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Volunteers present downtown revitalization plans

Grand Union agreed for the committee to place a big decorative planter at their entrance off state Rte. 9 to break up their sea of asphalt, it was reported. North Warren Technology Teacher Chris Stiles agreed to have his students construct it, the volunteers said.

One of the most vital projects, Dower said, was "gateway enhancement," or erecting a sign or signs surrounded by appropriate landscaping, to welcome visitors to town. A hamlet gateway subcommittee is being formed to work with Behan and perhaps others to develop a plan, she said.

A part of the problem, committee members said, was that absentee landowners, primarily speculators,bought the downtown buildings years ago expecting to profit by merely holding onto the properties - but their plans went awry with the economic downturn. The result was rows of empty buildings without appropriate renovations, and no tenants with financially feasible businesses to locate downtown.

There is hope, Dower said, citing an area restaurant operator who is seeking to move downtown, perhaps in the old T.J. Fish building. Another business owner, who has a proven track record, is seeking to re-open the landmark Panther Mountain House, she said.

Town Supervisor Fred Monroe said he was impressed with the committee's plans and the work already accomplished.

"I'm happy about the enthusiasm of our volunteers - they want to see progress."

He predicted that townsfolk will be surprised at how fast changes take place this summer and next in downtown Chestertown.

"I'm surprised at how many people want to help with this revitalization effort," he said. "the volunteer list just keeps growing."

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