BENNINGTON — The summer youth camp operating on the former Southern Vermont College campus and the town have struck a deal to resolve neighborhood complaints of excessive noise coming from the campus.
The camp will move all assemblies from a large tent to the campus gymnasium within a week, and in the meantime take steps to reduce loud noise coming from the property, under an agreement approved Thursday between the camp and the town.
The stipulated agreement, incorporated in a Superior Court order issued Thursday, was reached after a Wednesday meeting of officials from the town and camp director Moshe Perlstein. The agreement headed off a Superior Court hearing Thursday on the town's request that the court find the camp in contempt of a July 15 restraining order following new noise complaints from nearby residents.
Perlstein said Camp Southern Vermont LLC, which operates the camp, will install air conditioning in the gymnasium, to make it possible for assemblies to take place there. The camp will willingly shoulder the cost, in excess of $120,000, he said.
"We have the opportunity to make the people of Bennington happy," he said.
Zichron Chaim Inc., formerly listed as the camp's operator, was dismissed as a defendant Thursday, with Camp Southern Vermont, a Vermont-based limited-liability company, taking its place.
Since the camp's opening on July 5, nearby residents have complained of amplified singing, music and voices coming from the campus.
Perlstein said the agreement came about as a result of a meeting early Wednesday afternoon between him and three Bennington town officials: Town Manager Stuart Hurd, Assistant Town Manager Dan Monks and Community Development Director Shannon Barsotti.
Perlstein said he had believed that the camp would prevail in court, but decided to seek a compromise after visiting the home of a neighborhood woman who had complained about the noise. "We're not looking to hurt people, we're not here to offend people," he said.
He credited the town officials for "being available on short notice" to talk things over. "Three minutes into the meeting, we had a deal," he said.
"We're pretty happy with his efforts to comply," Hurd said Thursday. "They're moving quickly to do what they need to do so that they can reduce the noise for their neighbors." He called the meeting "very congenial."
Attorney Merrill Bent, of Woolmington, Campbell, Bent & Stasny, representing the town, said that the settlement agreement "resolves in concept" the town's court action against Perlstein, since it remains to be seen if Perlstein's group will follow the terms of the agreement.
Under the order signed by Judge Cortland Corsones, the camp will have one week to move all of its assemblies to the gymnasium. Until that time, it is restrained from using or allowing the use of the public address system outside the gymnasium between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m., and must ensure that any noise coming from campus not exceed 60 decibels at any home in town between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.
In addition, the camp must request removal of the tent where assemblies have been held, and move all assembles that take place after 5 p.m. to an area of the campus where the noise will be mitigated, until all assemblies are moved to the gym.
"So long as there are no violations of this Order from the date of entry through the termination of Defendant's summer occupation of the Property on September 1, 2020, the Town shall not seek civil fines, impositions of its costs and fees, or any other remedy from Defendants or their agents for any past violation of the Ordinance," the court order states.
The agreement was signed by Bent, representing the town, and and Carl H. Lisman of Lisman Leckerling P.C., representing Camp Southern Vermont.
The hearing on the town's request for a contempt order has been rescheduled for July 30, and will be canceled once the assemblies have been moved to the gym and the tent removed, the order states.
Perlstein and Zichron Chaim reached a lease and purchase agreement for the 371-acre campus last month. The lease portion was to allow the three-week Orthodox Jewish camp for about 350 girls from the New Jersey-New York City area.
In addition, Perlstein has said he plans a three-week camp for boys to follow.
Perlstein has said he wants to follow through on a purchase of the campus, a transaction that has been complicated by SVC Corporation's filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy July 1, and the dissolution of the board of trustees.
Tiffany Tan contributed to this story.