Rumors have swirled in Bridgeville after word got out that the PNC Bank branch there is closing.
The branch is definitely closing, but speculation about veterinary offices, a salon, or even a methadone clinic that have some neighbors concerned are unfounded, according to Town Manager Bethany DeBussy.
"When rumors circulate, the first thing people do is call their commissioner and ask about it," she said, and a lot of those queries are coming from residents near the bank.
"For us that's a pretty big deal," she said of the bank's closing. "We have always had a bank."
PNC corporate spokesperson Marcey Zwiebel confirmed in an email that the Bridgeville branch will close Oct. 15 and combine with the Georgetown branch at 20915 DuPont Boulevard. She said one other PNC site in Delaware, the Greenville branch in Wilmington, will also close, combining with the Talleyville branch.
"There are more ways to bank with PNC than ever before, and we have continued to see our customers taking advantage of the investments we have made in non-branch channels," she wrote, noting those shifts in behavior inform their decisions on consolidating branches. Zwiebel did not say specifically that changing customer habits were behind the Bridgeville branch closure.
On Wednesday afternoon in 90-degree heat, the branch was not crowded, but cars came through the drive thru and at least a couple of people used the ATM or headed inside.
"It's not surprising that banks downsize, that they make a business decision like that," said Tom Carey, Bridgeville commission president and representative for District 4 where the bank is located. "Obviously we want another bank presence in our town. Most of our residents would like to see that and we as commissioners would like to see that as well."
The town has had a bank for almost 100 years, he said, and "we would love to have another bank come in and take over," but PNC owns the building and can decide whom to sell it to.
That said, the town does have control over what goes into the space because of zoning rules, and the town center zone where the bank sits has limited uses. Those include a mix of retail, office and residential uses, per the town code, which lists allowed as examples single family homes or public safety and government buildings.
Plans to put some other business or operation in that spot would need to go through an increasing series of hurdles, including planning and zoning review and eventually a public hearing or even a zoning change.
The downtown zoning would, however, allow the town to go through a process to permit facilities like a veterinary office, day care, museum, library, hospital, or nursing care and similar care facilities, if they are not "detrimental to the use, peaceful enjoyment, economic value, or development of surrounding properties."
Carey said he doesn't think it will get to that point. The residents want a bank and that's what commissioners are going to strive for, he said.
"Not just anything is going to go in there, it's going to be up to us," he said.
What's happening in Bridgeville is part of a nationwide trend. Forbes reported earlier this year that more than 4,400 bank branches in the U.S. closed from 2017 to 2020. Experts point to mobile banking, unprofitable branches and bank mergers as factors.
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