Aug 2, 2016

Utah board manages polygamous property in Canada, and probably will for a long time

NATE CARLISLE

The Salt Lake Tribune

August 01 2016

Members of board from Hildale traveling to British Columbia to visit community.

Lister, British Columbia • A board in Hildale, Utah, has oversight of 55 homes here.

Residents like Mary Jayne Blackmore are thinking about whether there should be another arrangement.

"We don't expect the board in Utah to understand what our needs are," Blackmore said.

Blackmore lives in the enclave of Bountiful, a community within Lister that is the Canadian home of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. In 2005, the state of Utah seized the trust that held FLDS-controlled lands and homes here — and in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz.

While managers of the trust, called the United Effort Plan, have been divesting the property in Utah and Arizona, Canadian laws have prevented them from doing the same in Bountiful and have thus far prevented the creation of a Canadian nonprofit to govern the land.

Members of the United Effort board, which is based in Hildale, are traveling to Bountiful this week to see the community, speak with residents and discuss solutions for longterm management. Bountiful consists of 300 acres and 55 residences. It all sits against the Skimmerhorn Mountains, five miles north of the Idaho Panhandle.

Don Timpson, president of the United Effort's governing board, said he is going to Bountiful to get an orientation. Although he lives in Arizona, Timpson said he feels a kinship toward the residents in Bountiful. There has been a lot of intermarriage between families in Bountiful, Hildale and Colorado City.

"It's one people, one group, historically," Timpson said.

Bountiful has undergone much of the same upheaval that Hildale and Colorado City have experienced.

In 2002, the Jeffs family ousted the FLDS Bishop in Bountiful, Winston Blackmore. In what residents there refer to as "The Split," many of Blackmore's parishioners followed him out of the FLDS. Some remained loyal to the FLDS for a time and have since left.

The residents in Bountiful now largely fall into three groups: those loyal to imprisoned FLDS President Warren Jeffs, those loyal to Winston Blackmore and those who do not worship with the other two groups.

The second and third groups participate in civic events together, manage community affairs and have been working with the United Effort on a governance plan. The Jeffs loyalists wave hello but don't interact with the others.

When the state of Utah sized the United Effort in 2005, Bountiful was largely left to manage itself. The court-appointed fiduciary did not make Bountiful residents pay the $100-a-month fee that was imposed on those living in United Effort homes in Hildale and Colorado City.

That's largely because residents in Bountiful were not as litigious and did not rack up lawyer bills for the trust, said Zach Shields, a Salt Lake City attorney for the United Effort. But there is no clear way to make Bountiful autonomous.

Subdividing the property would be prohibitively expensive under Canadian law, Shields said. Selling property would require paying high Canadian taxes on the transfer.

"It's just not economically feasible," Shields said.

There might be a possibility of creating another entity to which Bountiful can be transferred, Shields said. Or the United Effort may create a Canadian board to advise the board in Hildale.

In 2014, Bountiful residents created Mountain Land Management Society to coordinate infrastructure improvements and the payment of taxes. Miriam Chatwin sit on the board.

"We don't want to be paying money to a board in Utah that doesn't understand our needs," Blackmore said.

During an interview on a warm evening with a clear view of the Mount Thompson towering above Bountiful, Mary Jayne Blackmore, a 33-year-old teacher who is one of Winston Blackmore's 145 children, and Chatwin discussed the community's needs. Water comes from the mountains and is gravity fed and some residences on the end of the line don't receive water in the summer, they said. They want to install pumps, but it will be expensive.

Mary Jayne Blackmore and Chatwin want to set aside some forest for preservation. Chatwin also wants create an orderly process for building new homes in Bountiful. There is room for 30 more, she said.

"It's essentially the wild west," Chatwin said. "If I can fence it, it's mine."

Mountain Land Management has already performed one upgrade. Instead of dividing the community tax bill 55 ways, as had been done in the past, in 2015 Mountain Land Management conducted assessments on residences similar to how county assessors perform them in Utah.

But Blackmore does not want Bountiful homes sold or given away the way the United Effort has done in Hildale. Her family has lived in Bountiful for four generations, and she doesn't want its people separated by property lines.

"Our inability to divide that land is our biggest blessing," Blackmore said.

Winston Blackmore, 59, spoke about his family Friday at the Sunstone Salt Lake Symposium. After his lecture, he said the United Effort has been managed as well as it could be since the state takeover. He said he was trying to retire from what he called the local "politics" of managing the Bountiful property and was willing to let the United Effort board decide what to do next.

"So whatever they decide will be fine," he said.

ncarlisle@sltrib.com

Twitter: @natecarlisle

http://www.sltrib.com/home/4138618-155/utah-board-manages-polygamous-property-in?fullpage=1

 

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