In his first State of the Town address on Friday, new Amherst Supervisor Brian J. Kulpa laid out an agenda of proactive planning and forecasting to deal with the most pressing development and fiscal issues the town faces.
Kulpa called for redeveloping the Westwood Country Club site as a "magnetic," memory-creating destination venue that fits within an overall "Central Park" neighborhood.
He advocated for comprehensive study of Amherst's needs that divides the town into neighborhoods and gives stakeholders in those communities more say in their future. And he reiterated his support for a joint review with the Town of Tonawanda of Niagara Falls Boulevard, to assess everything from traffic to retail trends.
"Hopefully in investing in planning for this type of change in attitude, we will, as a Town of Amherst, become the area's leading community," Kulpa said during the Amherst Chamber of Commerce's annual luncheon on Friday.
The event at Classics V restaurant and banquet hall in Amherst drew almost 300 people.
Kulpa was elected supervisor in November as Democrats gained full control of the five-member Town Board.
Last year, Barry Weinstein, a Conservative, delivered his final State of the Town message, with blunt criticism of previous officials and a lament for projects that stalled as he served in the Town Board minority.
The new Democratic supervisor's talk, however, was forward looking.
The highlights included Kulpa calling for:
- Proactive planning to figure out what to do with the former Westwood Country Club site, where investors have proposed a $250 million mixed-use development. Kulpa has dubbed the neighborhood "Amherst Central Park" and also wants to tackle the town-owned Audubon Golf Course and Northtown Center and the former gun club site. Kulpa wants to create a park-like setting, equivalent to Buffalo's Delaware Park or New York City's Union Square, that will draw people from all over.
- Setting up independent planning committees for Eggertsville, Getzville and other communities to make sure their individual identity is preserved and they can make their own choices about what comes next.
- Undertaking a joint, Amherst-Tonawanda study of Niagara Falls Boulevard that includes addressing the future of the Boulevard Mall and light-rail expansion into the town.
- Spending on capital improvements in distinct neighborhoods, and to use data modeling to better forecast worker health care and pension costs for the next five, 10 or 20 years.
- Planning for what members of Generation Z, the next generation after millennials, want, such as technology-friendly, shared office spaces.