Prophet's dream of Zion is being rapidly fulfilled
Less than a year after Eldoradoans first learned that a fundamentalist Mormon sect had purchased a ranch four miles north of town and had begun to build, a new town is springing to life on the property.
In the days before he became the prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Warren Jeffs wrote and recorded a song titled, Yearn for Zion. Many of his former followers, including Richard Holm of St. George, UT, believes the song title was the inspiration for the name given to YFZ Land, LLC, the corporation formed by one of Jeffs’ most ardent supporters, David Allred of Hildale, UT.
YFZ Land, LLC appears to have been created specifically to acquire 1,691 acres of land here in Schleicher County, and to mislead local residents as long as possible about Jeffs’ real plans for the property.
Rumor of mass voter registration by YFZ residents proves untrue
A rumor that 600 people residing at the YFZ Ranch registered to vote recently when they obtained Texas driver’s licenses in San Angelo has turned out to be unfounded. The story swept through town late last week prompting numerous calls to the Success office.
Schleicher County Tax Assessor/Collector Jeanne Snelson, who also serves as the county’s voter registrar, refuted the story. She said that her office had received a number of calls last week asking about the story.
Snelson’s deputy Jennifer Henderson demonstrated how she closely monitors voter registration, including those who register when they obtain a driver’s license. She noted that the information is transmitted to the Secretary of State’s office in Austin and then back to Schleicher County via data link.
“Believe me, if we had received 600 we would have known it,” Henderson said.
Follow the Money
Utah attorneys target Warren Jeffs’ assets
FLDS Prophet Warren Jeffs stands to lose financial control of his polygamous empire if a motion filed last Thursday before a Utah judge is granted.
The motion asks Utah State Judge Stephen Roth to remove Jeffs as head of United Effort Plan, a charitable trust that controls almost all of the church’s financial assets in the twin towns of Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah.
The motion is perhaps the most significant development in the FLDS story since Jeffs’ followers began acquiring property in Schleicher County in the autumn of 2003. It also represents the most serious threat to Jeffs’ absolute control over the lives of his followers since he ascended to leadership of the church in 2002.
Federal judge refuses to overturn Utah polygamy ban
U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart granted a summary judgment last week in the case of Bronson v. Swensen ruling that the Utah Constitution and Utah statutes outlawing polygamy are constitutional. The case caught the eye of Texans only after Warren Jeffs, the leader of nation’s largest polygamous Mormon sect, began moving a large part of his followers to Schleicher County. Jeffs and his Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is in the process of building a new community four miles outside of Eldorado.
The case involved a Utah man and two women who sued the Salt Lake County Clerk for refusing to grant a license for the man to marry the second of the women. (He was already married to the first.) The Clerk had denied the marriage license on the basis that polygamy is illegal under the Utah Constitution and Utah statutes.
Brian Barnard, a Salt Lake City civil rights attorney, filed a lawsuit arguing that Utah’s anti-polygamy laws are unconstitutional and that polygamy is protected under the U.S. Constitution as freedom of religion, right of association and right to privacy, as well as other provisions.
Both the plaintiffs and defendant both filed motions for summary judgment.
UCRA launches offensive against YFZ wastewater permit
Schleicher County commissioners asked to support the effort
Stephen Brown is opposed to wastewater permit application filed by the YFZ Ranch. He says the ranch has a long history of non-compliance with state environmental regulations and he wants to see the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality step up its efforts to bring the ranch into line with state rules.
To that end, Brown, who once served as the San Angelo city manager, and who is currently employed as a management consultant by the Upper Colorado River Authority, says the UCRA has earmarked $7,500 for legal and technical support as it moves to oppose the permit application. He asked Schleicher County commissioners on Monday to consider making a one-time contribution to the effort. Brown was accompanied by Hyman Sauer, who was appointed to the UCRA board of directors by Governor Rick Perry.
TCEQ seeks $18,813 fine against YFZ
Officials expect second round of fines to follow
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has handed down its first penalties, totaling $18,813.00, against YFZ Land L.L.C., the company that owns the YFZ Ranch.
According to a document filed Monday with TCEQ Chief Clerk LaDonna Castanuela, TCEQ inspectors found forty separate violations of state environmental rules during four visits to the ranch, beginning on April 16 and continuing through August 16, 2004.
Among the violations were the ranch’s failure to obtain a permit to operate an on-site sewage disposal system and failure to obtain an air quality permit at for a cement bulk plant. YFZ personnel later applied for and received the necessary air quality permit. A permit to construct and operate a wastewater treatment plant is under review at TCEQ headquarters in Austin.
Other violations noted in the TCEQ report was the failure to take the cement plant out of operation after the first citation, the dumping and burning of municipal solid waste, the dumping of partially treated wastewater on ranch roads, and failing to notify TCEQ of the start up of a new public water system.