The Vermont Statutes Online
The people of Bennington reaffirm faith in Government of the people, by the people, and for the people and describe this government in a charter with provision to review and amend. The charter of the Town of Bennington reflects concern to improve the quality of life for all people and to improve the operation of Town government. (Amended 2019, No. M-8, § 1, eff. June 10, 2019.)
- Subchapter 001: POWERS OF THE TOWN
§ 103-101. General law applies
(a) All provisions of the Constitution and laws of the State relating to towns and villages shall apply to the Town of Bennington, except as modified by this charter.
(b) The Town of Bennington shall have all the powers and functions conferred upon towns and villages by the Constitution and laws of the State and shall also have all implied powers necessary to implement such powers and functions.
(c) The powers and functions conferred upon the Town of Bennington by this charter shall be in addition to the powers and functions conferred upon the Town by the laws of the State. Nothing in this charter shall be construed as a limitation upon such powers and functions. (Amended 2019, No. M-8, § 1, eff. June 10, 2019.)
§ 103-102. Additional Town powers
In addition to powers otherwise conferred by law, the Town of Bennington is authorized to adopt, amend, repeal, and enforce ordinances:
(a) relating to collection and removal of garbage, ashes, rubbish, refuse, waste, and scrap by the Town and establishment of rates to be paid to the Town for such service;
(b) relating to construction and alteration of public and private buildings and the use thereof, including establishment of minimum standards for plumbing, heating, and wiring, so as to prevent hazardous and dangerous conditions, fires, and explosions by precautionary regulations and inspection;
(c) relating to the use of firearms in settled areas;
(d) relating to the packaging, marketing, and handling of produce and other foodstuffs;
(e) relating to the prevention of pollution of streams, ponds, and other waterways within the Town.
§ 103-103. Initiative; advisory votes
The voters of the Town have the power to petition for a nonbinding advisory vote to reflect public sentiment. Such petition shall be signed by at least five percent of the voters of the Town and shall state that it is advisory only. The Select Board, upon receipt of such a petition, shall place the article on the warning for the next Town meeting or any other Town election.
§ 103-104. Recall
(a) The voters of the Town may recall any of the elected Town officers listed in subchapter 2 of this charter.
(b) A recall petition, clearly stating cause, signed by at least 30 percent of the legal voters of the Town, and bearing their addresses, shall be filed with the Select Board within 15 calendar days of its issue. The Select Board upon receipt of a valid petition shall, after 60 calendar days, hold a special election, with voting by Australian Ballot, to consider the recall of an elected Town officer. When such a petition is approved by a majority of two-thirds of the ballots cast at such special election, the officer named in the petition shall thereupon cease to hold his or her office, and the office shall be considered vacant until filled by a special election to be held within 60 days.
(c) A recall petition shall not be brought against an individual more than once during his or her term of office.
- Subchapter 002: OFFICERS
§ 103-201. Elective officers
(a) The elective officers of the Town shall be seven Select Board members elected from the Town at large at a duly warned annual Town meeting, a Town Clerk, a Treasurer, and a Moderator.
(b) All elective officers shall hold office for a three-year term. The term shall expire the first day of April following the annual Town meeting. (Amended 2003, No. M-7, § 2.)
§ 103-202. Appointive officers
(a) The Select Board members shall annually appoint a Constable and other officers required by law or this charter, including a Board of not less than three nor more than five listers to serve for such terms as the Select Board members decide, but not less than one nor more than five years, such appointments to be made as vacancies occur in the elected Board of Listers.
(b) The Select Board members may create such appointive officers not provided for by this charter or required by law as they deem to be in the best interest of the Town.
§ 103-203. Compensation
(a) Compensation paid to the Select Board members shall be set by the voters at Town meeting.
(b) Subject to subsection (a) of this section, the Select Board shall fix the compensation of all elective officers and of all officers appointed by the Select Board.
(c) The Town Manager, under policies approved by the Select Board, shall fix the compensation of all other officers and employees whose compensation is not fixed by the Select Board pursuant to subsection (b) of this section. (Amended 2019, No. M-8, § 1, eff. June 10, 2019.)
- Subchapter 003: SELECT BOARD
§ 103-301. Select Board; the legislative body
The Select Board shall constitute the legislative body of the Town of Bennington and shall have all powers and authority necessary for the performance of the legislative function. (Amended 2019, No. M-8, § 1, eff. June 10, 2019.)
§ 103-302. Additional powers of Select Board members to adopt ordinances
In addition to powers otherwise conferred by law, the Select Board members are authorized to adopt, amend, repeal, and enforce ordinances:
(1) regulating the parking and operation of motor vehicles; including, despite any contrary provisions of law, the establishment of speed zones wherein the limit is less than 20 miles per hour, all as may be required by the safety and welfare of the inhabitants of the Town;
(2) relating to regulation, licensing, and prohibition of the storage and accumulation of junk cars, garbage, ashes, rubbish, refuse, waste, and scrap and collection, removal, and disposal of such materials;
(3) relating to registration and regulation of bicycles;
(4) relating to the keeping of dogs, cats, and other domestic animals in settled areas.
§ 103-303. Further powers of Select Board members
In addition to powers otherwise conferred by law, the Select Board members shall also have the power to:
(1) organize, and from time to time reorganize, the Fire Department under the supervision of a coordinating committee formed by the Select Board from its members; such Department shall be a volunteer department, unless an affirmative vote of the members of the Fire Department authorizes a transition to a paid or combination paid and volunteer department as set forth in a transition plan proposed by the Select Board working with a committee formed from members of the Fire Department;
(2) continue any existing contract with a volunteer fire department or to enter on behalf of the Town into contracts with other volunteer fire departments to provide additional fire protection to the inhabitants;
(3) create, consolidate, or dissolve departments as necessary or relevant for the performance of municipal services;
(4) create, consolidate, or dissolve commissions and committees as necessary or relevant and appoint the members thereof;
(5) provide on an annual basis an independent audit of all Town financial records by a certified public accountant;
(6) inquire into the conduct of any officer, commission, or department and investigate any and all municipal affairs;
(7) discharge all duties heretofore devolving on the Town Agent by general law and hire attorneys on behalf of the Town; and
(8) establish an adequate number of polling places within the Town as required for the convenience of the Town voters and without regard to election district boundaries, to the end that election expenses may be lessened and confusion among the voters as to the proper place for them to vote may be avoided; however, one such polling place shall be in North Bennington and the central polling place shall be within the boundaries of the former Village of Bennington. (Amended 2019, No. M-8, § 1, eff. June 10, 2019.)
§ 103-304. Organization of Select Board
(a) Forthwith after the annual meeting of the town, the Select Board members shall organize and elect a Chair and Vice Chair.
(b) The Chair of the Board, or, in his or her absence, the Vice Chair, shall preside at all meetings of the Board and such presiding officer shall be a voting member of the Board.
(c) When a vacancy occurs on the Select Board, except as provided in section 104 of this charter, the remaining members may fill the vacancy by appointment of a registered voter of the Town, such appointment to be for the period until the next annual meeting, when the voters of the District shall fill the vacancy.
(d) The Board shall fix the time and place of its regular meetings to be held at least twice a month.
(e) The presence of four members shall constitute a quorum.
- Subchapter 004: TOWN MANAGER
§ 103-401. Appointed by selectors
The Selector Board members shall appoint a Town Manager for an indefinite term and upon such conditions as they may determine.
§ 103-402. Town Manager nonpartisan
(a) The Town Manager shall be chosen solely on the basis of his or her executive, administrative, and professional qualifications.
(b) The Town Manager shall not take part in the organization or direction of a political party, serve as a member of a party committee, nor be a candidate for election to any public office. (Amended 2019, No. M-8, § 1, eff. June 10, 2019.)
§ 103-403. Oath and bond
Before entering upon his or her duties, the Town Manager shall be sworn to the faithful performance of his or her duties by the Town Clerk and shall be bonded in such amount and with such sureties as the Select Board may require. (Amended 2019, No. M-8, § 1, eff. June 10, 2019.)
§ 103-404. Duties for Manager
(a) The Town Manager shall be the Chief Executive Officer of the Town and shall:
(1) Carry out the policies established by the Select Board, to whom the Town Manager shall be accountable.
(2) Attend all meetings of the Select Board, except when his or her compensation or removal is being considered, shall keep the Select Board informed of the financial condition and future needs of the Town, and shall make such other reports as may be required by law, requested by the Select Board, or deemed by him or her to be advisable.
(3) Perform all other duties prescribed by this charter or required by law or by resolution of the Select Board.
(4) Be an ex-officio member of all standing committees except the Development Review Board, and shall not vote.
(5) Prepare an annual budget, submit it to the Select Board, and be responsible for its administration after adoption.
(6) Compile for general distribution at the end of each fiscal year a complete report on the finances and administrative activities of the Town for the year.
(7) Provide to the Select Board a monthly financial statement, with a copy to the Town Treasurer.
(8) Perform all duties now conferred by law on the Road Commissioner within all areas of the Town, except within such villages as may vote not to surrender their charters under this charter, notwithstanding the provisions of 24 V.S.A. § 1236(5).
(9) Perform all duties now conferred by law on the Collector of Delinquent Taxes.
(10) Under policies approved by the Select Board, be the General Purchasing Agent of the Town and purchase all equipment and supplies and contract for services for every department pursuant to the purchasing and bid policies approved by the Select Board.
(11) Be responsible for the system of accounts.
(12) Be responsible for the operation of all departments, including the Police and Fire Departments.
(13) Under policies approved by the Select Board, have exclusive authority to appoint, fix the salaries of, suspend, and remove all officers and employees except those who are elected or who are appointed by the Select Board. When the Town Manager position is vacant, this authority shall be exercised by the Select Board.
(b) The Town Manager may, when advisable or proper, delegate to subordinate officers and employees of the Town any duties conferred upon him or her. (Amended 2019, No. M-8, § 1, eff. June 10, 2019.)
§ 103-405. Compensation
The Town Manager shall receive such compensation as may be fixed by the Select Board. (Amended 2019, No. M-8, § 1, eff. June 10, 2019.)
§ 103-406. Removal
(a) On 90 days' written notice from the Select Board, the Town Manager may be removed without cause by a majority of the Select Board at a meeting called for the purpose of voting on removal. During the 90-day period, the Town Manager may be suspended with pay.
(b) The Select Board may adopt at any time a resolution stating its intention to remove the Town Manager and the reasons therefore, a copy of which shall be sent to the Town Manager. The Town Manager may, within 10 days after such notice is sent, request a hearing. The hearing shall be held by the Select Board not less than 10 days nor more than 20 days from the date of such request, after which the Select Board may dismiss the Town Manager. If no request for a hearing is filed in accordance with the foregoing, the Select Board may dismiss the Town Manager immediately. During the period after the resolution of intention is adopted and until the Town Manager's dismissal, he or she may be suspended with pay. (Amended 2019, No. M-8, § 1, eff. June 10, 2019.)
- Subchapter 005: TAXATION
§ 103-501. Taxes
Taxes shall be assessed by the Town based on the fair market value of real property, in accordance with State law. (Amended 2019, No. M-8, § 1, eff. June 10, 2019.)
§ 103-502. Discounts elimination
At such time as the discounts given on the tax rate to those who do not have water or sewer provided by or available from the Town may be eliminated, all costs of operation, and previously incurred debt, shall be paid from funds established for those purposes and funded by user fees, as may be established from time to time, by the Select Board, and applied against users of water and sewer services only.
§ 103-503. Fair market value of real estate
(a) In the event that the fair market value of real estate is materially changed because of total or partial destruction of or damage to the property, or because of alterations, additions, or other capital improvements, the taxpayer may appeal as provide by law.
(b) When the fair market value of real estate is finally determined by appeal to the Board of Listers or to the Board of Civil Authority, then the value so fixed shall be the fair market value of such real estate for the year in which the appeal is taken.
(c) When the fair market value of real estate is finally determined by the Director of Property Valuation and Review (PVR) or by a court having jurisdiction, then the value so fixed shall be the fair market value of such real estate for the year for which such appeal is taken and for the ensuing two years, unless the taxpayer's property is altered materially, is damaged, or if the Town in which it is located has undergone a complete revaluation of all taxable real estate, in the event of which, such fair market value may be changed. (Amended 2019, No. M-8, § 1, eff. June 10, 2019.)
§ 103-504. Special assessments
Despite any contrary provision in general law, the Select Board may in its sole discretion make a special assessment upon real estate for the installation or construction of a public improvement, such special assessment to be such proportion of the total cost of such improvement as the benefit to a parcel of real estate bears to the total benefit resulting to the public in general. (Amended 2019, No. M-8, § 1, eff. June 10, 2019.)
§ 103-505. Tax within Bennington Rural Fire District No. 1
(a) The tax assessed by the Town on the grand list shall be reduced with respect to real estate in the Bennington Rural Fire District No. 1. This reduction shall be in direct proportion to the amount of the tax assessed by the Town that is used by the Town to provide fire protection services to property not included in the Bennington Rural Fire District No. 1.
(b) The purpose of this section is to make substantially uniform the taxes assessed throughout the Town for fire protection furnished by all fire departments in the Town. This tax reduction shall remain in effect until such time as the Bennington Rural Fire District No. 1 dissolves itself or merges with the Town of Bennington, in accordance with the charter of the Town of Bennington. (Amended 2019, No. M-8, § 1, eff. June 10, 2019.)
§ 103-506. Creation of Bennington Downtown District
There is hereby created in the Town of Bennington a special district to be known as the Bennington Downtown Improvement District (District), which shall be that area set forth on a map approved by the voters of Bennington and filed with the Town Clerk. The area of the District may be changed upon a majority vote of the legal voters at an annual or special meeting duly warned. (Amended 2005, No. M-6, § 2, eff. June 4, 2005.)
§ 103-507. Repealed, 2005, No. M-6, § 6, eff. June 4, 2005.
§ 103-508. Purposes and powers
(a) The District is created for the general purpose of maintaining and improving the economic, social, cultural, and environmental vitality and quality of the Town of Bennington (in particular, the District created by section 506 of this charter); to promote the Town and the District as a regional retail, commercial, and service center; and to serve as an advocate for the orderly development of the District in order to encourage expansion of the retail, commercial, and service base of the District and the Town by attracting new business and investment.
(b) The rights, powers, and duties of the District shall be exercised by the Select Board and shall be broadly construed to accomplish the purposes set forth above and shall include the following:
(1) to advertise and promote the Improvement District;
(2) to represent the interests of the District;
(3) to receive and expend contributions, grants, and income;
(4) to expend funds as provided for in the budget or as otherwise approved;
(5) to manage and maintain public spaces and to assume or supplement the services and maintenance heretofore provided to the District by the Town as recommended to and approved by the Select Board;
(6) to acquire and dispose of property on behalf of the Town;
(7) to install and make public improvements;
(8) to improve, manage, and regulate public parking facilities and vehicular traffic within the District;
(9) to enter into contracts as may be necessary or convenient to carry out the purpose of this charter;
(10) to regulate, lease, license, establish rules and fees, and otherwise manage the use of public spaces within the District;
(11) to plan for the orderly development of the District in cooperation with the Town Planning Commission;
(12) to do all other things necessary or convenient to carry out the purposes for which this District was created. (Amended 2005, No. M-6, § 3, eff. June 4, 2005; 2019, No. M-8, § 1, eff. June 10, 2019.)
§ 103-509. Annual budget
The Town Manager shall submit each year an operating budget of anticipated expenditures and revenues to the Select Board for approval for the next fiscal year. In the event the Select Board does not approve the budget as submitted, the Select Board shall return the budget forthwith to the Town Manager with its recommendations for the Town Manager's reconsideration. Appropriations other than from contributions, grants, and income shall be raised solely through District taxes, which shall be assessed and collected as a tax on property as provided for in section 515 of this charter. The Select Board may borrow money in anticipation of District taxes. (Amended 2005, No. M-6, § 4, eff. June 4, 2005.)
§ 103-510. District taxes
(a) District taxes are charges levied upon the owners of taxable properties located in the District, excepting properties used exclusively for residential purposes, which taxes shall be used to defray the expenses incurred in connection with the operation, maintenance, and repair of the District.
(b) The District tax for each property in the District subject to the tax shall be based upon a rate on each $100.00 of listed value of the property as adjusted under subsection (c) of this section. The tax rate shall be determined by dividing the amount to be raised by taxes, by the total value of the taxable properties on the grand list as adjusted located in the District that are subject to the District tax under this subchapter.
(c) The District tax shall be set by the Select Board upon approval of the budget by the Select Board and notice in writing thereof shall be given to owners of record as of April 1 of each year of property so assessed, or to their agents or attorneys, stating therein the amount of such District taxes, and such taxes shall be due and payable to the Town Treasurer when normal Town and school taxes are due. The Town Treasurer shall collect unpaid District taxes as provided for the collection of taxes in the charter. District taxes shall be a lien on the properties when assessed and until the tax is paid or the lien is otherwise discharged by operation of law.
(d) In the case of any property used for both residential and nonresidential purposes within the District as of April 1, the Board of Listers (Board) shall adjust the listed value for the purposes of determining the District tax under this section to exclude the value of that portion of the property used for residential purposes. The Board shall determine the adjusted grand list value of the business portion of the property and give notice of the same as provided under 32 V.S.A. chapter 131. Any property owner may file a grievance with the Board and appeal the decision of the Board as provided for under 32 V.S.A. chapter 131; however, the filing of an appeal of the determination of the Board and pendency of the appeal shall not vacate the lien on the property assessed, and the District taxes must be paid and continue to be paid as they become due. (Amended 2005, No. M-6, § 5, eff. June 4, 2005.)
§ 103-511. Local option tax
(a) If the Select Board by a majority vote recommends, the voters of the Town may, at an annual or special meeting warned for the purpose, by a majority vote of those present and voting, assess any or all of the following:
(1) a one-percent meals tax;
(2) a one-percent rooms tax;
(3) a one-percent alcoholic beverages tax; or
(4) a one-percent sales tax.
(b) Any local option tax assessed under subsection (a) of this section shall be collected and administered and may be rescinded as provided by the general laws of this State. (Added 2019, No. M-8, § 1, eff. June 10, 2019.)
- Subchapter 006: ZONING
§ 103-601. Repealed. 2019, No. M-8, § 1, eff. June 10, 2019.
§ 103-602. Ordinances of villages not merging
The zoning ordinance in force within any village in the Town shall continue within the control of such village and the officials appointed to administer the same within such village shall continue in office pursuant to law until such time as said village ceases to exist and becomes a part of Town.
§ 103-603. Administration of ordinance of villages that merge
When villages cease to exist pursuant to this charter, the Select Board, Development Review Board, and Administrative Officer shall have jurisdiction of and administer zoning in the village area as a separate zoned area in accordance with the provisions of the ordinance in force therein and the general law. If no Town Administrative Officer or Development Review Board has then been appointed by the Select Board, the Select Board shall make such appointment. (Amended 2019, No. M-8, § 1, eff. June 10, 2019.)
§ 103-604. Comprehensive Town ordinance
When Town officials having charge of zoning acquire jurisdiction of the zoning ordinance in other zoned areas as provided in this section, the ordinances shall be deemed to be part of a general Town zoning ordinance duly and legally enacted in accordance with a comprehensive plan. The general ordinance shall be subject to repeal, amendment, or alteration by the Town. (Amended 2019, No. M-8, § 1, eff. June 10, 2019.)
- Subchapter 007: WATER SYSTEM
§ 103-701. Town powers
The Town may make, alter, and repeal ordinances relating to management, operation, maintenance, replacement, and extension of a Town water system and may fix, and from time to time alter, water rates, insofar as such ordinances and water rates are not in conflict with the deeds of gift to the Village of Bennington and Village of North Bennington.
- Subchapter 008: MISCELLANEOUS
§ 103-801. Severability
If any provision of this charter is for any reason held invalid, such invalidity shall not affect the remaining provision that can be given effect without the invalid provision. To this end, the provisions of this charter are declared to be severable.
§ 103-802. Merger of municipalities within Town
(a) Any municipality with the Town of Bennington that votes to surrender its existing charter and dissolve under this charter shall cease to exist as a corporate body and political entity on the January 1st next succeeding, unless such vote becomes final or after October 1st in any year, in which event the municipality shall cease to exist as a corporate body and political entity on the March 1st next succeeding.
(b) All assets of any municipality that surrender its existing charter or dissolves under this charter shall become the property of the Town of Bennington on the day such municipality ceases to exist under subsection (a) of this section.
(c) All liabilities of any municipality that surrenders its existing charter or dissolves under this charter that are outstanding obligations of such municipality on the day it ceases to exist under subsection (a) of this section, including the bonded indebtedness of such municipality, shall become liabilities of the Town of Bennington on the day such municipality ceases to exist under subsection (a) of this section.
§ 103-803. Method of adoption; time; voting
(a) A majority of the qualified voters of the Village of Old Bennington voting by ballot at a meeting duly warned for the purpose may at any time vote to surrender the charter of said Village and merge with the Town of Bennington under the terms of this charter by voting in the affirmative on an article substantially as follows:
"To determine by ballot whether the Village of Old Bennington will surrender its existing charter and merge with the Town of Bennington under the provisions of 1966 Acts and Resolves No. 83 entitled an Act to Provide a Charter for the Town of Bennington." (b) A majority of the qualified voters of the Village of North Bennington voting by ballot at a meeting duly warned for the purpose may at any time vote to surrender the charter of said Village and merge with the Town of Bennington under the terms of this charter by voting in the affirmative on an article substantially as follows: "To determine by ballot whether the Village of North Bennington will surrender its existing charter and merge with the Town of Bennington under the provisions of 1966 Acts and Resolves No. 83 entitled An Act to Provide a Charter for the Town of Bennington." (c) A majority of the qualified voters of the Bennington Fire District No. 1, voting by ballot at a meeting duly warned for the purpose, may at any time vote to dissolve said Fire District and merge with the Town of Bennington under the terms of this charter by voting in the affirmative on an article substantially as follows: "To determine by ballot whether the Bennington Fire District No. 1 will dissolve and merge with the Town of Bennington under the provisions of 1966 Acts and Resolves No. 83 entitled An Act to Provide a Charter for the Town of Bennington." (d) A meeting to consider an affirmative vote under any of the foregoing sections shall be held only upon petition of not less than five percent of the qualified voters of the municipality filed with the legislative body thereof within 20 days after such affirmative vote requesting a meeting to vote on an article substantially as follows: "To determine by ballot whether the ( insert municipality) will confirm its vote of ( insert date) in favor of 1966 Acts and Resolves No. 83 entitled An Act to Provide a Charter for the Town of Bennington."
(e) If any municipality votes under subsection (d) of this section to reconsider an affirmative vote, such municipality may at any time thereafter hold a meeting in accordance with subsections (a), (b), and (c) of this section to vote again on this charter.
(f) An affirmative vote by any municipality shall become final and conclusive when a petition to reconsider is not filed in accordance with subsection (d) of this section or when a meeting to reconsider is held under subsection (d) of this section and the vote at such a meeting confirms the affirmative vote.
(g) Early Voter Absentee Balloting. Voting by early absentee ballot shall be permitted at any meeting held under this section.
§ 103-804. Notice to Secretary of State
The Clerk of the Town of Bennington shall notify the Secretary of State of the vote of any meeting held under section 803 of this charter within 10 days after the meeting.
§ 103-805. Existing water systems; succession by Town
If the Village of North Bennington ceases to exist in accordance with this subchapter, the Town shall succeed to all the rights, title, interest, privileges, duties, and obligations of said Village under a deed of gift from Laura H. Jennings, dated March 3, 1924.
§ 103-806. Charter Review Committee
At least once every five years, the Select Board shall appoint a Charter Review Committee of not fewer than five nor more than nine members from among the residents of the Town. The Committee shall review the charter and recommend any changes it finds necessary or advisable for the purpose of improving the operation of Town government. The Committee shall prepare a written report of its recommendations in time for those recommendations to be submitted to the Select Board for review no later than one year after the appointment of the Committee. At the discretion of the Select Board, the recommendations may be warned for ballot vote at an annual or special Town meeting to be held no later than one year after the submission of the report. The Select Board shall provide in its budget for any year when a Charter Review Committee is appointed funding for the Committee. (Amended 2019, No. M-8, § 1, eff. June 10, 2019.)