DRB considers shelter home on Main Street in Bennington


BENNINGTON >> A proposal for a new shelter home on Main Street is now in the hands of the Development Review Board.

The Bennington County Coalition for the Homeless aims to purchase property at 966 Main St. for a transitional shelter, a move the executive director said could double the number of people the organization serves.

Residents have expressed concern over the proposal for the property on state Route 9, near Burgess Road and Cross Street. They said they were worried about safety, car and foot traffic, and how the proposal would generally affect the neighborhood.

Christopher Oldham, executive director for the organization, first appeared before the DRB on July 5. He returned to the board last week to submit a revised site plan. After discussion, DRB members voted to close the open session and discuss the proposal during deliberative session.

The DRB has not yet issued approval. On Wednesday, Oldham said the organization expects to hear something from the DRB in mid-August.

The site plan proposes a transitional home at the 2,408-square-foot property. The coalition would offer job readiness and enrichment programs for people who are homeless.

Oldham told members last week that the organization doesn't have an exact number of beds, but "are pushing for between 17 and 20."

A revised site plan includes a concrete sidewalk that would lead up to the porch to meet ADA requirements as well as the paving of the entire driveway, an area on the property's east side, and three of the four parking spaces.

Approximately four staff, give or take one or two, will be at the property at once depending on if the property manager is at the site, according to Oldham.

DRB members last week also asked Oldham how people coming in and out of the building would be monitored to insure safety of staff, residents, and neighbors. Oldham said each of the four entrances to the building would have a surveillance camera and unique-sounding alarm, according to Oldham. There will also be door knobs that can be locked from the outside which will generally be used after hours.

Two residents who spoke during the public comment session expressed concerns about safety. Betty Tange, of Oakes Street, raised the issue of potential drug use by residents.

George Gilman, of Gage Street, pointed to other potential properties that the organization could use and asked whether the organization drug tested residents.

Zoning Administrator Dan Monks said other properties the organizations looked at were not zoned to allow shelter homes.

Oldham said that while residents aren't drug tested, the organization has a zero tolerance drug use policy and those with addiction problems are required to participate in a treatment program in order to be able to stay.

Contact Ed Damon at 802-447-7567, ext. 111.


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