NEAL P. GOSWAMI
BENNINGTON -- For the first time in decades a new cemetery is poised to open in Bennington for a local congregation of Mennonites.
Jason Reinford of the Green Mountain Mennonite Fellowship said the group is hoping to secure permits for a 51-plot cemetery adjacent to their church on Chapel Road. Representatives of the fellowship appeared before the Development Review Board this week, he said, and expect the town will approve.
"At this point it seems very likely," Reinford said.
The cemetery would be the first new cemetery in Bennington in decades. Reinford said members of the Development Review Board could not recall a similar request.
Reinford said Mennonites, a Protestant group, usually have their own cemeteries within each community. It is not required, he said, but preferred. "That’s kind of our tradition. Each church typically has its own cemetery," he said.
Reinford said the local Mennonite community settled in Bennington about seven years ago, mostly from Ohio and Pennsylvania. The community has doubled in the last seven years, he said. There are about 35 members of the church, but the community numbers closer to 90. Children are not considered to be members until they reach an age where they can decide for themselves if they want to join, he said.
The group purchased a church building on Chapel Road and has been holding services there since 2007, according to Reinford. Members have also launched a variety of small businesses in the area, he said.
One neighbor of the church attended the first permit hearing this week and expressed concern about the proposed cemetery’s proximity to their property, Reinford said. An engineer is now looking to adjust the boundaries, he said.
"We’re looking at going back further into our property so it’s not quite so close," he said. "We want to keep the neighbors happy as well."
Mennonites are very "family-oriented," Reinford said. The fellowship wanted to create a cemetery to provide for a central place for families to gather and visit.
"We thought if it was feasible we’d like to try for it," he said. "Basically, it’s a cemetery for our own church. We’re not starting it as a public cemetery that anybody can come to."
The fellowship must appear before the DRB one more time before approval.