Thanks to GMD reader, Jennifer Shaw for suggesting the topic and providing a timely link.
With the Q-Burke development scandal still playing out, attention should be directed toward another uber-ambitious development plan, by one David Hall of Utah, that has so far seen limited public discussion.
Here’s the latest skinny, as carried on AP:
“SHARON, Vt. — A Mormon Utah businessman who wants to build a massive, futuristic, utopia-like community in central Vermont says he’s about to buy 500 more acres of land for the project, bringing his total to about 1,400 acres.”
The plan is to build a massive community reflecting the founder of the Church of Latter Day Saints, Joseph Smith’s 1833 concept for a city called ‘Zion.’
To build this city, Hall aims to acquire a total of 5,000 acres of land in south-central Vermont. Clearly, once this current purchase is complete, he will be well on his way to the full acquisition and will have increased credibility with potential investors.
The proposed utopian development Hall envisions will include housing for 20,000 people, plus offices, gardens, forty-eight basketball courts and 48 Olympic size swimming pools! That works out to one pool and one basketball court for roughly every four-hundred residents.
With all that planned recreational real estate, I’ll bet Hall dreams of the rebellious youth of his ideal community sweating out their trouble-making on the court or in the pool.
The idea is that the community should be self-sustaining (nothing wrong with that), producing sufficient food, jobs etc. to support all the occupants. How exactly that can be accomplished is yet to be fleshed-out, but with a timeline of “several decades” to work out the details, and a whole lot of money, Mr. Hall seems to think his dream could become a reality.
I wonder what kind of local permitting conversations are going on about that now? Act 250 alone should be a formidable challenge but we’ve all seen projects that should not have, by any reasonable understanding of Act 250, been permitted under the existing laws, but somehow managed to squeak through.
We have become so accustomed to the truism that ‘growth’ is the solution to all of our problemsthat some small communities have ceased to question whether it is indeed true in their case. It’s difficult to believe that a place as lovely as Sharon could be ripe for exploitation, but that’s apparently what Mr. Hall is relying upon. After all, someone is selling him the land.
At the right price, he observed, “Everything’s for sale.”
This proposal should ring alarm bells for anyone who recognizes the importance of preserving the open spaces and village character of rural Vermont, desirable qualities that are in extremely short supply everywhere else in America.
A city incorporated under Hall’s vision would be technologically very advanced but somewhat lacking in opportunities for individuality.
“In Hall’s “city,” people would live in energy-efficient modular homes within walking distances of heavy industry, farms and a central square consisting of 24 four-story buildings. Residents would deposit their assets in a communal fund upon arrival, though they’d be free to leave whenever.”
Vermont is now the most non-religious state in the Union. We pride ourselves on tolerance, but the majority of us prefer a personal spiritual journey to one that has been organized by others.
Even though Mr. Hall insists that the community would not be religiously exclusive, it is doubtful that the arrangement would attract many people outside the Mormon faith; and such a massive new enclave of homogenity is hardly going to enrich Vermont’s already feeble diversity.
I suspect that many Vermonters will hesitate to criticize the plan, lest they appear insensitive to a religious minority, but there is much to criticize about such a huge shift in land use away from rural, low-density uses, toward intense human habitation with all the environmental impacts that accompany such a change. Lawns, gardens, swimming pools, toilets and dishwashers all take their toll on the watershed. So do acres of concrete and new roads to service 20,000 new residents.
I say ‘new residents’ because there are currently only about forty-five hundred Mormons living in Vermont, and it is unlikely that all of them wish to up-stakes and move into a planned community.
20,000 people is greater than the population of South Burlington, Vermont’s second largest city. All of Windsor County is only 56,000 people.
I’d like to hear from our readers who live in Windsor County what their thoughts are on Mr. Hall’s plans. Is this a change you can envision for your region?