Wednesday May 15, 2013

NEAL P. GOSWAMI

Senior Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- Seven years after it was first proposed, a developer is now free to begin construction on a larger Walmart now that the owners of the Mount Anthony Country Club have dropped the final two appeals still pending in the long-standing project.

Attorney Alan George, who represents developer Jonathan Levy, said the Vermont Environmental Court has granted the motion filed on behalf of country club owners David Griffin and Maru Leon-Griffin to drop appeals they filed over a Vermont Agency of Natural Resources storm water permit and an Act 250 land use permit granted to Levy’s company, BLS Bennington.

"It means that the case is over. There’s no other party in the case," George said. "The court’s granting of their motion Š acknowledges that the case is now complete."

The motion to dismiss provides no reason for withdrawing the appeal. Maru Leon-Griffin declined to comment when reached by phone Tuesday.

There are no more legal proceedings in the project that will nearly double the size of the existing Walmart on Northside Drive, George said. The new store is expected to include an expanded grocery section.

Levy reached a settlement in March with the Vermont Natural Resources Council and a local citizens group that had also appealed. Levy agreed to pay a total of $225,000 to help support Bennington’s downtown and the Walloomsac River watershed.

The initial proposal was rejected by the town because it would have exceeded a size cap on stores the town had in place at the time. A special election overturned the cap, however, opening the door for larger retail stores.

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.

George said it’s unclear when Levy will look to begin construction. "There is nothing holding it back now, perhaps actually developing construction plans," he said.

Levy did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Contact Neal P. Goswami at ngoswami@benningtonbanner.com, or follow on Twitter: @nealgoswami