A MORMON millionaire is aiming to build a new American metropolis in unspoilt New England countryside using a 180-year-old blueprint.

“Diamond” Dave Hall’s plans have caused outrage after it was revealed he has bought hundreds of acres of land in Vermont near the birthplace of Joseph Smith, who founded the Mormon religion.

Hall aims to base his new community on Smith’s original idea for a city of Zion but with futuristic innovations such as toilets that can monitor the health of their users.

There would also be “podways” built below ground for electric cars with the “sustainable” community being self-sufficient and eco-friendly.

Hall, whose father made a fortune in drilling after inventing the synthetic diamond, has been quietly buying up land near Sharon for decades.

The plan for his New Vista community only came to light when a curious librarian working in the town came across the land purchases. Nicole Antal, 30, said she was shocked at the amount of land he had bought.

“This is very big for Vermont,” she said. “Burlington is 40,000 people. Montpellier, the state capital, is 7,000. This is not one guy buying a house and trying something new.”

The National:


HALL has so far snapped up around 1,500 acres near four small towns whose total population is 6,400 and is estimated to have spent around £800 million on the land – with plans to buy more at a cost of around £120m.

However he faces growing opposition from people in Vermont, who say his project is out of place in such a sparsely populated area.

What makes the controversy odder still is that the Church of the Latter Day Saints, founded by Smith and a major land owner in its own right, has not backed the project.

This is despite Hall arguing that he is sticking closely to the original plan drawn up by Smith in the 1830s. The so-called Plat of Zion was for new self-sufficient towns set out in a grid system and surrounded by farmland. Each town was to house a maximum of 20,000 people and, once full, other similar communities would be built.

“This farm boy dreamed of building a metropolis that rivalled the large seaport cities he had only heard about,” explained historian Benjamin Park of Sam Houston University.

Smith wanted to build his prototype in Missouri which he said had been revealed as “the land of promise and the place for the City of Zion”.

The National:


PARK said Smith’s vision was for a “new civilisation destined to expand as God’s people multiplied. Gathering and city building were not incidental parts of sanctification, but the goal.”

In 1833, along with other church leaders, Smith drew up a blueprint for the city but the early Mormons were ejected from Missouri and Smith was killed in 1844 before it could be built.

His plan survived, however, and indeed was used as a template for many towns in the American West, most famously for Salt Lake City, established by the Mormons in 1847. Its wide streets lie north to south and huge blocks of housing surround the Mormon temple where Smith’s original design is held in a museum.

Hall believes the Plat of Zion is a remedy for urban sprawl and already has 150 engineers working on architecture and technology for the project. He is funding the project with the cash he netted from the sale of Novatek, his drilling-equipment company.

“Joseph Smith was just the wildest guy out there,” he said. “Lots of things he did were stupid but, in my view, he was a sage or a seer and didn’t even understand what came to him.”


A FOURTH generation Mormon, Hall came across the Plat of Zion in the 1980s when he was looking into his religion’s history. He has since used it in detailed plans for his New Vista communities.

“I’ve used it to triangulate right down to the itty-bitty details, like what type of wood to use,” he said.

Designed to incorporate residential, industrial, commercial, and agricultural space, the New Vista communities are pedestrian with rooftop farms. Each person will be given only 200sq ft of living space but every flat will be soundproofed with robots used to rearrange the furniture as required, storing the spare pieces in electronically operated boxes kept underneath the floors.

“We’re still a few years off from having that work, but it’s not dreamsville – it’s technically feasible,” said Hall.

Multi-purpose buildings will be used as sports halls, conference centres, schools and places of worship – non-Mormon as well as Mormon.

The 69-year-old aims to build the first New Vista in Provo, Utah, where there is also opposition to his plans. There his five children are overseeing the development of technology for the communities.The National:


DESPITE Hall’s protestations that his communities will help prevent urban sprawl rather than add to it, his opponents are not convinced.

“We’re really not that interested in what religious figures 200 years ago thought about urban development,” said Professor John Echeverria, of Vermont Law School. “I think Hall can permit us to be sceptical about whether Joseph Smith, 200 years ago, came up with a solution for our environmental problems.”

Gus Speth, co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council, told Hall at a public consultation: “Because of your affection for this site you have selected the most incongruous place imaginable to plop this huge experiment in social engineering down. And it’s going to destroy these communities. It’s the biggest existential threat to this area that I can imagine.”

A Mormon Church spokesperson said: “This is a private venture and is not associated with the Church which makes no judgment about the scientific, environmental or social merits of the proposed developments. However, for a variety of reasons, we are not in favour of the proposal.”