On a perfect mid-June Friday night, we gathered with a hundred other people on the Chelsea Street bridge in South Royalton to protest the NewVista project. NewVista is a development concept underwritten by Utahan David Hall and inspired by the writings of Joseph Smith. It would entail the acquisition of 5,000 acres of land in Strafford, Sharon, Tunbridge, and Royalton to construct a development housing 15,000-20,000 people. (These four towns’ combined population is currently less than 7,000 people.) Mr. Hall has acquired about 1,500 acres to date.
We won’t recount in this blog the full detail of what we know about New Vista; the absurdity of this development scheme has been chronicled well elsewhere by the Vermont press corps. Read Nicole Antal’s first article, which broke the story in the Daily UV back in March. Here’s her piece on Friday night’s South Royalton protest. VTDigger's Anne Galloway wrote an extensive piece which is helpful in understanding the breadth of what David Hall has in mind.
While Act 250 can occasionally cause frustration for Vermont builders, the wisdom of that law has never been more apparent than in the face of the NewVista threat. It’s difficult to imagine David Hall’s scheme having a prayer of getting through an Act 250 review. Yet Mr. Hall appears to prepping for a long game, endowing his NewVista Foundation with assets north of $100 million to pursue a dream he doesn’t expect to be accomplished in his lifetime. Rob Wolfe, who interviewed Hall for a Sunday Valley News article back in March, wrote of Hall’s willingness to respect Vermonters’ wishes. Hall said, “If the people of Vermont can’t come to really love the concept, it’s not going to be done.”
Which brings us back to the 100 folks standing on a bridge in South Royalton. There was lots of love on Chelsea Street on Friday evening, though that love was directed at saving a rural Vermont landscape from development.
A rowdy Strafford crew on the bridge Friday evening.