Bennington Overturns Zoning Bylaw

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(Host) Voters in Bennington have overturned a zoning bylaw limiting the size of new retail buildings in town.

VPR’s Susan Keese has more.

(Keese) Tuesday’s vote was a victory for the owner of Bennington’s Wal-Mart Plaza. He wants to build a new, much bigger Wal-Mart on the same site. The by-law would have limited the size of the new store to seventy-five thousand square feet. That’s much less than the owner wanted.

The size limit was unanimously adopted by the select board this winter following a series of public hearings. But Bennington Town Manager Stuart Hurd says officials obviously mistook the public’s wishes.

(Hurd) “And part of our responsibility is to go back to the community and try to figure out what it is that the community really wants. Do we want the two-hundred and twenty thousand square-foot supercenters here? Or do we simply want a larger Wal-Mart? The unfortunate part of votes like this is – because people are voting ‘yes’ or ‘no’ you don’t really get to know what their reasoning was.”

(Keese) One voter who opposed the size limit was Mike Sleeman. He’s an orthodontist and a Bennington native.

(Sleeman) “I think that people of Bennington are kind of tired of having to always go to these larger areas to do their shopping. And people say you don’t want to have Bennington to be just like Albany. You don’t want Bennington to be like Burlington. But Bennington can be more if you’d just allow things to happen here.”

(Keese) Alicia Romac, who led the campaign to keep the bylaw, says she hopes the town will try to work out some limits to big box growth. Stuart Hurd, the town manager, says he expects the Selectboard to discuss its next step at their meeting Monday.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Susan Keese.

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