Warnings Include Anti-NewVistas Article

Resolutions Sought in Royalton, Sharon, Strafford, Tunbridge

Alliance for Vermont Communities President Michael Sacca gives remarks at the Royalton bandstand during a September rally. (Herald File / Katie Jickling)

A non-binding resolution to oppose the large NewVistas development plans has been added to the Town Meeting warnings for the towns of Royalton, Sharon, Tunbridge, and Stafford.

The resolutions uniformly ask if the voters of the towns affected “shall… oppose the NewVistas development.”

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The additions to the agenda are being advanced by the Alliance for Vermont Communities (AVC), a group whose raison d’être is the defeat of Utah developer David R. Hall’s project that envisions 5,000 acres of development at the intersections of the Royalton, Sharon, Tunbridge, and Strafford town lines.

“Our goal is three-fold,” said AVC Board President Michael Sacca when asked about the slate of resolutions, “to send a loud and clear message to the legislature and the Governor that we don’t want this in our communities,” he said.

“We also want to tell our neighbors that they’re not the only ones who are opposed to this,” said Sacca.

The resolutions were added to the Town Meeting agendas during the first week of February, follow- ing successful AVC efforts to circulate petitions and gather the required signatures. Three of the four selectboards approved the addition to the Town Meeting agenda unanimously.

A Question of Scale

Opposition to the proposed development has been steadily growing since several large land purchases were discovered in the area surrounding the Joseph Smith birthplace last spring.

During a meeting at BALE in South Royalton last week, about a dozen community members expressed concern about the scale of the proposed development.

“I don’t want a million people or even 20,000 living over the next hill,” said one man, as others expressed concern that such a large influx of residents would functionally take over local government or over-burden local fire departments and EMS services.

“It would destroy our towns,” said Sacca, during a presentation that outlined concerns regarding local water quality, wildlife, light, and noise pollution.

“We’re not against development,” said Sacca addressing the small crowd, “we just want something that makes sense for our communities,” he said.

“I think it’s really hard to speculate about something that’s so far in the future,” said Kevin Ellis of Ellis Mills Public Affairs, a firm handling public relations for Hall. “It’s a mistake to think this is happening in the next 2, 5, or 10 years,” he said.

“My thought goes back to how are we going to live in a climate-changed world? To cut ourselves off seems shortsighted,” said Ellis. “If people are concerned about it, let’s get together and talk about it. Let’s talk more, not less,” he said.

When asked by The Herald about AVC’s accusations of “greenwashing,” a PR technique of misleadingly characterizing a project as environmentally friendly, Ellis pointed to previous development in the area that fell short of sustainable development goals.

“We don’t seem to protest our land development over the past 50 years that sucks the life out of our downtowns,” he said. “We all give a pass to those developments that are really damaging, whether it’s big box stores or Dollar Generals on the outskirts of every town,” he said.

“David Hall is a man who has an idea that he wants to talk about.”

When asked if the possible passage of the resolutions would change or affect Mr. Hall’s development plans, Mr. Ellis responded with a resolute “No.”

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