Officials, Community Members Discuss Potential New Settlement Near Upper Valley

Apr 26, 2016

A developer from Utah who has purchased 900 acres in Royalton, Sharon, Tunbridge and Stafford to create a 20,000 person closed community, has not filed any permits for the project yet.

At a meeting in Royalton Monday evening, local officials and about 100 concerned community members crammed into a large hall to discuss the potential development and the future of their rural lifestyle. On the back wall of the room, a poster outlines Vermont’s Act 250, a law that regulates large scale development in Vermont.

Chris Sargent, senior planner at Two-Rivers Ottauquechee Regional Commission, ran the meeting. He says Act 250 will raise significant hurdles for David Hall, the Utah developer, to clear to make his vision a reality. Hall has called his concept the New Vistas Foundation.

For now the development is just a vision and Sargent says this is a good thing. “We have the time, because the wheels aren’t turning that fast, to be able to look at our plans and our regulations,” Sargent told concerned citizens in a presentation about the potential project. “[We can] decide whether [town regulations] need to be tweaked in light of a large scale type development,” he explained.

Hall has not provided a timeline for the New Vistas Foundation, but recently told a group in Tunbridge, over the phone, that it will likely be completed in 50 years.

According to the Two Rivers Ottauquechee Regional Commission, Hall has plans to build similar communities in Provo, Utah and Bhutan.

"I felt like a bomb going off on the top of Dairy Hill that was going to destroy everything that we've worked for for 200 years in this valley." - Randy Leavitt, Royalton resident

Randy Leavitt's family has been living in Royalton since 1799. His son and grandson live on the same land. When he heard about the development he was shocked. “I felt like a bomb going off on the top of Dairy Hill that was going to destroy everything that we've worked for for 200 years in this valley,” he said.  

Leavitt built the Facebook page Stop the "NewVista" Project two days after hearing about the proposed New Vistas Foundation. He hopes it will be a forum for public discussion. “There’s some angst and some anger,” he said about the discourse on the page. “But there’s also a lot of good commentary.” 

If the New Vistas Foundation project became a reality, the region would face a 30 percent increase in population. Leavitt and other community members called that growth “completely out of scale with rural culture” and “ridiculous.”

Correction 4:27 p.m. Apr. 27, 2016 An earlier version of this story stated Randy Leavitt lives on Dairy Hill. He lives in Royalton, not on Dairy Hill.