Tag Archives: David R. Hall

NewVistas by any other name still a dead cow falling from the sky

 

The Valley News reports that David Hall is doing a little bit of rebranding to his New Vistas project. New Vistas is now to be known as Windsorange LLC.DCFFTS It not clear where this rebranding strategy and new name (a mash-up of Windsor and Orange counties) originated but Seven Days reported this spring that Montpelier lobbyist and PR ace Kevin Ellis was on-board with the utopian project and would help woo the local rurals.

The name is a combination of the two Vermont counties, Windsor and Orange, that Hall says he hopes to “improve.”

“What people never caught on to is (that) NewVistas is way in the future, and the first thing that needs to be done is jobs and commerce,” Hall said in an interview last week. “I decided to change the name so that people didn’t think we were trying to do NewVistas right away.” from VNews.com

New Vistas, now known as Windsorange LLC, is the utopian city/state Utah resident Hall has planned for several towns in central Vermont’s Upper Valley. Using the birthplace of the founder of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, Joseph Smith, as its focal point, the futuristic city/state is inspired by the Mormon design for the city of Zion.

The ultra wealthy(former owner of diamond oil drill manufacturer Novatek) Hall  is still buying up parcels of land for what could eventually be a residential community of a more than 5,000-acre home to 20,000 (plus) souls. Nicole Antal, a resident of the town of Sharon (within the area affected by Hall’s planned community) and the blogger who broke the New Vista story, is doggedly reporting Hall’s latest land buys and tracking local opposition efforts on the DailyUV.com.

NewVistas’ name change is only part of the rebranding, as Hall told the Valley News:  [he will be] focusing on offshoots of the research needed to make his self-sustaining communities possible.

“I have lots of expanding businesses under my umbrella,” he said, “and so what my hope is, is to get some good cooperation with other key people in the area” — potential partnerships that could bring to the White River Valley some “good jobs,”

He would not name names of local partners but did say the Vermont Law School with whom he had hoped to partner had rejected an association with Windsorange/NewVistas. But Hall  stresses, in what by repetition seems a vaguely threatening way, the long-term or even inevitable nature of his dream community. “[…] so I’ll just wait. My ideas are too far out for most people. But I’m patient. I can wait.”

For the short term, inflicting his massive Windsorange dream community on several small Vermont towns seems as welcome as dead cow falling from the sky.

David Hall’s New Vista: “…a dead cow falling out of the sky.”

deadcowfallAn informational meeting was held in Tunbridge on the 18th of August about David Hall’s ongoing efforts to create a futuristic community called New Vista. [There is a video of the meeting below and posted by Nicole Antal on the DailyUV.]

No doubt the Tunbridge gathering will be one of many meetings held over time as the Utah resident, Hall buys up land and pursues his utopian dream that happens to target four area towns. His ultimate goal is a radically designed high density residential community with a population of 15-20,000. The design includes plans for high-tech toilets that monitor a resident’s health and robotic storage systems that allow furniture to play hide-and-seek. […] The key concept of a NewVistas community is that a resident’s apartment would need to transform itself several times a day because each person would have only 200 square feet of living space.

The genesis of the plan has roots in the Mormon (Church of the Latter Day Saints, LDS) teachings of Joseph Smith, but the church recently has denied any involvement or endorsement of the project. A recent article in the LDS-owned newspaper, Deseret News, makes that clear and accurately reports the reaction here in Vermont:

[…] in the rural slice of Vermont where Hall has focused much of his land acquisition, his scheme has landed like a dead cow falling out of the sky.”

Smack in the middle: New Vista, candidates and a lobbyist

Intrepid blogger/reporter Nicole Antal, who writes in the Daily Upper Valley community website, has written her sixth story about David Hall and New Vista for her Very Vermont column.

Antal, who was first to break the story, has now compiled how local and statewide candidates and office holders stand on the proposed massive project. Hall is the Utah-based engineer/developer and Mormon (member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, aka LDS) who has set out to build a 20,000-resident utopian community in Sharon (the birthplace of LDS founder Joseph Smith) and several surrounding towns. Plans for his futuristic New Vista and descriptions of the proposed community make it sound, at least to me, like a benevolent real-life version of Zardoz.keepitnice2

Although they were contacted twice by Antal, gubernatorial candidates Minter, Lisman, Galbraith,[update: Peter Galbraith commented 6/16 on New Vista on Reddit.com in response to question ] Paige, and Ericson did not respond. Phil Scott and Matt Dunne responded by email.

Dunne expressed a strong desire to preserve the character and quality of Vermont life and says the Act 250 process should support that goal.

Phil “listen and learn” Scott wants to “learn a little more about this curious project to make sure it’s a good idea for the community and the state.” He wonders if “perhaps there’s a good idea in here somewhere.” And, he says, “Like any other developer, they [New Vista] would have to follow the rules and regulations laid out in Vermont’s laws, so we’ll have opportunities to learn more.”  Funny, I notice Scott just can’t quite bring himself to mention Act 250 here in a positive context. Perhaps there’s a good idea in Act 250 after all, Phil.

The area targeted by Hall includes Vermont House districts Windsor-Orange 1 (Royalton, Tunbridge) and Windsor-Orange 2 (Sharon, Thetford, Norwich, and Strafford);  Antal contacted and got responses from all the legislative candidates. It is well worth reading the candidates’ full comments on the Daily Upper Valley website.

All of the local respondents (three Independents, one Republican, and a Democrat) indicated degrees of caution and skepticism over the wisdom of plunking down New Vista and its 20,000 people in rural Vermont. Another notable common thread was how they all seemed thankful to have the Act 250 regulatory process in place. As far as I know New Vista is not far enough along to have become involved in the Act 250 development approval process.

District 2 Republican House candidate David Ainsworth also notes the Act 250 requirement and adds he is “a little bit apprehensive about it [the project’s scale]” but couldn’t resist adding this: “But one of my biggest concerns is the overreaction and putting in a lot of regulations that will restrict everyone else’s opportunities to do things.” Have futuristic utopian city/states, throughout history always favored fewer government regulations and low tax states? I guess he fears Vermont might lose out on the coming boom in utopian city/state developments to New Hampshire.

Nicole Antal’s ongoing effort to get candidates and elected officials on public record early on in this process couldn’t come at a better time:  it looks like David Hall will begin a more systematic wooing of Vermonters’ support.

Recognizing a lucrative opportunity, Montpelier lobbyist/PR man Kevin Ellis reportedly solicited Hall for his business and offered his services. Ellis will be making connections and smoothing the way for the high-density 20,000-resident New Vista development. “This may be a great idea,” Ellis says. New Vista, he believes “…would inject millions of dollars and lots of new people into communities.” He could also add, but doesn’t, that the “injection” of dollars and lots of new people (20,000) would permanently, radically change — basically destroy — the existing rural character and lives of a large part of central Vermont.

Luckily we have a record of what the candidates say about New Vista now, let’s see what happens when long-time Montpelier lobbyist and PR ace Kevin Ellis sweet talks them in the years to come.

For now, says Ellis, David Hall is (under his guidance) “reaching out to local officials and residents.”  And later, should the need arise for any state rules or regulations to be adjusted favorably to the planned development by the legislature, long-time Montpelier lobbyist Kevin Ellis probably wants “to be in the middle of it.”

Hmmm,right ‘smack in the middle of it,’ that sounds familiar…

Man with no-name: “Baxter’s over there, Rojo’s there, me right smack in the middle”

[Yup, somebody gets a fistful of New Vista dollars]

Man with no-name: Crazy bell-ringer was right. There’s money to be made in these parts.

David R. Hall goes NewVistasplaining to locals

Utah millionaire David R. Hall answered questions from Vermonters by phone on Saturday to tell locals about his NewVista project he plans for that area.  Nicole Antal who writes for the online events and news  publication DailyUV researched and broke this story last week. She has a rundown of Saturday’s Q & A session here  and they provide an  audio file of it here. [correction note:Hall answered questions from a Tunbridge Library forum by phone. The diary was changed to reflect that, BP]

The NewVista project,as described in a planning document [link paragraph five], will be what they call “a massively scalable and sustainable community econosystem.” And it is well worth a glance at the details :

When individuals come to a NewVista community, they will deposit their intellectual assets and cash with the community capital fund (except for operating cash, which will be deposited into an account at the community’s approved bank), receiving legal instruments acknowledging the deposits. 

Hall, a Mormon, has bought hundreds of acres of land near the birth place of Mormon Church founder Joseph Smith in Sharon Vermont. Some spill-over development will occur in Tunbridge, Strafford and Royalton.

At Saturday’s meeting local residents asked thoughtful questions and Hall answered openly. It also seemed from Antal’s report Hall explained what was going to happen, not to ask what the residents might want to happen to their town.

Like some kind of 21st century utopian-engineer-colonialist, Hall is determined to plunk down his 15,000- to 20,000-resident city-state in four upper White River Valley towns. The impact shouldn’t be underestimated. The size and scale to the rest of the state is notable:  one local resident made the point that only three cities in Vermont have populations that large or larger than his NewVista city.newvistatarget

Here are a couple quick takeaways .

NewVista may, according to Hall, take upwards of half a century to complete, but it is a process, starting sooner rather than later. So heads-up.  His ideal time frame: “Within 15 years, I hope to do multiple districts throughout the US in different places.” Curiously and without explanation he mentioned at the meeting that Vermont wasn’t part of his initial plan.

One thing is clear: Hall’s NewVista dream is well funded. NewVista is “a for-profit trust, and pays taxes.”  I am not that familiar with corporate tax structure but it is likely to complicate a  small town’s existing tax structure.

And for anyone who doubts his lack of sensitivity to the local towns control I have copied part of one exchange from Antal’s DailyUV article:

Question: “You have mentioned a couple of times that you wouldn’t be interested in going forward with this if the local people weren’t interested, is that right?”

Mr. Hall: “That’s right; it’s not going to happen if people of Vermont don’t want it.”

Question: “I would suggest that instead of buying any more land that you and your family and whoever come here and meet the people and find out what we are like, and what we want, and what we don’t want

Mr. Hall: “I already know that the local people don’t want this. In time, over time, people will probably like it if they understand it. There is not one place in the United States, or even in the world where local people ever would embrace change. That’s just the logical truth.”

Question: “I assume you are local to someplace?”

Mr. Hall: “Yes I am”

Question: “What do you think about changes in your neighborhood?

Mr. Hall: “I am a much broader-thinking person than most people. Others aren’t. You can’t compare what I would think with. My neighbors hate this idea. So I can’t do anything about that.”

Question: “I might suggest that before you buy anymore properties, if you say that you are not going forward if the locals aren’t for it, then why you would continue buying more properties. What about a study?”

Mr. Hall: “I didn’t say I wouldn’t do it if the locals aren’t for it. I said I won’t do it if VERMONT is not for it. (…)  It’s not rational to expect a local person who is established, a 7th generation or something, to ever support this. That’s unreasonable. “

If I lived in Sharon or any surrounding town that exchange would sound more than a few alarms. Hall admits locals probably don’t want his city/state, but that’s because he is a “broader thinking person.”

David Hall at the wheel of a Vanderhall vehicle
David Hall at the wheel of a Vanderhall vehicle, made by a NewVista enterprise.

The locals, he says, probably will like it once they understand it. Do you suppose  this would be after they sell or after they are enlightened to his vision?

David Hall says local opposition is not rational. I’d guess he believes resistance is “feudal.”

How to build a utopian community in White River Valley

A mega-wealthy buyer gathering up parcels of land is news that will cause unease and even strike fear into most small town residents — except maybe a local real estate agent or two.

Well, that’s what is happening in the White River Valley as a Utah businessman recently bought almost a thousand acres in four local towns. David R. Hall, a Mormon developer, has $100 million set aside to spend, and says he’s just getting started.

newvistavt 1The ultimate goal is NewVista  a settlement he wants to build, composed of 50 diamond-shaped communities of 15,000 to 20,000 people each.

 

Over the next 30 to 50 years, Hall hopes to realize plans by the Mormon religious leader to create an integrated community that could house as many as 20,000 people within a few square miles. In a telephone interview Tuesday, Hall said he was hoping to purchase enough land to create a large contiguous plot on which to base his development, which he hopes could provide a model for an environmentally friendly, sustainable way of living.

[…] In 1833, Smith [Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism] and his followers imagined something they called a “Plat,” or “Plot,” of Zion — a city on a rectangular grid that would integrate all needs of a community into one design.  

“That’s the fundamental background,” Hall said. “We’re of course doing all the engineering to figure out how it might work.”

[From The Valley News’ upgraded, snazzier than ever website]

David Hall  inherited his fortune from the family engineering business, Novatek, which makes synthetic diamond drilling technology. Novatek, a privately held company, was acquired in 2015 by Schlumberger Ltd, the international an oil and gas exploration giant.

Vermonters in Royalton, Sharon, Strafford and Tunbridge are predictably worried about what this might do to their communities. Hall claims there should be no cause for concern, and with a time frame of 30 to 50 years this guy is obviously planning long term. Eternity perhaps?

So how do you build utopia in the White River Valley ?

Now reports are that Hall hasn’t reached out to the community, but I believe he actually has, just not in the  a way you might expect. He may not be out shaking hands to reassure the general public, but buried like a shale oil deposit to pump later is his inspired “good will” gesture.

Hall said he hopes to work with the Vermont Law School in South Royalton — “The best environmental law school in the country,” he called it — and floated the idea of building a research center nearby and giving grants to professors there.

Dangling that offer in front of  a struggling law school is better than showing up at twenty years’ worth of town meeting days. Do you think, perchance, David Hall might have permits and environmental regulations in mind?

Note to self: To build a 20,000 resident utopian paradise in a small town

  • First step: buy …err invest in a law school and professors.