Letter
June 10, 2016

Vt. precedents for town-building

Dear editor,

I’d like to comment on Steve Seitz’s report published in the Mountain Times June 1-7 edition on Utah entrepreneur David Hall’s vision of planting a large new community in Sharon and Royalton. Unlike the communes we are used to, Hall’s scheme is both unusual and grandiose and is intended to found an entirely new town on land he acquires. Hall’s vision poses a conundrum for Vermont officials and policymakers, who are collectively wondering how to handle this challenge. But Vermont does have precedents to draw on.

Back when Vermont was New Hampshire, anyone desiring to establish a town had to apply for a charter from the governing body to do so. Governor Benning Wentworth chartered dozens of towns between 1749 and 1764, in the name of George III. These charters were not issued to single individuals but to groups of incorporators who were then responsible for finding settlers. Settlers held deeds as we do today. (New York Province did not grant towns and a single landlord could own thousands of acres privately.)

After Vermont declared independence under its own constitution in 1777, the General Assembly continued granting town charters. These charters contained specific regulations governing the activities of the incorporators. An incorporator could not run the town to suit himself.

Another precedent is the town of Proctor, which was carved out of Pittsford and Rutland and incorporated quite late, in 1886. It was the brainchild of Redfield Proctor, owner of Vermont Marble Company, which had its first quarries there. He acted as U.S. secretary of war, U.S. Senator, and governor of Vermont. How did Redfield Proctor get his town?

So it would seem that David Hall, therefore, can’t just arrive one day with his plans. The state needs to satisfy itself that Hall’s scheme constitutes town-building. Historical precedent then requires him to get a town charter from the State of Vermont.

Sincerely,

Julia Purdy, Rutland Town

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