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Busy stretch of Niagara Falls Boulevard could use some municipal cooperation

Niagara Falls Boulevard forms much of the border between Amherst and Tonawanda. For decades the towns have made planning decisions without regard to potential effects across the road. That may be about to change with a revived push for a joint planning board.

Amherst board members unanimously voted to support the proposal. The Town of Tonawanda should do the same.

While thriving businesses are always a welcome sight, the cramped manner in which they line the strip can be confusing and even dangerous as more and more cars crowd that stretch. It makes sense that the towns sitting on each side get together on planning decisions.

Former Amherst Supervisor Daniel J. Ward talked about joint planning more than 20 years ago. Although it failed to gain traction at the time, the idea was not entirely abandoned. Ward raised the issue again in a recent email to elected officials from both towns and wrote a letter published in Everybody’s Column in The News in which he stated, “Both sides are commercial gold mines, but the venerable boulevard deserves better – a joint planning commission at that.”

Amherst Deputy Supervisor Guy Marlette has taken on the cause. Marlette, who is running for a seat on the Erie County Legislature, proposed the resolution calling for his town to form a joint commission.

The need for cooperation will only grow with continuing development.

An example of how cooperation, not between towns but between residents and business, can improve development involves the hotel proposed for the Tonawanda side just south of Ellicott Creek Road. The original plan for four stories drew strenuous objection from nearby residents, and the developer returned with a much more palatable three-story proposal.

Another issue important to residents of both towns is the possibility that the boulevard will 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.

Whether it is new business, a residential project or just an issue of sprucing up the environment, decisions along the busy boulevard should no longer be made in what amount to municipal silos. Both towns should want to work together in the best long-term interests of their residents.