Tunbridge Forum on NewVista Project, Brings Large Crowd
Saturday, April 2, 2016
This post is a continuation of the NewVista project coverage. You can find the first article here, and the follow-up here.It was hard to find a parking spot near the Tunbridge library, on this Thursday night. A large crowd gathered to share their concerns about the NewVista project, with David R. Hall answering questions on the phone.
Mr. Hall answered all the questions people had, during the two and a half hour forum.
Here are a few of the many questions from the community, with Mr. Hall’s answers:
What happens to our community in the near future
(click on link to hear the audio file): Kyle Milaschewski
Kyle Milaschewski from Sharon asked "I am also an engineer in a similar industry. You just purchased the land behind me, the 150 acres (...) My question is based on the failure of this project. I'm gonna assume under Act 250 that you are not going to be able to develop. It's pretty much obvious it's not going to be possible under that Act. So what's going to happen to this land once you can't develop it? You are buying land to be taken out of the state by not local landowners. So it's going to turn into a rental market. and it appears to me that it's gonna stagger the economy because it will not allow young people like myself to come and purchase land. So what are you going do with this land once Act 250 crushes your development?"
Mr. Hall: " I haven't thought of that yet. So that will be something the foundation will have to face at some point in time. And probably is beyond my life period" adding that this development is not going to happen in the near future.
Mr. Milaschewski: "So what are you going to do in the meantime, then, if you have hundreds of acres that are purchased up. Your plan is 25-50 years off, what about now?
Mr. Hall " Well, what we are doing, what we found was when we purchased land, that the forestry management of it hasn't been as good as it should be, but we've already acquired services from experts to figure out the best way to manage the land for the long term. Part of our plan is to figure better ways to do agriculture in small spaces, so we'll probably work with somebody who can do some research in that area. we will of course rent. Unfortunately, the homes on all these small parcels are urban sprawl to the worst degree. You've got homes on 450 acres, you have one home on 100 acres,
Mr Milaschewski :"That's rural, That's not urban sprawl, that's rural land."
Mr. Hall "That's urban sprawl. Ok, anyway, most homes, they are nice homes. We are going to be renting them to people who live in the area and participate. Most of the people that we found who want to rent are people who are working at the colleges and schools and stuff like that, and can't afford to buy one of these lands.The price is very high for these homes, because of all the land. So they can't afford to buy it.
Specific questions about the project and its impact on the water
Kyle Milaschewski asked about water, voicing his concerns about runoffs in a community of 15-20,000 people, and what impact it will have on the water.
Hall said: "If you go to my foundation website you'll find that we have a group of engineers working on that and yes, it is a big problem and it has to be solved, and I think we have good solutions for it.”
A concerned local farmer voices her concerns
Suzanne Long: “I can't say I disagree with some of your ideas and goals. However, when you talk about going from buying parcels of the land right here in these four towns to the highly developed sustainable community, that's a huge leap. My concern is, and I think people have asked along the way, how are you going to go from here to there. And what we are trying to ask you, is how is this going to affect us? [...] I am a farmer, I farm on about 5 acres, of vegetables production and then we graze other lands. I have a daughter who is interested to farm, and we also have people who work with us who gain skills and are interested to farm. When 1/20th of the land is taken out of land in this area, it becomes unavailable what is the prospect for my daughter to also be able to farm, and continue that tradition?
Mr. Hall "Why would it be unavailable?
Mrs. Long "You know, when someone is offering large amount of money for land, it makes it harder for someone else to compete. in the meantime, in this 20-30-40-50 years, do you have any idea how you might be affecting the local land economy?”
Mr. Hall" We are hoping we can do is lease the land to local people for sugaring or for farming. You would lease the land for far less than buying.
In a follow-up email, Mr. Hall said “Leasing land will always be easier and cheaper for local people and that is certainly something the foundation will be interested in. We already know we will lose money leasing the homes out and so why not lease land to local farmers at a rate that is economical for them.“
People voicing their concerns
Randy Leavitt: "I am a seventh generation Vermonter, I have grandchildren who live here and will be here way past the demise of this project. My question is I've read a lot of your paperwork, and it doesn't say anything about me or my grandchildren. It's all about you and people who don't even live here now. So I feel like this is a bomb that is going to land on us and destroy what we have built up over the last 200 years here. And I think that you not talking about it to us first, before you purchased the properties and have your 150 engineers working on this thing, to make this place better that we have now, is ludicrous. I don't really have a question, it's a statement."
Implementation of the project
Ben Wolfe rephrased Mr. Leavitt’s statement and asked Mr. Hall to elaborate about other possible locations for implementing the NewVista project, asking if Vermont is the only location where Mr. Hall is planning to implement his project.
Mr. Hall: "[Vermont] is not the focus at all. So the research that we are doing will be focused in my reasearch center in Provo Utah, for the next 25-30 years, the rest of my life. Than we have more sites in Provo Utah, Eureka Utah, Nevada, 4 we are looking at in China, there are several in India, there is one in Bhutan, so the community development will happen elsewhere, far before we ever get to Vermont. Because we know that something like this will never happen unless the people want it.
Timeline for the project in Vermont
Ben Wolfe: "It sounds like you are still uncertain about how thing will unfold. Suppose there would be no legal hurdles, if it was just development work and research, no resistance from the community. What would your natural timeline be, if you had complete freedom?
Hall: "Within 10 years, I hope to have a complete district of a thousand people with a one public building completed here in Provo, so that people can take a look at it, look at the technology, see what they like, what they don't like, and then we iterate. We change things, we iterate back and forth, until we perfect things. Within 15 years, I hope to do multiple district throughout the US in different places. And then by 20 years from now, I hope to have one community going, looking at multiple places, but that wasn't Vermont. Vermont was never in my initial plan for getting communities going."
A resident of Chelsea asked: “Is this going to be a tax-exempt corporation?”
Mr. Hall: "So the trust is a for-profit trust, and pays taxes, just like any for profit corporations. I personally am against any tax exemption even for schools and churches and everything. I just think that puts the burden on other people, so there is absolutely no plans, we will pay taxes.”
Layout of the project:
Ingrid, a Tunbridge resident, asked about where the 5000 acres are going to be purchased, because as of right now, the properties are not contiguous, and some are far from each other.
Mr. Hall : "We have a lot of landowners who are trying to accelerate our purchases because they want to sell now. [...] But we have a budget for each year, so what we will probably end up doing is purchasing a litle bit of land each year, for the next 30 years. Until we are finally up to 5000 acres. It’s likely that there will be a few parcels that we are never able to buy. The community is designed to be able to go around areas” he said. He also added that the plans are very flexible going up and down mountains. “In Bhutan we are doing a plan for a community that’s on 30% slopes.”
Impact on local towns governance
Ben Wolfe formulated Randy Levitt's question, who asked about the impact this large community would have on local town governance.
Mr. Hall "Don't hold me to this, because I don't know how it's gonna fly. The community itself would be a separate township, but the problem with that, well, as the townships change, that will create issues in itself. So all these issues have to be resolved or the support from the community will never materialize."
Ben Wolfe rephrased Eve Ermer’s question: "How active do you see yourself in changing the law [Act 250]?”
"Well, a great attribute of Act 250, which is perfect for this kind of a community long term, is that it's a process in place that you have to go through, in order to get something through. And that keeps willy nilly development from happening. And that's great. This is not something that will fly by night. This is a very long term, that will be thought through carefully.”
He added: "Act 250 can enable it, act 250 doesn't prevent development, it's just a process in place for development to happen. It usually discourages the Walmart and stuff like that from ever happening because they will not go through the long process to make sure it's done right"
Eve Ermer asked if lobbying was part of the plan, specifically referring to Act 250.
Mr. Hall "Lobby is a funny word, I am not going to hire a bunch of lobbyist. You figure out what the best laws are, and then you work with the legislators and the people to try to get those changes made. And that will definitely happen over time. But like I say, from my point of view right now, Act 250 enables me, it’s not going to stop me. It actually is the thing that enables this possibility "
Michael Sacca: "You have mentioned a couple of times that you wouldn't be interested in going forward with this if the local people weren't interested, is that right?"
Mr. Hall :"that's right, it's not going to happen if people of Vermont don't want it.”
Mr. Sacca: “I would suggest that instead of buying any more land that you and your family and whoever come here and meet the people and find out what we are like, and what we want, and what we don't want
Mr. Hall: "I already know that the local people don't want this. In time, overtime, people will probably like it if they understand it. There is not one place in the United States, or even in the world where local people ever would embrace change. That's just the logical truth.”
Mr. Sacca" I assume you are local to someplace?”
Mr. Hall: "Yes I am”
Mr. Sacca: “What do you think about changes in your neighborhood?
Mr. Hall: "I am a much broader-thinking person than most people. Others aren't. You can't compare what I would think with. My neighbors hate this idea. So I can't do anything about that."
Mr. Sacca: "I might suggest that before you buy anymore properties, if you say that you are not going forward if the locals aren't for it, then why would you continue buying more properties. What about a study?”
Mr. Hall: “I didn't say I wouldn't do it if the locals aren't for it. I said I won't do it if VERMONT is not for it. (...) It's not rational to expect a local person who is established, a 7th generation or something, to ever support this. That's unreasonable. "
Mr. Hall added: "If I surveyed the people in Sharon, the majority of the people would be opposed." He added, “local people will never be for this"
Feeding the world
Kyle Milaschewski asked a third question: “Vermont has worked very hard over the last 30 years to create a network of farm-to-table, where we are in close cooperation with our farmers, so the food doesn't leave the local area, it goes directly to the COOPs, we sell CSA to each other so we can walk down the road and get it from the farms. To feed our families. We already do a lot of the things you are suggesting. So why do you think that NewVista could do better than what we already have?”
Mr. Hall: "It's still not the productivity that's needed in order to generate the food that is necessary for feeding 20000 people on only 3 sq miles.”
Mr. Milaschewski: "But we don't have 20,000 people here. Montpelier, our capital is 20,000 people, Burlington our largest city is only 40,000. You are trying to produce a city that is bigger than our capital in an area that already has sustainable living"
Mr. Hall: "no,[...] that's not sustainable worldwide.”
Mr. Milaschewski: "We are not the world, we are Vermont.”
Hall: "There are 7 billion people in the world, and I guarantee you they want the same standard of living.”
Future forums and meetings
Mr Hall is planning 4 trips to Vermont this summer. He plans to visit and talk to people about his plans. His daughter will be here for 3 months and will be available for talks.
But Mr. Hall doesn’t think he needs to meet with local officials at this point.
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.