On Friday night, the Village Preservation Committee of Montgomery hosted a placemaking session with Nancy Proyect, president of the Orange County Citizens Foundation. During the meeting, Proyect led a discussion about how each village can be improved.
The Village Preservation Committee is a diverse group of professionals and residents using a revolving list of concerns and desires of the community to communicate with proposed projects in the area in order to preserve the charm and safety of each village in the Town of Montgomery while allowing for growth around it.
The committee was founded and led by Randi Greene, owner of Eat This Bakery. Other committee members include Marc Devitt, a hotelier and commercial developer, as well as President of the Town of Montgomery Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Kyle Shorette. In total, the committee has about 15 members who float in and out of meetings.
With their mission in mind, each member, as well as some intrigued guests from the community, picked their top three greatest concerns facing the village from a list of three categories. This list of concerns was created at the last placemaking session. These categories included downtown revitalization and economic growth, open space/recreation and communication. After that, members broke into four small groups to discuss the concerns they felt were most pressing.
One group felt that small business growth and a variety of businesses were pivotal in order to improve the villages within the Town of Montgomery. They also believed that historic preservation as well as preserving the character of each village were important.
“You want to make it aesthetically pleasing,” said Lynn Thompson, a Village of Walden Trustee who attended the meeting. “You want people to come here.”
Another group believed that more municipal parking was important. The next group agreed that there should be more municipal parking but also noted that grant writing was a key source of revenue for each of the villages. They also believed that having housing for those that want to downsize was imperative. The last group noted that small business growth and having housing for those that want to downsize was important. They also stressed the importance of affordable housing as well as safe streets to walk on and community events.
Next, members of the audience split into two groups and discussed the open space/recreation category. One group wanted a library with a community center, walking connections throughout the villages as well as parks and community gardens. The other advocated for farmland preservation.
The last category discussed was communication. Everyone split into three groups for this exercise. The first group believed that cooperation between the villages and the town in order to achieve smart growth was imperative. Other folks believed that diversity in each of the village’s municipal government as well as its demographics was important. The last group believed that cooperation/collaboration between business, government and the school district is paramount to move the villages in the right direction.
Then Proyect assigned each event attendee a task within the economic growth/downtown revitalization category. Kristen Brown will develop ideas on how to bring small business growth and a growth in the variety of businesses to Maybrook and Coldenham. Jane Samuelson and Randi Greene will do the same for the Village of Montgomery and Lynn Thompson and Mary Ellen Matise will look to foster small business growth and a growth in the variety of businesses in Walden.
Plans to improve municipal parking will be conducted by Fran Pizzonia, Mary Lippincott, Joe Zippilli, Raquel Zippilli and Sarah Messing. Kristen Brown, Jane Samuelson and Mary Ellen Matise will all decide how to improve the walkability in the villages. Nancy Curasi, Stacey Spears and Wendy McNutt will tackle community and family events in the villages. Each person was scheduled to talk to one another by Feb. 4. The next placemaking session will be held in late February.
Committee founder Randi Greene has high hopes for the future.
“I really wanted to use this committee to educate people,” she said. “I think we can do a lot with communication and this meeting showed that.”