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Amherst Town Board makes plans for Niagara Falls Boulevard, Sweet Home Road

Two important corridors in Amherst – Niagara Falls Boulevard and Sweet Home Road – got the attention of town officials Monday.

In the case of Niagara Falls Boulevard, Amherst invited the Town of Tonawanda to join in developing a unified plan for the busy commercial corridor.

The Amherst Town Board at its meeting Monday night unanimously approved a resolution that calls for the two municipalities to form a joint planning commission for Niagara Falls Boulevard, which borders both towns.

“We’re going to move ahead and master plan for our side of Niagara Falls Boulevard no matter what,” said Councilmember Guy R. Marlette, who sponsored the resolution. “It would be really great if they decided to join us.”

Over the years, Amherst and Tonawanda went about their own business building up their respective sides of the boulevard, which has become a congested mishmash of homes, small stores, neighborhood plazas and giant retail outlets.

Now – with Niagara Falls Boulevard showing some signs of redevelopment – Amherst is suggesting a more unified approach in the future to improve the look and feel of the boulevard.

“Maybe not for this year,” Marlette said, “but for five, 10, 15 years down the road.”

The board got the ball rolling by agreeing to investigate whether the town could claim 159 Niagara Falls Blvd. by eminent domain and turn it into a passive park.

The corner at Kenmore Avenue was once the site of a gas station, but has been vacant for years and is labeled an eyesore.

As for Sweet Home Road, the Town Board formally requested that the state Department of Transportation add a number of features in its preliminary design for the upcoming reconstruction project.

The DOT plans to reconstruct Sweet Home, between Rensch and Maple roads, in 2017, said Eric W. Gillert, the town’s planning director.

It’s an entrance to the University at Buffalo campus so the town believes the project should include bike lanes, a raised, landscaped median, substantial landscaping on both sides and lighting along the entire stretch.

Amherst and UB made those suggestions when the DOT first sought input, Gillert said.

“We came up with what we thought were reasonable improvements,” Gillert explained, “but when we went to the public hearing on this, the vast majority were not included in the design.”

In fact, the DOT later informed Amherst that these features could be included – but at the expense of the town.

Amherst was a little more forceful on Monday when the Town Board said those features are not options, but necessities that should be financed by the state.

“This is our opportunity to do it and do it right,” Gillert said.