Durham, Cairo groups win county planning awards

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By Melanie Lekocevic

Capital Region Independent Media

CATSKILL — Four county organizations were honored recently for achievements in planning and economic development.

The Ellen Rettus Planning Achievement Awards are given out annually by the Greene County Planning Board and were awarded this year at the Greene County Legislature’s Nov. 17 meeting.

“Ellen Rettus was a long-term county planning board member who for several years served as chairperson of the Greene County Planning Board and chairperson of the town of Durham planning board,” said Carl Giangrande, vice chairman of the county planning board. “As chairperson of these boards, Ellen worked to promote sound and thoughtful planning throughout Greene County. The awards recognize outstanding planning, community and economic development activities that have taken place in Greene County.”

Durham Connect won one of two awards this year in the Community Improvement category. The organization was nominated by Greene County Legislator Patty Handel, R-Durham.

“Durham Connect is a community group charged with implementing the recommendations of the Durham 2020 comprehensive plan,” Giangrande said. “It is an innovative example of how a town government and residents, both full-time and weekenders, can work collaboratively to further their shared goals.”

The aim of Durham Connect is to work towards achieving the goals set out by the comprehensive plan.

“Residents and town board members who developed the comprehensive plan wanted to ensure that the result of their two-year comprehensive planning process didn’t just result in a plan that sat on a shelf collecting dust,” Giangrande said. “The answer was Durham Connect.”

The group is led by town resident Bernard Rivers and Town Councilwoman Joan Breslin, and has six volunteer working groups tasked with implementing various aspects of the comprehensive plan, Giangrande said.

Durham Connect has worked on assessing and improving broadband connectivity in the town.

“Improving broadband is essential to encouraging businesses to locate or expand in the town and in attracting new residents wanting to work from home,” Giangrande said. “The broadband working group’s first successful project was a free hot spot in a town parking lot that can be accessed 24/7. The group has conducted a complete assessment of the town’s broadband availability and its finishing report with proposals for action.”

Another aim of the comprehensive plan was to improve communication in the town. To that end, Durham Connect published two issues of a new town newsletter keeping residents apprised of what is going on in the community, Giangrande said.

The Cairo Development Foundation also won a planning award in the Main Street Revitalization category.

“The foundation has made tremendous strides towards a better vision of Main Street and has improved the very fabric and quality of life for everyone who is a resident of Cairo,” Giangrande said. “The Cairo Foundation started as a group of dedicated residents determined to improve the economic and visual climate of the town of Cairo by raising funds via grants and events, and since they began in 2016, they have produced amazing results.”

Among the group’s achievements are purchasing two buildings on Main Street in need of repair. One was renovated and now houses a physical therapy practice, with a pocket park next door, Giangrande said.

A public art project in Cairo is another achievement of the foundation.

“In addition to the foundation’s construction projects, the ongoing Cairo bears art project was picked up by the Cairo Development Foundation and has continued to be an event enjoyed by the residents of Cairo and our county, and which has been and continues to be a positive attraction for many tourists coming to Greene County,” Giangrande said.

Two other organizations were also honored with awards. The Foreland contemporary arts building in Catskill received an award in the Main Street Revitalization category, and Windham Manor was honored in the Community Improvement category.

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