Bennington, VT. New Wal-Mart Goes Up, Old Wal-Mart Demolished. No Economic Gain.
This summer Wal-Mart will open up a new 112,000 s.f. superstore in Bennington,Vermont, a small community of 15,400 in the southwest corner of the state. The new store is right behind the existing 51,000 s.f. Wal-Mart, which will be torn down.
This is totally growth with no economic value.
The Bennington Banner newspaper admits that the new store “faced many hurdles and opposition.” Hearings under the state's environmental protection Act 250 permit started in 2009 and lasted roughly three years. The developer had to fight two appeals to a storm water permit filed by the owners of the Mount Anthony Country Club.
In 2013, the company that owns the plaza where the Wal-Mart will sit placated town officials by offering $200,000 for economic development for Bennington's downtown---which will suffer economic impacts on its retailers. The plaza owner also agreed to pay for improvements to the Walloomsac watershed. These “improvement” funds will be administered by the Citizens for a Greater Bennington, the group that opposed the project. So everyone has been paid off.
The developer will be paying for the roadwork to the site, including upgrades to a roundabout. A spokesman for the state said it was “unique” for a contractor to work on a road project for a private developer on a state highway. The new roundabout is only needed because of the size of the Wal-Mart, and the added traffic it needs to carry, and the state insisted that the developer pay for that cost.
In many states, local cities or towns will give developers tax breaks and subsidies to improve the infrastructure. But in Vermont they make the developer foot the bill, which is entirely appropriate given the financial benefits, which flow largely to the developer’s bottom line.
All this larger Wal-Mart adds compared to the old store layout is a grocery component, which will cut shares of the pie for the existing Price Chopper, Hannafords and Aldi’s.
For a town of less than 16,000 people, all these grocery stores are overkill---and a new Wal-Mart adds no new value to this historic community.
What you can do: I spoke against this project many years ago. The first Wal-Mart at 51,000 s.f. was one of the largest retail buildings in this town's history. It was completely incompatible with the historic downtown of this community. There was no market need to more than double the size of the Wal-Mart--it was just driven by personal greed, not consumer need.
When you add more grocery stores to a static population base, it does not make people buy more bananas. It's just growth for its own sake.
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