In a major reversal, Utah developer David Hall announced this week that he is selling the properties he has been acquiring for his NewVistas project.
Over the last two years, David Hall, a wealthy engineer inspired by Joseph Smith's writing, was attempting to purchase 5,000 acres in Tunbridge, Royalton, Strafford, and Sharon to implement his NewVistas project, a network of self-contained communities hosting each 20,000 residents. Hall had so far purchased about 1600 acres for a total of close to $6.5 million. But on June 26, after the National Trust for Historic Preservation have placed the four townson their ‘watch status’ list, Hall sent an email to several parties to inquire about a potential buyer who would purchase the land he acquired as a unit.
In an email yesterday, Hall indicated that his decision to sell the land was due to the opposition to his plan that has continued to grow since his ambitious plans first became known in March 2016. “The constant drama has admittedly worn me down,” said Hall.
No permits to develop the properties had been filed with the state over the last two years, nonetheless, opposition from locals has been constant and relentless.
The Alliance for Vermont Communities, a non-profit organization was launched in response to the NewVistas project. Even though the immediate purpose of AVC was to stop the NewVistas Foundation plans, their goal was more broadly defined as “to support a vibrant economy that is of appropriate scale and temperament to our rural heritage and makes use of agricultural, forestry, and recreation opportunities,” explained Michael Sacca, chairman of the board of directors of AVC.
In March 2017, the four towns targeted by the development voted overwhelmingly to oppose NewVistas.
In December 2017, the Upper Valley Land Trust and AVC helped with the transfer of 382 acres of farmland to a local farm, Strafford Organic Creamery.
And in March 2018, State Rep. Tim Briglin, D-Thetford, introduced a resolution calling Hall to abandon his project in Vermont. In March of the same year, John Echeverria, a professor at Vermont Law School and a member of the Alliance for Vermont Communities, wrote a commentary questioning the legality of Hall’s land transfers from the NewVistas Foundation to a private LLC.
Finally, a couple of days ago, on June 10, AVC and the Vermont Land Trust announced that they purchased a 218-acre parcel in the vicinity of Hall’s properties. “I am tired of answering questions and prefer to focus on the hundreds of innovations that are needed [...] before a NewVistas community would be possible,” said Hall in an email. “The overreaction has gone way too far and so I have decided to go ahead and do what they want and exit,” he added.
In a phone interview, Sacca said “it’s freeing news,” to learn about Hall’s plan to abandon the project for the region, but he was concerned about what will happen to the 1600 acres of land. As for the future of AVC, Sacca said that they "have been working on several projects in the region, hoping that this day will come eventually." He added that not focusing on opposing NewVistas will free up time for the board to focus on creating more opportunities for the region.
Hall hopes to sell the properties as one large transaction, “hopefully some large investment or land trust group is able to put together a reasonable offer,’ he said. The land has been posted for sale on his website.
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