Tuesday October 2, 2012

Misconceptions about Johnson Controls site zoning status

There seems to be some misconception regarding the motions passed by the Bennington Select Board on Sept. 24 regarding the town plan. Clearly, the column by Mike Bethel in the Banner illustrates that it was not understood by all.

CAT-TV is still running the meeting, so I encourage citizens to tune in and see the replay. Here is the explanation of my experience and my position:

While the Gladstone Development Co. would probably find a commercial zoning to their industrial land a benefit, that is not my main concern. My concern is what will be the best for Bennington for the long term. Consistent zoning policies are a must to spur smart growth. Property owners need to be able to count on the value of their land and plan for it's use. Buying land and flipping the classification causes chaos in economic planning.

In instances where a new idea arises that is not addressed in current zoning, we plan to develop an avenue for getting a timely response so developers can move in the proper direction. In the past such ideas as drive-through pharmacies, brew pubs and factory stores have been the result of such adjustments to zoning. There was a time when these entities simply didn't exist and therefore were not considered in town plans.

Now, I understand that some folks find national retail chains a gauge of economic success. The reality is that locally owned businesses like we have in Bennington are a far more stable base. Notice how the national brands close up during economic downturns as we've seen in Manchester and area malls. Our local retailers adjust and hold on. This is their home. The larger retailers fill in among them and create a balance for the diverse needs of the community. That is the town plan working.

I did not find a lot of support for changing the parcel in question, and most folks I spoke to favored preserving the option of manufacturing for the land. Those who discussed commercial options always spoke of something special; something unique to Bennington that would attract folks from near and far. The reality is, if we zone it commercially, we are most likely going to wind up with a retail strip mall. We could wind up with a single retail space up to 165,000 square feet.

Once it's zoned commercially, it's up to the developer, not Bennington. These options threaten the current businesses on Northside Drive as well as downtown. One main point of a town plan is to create a viable commercial zone and a reliable cache of industrial land. This is what I support and why I voted to maintain the town plan as ratified.

GREG VAN HOUTEN

Bennington

Reasons to support Wilton

Vermonters have a wonderful opportunity this fall to elect a woman with impeccable credentials for state treasurer. We need to send Wendy Wilton to Montpelier so she can do for the state what she has done for Rutland.

When Wendy was elected Rutland City Treasurer in 2007, she inherited a $5 million deficit and helped turn it around to a $3.8 million positive fund balance. She's produced the first "clean" audit the city has seen in 32 years. In short she's a woman who gets things done effectively. Find out more about her at wendywilton.org

Vermont has serious fiscal challenges ahead. From revamping our healthcare to the $3 billion in state unfunded liabilities now is certainly not the time to rubber stamp or shrink from our challenges. Wendy Wilton's proven track record of accomplishment is just what the doctor should order this November. She will shine the light on the state's finances!

JACKIE BARNETT

Barre