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Bennington issues statement on SVC camp

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BENNINGTON — Select Board Chairman Donald Campbell and Town Manager Stuart Hurd have released a statement, to be posted on the town's website, addressing concerns surrounding a religious camp for youth now underway on the former Southern Vermont College campus.

The statement follows:

"On June 29th, the Town of Bennington became aware of a summer camp on the SVC campus and on July 2nd became aware of a private transaction involving the sale of the campus when the Bennington Banner published an article regarding the SVC bankruptcy.  Once we learned about the possibility of a summer camp leasing the property, our building inspector contacted the camp director and performed inspections on the buildings to determine compliance with Building, Fire, and Life Safety codes.

"Follow-up inspections occurred today and will continue tomorrow. No new permits are required for this temporary summer camp use of the campus (except for a permit for the temporary tent, which will be submitted tomorrow). A summer camp is an accessory use to the pre-existing college use of the property.

"The Bennington Police Chief has also met with the camp director to discuss local residents' concerns about noise, and the state's Commissioner of Public Safety and Deputy Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development have communicated about COVID-19 state guidelines with the camp director. The camp director has committed to comply with all state guidelines.

"Although the town does not have the authority to enforce the COVID-19 state guidelines on private property, the town will alert camp officials and the state of any violations observed.

"Unfortunately, an article from Rise Up Ocean County [New Jersey] that contains many falsehoods about the camp and its director is being shared widely on social media. Earlier this year, the governor of New Jersey identified Rise Up Ocean County as an anti-Semitic group and their Facebook page was taken down due to their hateful messages about the Jewish community.

"The town of Bennington does not condone any hateful rhetoric and strives to create a welcoming and safe environment for all. The camp director has stated that he wants to work collaboratively with the Bennington community, and that the Bennington Area Trail System trails around the campus will remain open for public recreation."

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