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Vt. towns try to block plans for Mormon utopia - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. towns try to block plans for Mormon utopia

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SOUTH ROYALTON, Vt. -

"I'm so old, and I feel I'm going to be ducking out pretty soon. It's up to my kids," said Betty Lawhite of South Royalton.

Those are words you only hear from someone with some years under their belt. Betty Lawhite has 52 years under her belt living in South Royalton. Her 130 acres of land will be her kids when she's gone.

"Now I have limited mobility but as long as I can put one foot in front of the other, I plan on being here," she said.

Lawhite is worried her kids may have to sell her land to a man trying to create a Mormon utopia surrounding Joseph Smith's birthplace in the towns of Sharon, Royalton, Tunbridge and Strafford.

"David Hall does not get Vermont, and with all due respect and rather bluntly, we do not want him as a neighbor," Michael Sacca said.

Sacca is leading the Alliance for Vermont Communities, a group formed to oppose David Hall's vision to redevelop 5,000 acres and quadruple the population of the four rural Vermont towns.

"I am very concerned about scale," said Sen. Dick McCormack, D-Windsor County.

McCormack thinks Hall's "New Vistas" proposal may violate the state's Act 250 law.

"The kind of governance being envisioned here may not be constitutional," McCormack said.

And if New Vistas does follow Vermont's law, McCormack says the state may need to strengthen its rules so projects of New Vistas scale aren't allowed.

Hall is in China and could not be reached for comment.

"Quadrupling the population of four adjacent small towns in not only out of scale, it's preposterous," McCormack said.

David Hall already owns 1,400 acres of property there. His plan calls for tripling that.

"Scores of you have signed a voluntary pledge to not ever sell your homes or land to the New Vistas Foundation," Sacca said.

Betty Lawhite included.

This crowd is speaking out with signs across town. Their message may jibe with their graffiti, but their hope is Hall and 20,000 new neighbors never arrive.

Hall canceled an early October meeting with residents in the towns after he found out protesters may show up. We reached out to Hall's lobbyist working in Montpelier and he declined to comment.

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