Bennington considers zoning for ‘supercenters’

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(Host) Nearly a hundred Bennington residents braved Wednesday night’s cold to attend a forum on big box stores and smart growth’ strategies. The town is in the process of deciding whether to rezone some of its industrial land for retail growth.

That could open the door for an un-named, 170,000-square foot “supercenter” in town. The store would sell groceries as well as general merchandise. A Bennington real estate broker says a major retailer has approached his client, who owns the former Bijur Lubricating Company. The factory closed last year.

Panelist Tom Muller is an economist who’s studied the impact of Wal-Mart stores on local economies. He said he’d be surprised if Wal-Mart didn’t try to build a supercenter store in Bennington.

(Muller) “Because they’re scheduled to have over 1,000 superstores built in the next five or six years. So the probability of having some of these in this market is just extremely high.”

(Host) Bennington already has a 50,000 square foot Wal-Mart. But Muller said the chain is replacing existing stores with supercenters. He and other panelists claimed such a store would have serious repercussion locally. Muller said that for every Wal-Mart Supercenter that opens, two supermarkets close.

Real estate broker David Buckley would not name the retailer who’s approached him. But he said he believes Bennington would benefit from having several super-stores. Discussions on the issue are scheduled are scheduled to continue.

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