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Utah Man To Acquire 500 More Acres For Vermont Eco-City

Utah engineer David Hall envisions building a sustainable community of 20,000 people on land he's purchasing in Central Vermont. He's purchased 900 acres so far and is poised to acquire another 500.
Steve Zind
Utah engineer David Hall envisions building a sustainable community of 20,000 people on land he's purchasing in Central Vermont. He's purchased 900 acres so far and is poised to acquire another 500.

The Utah man who wants to build a unique project in Central Vermont says he is poised to purchase an additional 500 acres of land.

If he completes those deals, David Hall will have more than 25 percent of the land he says he needs to start building a community in Vermont that could house up to 20,000 people.

Hall started buying land under the radar last year. By the time local librarian and journalist Nicole Antal discovered the purchases and wrote about them, Hall’s NewVista Foundation owned 900 acres in Sharon, Tunbridge, Royalton and Strafford.

Since word got out, Hall says he’s been contacted by more people interested in selling their land.

“There was really a pent-up demand that we didn’t anticipate. People had just been sitting for a long time and anxious to sell and didn’t have signs up,” he said during a recent interview at the NewVista Foundation headquarters in Provo, Utah.

Hall says he’ll soon complete the purchase of 500 additional acres of land, bringing his total to about 1,400 acres.

In all he hopes to purchase 5,000 acres to build a community which would produce its own food and energy and generate income and jobs for its residents by creating home-grown industries and businesses.

Hall says he felt he had to take advantage of the opportunity to purchase more land, even though he hadn’t planned to do it so quickly.

“That’s why we’re scrambling. It’s over that particular budget for the year, so we’re taking funds from other sources, with discretion,” he says. “We don’t want to offend people, we don’t want to buy above market, because that’s nuts for everybody.”

Hall says the fact that he’s acquiring land faster than he expected doesn’t mean he will reach his goal of acquiring 5,000 contiguous acres much earlier than the span of many years or even decades that he initially anticipated.

He says he has a limited budget for land purchases in Vermont and he anticipates that the property he needs will come up for sale only over a long period of time as people move or die.

“Life’s circumstances happen that create change, but you can’t ever force somebody out. You’ve got to wait for those things to happen,” he says.

Hall seems surprised his plans have created such a stir in Vermont – and opposition from many residents of the towns where his community would be located.

He admits he could have been more open about what he was doing and why, but it doesn’t mean he’ll be announcing future land purchases.

According to Hall, “local people have said don’t do it. It’s kind of an embarrassment for the people selling. They don’t want their neighbor knowing they’re selling.”

Hall says he’s working through local realtors to purchase property and contracting with foresters to manage the parcels he owns.

He’s in the process of buying property in his home town of Provo, too, where he’s also run into opposition from neighbors. And he says he’s negotiating to buy land elsewhere in Utah as well as in India and Bhutan.

Hall says purchasing land in different places is basically a way to guarantee that if he doesn’t succeed in one place, he’ll be able to build a New Vistas community in one or more of the other locations.

Copyright 2016 Vermont Public Radio

Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.

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