Group Seeks Input  On NewVistas Land

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/5/2018 11:59:58 PM
Modified: 9/6/2018 8:19:24 AM

Sharon — The Utah developer who recently backed off long-term plans to build a sustainable community in rural Vermont has put 500 acres of forest and pastures on the market, while conservationists are planning a pair of community forums to gauge public opinion on the region’s future.

Beginning in 2015, David Hall’s NewVistas Foundation bought about 1,500 acres of a total of 5,000 acres of land in Sharon, Tunbridge, Royalton and Strafford that he hoped one day would serve as the site of a high-tech, eco-friendly community of 20,000 people.

But in June, soon after the National Trust for Historic Preservation declared that Hall’s project was endangering the way of life for residents of the four towns, Hall reversed course, and announced that he was talking with land trusts about permanently conserving and selling the land.

Last month, Hall put the most valuable, parcel of his holdings on the open market — 500 acres spanning Tunbridge, Royalton and Sharon on Clifford Farm Road, which is listed at $2.9 million.

“I decided to go ahead and sell the properties,” Hall said on Wednesday. “I don’t want to put all the land on the market at once. That’s not wise for anybody.”

He said he anticipated the selling process will take four or five years, unless a deal is brokered for all the land at once.

“I’m also considering any offers from others like the land trusts,” he said. “I’m just fully open to whatever.”

He purchased the Clifford Farm Road properties in two parcels for a total of $1.7 million; he said the same realtor who facilitated his purchase is now facilitating the sale.

“I leave the price completely up to my local people,” he said. “It was all just market based.”

According to the listing, the property, also known as Highland Farm, includes a four-bathroom, three-bedroom farmhouse built in 1993, stables, a barn and a guest house with an open floor plan, all of which enjoy sweeping views of rolling hills and spring-fed ponds. It includes 20 acres of meadows convenient to the barn and stables, and the property also features hayfields, miles of trails and managed woodland. The listing estimates the property taxes at nearly $20,000 a year.

Hall said he’ll continue to disengage with the Vermont project, and is instead focusing on Hall Labs, an innovation company with products that are compatible with Hall’s visions of high-efficiency living — a three-wheel electric vehicle, smartphone-controlled blinds, a preventive health program that continuously monitors bodily fluids and vitals, and a carbon capture technology that promises to reduce CO2 emissions from fossil fuel plants.

“What we’re doing is spinning off products that individually sell, but which are needed long term for transforming spaces,” Hall said.

When Hall backed off of his plans for Vermont, it raised questions about the future of the Alliance for Vermont Communities, a grassroots group that formed specifically to oppose his plans.

“We’re doing some public forums, as we have done in the past, to keep people interested and involved,” said Michael Sacca, president of the Alliance for Vermont Communities.

“Now we’re realizing that it’s time to talk to people about what’s going on and also, it is an opportunity for us to get creative with what goes on with some of these properties and public input is a part of that process,” said Alex Buskey, an event organizer with the alliance. “Our mission all along has been community development.”

Sacca said the alliance is interested in what will become of Hall’s land.

“The best case scenario would be that it is conserved,” he said.

Jeanie McIntyre, executive director of Upper Valley Land Trust, said area conservation groups are continuing to talk with Hall about whether they might buy some or all of his holdings.

“Obviously, the decision about their disposition is ultimately up to Mr. Hall,” she said.

But, McIntyre said, the forums are an opportunity to gauge how the land might look through the lens of community values.

“I would be thinking more about what make communities vibrant and great places to live in the future,” she said. “The balance of housing and economic opportunity and local food and clean water. ... I think that’s the way to be looking at the opportunities with Mr. Hall’s properties.”

One forum is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 10, at the Sharon Elementary School, while the other is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 12, at the Vermont Law School in South Royalton.

The events will include updates on the possible future of the NewVistas land, question and answer sessions, and speakers from the Bethel Revitalization Project (at the Sharon event), and the Randolph/Rochester Sports Trails Alliance (at the Royalton event).

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be reached at

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