Utah man abandons plan for development inspired by Joseph Smith

The Joseph Smith Birthplace Memorial was dedicated Dec. 23, 1905, between the towns of Sharon and Royalton, Vt., on the 100th anniversary of Joseph Smith's birth. A Utah man has abandoned plans for a massive development in the rural area surrounding the memorial. | Photo courtesy of Improvement Era, Vol. 11, No. 2 (December 1907),  https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31509242, St. George News

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — A Utah businessman is abandoning plans for a massive development in four rural Vermont towns based on the papers of Mormon founder Joseph Smith after fierce opposition to the project.

The monument at Joseph Smith’s Birthplace Memorial stands 50 feet tall and weighs approximately 100 short tons, according to Wikipedia. The 40-short-ton shaft of the obelisk is 38.5 feet long – one for each year of Smith’s life. It has been cited as a “remarkable engineering feat” and “one of the largest polished shafts in the world.” May 2009, located between Sharon and Royalton, Vt. | Photo courtesy of Kafka Liz via https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6921901, St. George News

David Hall’s family foundation NewVistas had been buying land near Smith’s birthplace in Sharon, Vermont, for what he described as an economically, ecologically and socially sustainable development with housing for 20,000 people many years in the future.

A local group was formed to fight the plans. The towns and the Legislature also voted against the project, which didn’t dissuade Hall at the time.

On Tuesday, the National Trust for Historic Preservation announced it had put the towns — Royalton, Sharon, Strafford and Tunbridge — on “watch status” because of the proposal.

That was a “genius move” by the groups opposing the project, Hall said Wednesday. “I’m just kind of tired of the drama and worn out. … I’m a smart enough businessman to realize when I’m beat.”

Hall had expected locals to be opposed the plans at first but hoped they would grow more accustomed to the idea as other projects were built. Many residents in the rural, mountainous region with a total population of about 6,600 believed such a large-scale development would change the character of their small communities, tax resources and limit access to recreational areas and mountain views.

The Mormon church had also denounced his plans in Vermont and for another community in Utah.

Hall said he is focused on doing test buildings and test villages in an industrial park in Provo, Utah. “An actual community is way off still,” he said.

In Vermont, he wants to sell the 1,500 acres he’s purchased in the four towns. “Hopefully I can find an investment group that will take it on and adopt the local plan instead of my dream,” he said.

Michael Sacca, head of the group formed to fight the project, the nonprofit Alliance for Vermont Communities, said he’s pleased with the outcome.

“This has been an amazing amount of effort by a lot of people,” he said.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation said Wednesday that it was relieved to learn that the towns were “potentially safe from inappropriate development.”

“We will continue observing the area in the coming weeks and months, and we hope the future of these land parcels is in keeping with the historic character, community interests, and conservation spirit of these towns and Vermont as a whole,” said Stephanie Meeks, president and CEO.

By LISA RATHKE, Associated Press

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  • Brian June 27, 2018 at 8:38 pm

    I’m glad. Sharon, VT is too small and nice to have a massive development like that come in. That would be like putting 5,000 high density homes in Pine Valley

  • comments June 27, 2018 at 10:10 pm

    Wait for second coming of Jesus Smith, and then built it.

    • tcrider June 28, 2018 at 7:17 am

      wait a minute, I thought there was only one Jesus ?

    • theone June 28, 2018 at 10:54 am

      Bob you actually made me laugh.

  • Real Life June 27, 2018 at 11:48 pm

    When someone is presented the Mormon religion for the first time, their reaction is not quite what Utah Mormons would come to expect. It is, how do you say, different. It is a tough sell, especially in that part of the country.

    • Striker4 June 28, 2018 at 5:30 am

      It’s a tough sell trying to convince people you have a clue

      • Real Life June 28, 2018 at 10:15 am

        5:40 am? Did you set your alarm to make that post? Very good Dumpster, now try setting an alarm to wake up and find a job. Time to grow up, get off the dope, and move our of mommy’s basement.

  • asianspa June 28, 2018 at 8:55 am

    I would be afraid to be this developers partner,… he might randomly call me in and ask me to give up my wife or daughter to him just to test me and my faith in the development.

  • Mike P June 29, 2018 at 10:14 am

    When I read the headline “development inspired by Joseph Smith” all I could think of was all the other cults that have started and were “inspired” by Joseph Smith.

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