Vermont lawmakers try to stop Utah developer who wants to build a self-sustaining community near Mormon founder’s birthplace

Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune David Hall at his office in Provo, Tuesday June 14, 2016. Nearly 150 scientists and engineers are working for Hall intent on solving technical and social challenges for building a futuristic enclave modeled on Joseph Smith's Plat of the City of Zion. Research focuses on everything from low-impact toilets, new building materials and cooperative economic systems to methods for high-intensity food production. At right is an enclosure for limiting radio interference.

Montpelier, Vt. • Efforts to stop a massive development in four rural Vermont towns by a Utah businessman based on the papers of Mormon founder Joseph Smith have reached the state Legislature.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced a resolution in the Vermont House opposed to the NewVistas project, the Valley News reports. It calls on developer David Hall, whose family foundation has been buying land near Smith’s birthplace in Sharon, Vermont, to abandon his plans for a self-sustaining community with housing for 20,000 residents. The nonbinding measure also calls for the state to “ensure that the NewVistas Foundation operates in accordance with the laws of this state.”

Many residents in the rural, mountainous region with a population of about 6,600 think such a large-scale development would change the character of their small communities, tax resources, and limit access to recreational areas and mountain views.

“This resolution is essentially another step up the ladder of expressing opposition to this type of development locally and in Vermont generally,” said Democratic Rep. Tim Briglin of Thetford, the primary sponsor. The resolution is supported by 12 other lawmakers and has been referred to a House committee.

“There is a real concern what effect (NewVistas) would have upon the area and so I’m just trying to bring that to the forefront,” said Rep. David Ainsworth, a Republican from South Royalton.

Hall said Thursday that it will be many years, possibly even decades, before his ideas come to fruition.

“I’m trying to purchase land to conserve it so that it doesn’t continue to be broken up,” he told the Valley News. “I’m simply conserving land at this point.”

He is also pursuing developments for smaller prototype communities in Provo, Utah, where he lives.

“Vermont won’t adopt (NewVistas) until realizing it has met its goals of being environmentally friendly,” he said. “They’ll need to see it in other places before Vermont will ever adopt it.”

In August 2016, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Hall’s efforts are “a private venture,” not associated with the Utah-based faith “in any way,” according to a Salt Lake Tribune report.

“The church makes no judgment about the scientific, environmental or social merits of the proposed developments,” the church said in a statement at the time. “However, for a variety of reasons, we are not in favor of the proposal.”

The church did not elaborate on those reasons, and Hall at the time said he didn’t open a dialogue with its officials because “I don’t want them to think they have any control or any influence whatsoever over me.”

“I don’t want their advice.”

— Larrisa Beth Turner, of The Salt Lake Tribune, contributed to this report.— Larrisa Beth Turner, of The Salt Lake Tribune, contributed to this report.