The response to my original article on the NewVista project has gone beyond anything I could have imagined. Over 11,000 people read the story, and you couldn’t go in Sharon, Strafford, Royalton, and Tunbridge without hearing glimpses of conversation about the NewVista Foundation.
Two days after I released my post, the story was on the front page of Valley News and The Herald. Royalton Community Radio had a segment on Vermont GreenZine with Henry Swayze & Todd Tyson, with David R. Hall answering their questions live on the phone.
David R. Hall’s response to people’s concerns
After reading all the comments, and seeing the response this article has generated, I was a little bit reluctant to open the follow-up email from Mr. Hall. I shared with him some readers’ opinions and fears about this project. A lot of people wrote about their concerns such a big scale project would have on all aspects of these small communities.
“One of the objectives of the foundation would be to preserve existing historic townships and restoring buildings”, reassured Mr. Hall. “The new sustainable community would be built around existing townships but not for a long time and in complete harmony with the existing small villages.”
He repeated that the project will take years to be completed. “The prototyping and early stage development will take place at our 150 acre research campus in Provo Utah where our engineers are located”, he added.
“Our only plans for next many many years is to purchase property as it becomes available at a good price and take real good care of the land. We will improve the properties but won't be building any new facilities. We hope to rent any homes that are in the land to people that are involved with the local colleges”, he said.
A potential link to Royalton Farms?
There were a few comments that surfaced on facebook discussions about Royalton Farms, comparing the NewVista and Royalton Farms acquisitions.
Royalton Farms is an LLC registered to Fraser Walsh, a resident of Winchester, MA. Royalton Farms specializes in “exceptional beef and pork without sacrificing the land, animals, or workers during production.”. Starting in 2011, Mr. Walsh also bought several other properties in Royalton under a different LLC, 151 Railroad Street LLC. When all those purchases happened, people in town were very concerned about the quantity of parcels and farms being bought.
Like Mr. Hall, Mr. Walsh bought a lot of properties in Royalton near the Joseph Smith Memorial, Tunbridge, and Sharon. After researching the parcels Mr. Walsh owns, I could see why some people thought Mr. Walsh might be behind this project.
And lastly, a quick google search revealed that Mr. Walsh has written 5 patents for Schlumberger, the company which acquired Novatek, Mr. Hall’s company.
I pointed those similarities to Mr. Hall, asking if Royalton Farms was part of the NewVista project. “I am aware of Royalton Farms,” said Mr. Hall, ”and have met with Fraser but we are not connected except that we both love Vermont and are active in preserving and improving the land and the environment.”
Mr. Walsh was contacted for details but could not be reached for comments before publication.
Reactions from the community
The news spread like wildfire through the 4 towns. I immediately started receiving numerous text messages, phone calls, and many comments on the posts on Facebook from concerned citizens.
People approached me to share their concerns. Randy Leavitt, a concerned citizen from Royalton, started a facebook group, ‘Stop the “NewVista” project’. Some people on the Tunbridge facebook group have proposed changes to the current zoning in Tunbridge.
The majority of the comments were negative, here are a few of them:
Randy Leavitt, a concerned citizen of Royalton, wrote on his facebook page: “Our town will never recover if this happens. It would only take 1000 new, like-minded people to overcome our town government positions, take over our legislative office, and basically rule from the top of Dairy Hill. And they are talking about tens of thousands, And it will not be local people filling this "New Zion," they will be like-minded and carefully chosen people with a mission. This is an invasion and the man doing it wants to be the King!”
Ben Wolfe, a concerned citizen of Tunbridge, wrote in an email: I want to say this has really good intentions, but I am really pretty frightened, particularly because contact with the local communities and their governing bodies was not considered important by those starting the project. "
Sally H. writes on dailyUV.com: “How do you feel about Act 250 now? I for one am breathing a sigh of relief that we have that protection in place (it was born of exactly this sort of development threat in 1970). That, and maybe these 15-20,000 new residents will try to drive up any of our dirt roads in March... Moving to Vermont is a lovely idea, but actually surviving here economically is not for the fainthearted.”
If you have any information, questions, or comments, please share them with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I also write about other subjects, and will continue posting more updates as this story unfolds. You can sign up for email updates HERE.