst Century Club gathering in the Eagle House on Main Street in Williamsville, Sharpe said the only two areas of industrial development in the town are on Wehrle Drive and the Audubon Industrial Park.

Some residents have been vocal recently about expansion in the town, which they say has resulted in a loss of green space and a change in the quality of life. Sharpe disagreed that the Amherst is becoming the concrete jungle some have called it. He said there are 13,000 acres of open space in the town.

Population, housing and commercial development are growing at rates lower than in 1950, he added.

"Growth isn't new in Amherst, it's been going on since 1950," he said.

Sharpe, a Republican who has been supervisor since 1976, recently announced he will seek a sixth term next year.

"Amherst has managed to maintain steady progress, managed to be a financial success, managed to provide an environment -- no matter what anybody tells you -- that people wish to enjoy," Sharpe said. "If this town was so terrible and overcrowded, overgrown, and such a disaster, I can't quite understand why anybody wants to move here, but they all do."

Sharpe said growth in the town is responsible for taxes going down the past three years, even though the tax levy may have increased. He said he expects that trend to continue in his next budget, which he will release soon.

"You can't have both," he said. "You can have taxes at a minimum with growth, or you can have no growth and high taxes."

Sharpe, 62, grew up on Buffalo's West Side at Richmond Avenue and Breckenridge Street. He attributed the population growth in the suburbs to increased mobility, because it is no longer necessary to live in the city to be close to work and school.

"Now every 17-year-old in the town has a car," he said.

He said some Amherst residents also have decided to stop fighting the Kensington Expressway and the Thruway and moved their businesses to their home town.

"Growth in Amherst is positive. It is positive for all of Western New York. Amherst -- and I don't care what anybody says -- never built a wall between Amherst and Buffalo," he said.

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