The Town of Bennington may be given land behind the former Merchant’s Bank, on Pleasant Street. (Holly Pelczynski/Bennington
The Town of Bennington may be given land behind the former Merchant’s Bank, on Pleasant Street. (Holly Pelczynski/Bennington Banner/photos.benningtonbanner.com)

BENNINGTON -- The town may be getting a new, small, park in the downtown district, should an agreement with Merchant's Bank be finalized.

The Select Board voted Thursday to authorize Town Manager Stuart Hurd to sign an agreement with Merchant's Bank pending the outcome of an appraisal on the .34-acre plot of land at the corner of North Street and Pleasant Street.

Hurd said if the deal goes through the town will own the green space as well as a lighted canopy that was part of the bank's drive-through window.

Last year Merchant's Bank began consolidating its operations to the site of the former Wendy's restaurant on Northside Drive. It donated its building in North Bennington, valued at $350,000 to The Fund for North Bennington and the Preservation Trust of Vermont.

Valued at $80,000

According to a letter from the bank to Hurd, the downtown lot is currently valued at $80,000. Hurd said that would amount to a loss of $900 in taxes to the town.

The board discussed the potential gift a number of months ago in executive session, according to Hurd. The bank initially wanted the gift to be contingent on the land remaining public in perpetuity, but the town asked that be limited to five years.

Board member Greg Van Houten said in five years, should a developer come along, the town will have the option to sell the land or swap it for park space elsewhere. He said more green space in town has been identified as a need by the community.

The space has been used as a park for many years, playing host to summer concerts and trees decked with holiday lights.

Hurd said the lot was once home to The Vermonter restaurant, along with three other businesses and some apartments which were torn down in the 1970s when the bank bought the land to make room for its drive-through.

Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at kwhitcomb@benningtonbanner.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.