Utah millionaire David Hall has decided not to pursue his vision for a high-tech sustainable community in the Sharon area after local opponents mounted vigorous opposition to the plan. Hall said he plans to sell the Vermont property he owns as soon as he can.
“I won’t pursue my dream there, and so I’ll exit as it’s possible,” Hall said in an interview with Seven Days Wednesday. Valley News first reported that he was abandoning the plan.
Residents quickly objected after Hall purchased hundreds of acres in Tunbridge, Royalton, Strafford and Sharon. He explained to residents in 2016 that the goal of his NewVistas Foundation is to build a new type of community based on sustainability and a minimal carbon footprint. His vision was inspired by a historic document drafted by Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon religion.
He said he never even applied for a permit to implement the plan, and local opponents didn’t take the time to hear him out.
“People were certainly a lot more dramatic than they needed to be,” Hall said. “There was very little discussion — hardly any at all — as to the merits or non-merits of the NewVistas approach. There was very little understanding as to what the real objective of the NewVistas was.”
The Mormon engineer still plans to implement his vision for sustainable communities, but not near the South Royalton birthplace of Smith.
Hall said he decided to give up on his plans Tuesday when the National Trust for Historic Preservation put the four towns affected by his plan on “watch status,” meaning their historic nature is being threatened.
“I thought, you know, that really was genius,” Hall said. “What [opponents] managed to do is turn every rock wall into a historic site in the area. So how do you overcome that?”
Hall repeatedly expressed awe at the intensity of the opposition, and said he doesn’t want to be involved in an acrimonious legal battle for decades.
“I think it’s best for me to move on and move out,” he said.
Kevin Ellis, a Montpelier lobbyist who briefly served as a paid spokesman for Hall last year, said he was disappointed that Vermonters were so hostile to Hall's plan.
“Any time a guy with millions and millions of dollars comes into a community and says exactly what Vermont environmentalists have been saying for 50 years — we need to get out of our cars, live in clustered living arrangements, and allow the surrounding farm and forestland to sequester carbon — I think you should listen to him and engage him in a discussion,” Ellis said.