Hildale, Colorado City: Locals must pay taxes and sign deals; Jeffs reportedly has forbidden signing
Residents of a polygamist community in the Arizona Strip are on notice that if they want to stay in their homes, they will be expected to sign an occupancy agreement and pay property taxes to a court-appointed fiduciary.
In a letter distributed to 1,900 post office boxes in the twin towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., special fiduciary Bruce R. Wisan also says residents must allow inspectors and surveyors on their properties and participate in a census.
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The census, he says, is necessary to evaluate the residents’ “needs” and “just wants.”
The letter also says that the newly appointed trustees overseeing the United Effort Plan trust, which holds all property in the twin towns, have agreed that no one will be evicted from homes based on whether they’re affiliated with the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
But those who do not sign the agreement or refuse to pay taxes may be evicted, Wisan warns.
The twin towns are home to the FLDS church, which practices an early version of Mormonism that includes polygamy. The mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints abandoned the practice in 1890. FLDS President Warren Jeffs is wanted on a federal charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution on an Arizona charge that he arranged a plural marriage between a 16-year-old girl and an older man.
Wisan was appointed last May by a 3rd District Court judge to oversee the trust, set up by the FLDS in 1942, after the Utah Attorney General’s Office successfully argued its assets were in jeopardy because of several civil lawsuits filed against Jeffs and the FLDS church. New trustees were appointed two months ago.
Jeffs is said to have previously told his followers to “answer them nothing” regarding the investigation into the trust’s operation. Wisan said Thursday he has heard Jeffs now has told his followers not to sign the occupancy agreement.
And that, he said, could trigger a showdown between Jeffs’ followers and himself.
Already, Wisan has had “feelers” from some residents asking if they could pay taxes to county treasurers rather than to him, something that may not be possible given the current court action involving the UEP trust and delinquent property taxes.
“If that is not an alternative, then I see no alternative but to do what I am doing, which puts me on a direct collision course with the people who are following Warren Jeffs’ directives,” Wisan said.
Wisan expects to send out a draft of the occupancy agreement next week, along with a request for residents’ comments.
“We may get some feedback from people regarding something we hadn’t considered,” Wisan said. He then plans to send out actual contracts.
If residents refuse to sign those agreements, Wisan is prepared to replace them with more willing tenants – beginning with homes that are the subject of occupancy disputes.
Rights to around 15 to 30 homes are disputed. Most of those cases involve people who were expelled from the community by Jeffs, but who believe they have claim to the homes because they either built or improved them.
Wisan said he would probably take action on five specific homes to “facilitate action on others.”