SOUTH ROYALTON, Vt. — A man who tried for seven years to build a gift shop and delicatessen near the Vermont birthplace of Joseph Smith now wants to sell the land to a Mormon historical society that would build a museum and hospitality center.
John Lefgren said his unsuccessful effort to open the business on his land in Royalton went through several government agencies and courts, a dozen lawyers and tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees. He's now told the Royalton Planning Commission he wants to sell his land to the Joseph Smith and Emma Hale Smith Historical Society.
Lefgren, who lives in New Jersey, told the Valley News he was financially drained and frustrated by the lengthy process, and hopes the historical society will be able to carry out his long-sought development.
"I'm not able to do what I think needs to be done by myself," said Lefgren. "It needs other resources, and I think this historical society will be able to tap into the funding and to realize what I would like to be done. That's my motivation to sell."
Lefgren said the historical society facility would be almost identical to the plan that he has pushed for years. It would have historical pieces and artwork and sell food and refreshments to the estimated 40,000 people who visit the birthplace of the founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Over the years Lefgren was denied a permit under Act 250, Vermont's land-use law.
Lefgren now plans to submit a new Act 250 application, outlining the facility that the historical society would hope to open inside existing buildings. He's hoping for a smoother road this time around.
Lefgren said the historical society will only buy the property if he can first secure the appropriate permit.
The land marking the Joseph Smith birthplace is controlled by the LDS Church.
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