Efforts to control development and rein in sprawl have emerged as major campaign issues in two of Buffalo's most affluent suburbs, where opposing candidates for town supervisor all claim "smart growth" as a goal but differ on ways to get there.
Town of Amherst: Susan J. Grelick
In Amherst, 16-year Republican councilman William L. Kindel is challenging Democratic supervisor Susan J. Grelick in a rematch of the 1997 race, which Grelick won by a margin of more than 2 to 1. Grelick had been elected to a shortened first term a year earlier in a special election.
Kindel is an experienced Town Board member who was the first to recognize the need to redevelop declining commercial areas in Eggertsville and Snyder, and has been fiercely critical of town financial reporting, especially regarding the Pepsi Center recreational facility. He also contends Grelick's push for a comprehensive plan is an expensive waste for a town that is already 80 percent developed. But his conversion in recent years to the cause of open-space preservation and farmland conservation is balanced by the fact that his own board tenure covers a time of major overbuilding in Amherst.
Grelick, too, has flaws. She has been only marginally cooperative in efforts to draw Amherst and its economic development agency into regional planning and cooperation efforts, and she has been unable to develop the broad-based support to tackle such problems as the money-wasting lack of a central purchasing process.
But she has moved to increase professionalism in town government, especially in planning and finance. She has implemented debt management and investments plans, won an upgrade in the town's investment rating and made planning a centerpiece of her administration. On the strength of her per-formance in office over the past five years, The News recommends her re-election.
Town of Orchard Park:
Toni Marinaccio Cudney
While Amherst residents enjoy the urban amenities their city-sized suburb provides, residents of other suburbs don't exactly seem consumed with envy. As in Clarence - where the incumbent supervisor's overwhelming defeat in September's primary is widely viewed as a vote to slow development - Orchard Park voters are telling town supervisor candidates they don't want to become "another Amherst."
Both one-term incumbent Democrat Toni Marinaccio Cudney and Republican challenger John J. Mills, a 20-year Town Board member who served as deputy supervisor for the man Cudney defeated in 1998, say they have heard that on the campaign trail. They agree with the sentiment, but differ on approaches to the problem.
Cudney sees regional planning as the key to smart growth, and worries that sprawl drains local budgets by requiring expensive infrastructure extensions. Her solution is carefully planned growth, and she is seen as generally inclined to constrict the development pipeline.
Mills is a businessman generally viewed as more business-friendly. He advocates "balanced growth," and favors more revenue-producing commercial development in designated business parks. He favors capping the "inventory" of approved building projects, while Cudney focuses on new building applications as a way to restrain development.
Their approaches to town government also differ. Cudney is a relatively recent and strongly independent politician not generally seen as a team player, while Mills has long-standing links to town politics. Mills favors a "management team" approach that involves the board and department heads and sees the supervisor as a day-to-day manager, while Cudney is a hands-on town leader.
The News endorses Cudney, because of her stronger sense of leadership as well as a first-term performance that merits another turn at the helm.