Friday February 22, 2013

NEAL P. GOSWAMI

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- A developer’s plan to nearly double the size of the local Walmart has cleared a hurdle after an opposition group reached a tentative deal to drop its appeal of permits.

The Vermont Natural Resources Council filed a stipulation of dismissal last week with the Vermont Environmental Court. Executive Director Brian Shupe said the agreement reached with BLS Bennington, headed by Jonathan Levy, has not been approved by the court.

"Tentative settlement agreement"

"It means that we have a tentative settlement agreement with BLS Bennington. If the terms of that are signed off on by all the parties and the court, our appeal will no longer be in effect. It will be dismissed," Shupe said.

VNRC and the citizen’s group have appealed local permits and a state land use permit granted by the District 8 Act 250 Commission. The settlement would drop those appeals.

Other appeals remain outstanding, however. The owners of the Mount Anthony Country Club have appealed the Act 250 permit as well as a storm water permit issued by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources last July.

Levy first secured local permits from the town of Bennington in 2006 to double the size of the existing Walmart to about 112,000 square feet. He has also received an operational storm water permit from the state Agency of Natural Resources. Levy was granted a construction general permit from ANR in July 2012.

The Environmental Court ruled in favor of VNRC and the citizen’s group last April, finding that the District 8 Act 250 Commission should have granted the group party status in its hearings. Shupe said new hearings will not be needed if the agreement is accepted by the court.

"There’s nothing to remand because it would go away," he said.

Shupe said he was "not in a position to reveal terms of the agreement" because the court has not yet accepted it.

"We’re not looking at this as a total victory or a total defeat. It does address some our concerns about water quality and the viability of downtown Bennington," he said.

Shupe said it is likely the court will act on the agreement next week.

Contact Neal Goswami at ngoswami@benningtonbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @NealGoswami