Business & Economy

Man with a Mormon plan

David R Hall
David R Hall, the founder of NewVistas. Photo by Anne Galloway/VTDigger
David R. Hall has a plan, and he’s done the math.

The wealthy Mormon engineer says he wants to build 20 “sustainable” megalopolises in Vermont, starting with 1 million people in the Upper Valley, where he has bought land around a sacred site of the Latter-day Saints in the tiny town of Sharon.

By his calculation, about 20 million people could fit in Vermont.

Hall calls the project NewVistas, and while he insists it is not sanctioned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or limited to the church’s members, the religious overtones are hard to ignore. Ground zero for the project is the birthplace of Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon church. The NewVistas communities would have a governance structure similar to the Latter-day Saints hierarchy. And the land use design comes from a blueprint for ideal communities devised by Smith, called the “Plat of Zion.”

Hall, a former Mormon bishop, told a regional planning commission in Woodstock last week that he wants to apply Smith’s land use blueprint to the Vermont landscape.

Joseph Smith's "Plat of Zion"
Joseph Smith’s “Plat of Zion.” Image from NewVistas

“In my crazy mind, two-thirds of Vermont would be wilderness and one-third would be the farms that are occupied, and you’d have 20 million people in Vermont,” Hall told the commission, hitting his hand on the table to punctuate his remarks. “That’s a crazy idea. But that’s what I can lay out. You’ve got all these people who need a better place. Vermont’s a great place, but we want to do it right. We need more wilderness. What I think we should do through our planning is have land set aside for the wilderness and have other land set aside where the people go.”

The “Plat of Zion” is made up of a series of interconnected diamonds that are broken up into square units designated for planned development, “hinterlands” for grazing animals and wilderness. NewVistas would superimpose the plat on Vermont’s mountainous topography.

The governance stucture is also highly regimented. The NewVistas communities would be privately held corporations, and members must hand over assets to join.

Hall’s vision isn’t limited to Vermont. He writes in a 23-page description of NewVistas, since removed from his website, that he wants to develop communities in China, Bhutan and India and all of the world’s people can be “housed sustainably in 7,000 NewVistas” that would occupy 1 million square miles, “or 10 percent of the Earth’s arable land.”

While the 69-year-old businessman from Provo, Utah, says his vision for sustainable communities won’t be realized in his lifetime, he sees NewVistas as a “quest,” and he’s getting started now, with the launch of one of the first communities near the Joseph Smith monument. A similar development is underway in Provo.

NewVistas rendering of Joseph Smith's "Plat of Zion"
NewVistas rendering of Joseph Smith’s “Plat of Zion”

Hall has purchased 15 properties in Sharon and the neighboring towns of Tunbridge, Royalton and Strafford. The current population of the four towns is roughly 4,500; Hall’s community would add 20,000 residents to the area. Eventually, Hall envisions a megalopolis of 1 million people in the Upper Valley that would be divided into 50 units of 20,000 people occupying 2.88 square miles.

And he has the money to buy more land. Hall told the Valley News he invested $100 million in 25 businesses owned by NewVistas. One of the companies has devised a toilet with medical sensors. Hall says he will spend about $2 million a year in proceeds from the company profits to purchase property over time in Vermont, but in the past seven months he’s already spent about $4 million on the 1,500 acres in Vermont, according to research from local opponents. His goal is to create a contiguous parcel of 5,000 acres.

NewVistas rendering of Joseph Smith's "Plat of Zion"
NewVistas rendering of Joseph Smith’s “Plat of Zion”

Many locals are outraged by the potential impact Hall’s proposal could have on the region’s 19th-century villages and bucolic, hilly landscape. Hall met virulent opposition from several residents at a meeting with the Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Planning Commission held Thursday as part of a three-day public relations swing through the Upper Valley orchestrated by Kevin Ellis, a lobbyist with Ellis-Mills.

One of those locals is Gus Speth, a Strafford resident and veteran of the environmental movement who founded the Natural Resources Defense Council.

At the planning commission meeting, Speth said Hall’s first mistake was selecting Strafford, Sharon, Royalton and Tunbridge as the center for his experiment in “social engineering.”

“It’s going to destroy this community,” Speth said. “It’s the biggest existential threat to this area that I can imagine, and that leads to the second mistake. You have landed in a field of warriors, and the people who live here are willing to fight every step of the way to be sure this doesn’t come to fruition.”

Speth suggested that before Hall spends an enormous amount of time and money and ends up with nothing but “a bucket of embarrassment,” he should pull out and put the project somewhere else.

“We are going to fight, and we have the tools to fight, and we are going to get the resources to fight, and in the end it’s not going to happen,” Speth continued. “It’s not going to happen, Mr. Hall. Not here.”

Hall was undeterred by Speth’s impassioned speech and explained in an exasperated tone that he doesn’t intend the Vermont project to happen until several other communities are running and the system “is proven ecologically superior.” He believes that Vermonters “who want to be ecologically correct and advanced would approve of it.”

“I have enough confidence it’s going to happen eventually that I’m willing to spend the money to start consolidating some land now since it will take a generation to do and possibly more,” Hall said. “So I apologize that I have such great confidence in it, but I personally think eventually the people of Vermont will ask for it.”

Speth later said it appeared Hall was making the project sound as though it was way out in the future “in order to lull people into thinking that this is a remote thing that’s not going to happen when you seem to be moving as fast as you can.” He pointed to Hall’s hiring of Ellis, the land purchases and discussions with political leaders as evidence that the project is “going full steam ahead.” Hall has hired six contractors in the region to negotiate land purchases and address legal, accounting and permitting issues.

“You’ll have to trust me on that,” Hall said in reply. “I will need to do all of the things necessary to get people educated and slowly over time get people to like the project. It’s not going to happen overnight.”

Land Purchases by New Vistas
Land Purchases by New Vistas

The engineer from Provo

David Richard Hall comes from a family of devout Utah Mormons. Growing up, his family lived for a while in Schenectady, New York, where his father, H. Tracy Hall, a physical chemist, worked for General Electric. The family often traveled to Vermont to visit the Joseph Smith Birthplace Memorial in Sharon, and Hall has fond memories of tenting excursions at Camp Joseph. Hall has six siblings.

“I don’t view myself as an outsider,” Hall says.

In 1954, while at GE, Tracy Hall invented a process for creating synthetic diamonds by subjecting carbon to hydraulic pressure and extreme temperatures. In 1960, he was granted a patent for the method. He later founded an industrial diamond manufacturing company, MegaDiamond, which became Novatek International, specializing in diamond drill bits for the oil industry. Tracy Hall died in 2008.

Under David R. Hall’s leadership, Novatek, based in Provo, has continued to develop new technologies and claims to have a portfolio of more than 600 patents. Schlumberger Drilling Group purchased Novatek in September for an undisclosed sum.

While David Hall says his wealth is derived from the fossil fuel industry, he now wants to curb carbon emissions through the development of sustainable communities. A month after he sold Novatek, Hall began quietly purchasing land in the Upper Valley through the NewVistas Foundation, a nonprofit organization formed in March 2015. Nicole Antal, the Sharon library director, discovered the NewVistas purchases as she went through a listing of recent real estate sales and blogged about it for DailyUV.com in March.

Hall is also purchasing homes in the neighborhoods of Spring Hill and Pleasant View, a neighborhood of Provo that is near Brigham Young University, to create a prototype for NewVistas in Utah.

Nicole Antal
Nicole Antal, the Sharon library director who discovered the Upper Valley land purchases made by NewVistas. Courtesy photo

An engineer by trade, Hall likes to describe the details of the NewVistas project. In conversations with the Valley News editorial board, an interview with VTDigger and the planning commission meeting, he talked about greenhouses “more efficient than solar cells” that will be atop the roofs of 24 buildings, each 60,000 square feet, that he plans to build for the NewVistas community in Vermont. He explained that 1,200 acres would be devoted to the community, farmland and “hinterlands” for pasture, and the remaining 3,800 acres for wilderness.

His vision for how the community would function is even more regimented. Every member would be expected to live by strict rules imposed by a for-profit corporation that would be run by a select group of people.

People skills, he admits, are not his forte. Though Hall has served twice as a bishop in the Mormon church — once for a three-year stint overseeing 300 young people between the ages 18 and 30, and for a five-year period providing guidance for the same number of people in his local neighborhood — he said he was uncomfortable with the role. Hall was expected to counsel people in the congregation and said he was “dealing with the soap operas of life” — poverty, divorce, neighborhood disputes, troubled children.

When he described his experience as a 19-year-old missionary in Moonie, Australia, he talked about how frustrating it was to try to persuade men in the oilfields that they shouldn’t be boozing and taking comfort in prostitutes. “Here I am trying to teach them,” Hall recalled. “You learn to be confident. Talk about rejection.”

Hall said the oil rigs were placed 40 acres apart, and the men had to move from one rig to the next and work for short stints. The nature of the work, he believed, was wrecking families. “It wasn’t just an environmental disaster, it was a personal disaster (for the men),” he said. Instead of attempting to counsel them, he came up with an engineering solution: He believed a diamond drill bit that could tap a larger area of oil deposits would enable the men to work in one place from a permanent drill rig for extended periods.

Like his solution for the oil men in Mooney, Hall says the NewVistas project will re-engineer society. New technology and highly organized, planned communities, he believes, will enable people to lower the impact of their carbon footprint on the Earth.

A corporate community

NewVistas is as much of a sustainability experiment as it is a social experiment. The project is a private, for-profit entity that acts more like a corporation than a municipal government, according to documents obtained by VTDigger. Fees that look like taxes would be collected, and the corporation would control land use, transportation and the community environment.

And in stark contrast to the New England tradition of community participation in local school boards, selectboards and town meeting, the NewVistas communities would be “nonpolitical.” In other words, voting isn’t an option.

As Hall put it in a white paper about the project, “a private solution is the only kind of solution available to private persons who want to offer genuine solutions to environmental and social challenges.”

“The kind of hands-­on management that is likely to be required to achieve complete sustainability is very hard to achieve in a political system,” Hall wrote. “The whole point is that NewVista is not a political system of any kind and should not be interpreted as doing anything in a political vein, neither tossing aside or enhancing rights or freedoms, because political rights and freedoms are preserved (or not) by broader social systems outside of NewVista, and all of those will remain in place and unaffected by anything done within the NewVista econosystem.”

While you don’t have to be Mormon to join one of Hall’s communities, you do have to be willing to sell your assets and invest all your money in the corporation. The investment will generate an annual return of 12 percent, Hall says.

Joseph Smith monument
Joseph Smith monument. Photo by Anne Galloway/VTDigger

Instead of owning cars and houses, members of NewVistas would lease housing and rent vehicles as needed. Those who don’t have assets to sell or cash to invest in the pool of community capital can join NewVistas by becoming employees of one of the 1,000 or so businesses created by entrepreneurs in the community, Hall told VTDigger.

There would be no public education, only privately run schools would be allowed in NewVistas. No Mormon temple would be constructed; each community building would have spaces for religious gatherings.

The governance structure is similar to the Mormon church hierarchy, in which a small group controls the activities of thousands of people. There would be six trustees that are part of a self-perpetuating board that would appoint “presidencies and vice presidencies.” Women could serve in leadership positions with their husbands, or solo.

Each of the 24 community structures represents a governance district with its own house captain that is subject to decisions made higher up the leadership food chain.

Hall said in an interview with VTDigger that the governance structure is based on a matrix that allows 30 percent of the members to participate in leadership. The members of the community would be divided into four demographic groups: husbands and wives, single men and single women. All four groups would meet separately by gender. Lesbians, gays and transgender men and women would be allowed to join NewVistas.

Members of the community must make a commitment to shrinking their carbon footprint by 90 percent, Hall said. That means living in a communal environment with no more than 200 square feet of space per person. And limiting personal consumption by eating no red meat or sugar, and drinking no alcohol. Vegetables would be grown in rooftop greenhouses, and animals would graze in the “hinterlands” around the community.

Sacrificing a certain amount of privacy is also a prerequisite for families. The proposed housing plan is based on a townhouse model that is one rod (a biblical unit of measure), or 16.5 feet wide. Each communal living space is a “system” that with the push of a button can be converted into a dining room, living room or bedroom.

The tradeoff? Private bathrooms for each person, access to NBA-size basketball courts and Olympic swimming pools, and food grown on the premises. Manufacturing, commercial operations and community centers would be located adjacent to housing. Greenhouses would be on rooftops, instead of solar panes. Natural gas would be used as fuel, although there is no pipeline currently on the eastern side of the state.

Hall envisions a walkable community with three- to four-story buildings. “It’s better for people to live together, rather than living separately,” he said.

The corporation has a nesting doll structure with three different interrelated entities, including The NewVista Trust, NewVista Property Holdings, LLC, and NewVista Capital, LLC. The trust owns the assets of the company, the holdings group provides goods and services to NewVista businesses, and the capital group has a corporate structure with a CEO, CFO, COO and a culture-education presidency that oversees vocational training and all primary, secondary and higher education.

NewVistas would face a gauntlet of zoning and permitting hurdles, local and state because the proposal mixes industrial and commercial development with residential development. No plans have been submitted to local officials for permitting, and until that happens, Peter Gregory, executive director of the Two Rivers-Ottaquechee Regional Planning Commission, says his group won’t take a stance on the proposal.

Hall describes Vermont’s zoning “as a real curse.”

Despite the appeal of the NewVistas sustainable housing plan, local leaders have already taken umbrage at the way Hall has approached municipal and regional government in Vermont.

Rep. Jim Masland, D-Thetford, who at the planning commission meeting grilled Hall on the land-use and governance structure of the community, said NewVistas appears to be based on the teachings of Joseph Smith, and the community Hall is proposing, isn’t a community at all, but a corporation in which trustees direct what happens, and people who don’t feel comfortable can be asked to leave.

“It’s antithetical to what we do here,” Masland said. “It’s bizarre and fascinating. I can’t imagine how he thinks Vermonters will get with the program.”

Another Democrat in the House, Tim Briglin, is also skeptical.

“I don’t know much about engineering, but I am a student of history,” Briglin said. “For thousands of years, utopian, centrally-planned solutions like Mr. Hall’s NewVista have ended badly for innocent bystanders. I think Vermonters are drawn to humility and repelled by hubris. NewVista is an idea built on a foundation of hubris.”

DISCLOSURE: Kevin Ellis is a board member of the Vermont Journalism Trust. VTDigger is a subsidiary of the trust and maintains editorial independence.

CORRECTION: Hall is purchasing homes in the Spring Hill and Pleasantview neighborhoods of Provo.



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Anne Galloway

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  • Bill Peberdy

    David Hall seems determined and appears to have enough resources to attempt to impose his vision on Vermont.
    But I wonder about a man known to have few people skills and uncomfortable with the “soap operas” of life designing err make that engineered what he believes will be an ideal densely populated community.

    What could this man, with all the money in the world and few “people skills” have possibly overlooked ?

    • It was unnecessary for him to say that he lacks “people skills.” That much is apparent from his total misunderstanding of what would happen to civil society if that many people were crammed together
      in so little space, with no political outlet and variety completely excluded from their rigidly planned, essentially identical lives.

      It would be like a lab experiment run amok.

      • Julia Purdy

        Not to mention in a place like Vermont, that wears independence and individualism on its sleeve.

  • Tom Bisson

    I wish David Hall well. If Vermont is to grow, it must consider how to build sustainable and denser communities. Those who choose to live in rural areas can still do that. Those who wish to sell their land are free to do that too without the condemnation of their neighbors.

    • Almost every Vermont community is in the process of planning future growth, putting together town plans, chartering energy committees, and hosting transition town groups, and more. We’re already fully aware that we need to build denser, sustainable communities. That’s not really what Hall is planning. Before he pulled the document from his server, it was easy enough to see that he wants to essentially build a 20,000 person condo complex in the middle of nowhere, rather than urban infill building in areas that are already built and already have the infrastructure to support additional people. His project would require clearcutting and terracing the mountainsides, drastically shifting watersheds, and otherwise destroying the ecosystem in the area.

      It’s deeply destructive, and the very definition of sprawl. Very much like the 1950s building patterns in New Jersey, but with no public input, and with the worst cult-like top-down controls thrown in (give away all your assets, “elders” decide who can be in power – and one tidbit in the now hidden plan that’s not mentioned in the article: the percentage of people allowed to participate in the governing council would be skewed, heavily, toward married men).

      One also has to wonder why the two regions he’s targeting in the US are more than 90% white. Our country is much more diverse than that, so his choice of locations: far from existing infrastructure, new build-outs, instead of urban infill, and far from people of color, is … curious and disturbing.

    • I suspect you didn’t read the whole piece. He’s an religious extremist. He’s planning a giant cult. YOu will have no voice at all, as a resident, but instead it will be run as “a corporation in which trustees direct what happens, and people who don’t feel comfortable can be asked to leave.” This would be a catastrophe if it were allowed to move forward. Everyone wants sustainable communities and at least some population growth, but I would invite you to read to the end of the piece to really understand what you are endorsing.

  • Kendal Sykes

    A ban on alcohol? Let’s get real folks!

  • Suzanna Rodani

    This story reminds me of an old quote from that master of promotion and marketing, no less than P T Barnum: “Never underestimate the intelligence of the American Public.”
    Perhaps Mr. Hall thinks the Vermont Public are even dumber than the rest?
    One thing is for sure; Vermont seems to attract some real Doozies?

    • Douglas Shane

      Actually, the quote comes from writer and editor H. L. Mencken, who wrote “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public” which, of course, means something else. Barnum had other unflattering things to say about our fellow citizens gullibility. In any case, the kind of population density that Mr. Hall has in mind would be better situated elsewhere because even if people live crowded together, they’re going to spill out everywhere just trying to catch their breath. We have planning boards and codes for a reason, and I hope that my fellow citizens aren’t ready to trade Vermont’s environment for Mr. Hall’s nightmare.

    • Even Doozies from the Hill’s of Sacramento, Calif. Just kidding, Suze, Yes there are a lot of such imports that love to change Vermont. Unfortunately, Act 250 and Act 200 did the trick. There is no longer much people freedom in Vermont.

  • Clarke Comollo

    Ha Ha!!!!!! “No red meat or sugar, and drinking no alcohol.” Damn I guess I won’t be moving my wine shop to This “Utopia”.

    https://www.facebook.com/ComolloFineWines?fref=ts

    Yeah we’ll all just give up our personal freedoms to you and your corporation, Ha Ha Ha “Hall describes Vermont’s zoning “as a real curse.” I think he’ll find that Vermonters fierce independence might also be a hinderance. I lived in Utah and know first hand about Mormon theology, which in my my mind is just as silly and crazy as this guy. So good luck Mr Hall, I think you’ll eventually pack up and leave us be. Go home please!
    This will be interesting to watch!

  • Gary Murdock

    “I don’t know much about engineering, but I am a student of history,” Briglin said. “For thousands of years, utopian, centrally-planned solutions like Mr. Hall’s NewVista have ended badly for innocent bystanders.”

    I couldn’t agree more Representative Briglin. Would you please offer a history lesson to your fellow democrats in the legislature?

  • Kathy Leonard

    Alas, journalism is alive in Vermont! After the fluffy kisses blown to David Hall by other media, only VT Digger – and Nicole Antal of The Daily UV – have done the journalistic hard work so necessary to inform the public on this story.

    You can count on my continued support…and I suggest others concerned about Mr. Hall’s plans for Vermont consider doing the same. Thank you, Anne.

  • David Hall is right about one thing, it’s a CRAZY idea. Not a good kind of crazy but a bad and dangerous kind. He wants to put a million people in the upper valley? seriously that should make people very scared. He goes so far as telling his flock what to eat? 20,000 people and no alcohol? Gus Speth is right, it will be a fight. I don’t think Hall is prepared for that because what he talks about is a very calculated and planned approach, yet fails to account for the chaotic wild card. Vermont does not want this one person’s idea of Utopia. Mr. Hall you need to leave now. it’s not going to be pretty when the fur starts flying.

  • Jan van Eck

    I must say I am surprised by the reaction of Rep. Jim Masland and Rep. Tim Briglin, and for that matter resident Gus Speth. What Mr. Hall is outlining is no different from the business model of any giant utility corporation, e.g. Comcast. You turn over your assets and your life is run by aloof self-perpetuating corporate directors, they do as they please, you knuckle under and submit, and if you don’t much like it, you can leave and go live “outside,” in the wilderness (technological or physical, not much different).

    Vermonters, who for some time now have been under the heel of Hall clones in the guise of corporations constructing gigantic propellers outside their houses “because it is good for you,” are by now accustomed to the concept of living inside the Borg Collective. Mr. Hall might as well call himself Mr. Borg; that way, the locals will be comfortable with him. The Borg Collective is the personal-relationship model of the future; “democracy” and self-determination are quaint ideas from the distant past. Let’s get real here, folks.

  • Scott Greene

    I thought ecotopians wanted to have fun. Mr Hall should check out Rajneeshpuram.

  • Susanna Rodani

    Are there any seats left on the spaceship?
    New Vistas?

  • Steve Beck

    Wait a minute. If I had attended this meeting, I would have had to leave, as I would have been overcome with fits of laughter, you know how that is. You start laughing hysterically, get yourself under control. And then look at someone and it starts all over again. I could not even read the whole thing. We do need some change in Vermont, but I am not sure that this is the right road to follow. Why these people, a la Gus Speth even gave him the time of day by addressing his proposal astounds me. They should have said: “Enough. You are nuts.” “Religion does three things quite effectively. Divides people. Controls people. Deludes people.” ~ Carlespie Mary Alice McKinney.

    • David Matthews

      This sounds like a concept that would come in the form of a Legislative bill from Chittenden County Progressives, who’s La La Land ideas often prompt hysterical laughter (and tears). They’re probably unhappy they didn’t think of it first in their own format.

    • Julia Purdy

      Not sure why you think “we do need some change in Vermont.” I don’t know why people want to change Vermont the minute they get here. Please, show a little respect. These mountains will outlast us all.

  • John Pane

    Mr. Hall may not drink alcohol, but he has obviously drunk the Kool-aid, and that is much more dangerous.

  • The face of Vermont will naturally change over time, but 20 million people on 1/3 of the Vermont landscape is obviously a ridiculous notion. It is a dream or (??) in Mr. Halls head. What most of these futuristic schemes tend to ignore is human nature. How many people would be willing to live in densely packed housing, agreeing to a set of rules that guide every hour of the day. It is a plan that may appeal to a small segment of the population for a short period of their lifetime and will fall apart the way that nearly all other communal visions have. Even if the Mormon faith as a uniting factor is taken into consideration, there is little hope for the idea. There are less than 16 million Mormons worldwide and not growing by leaps and bounds. Not all Mormons would happily accept the thought of the “Plat of Zion”. In Utah for, for instance, with the highest concentration of Mormons, their homes are generally huge, compared to current standards or trends. The community that Mr. Hall has begun in Provo, Utah, is not receiving high praise.
    Hall’s efforts near Sharon Vermont may change the local scenery over time, which would be a shame. Don’t bet that his “vision” will ever be realized. We need to prepare for the reality, however, that developers with significant financial resources and big ideas are eyeing small rural towns in Vermont.

    • Bruce S. Post

      “We need to prepare for the reality, however, that developers with significant financial resources and big ideas are eyeing small rural towns in Vermont.”

      Good insight. I once had a T-shirt with a cartoon character on a tractor holding up his index finger and saying, “Twas ever thus.” This certainly has been going on since the 1960s with the ski-associated real estate developments. It is foolhardy not to plan for the “reality” you mention. Act 250 was a reaction to the rampant development in Windham County in the 1960s, but I doubt very much that Act 250 is up to the task today. Just look around and see what has happened to our state WITH Act 250’s blessing. The straw that broke the camel’s back for me was that Rube Goldberg-like water park up at Jay Peak. Why is that not on the cover of Vermont Life as an icon of the New Vermont?

  • Virginia Simmon

    Yikes! My inner crank thinks it’s almost as if Mr. Hall saw how excited Vermonters initially were about the EB-5 projects in the Northeast Kingdom and decided we might be ready to swallow an even bigger daydream. This seems so antithetical to the ideals our country was founded on, it’s hard to find enough words to criticize it. The Summary Description could be the prologue to a science fiction novel about a massive experiment gone wrong. Tim Briglin said it well: NewVista is an idea built on a foundation of hubris.

    • Julia Purdy

      Another Donald Trump. This decade will go down in history as the Age of the Maverick Millionaire. I suppose politics and real development have always been the playthings of the superrich, but this is getting ridiculous!

  • Aaron Cornelius

    This is a truly bizarre idea, and there is no way it would work. I am a faithful and practicing Mormon, and a Vermont native. I have lived (briefly) in Utah and I am a former missionary. I know a great deal about Mormon culture and Vermont culture, and this proposal seriously bothers me.

    First, I am worried about inflaming further prejudice against Mormons. I’ve encountered many people in my life who are very hostile toward Mormons. This man is trying very hard to link this proposal to Mormonism, but it is in every way alien to my faith and religious practices. I am seriously concerned that people will misdirect their frustrations with this plan and bigotry will spread. Faith is an incredibly personal thing, and even people with the same label experience their faith very differently. This man and I are from different planets.

    Second, I am sympathetic to the environmental overtures of this project, but there is absolutely nothing else appealing about it. I can’t think of any Mormon – or Vermonter for that matter – who would want to move to this “Utopia”. It is very similar to the New Harmony project and other utopian experiments from the nineteenth century – and they all failed! This includes, incidentally, Joseph Smith’s own experiment in a utopian society. Realistically, does anybody know anybody, including Mormons, who would want to live in this crazy experiment?

    • Thanks for sharing a Mormon perspective on this, Aaron. I think you are right to be worried, and you are doing the right thing by joining the conversation. I find some of the reactions I’m hearing to this project a bit scary, even though I’m not personally expecting to be on the receiving end of the anger.

      I suspect that this project will only appeal to people who are desperate, and might actually be temporarily beneficial to them, but a lot of it sounds completely unrealistic. I doubt the economics work, and suspect that it would go bankrupt and leave the residents out on the streets and the corporation in receivership, or else would wind up costing so much that it couldn’t be sustained.

  • Sara Tuthill

    Mr. Hall must be watching more “Tiny House Living” than “House Hunters”, as he seems to think that people can actually get along in close spaces for long periods of time. Heck, most don’t even want to share the same sink, have anyone else correct their children, or suggest they ought to pay down a bill for a past purchase rather than buy the newest overpriced technological gadget on TV that they “deserve”. Have you noticed your local “community garden”? Right there’s a lesson in sharing space. I’m rolling in the weeds, laughing out loud, listening to the arguments already!
    There are some local Communities already run a bit like this, and while the mega-rich WWII set thought it was great 25 yrs ago, I assure you their baby-boomer offspring have very different thoughts on where the money goes, and THIER kids are even greedier, so am I truly worried? Only in as much as his current buying spree is skewing property values and will eventually spike the property taxes in the region he’s buying in, but WAIT, THAT shouldn’t occur, because he has stated that his megalopolis’ will be completely self-sufficient, with NO IMPACT on the surrounding resources, so no, our taxes should only decrease, right?

  • Whoa…….what are all these references to Mr. Hall’s religion and the Mormon church?

    This project may be too big and inappropriate for the Green Mountain State and Mr. Hall’s thinking a little bizarre for some Vermonters sensitivities, but since when do a person’s religious believes have anything to do with commercial development?

    And, environmentalist Gus Speth pronouncement of “Not here.” sounds pretty Nimby-ish.

    When folks raise issues about giant industrial wind or solar being planted in their neighborhoods…..they’re quickly labeled nimbies by the so called environmentalists.

    Maybe it’s time for a “whoa” in how Mr. Hall’s project is addressed as the present approach seems to be at odds with Vermont’s ideals of open mindedness while creating a whopping perception of double standards.

    • Jennifer Fribush

      When does a person’s religious belief have anything to do with commercial development? When you plan a utopian community, designed by the prophet of your religion, near your religious site, base its governance structure on your religion, and discuss your experience as a leader in your church during interviews about the development.

      • Jennifer, If you refer to my comment much further up in this thread, some of your concerns are addressed. Everyone gets their ideas from somewhere. His don’t seem to fly even with Mormons.

        • Jennifer Fribush

          Paul, I was replying to Peter Yankowski’s concern that the Mormon religion was being discussed in the context of a commercial development and that we do not usually consider the religion of a developer when critiquing a development. It seems appropriate in this instance because of the reasons I listed. If your argument is that Mr. Hall isn’t a very good example of Mormonism, then I have no way to judge that, other than again, the reasons I listed.

          • Jennifer, I’m not judging him either. He may be honest. He may really think this plan is great. It is pretty “far out” though, and I just hope he doesn’t get too far along with it.

      • Jennifer…….based on your comments, it appears that you would judge a man and his commercial development ideas on his religion as opposed to the standards of Act 250, which would determine if the project is appropriate for Vermont or not. As far as I know, ACT 250 doesn’t have religious beliefs as disqualifying factors.

        What’s next, judging by ethnicity, color, sexual orientation or favorite baseball team?

        Jennifer, your comment is perfect example of the point I was attempting to make……hypocrisy in our thinking.

        • Jennifer Fribush

          My comment did not judge either the man or his ideas. It simply stated, like the article, that in this instance the religious overtones are hard to ignore. I don’t think I either promoted or condemned his idea, although you are quick to assume that I do. You appear to be seeing persecution everywhere and assuming that it is based on his religion, rather than the actual development being promoted.

          • Jennifer……time to re-read your own words or ask the vtdigger to take your post down if you didn’t mean what you actually wrote.

            Here’s what you had to say about connections to religion in response to my question of: ” but since when do a person’s religious believes have anything to do with commercial development?”

            To which you responded:

            “When you plan a utopian community, designed by the prophet of your religion, near your religious site, base its governance structure on your religion, and discuss your experience as a leader in your church during interviews about the development.”

            We can all read English, so we’ll leave the matter as you wrote it.

          • Joe Westclark

            A strange response. I see none of the characterization you describe in her comment. It seems your reaction to Jennifer’s answer was already determined at the time you posed the question.

    • Actually the religion connection comes from possibly misunderstood Mormon doctrine and some history of the Mormon Church. There are also some who persist in creating and spreading rumors about the Latter Day Saints Church.
      By the way, if you visit the Joseph Smith birthplace and visitor’s center in Sharon, you will see the efforts by the church to preserve and care for the natural setting.

      • Julia Purdy

        Only because it’s a historic site. The problem with Hall’s plan is that, unlike Salt Lake City, which Brigham Young laid out and plopped down on a worthless, flat piece of land next to a worthless salt lake far enough from “Gentile” society (yes, Mormons use that term) that Mormons wouldn’t be bothered anymore, he is envisioning something that is completely incompatible with our terrain, our history and our culture. In addition, it is so self-contained that interaction with the surrounding social fabric will be nonexistent, it will exist as a separate town, and as a religious community (wait for it) it will be exempt from taxation. And by the way, the hottest hot spots in the world are in places where newcomers were imposed en masse on an existing culture by outside powers. Northern Ireland . . . Israel . . . Pakistan . . . the list goes on. To expect Vermonters to “rise above this” and open their arms to something so obviously deleterious to the Vermont way of life is completely insensitive.

    • Anyone who is familiar with the LDS Church understands that the Mormon religion, money, and commercial development are inextricably entwined, as are many religions. You can read the following article published by the Salt Lake City Tribune for a “local” perspective.

      http://archive.sltrib.com/story.php?ref=/sltrib/news/54478720-78/church-money-lds-mall.html.cspdiscussion

    • Julia Purdy

      Hall’s project is based squarely on Joseph Smith’s concept of the New Zion, which in fact was established in Western MIssouri in the early 20th century. Hall is quite open about this fact.
      As for Vermont’s ideal of openmindedness, it’s also necessary to be prudent and realistic. As a friend of mine once said, “If you have too open a mind, your brains might fall out.”

  • tom burke

    Thank you Gov Davis and Atty Laura Wheeler as well as the legislators who brought into law Act 250 in 1969.

    Thank you, absolutely outstanding investigative journalism.

    • Act 250 might not be enough to stop this in the long term, provided that he can change the local town plans and take his time with the school districts and permitting hurdles. Furthermore, Hall has indirectly indicated (He has said he will change Local and State laws if he must) that he will repeal Act 250 to see this project brought to fruition if it comes down to it. It only takes 1000 voters to cause legal change in his direction in this Area.

      This is wonderful journalism – But the implications of this go far beyond just the New Vista development! Hall wants to change ALL of Vermont with his plans, not just the Sharon area.

  • Richard M Roderick

    Donald Trump may have just found his VP running mate. He’ll bring “balance” to the ticket — East and the West, more big money, speaks his mind, and will make America great again, one vista at a time starting in Vermont.

    “You’ll have to trust me on that,” Hall said in reply. Well that is enough for me, where do I sign up?

    • Trust has to be earned and from the initial proposal of 20,000 what is now a Million person city, see no reason anyone would trust this whacko, and while everyone is having a good laugh this guy is actually buying properties with real money. He needs to be stopped. if you wait for the project to fail he will have already ruined the area.

      • Julia Purdy

        Is there any way to talk the next wave of sellers out of selling? How about the Land Trust? Even one or two parcels in the middle would botch up his plans. And talking about environmentalism: we’re striving mightily in Vermont to avoid fragmentation, runoff from impervious surfaces, all the usual threats to water and wildlife and now this??

    • So many people fail to recognize satire these days.

      • Richard M Roderick

        Thank You Dennis. I was trusting that people would see it as it was — satire.

  • Cheryl Ganley

    Three words sums this up for me… Pyramid scheme cult

  • Clarke Comollo

    Hey Mr Hall. No need to screw around here, we already have a place for you! http://www.africaresearchinstitute.org/blog/views-of-suburban-luanda-banishing-the-ghosts-from-kilamba/

  • Rich Lachapelle

    Specifics of these proposals aside, there is serious bias in Vermont against any Christian-based religious movement gaining a foothold of any kind. If an organized group of Amazon Women or lesbians had made the exact same proposals and started buying up land, the current Governor and Legislature would be falling all over themselves to roll out the red carpet to accommodate them.

    • Seth Cronin

      “33.62% of the people in Vermont are religious, meaning they affiliate with a religion.”

      I wonder why a state where 2/3 of the population isn’t religious are worried about someone trying to establish a religious utopia containing 400 times the current population of the state? Perhaps some of your neighbors don’t appreciate a corporate cult with the population of new York State moving into their backyards.

      To your second point… Where the hell is the red carpet for the 3 million syrian refugees? Last time I checked there was for less than a dozen moving to some of the most rural parts of the state.

      Christian-based religious movements already have a foot hold of some kind in every major city and town of vermont. Church’s are placed in town centers across the state. A mormon megapolis in Sharon is likely not what most religious people in this state want, either.

      • Rich Lachapelle

        Last year the Pew Research Center ranked Vermont as dead last among the 50 states as the “least religious”. That poll obviously didn’t include the religion of “climate change”. The worship of “climate change” policy has brought about the grandiose and over-ambitious declaration by state officials that Vermont will somehow get 90% of our heating, transportation and electrical energy from renewable sources by 2050. This religious fervor has also created a building boom of mountaintop turbines and black, south-facing billboards that somehow escaped the scrutiny of Act 250. This is why I suggest that there is bias and a set of double standards when it comes to land use and other policies in Vermont. Want another example of local religious-based political correctness? How about Norwich Academy granting and exception to their dress code to someone wishing to wear a hijab for religious reasons. In the past they would never have made this special policy change for a Jew or Christian.

        • Julia Purdy

          So you’re saying that the accommodation for one group represents unfair treatment of another? It’s not an either-or proposition. In case you haven’t read them, both the Constitution and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 guarantee freedom of worship, which would include wearing the special clothing that denotes devotion.
          So if a Christian wanted to wear a cross around his/her neck, or a Hasidic Jew wanted to wear his hair a certain way, or a sikh wanted to wear a turban, it’s all the same. No one is being persecuted here.

    • Joe Westclark

      That’s strange. I have lived here my entire life and have yet to see a town here without a Christian church.

      Seriously, your comment suggests more prejudice than you becry.

      • Julia Purdy

        In fact, the shoe used to be on the other foot. Read the town histories–Woodstock is a good example–and you will read how Congregationalism tried to squeeze out the Christian Church, the Baptists and the Methodists for almost 100 years. In Rochester some citizens actually recorded in the land records books that they disavowed any religion at all. I’d say we’ve made pretty good progress in the tolerance area.

    • Julia Purdy

      “there is serious bias in Vermont against any Christian-based religious movement gaining a foothold of any kind.” Don’t know where you’re getting this. Old-time Vermonters are a remarkably tolerant people–live and let live. People who live close to the land don’t have time nor inclination to pick fights and if someone is down on their luck, Vermonters are the first to lend a hand, even if they never say another word to each other. Hall’s proposal is an outrageous, in-your-face, arrogant insult. Many Mormons live in Vermont and they fit in fine. So do Masons, Baptists, Methodists, Catholics and wiccans. Get a grip.

  • Seth Steinzor

    I think it’s disgusting that some rich megalomaniac gets to stomp into our state and disrupt thousands of lives and permanently alter the character of our land and communities in order to act out his fantasies. What arrogance! What unbridled, unaccountable power and privilege! Your article talks about his Mormon background and the religious character of his vision, but what he really represents is the Almighty Dollar which has made this country a playground for the oligarchs and everybody else just pawns in their games.

  • Brad Bond

    “In utopia, rule by masterminds is both necessary and necessarily primitive, for it excludes so much that is known to man and about man. The mastermind is driven by his own boundless conceit and delusional aspirations, which he self-identifies as a noble calling. He alone is uniquely qualified to carry out this mission. He is, in his own mind, a savior of mankind, if only man will bend to his own will. Such can be the addiction of power. It can be an irrationally egoistic and absurdly frivolous passion that engulfs even sensible people. In this, mastermind suffers from a psychosis of sorts and endeavors to substitute his own ambitions for the individual ambitions of millions of people.”
    ― Mark R. Levin, Ameritopia: The Unmaking of America

  • Brad Bond

    “Where utopianism is advanced through gradualism rather than revolution, albeit steady and persistent as in democratic societies, it can deceive and disarm an unsuspecting population, which is largely content and passive. It is sold as reforming and improving the existing society’s imperfections and weaknesses without imperiling its basic nature. Under these conditions, it is mostly ignored, dismissed, or tolerated by much of the citizenry and celebrated by some. Transformation is deemed innocuous, well-intentioned, and perhaps constructive but not a dangerous trespass on fundamental liberties.”
    ― Mark R. Levin, Ameritopia: The Unmaking of America

  • Charles Merriman

    Zoning is a real curse? How about wild-eyed rich people who think money accords them the right to play god with the lives of mere mortals. Talk about your silly social engineer….

    • Julia Purdy

      And let’s not forget about Michel Guite, president of VTel, who literally moved a family cemetery from the top of the hill where its occupants could enjoy eternity close to God, so he could built a house in that very spot, for the view. Unfortunately, the documentation was not enough to prevail against him, although an interested party tried hard to rescue the cemetery. The whole community rose up against him but Guite exercised his prerogative as only the very rich can do. Guite graciously installed the graves at the foot of the hill with a nice laid stone wall around them. Then he announced he had changed his mind about the house site. Vermonters have had about enough of this kind of caper.

  • Kendal Sykes

    This would be a great project for more EB-5 funding, and

    In the name of economic development might I suggest that we milk this project for every fee, consulting contract, and other monies that will be spent here in VT before eventual collapse. If the guy is going to throw away his cash, why not here? It might make a dent in all the money we’ve thrown away courtesy of Shumiln and the Montpelier Gang of 180.

  • Andrew nemethy

    Thanks Anne for peeling back some of the layers of this utopian onion. There are two onions, actually, as I see it: One is a reasonable environmental vision that hopes to locate or try out an idea for practical sustainability and self-sufficiency using technology and environmental engineering on the Vermont landscape, in a state where sustainability is highly regarded and promoted.
    The other onion – let’s call this the stinking onion – is a utopian vision of social engineering with a religious foundation, a concept that many independent-minded Vermonters will find bizarre, odious, and that runs contrary to the state’s long-standing community and town-meeting oriented traditions. The idea of ceding rights and belongings to be part of a communal private organization, even with lofty goals, well as many commenters have said, will fly about as well as a block of Barre granite.
    Underlying this mythic utopia – characteristic of a religious ideology – is a gross ecological misunderstanding of how man and nature work together. Like biblical prophets of old, Mr. Hall envisions a 20,000 person community surrounded by “wilderness,” as if imagining that construct could make it so, in a kind of natural blindness of the first order. Just as early distant land grantees laid out 6×6 mile plots on the Vermont landscape, ignorant of mountains, hills, dales and rivers that spread geographic illogic and stunned early surveyors, this is fantasy, perhaps biblical, certainly movie-fiction madness, of the first order.
    I commend all to read John Krakauer’s “Under the Banner of Heaven” about the Mormon’s founders, Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, and the Mormon state of Utah to understand where such thinking comes from. I feel sorry for poor deluded Mr. Hall, whose vision I will grant, though others may not, comes from a good place in his heart. But the brightness of his vision (and the hubris perhaps of a lot of money) has blinded him to the extreme foolhardiness of trying to overlay this idea on the rocky soils and independent people of Vermont, let alone on an extremely difficult legal and zoning terrain that on a project of this size, will rival all the circles of Dante’s Hell – and justifiably so.
    I hope he turns his efforts instead to using technology to make people’s better, as this is obviously a key interest of his, and cedes the creation of utopia to the purveyors of literary fiction.

    • Julia Purdy

      Very fine, Mr. Nemethy.

  • sounds way to much like a cult , jim jones , comes to mind , dictating how people will live , how many brides can you have , how young will the brides be ? give up all you have but you can leave anytime with nothing ? maybe time for local protest (stand your ground) this is what the government would surly love us all to to do . TOTAL CONTROL . HELL NO

  • Douglas Shane

    We seem to keep being invited to learn that money and its attendant power do not have anything to do with intelligence. When will people finally stop chasing material wealth and listening to demagogues? Vermont may not be perfect, but it’s far better than without those who would defile its frail environment.

  • Mr. Hall will be severely disappointed if he thinks that Vermonters will be willingly assimilated into the Borg. I do fear, however, that the wreckage he leaves behind, both to the land and to society, will take a hundred years to heal.

  • Dale Newton

    The following is taken from “Newsroom: THE OFFICIAL RESOURCE FOR NEWS MEDIA, OPINION LEADERS AND THE PUBLIC.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

    “One of the great tests of a civil society is to include the unpopular, the disenfranchised, those who look or act differently. This inclusive approach requires hard work; only respectful dialogue and constructive conversations can realize the common good. The alternative to civil society is atomization, where people drift into islands of their own interests and concerns. That route is too easy. The call of civilization is to engage, not buffer.”

    By this “test” (above) this “visionary atomization” is not about building a civil society. If even 10% of his members were registered voters directed by one central authority, Vermont would become that island of singular “interest and concern.”

  • Jake Evans

    This is creepy as all hell. You sell all your assets to the community/corporation, have no recourse to regain them or cash out, have dietary and behavioral restrictions, no ability to vote or voice for your own representation, and you’ll be reliant on the company store (I mean, “local businesses”) for all your needs.

    We’ve seen this before. It’s either a cult or a company town, and neither of those are good.

  • edward letourneau

    The thinking in this gives an insight to why Whitingham didn’t want Brigham Young living with them.

  • Christopher Hamilton

    Green Mountains field of dreams? Build it and they will come?
    Nope. Never ever happen.

  • Ernie Hotchkiss

    Lets call it what it is: This is no Utopian vision. It is a corporatist Orwellian hell, with indentured servants working for and buying from the company store.

    How shameless and despicable that a Vermont-based lobbying firm like Ellis-Mills would take on the promotion of a project like this, forcing this corporatist Orwellian hell onto a region and towns with complete and utter disregard for the people and communities who live there, and their form of governance. It makes me despise corporate lobbyists even more, and shows they will do anything, even throw their own communities under the bus, to make a buck.

    Looks like Kevin Ellis has secured permanent work for the rest of his career, and the Tunbridge-Sharon-Royalton community and all of Vermont be damned. Since his firm also works for politician’s campaigns and “government affairs”, you can bet he will do what he can to try to get laws changed to help his new client get his project built. That’s what these wealthy out of state developers do when they force their development delusions of grandeur on Vermont. Jesse Sammis did the same thing at Exit 4. He had only given money to Republican election campaigns in the past, until 2012 when he suddenly gave money to Shumlin. That same year Shumlin signed an agreement with Sammis for a privatized rest area in exchange for 1.15 million square feet of development on prime farmland, and Shumlin went to work for Sammis and tried to get the legislature to weaken Act 250 to make Sammis’s Exit 4 disaster easier to get permitted (as reported in the Valley News). This is what David Hall will try to do, and it appears Kevin Ellis has sold his soul to do that bidding for him.

    I would also bet that the law firm Downs, Rachlin, Martin will also be lining up to get on the David Hall gravy train, to sell out their fellow Vermonters, the way they did in their attempts to manipulate the Act 250 process for Sammis at Exit 4. Anything to make a buck.

    One thing the article did not mention is Hall has purchased a house in Sharon just to house his many lawyers that he has been flying in to work on his project.

    • Kathy Leonard

      Ernie, Hall’s daughter is advertising that 450-acre estate on Clifford Road for rent to people across the globe for $545 per night when it is not being used for New Vistas people.
      Her ad appears in Italy, France, Mexico, Brazil et al.

      The domestic ad is here: https://www.vrbo.com/831404
      Just one of the international ads here: https://www.homeaway.it/affitto-vacanze/p831404vb

  • Katherine Silta

    20 million crazy cultists living in pods listening to Donny and Marie on Saturday nights. Keep it in Utah.

  • John Jensen

    Fight this cult leader tooth and nail. He will kick out all those who do not follow the teachings of Mormonism. For the good of your community! Visit http://www.reddit.com/exmormon to learn more about the dangerous cult of Mormonism.

    • Julia Purdy

      Re: job creation, for the record, the Albertson’s supermarket chain is a Mormon-owned enterprise. When I lived in Spokane, Wash., the word on the street was that if you were not Mormon you can slim chance of getting work at Albertson’s. . . . Mormon protestations of inclusiveness notwithstanding.

  • steve belczak

    Mitt Romney in 2012 reminded us again that Mormonism was a cult based on acquisition of property and wealth and the survival of the fittest. It’s very much a political “philosophy”. Despite the fantasy imposed on believers, the idea that a cult can be imposed on an entire state is absurd. Oh, Utah?

    • Julia Purdy

      The Mormons got to Utah before anyone else was there, except a few mountain men.

  • Gaelan Brown

    Its so ironic that Vt’s lefty greens hate this concept when it is in so many ways the same as the Transition Towns models or Jacques Fresco’s Venus Project. Why are Vermonters so afraid of people trying new ways of living, new ways of attempting to build innovative sustainable community? Vermonters should be lining up to participate in and shape this, instead we get sadly predictable NIMBY kneejerks. Come on people, open your minds!

    • Clarke Comollo

      This is a little more then trying something new don’t ya think!!!

    • Why you try something “new”, stop worrying so much about your fingernails.

    • Julia Purdy

      I would guess you don’t know Vermont very well and probably don’t care,either.

  • Yesterday I wrote:

    “This project may be too big and inappropriate for the Green Mountain State and Mr. Hall’s thinking a little bizarre for some Vermonters sensitivities, but since when does a person’s religious believes (Mormon) have anything to do with commercial development?”

    This comment has earn me a pile of ‘red thumbs down”. Why?

    After reading many of the 64 comments posted to date, it is sadly becoming apparent that many writers have a problem with Mormons because of their religious believes.

    So the mask of Vermont’s liberal tolerance and open mindedness is stripped away and a face of hypocritical biasness is revealed.

    The comments following this article are quite revealing of who we really are in Vermont.

    • Jake Evans

      It’s clear that the designer’s faith is an integral part of the project, given that the design itself comes from the Joseph Smith’s ideas of “Plats of Zion.” Inhabitants of the community have dietary and behavioral requirements that echo that of Mormons. The leadership structure echoes that of the Mormon leadership. While it seems there is room for other faiths and LGBT folk, it’s clear how much influence the Mormon faith will have on the project and those who live there. This isn’t a church within a community, this is an entire city based on the ideas of a church, and people are wary of that.

      You got voted down because we don’t need to be tolerant of bad ideas. We certainly don’t need to be tolerant of intolerance. And open-mindedness doesn’t mean accepting everything we see and read as deserving of equal consideration. Lots of comments here expressed why this doesn’t fit the Vermont character.

      • Julia Purdy

        Until recently, Mormonism refused to allow blacks to become bishops because they are viewed as being descended from Ham, the bad-guy in Mormon theology. And they still do not allow women to take positions front and center, no matter what Hall asserts.

    • Susanna Rodani

      PY: some do and some don’t. It’s really that simple.

    • Joe Westclark

      Again you are bound and determined to find religious persecution. You will always find it if you look hard enough whether it’s there or not. I think the severity of the reaction you see is not about the Mormon faith, but in the tenets of that faith (real or rumored) that Mr. Hall intends to incorporate into this grand plan.

      Here in New England we are celebrated nationwide as practicing one of the purest, if not the purest forms of democracy that exists today. The annual town meeting. We encourage and enjoy high community participation in our own municipal governance. Mr. Hall wishes to replace that with nearly the exact opposite. An opaque, corporate style executive board whose makeup is controlled at least partially by gender and marital status. That is antithetical to who we are and what we New Englanders value. Not for nothing, but it’s rather unconstitutional too. Mr. Hall seems to think he can get around that by calling these New Vista communities private clubs rather than communities. A 20,000 resident private club? That won’t fly. It’s a non-starter. This will end up being nothing more than a cautionary tale of hubris.

    • Julia Purdy

      We have a problem with the imposition of a set of beliefs in such a permanent, dramatic and massive manner as this. This goes well beyond mere religious beliefs when it involves a massive project on the ground that threatens to tear apart communities (already is). The religious beliefs aren’t normally part of it, but this time they seem to be informing the whole project.

  • Jeremy Baker

    The term Flatlander never fit a person so well, to describe Mr. Hall! Seems he wants to engineer a flat world for Flatlanders, here in Vermont. The man may be rich, but money can’t buy sanity. A fool and their money is soon parted.

    • Zeke Rivers

      Not sure who’s the fool here – if all of Mr. Hall’s future tenants give their assets to the company in exchange for a poverty wage, that would make them all eligible for Medicaid, food stamps, home heating assistance, renter’s rebate and the plethora of other public assistance programs. Don’t know who’d be left to pay the freight if 90% of the State didn’t pay taxes.

  • Jeremy Baker

    Strategically buy/hold land to disrupt continued development in those places where this guy’s project tries to acquire property, and set up a non-profit to keep watch, organize citizens, network property holders, lobby local and state officials, and to manage land. No trespassing allowed between plots will likely do the trick, save VAST, hiking, hunting, rock concerts with beer tents, etc.

  • Clarke Comollo

    Sounds great!!! Ha Ha!! Spend your money and go home!!

  • Cheryl Andrrsen

    I , for one, do not want to see any cult of any kind here in our communities. I do not want to see anymore flatlanders with grandiose visions and ideas coming to change our way of life. Over the years many have come from out of state and promptly gotten themselves a seat on zoning and/ or planning in order to change the rules to accommodate themselves! While we need to look to make our communities more sustainable, we do not need anymore programs like EB5 that has proven itself to be a huge scam on the people who need to benefit from jobs the most! Anyone old enough to remember a Utopia in Ghana, and a man named Jim Jones, remembers not to drink the Koolaid!!

  • Franz Reichsman

    I think we should welcome Mr. Hall to Vermont, permit him to pay taxes as we all do, and allow him to hear what we have to say at town meeting. And at some point, someone should let him know about Act 250.

  • Julia Purdy

    The “fees that look like taxes” are most likely the 10% tithe that is required of every Mormon in good standing, regardless of any local taxes they may need to pay, and regardless of income. The many patents that Hall boasts he owns are most likely the work of the worker bees in what he calls his “Edison lab.” The microbusinesses in the New Vistas community are called Vistabiz-es, and as is mentioned here, no one gets to own the product of his/her own labor but gets a “share” which is determined by the corporate owners. You can read it all on Hall’s LinkedIn profile, unless he has taken it down by now.
    As for segregation of the (unmarried) sexes, that’s a fact in Mormonism. I was married to a man whose brother and sister-in-law were Mormon elders overseeing the young Mormon missionaries in Spokane, Wash. One day we all went out to dinner to a place the brother was not familiar with. We decided to drive separately, as they were leaving later. My husband offered to ride with his sister-in-law, and I offered to ride in our car with my husband’s brother. Oops! To have a man and woman who were not married to each other riding in the same car, alone together, was a strict no-no. You’d have thought I was going to jump him in the front seat!
    Lotsa luck, David Hall!
    Unfortunately, in America we can’t control who buys and who sells. We can only control what is done with the land, up to a point. I wonder if all those sellers in Tunbridge and Sharon are squirming about now over what they might be doing to their neighbors?
    (Did I submit this twice? My apologies!)

  • Steve Merrill

    No mention here about the “feces-sampling” toilets to determine any “health problems” (or drug /alcohol violations)?? And what is this insane adherence to a 20th century “growth model” that is really the end stages of capitalism? We need NO more growth and learn to inhabit this planet without population overshoot and living within it’s/our means. Mormonism, really? Jesus and Satan are brothers, Jesus had multiple wives, God lives on the planet Korus, dinosaur bones came here on meteors, etc.? And an illiterate well-digger named Joe Smith deciphered some “golden tablets” written in a combo of ancient Greek & Egyptian that NOBODY ever saw? Like his preface says, “In my crazy mind..” At least the locals get to sell high and get as far away from there as possible! Maybe it can be EB–5 “financed” if things go south! SM, N.Troy.

  • Elizabeth Curran

    If anyone is interested, there will be a protest at the Chelsea Street Bridge in Royalton at 5:00 pm on Friday, June 17.

  • Full disclosure: My wife and I sold our house to David Hall (he was here) less than a year ago. The sale was crazy. He barely looked at the house and he seemed completely unaware of any specifics about the area around here. To me he seemed flushed with money he was trying to do some good with and seemed harmlessly delusional …. I was wrong.

    David Hall is quoted in this article: “….You’ve got all these people who need a better place. Vermont’s a great place…” One of the reasons it’s a great place is that there are under a million people living in the entire state. Vermont is roughly the size of the greater metropolitan area of Houston TX, which has just over 6 million people. I’m trying to imagine Vermont with over 3 times as many people as that. I don’t think it would be “a great place” any more.

    He also said, “I don’t view myself as an outsider..” and that may be his biggest error of judgement. What is it he thinks he is? I’ve visited Boston for years. I’m an outsider there.

    My conclusion now is that he doesn’t care about Vermont, other than its being the place of boyhood visits to the state where Joseph Smith was born. He cares about his plan, which I believe has no chance of succeeding in Vermont but will produce a lot of grief and damage to communities.

    Questions: Would my wife and I have sold to him if we knew then what we know now? I don’t know. Our house had gone unsold for 2 years. I don’t think we would have, but I can’t really claim that now. And that leads to the next question: What about all the other people around here who want to sell their houses …. not necessarily to him, but to somebody. The housing market is not that good in Sharon. A sale at the asking price is hard to turn down. We have to figure out what we can do about David Hall’s project that wouldn’t hurt people who just want to sell their place and move on with their lives.

  • J. Thormaehlen

    Strange how this fits right in with the United Nations Agenda 21. It is called control. (It’s called “Sustainable Development”) And I am LDS.