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Polygamous trust to sell dairy farm, other property

Published November 5, 2013 12:37 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The ball is rolling faster and faster for a massive trust that holds much of the land in a pair of predominantly polygamous towns.

During a hearing Tuesday morning in Salt Lake City, attorney Jeff Shields announced that significant progress was being made with the United Effort Plan. The plan is a trust that holds large amounts of land in Colorado City, Ariz., and Hildale, Utah — collectively known as Short Creek. Shields represents Bruce Wisan, an accountant appointed to over see the trust.

Probably the most finalized development coming out of the hearing is the sale of Harker Farm, a dairy farm in Beryl, Utah. The farm is owned by the UEP trust, and Wisan plans to sell it to Jonathan and Hyrum Harker. The two men have been managing the farm for years but recently obtained an agreement for financing from a lender.

The men will pay $3.4 million for the farm, but some of that will be through the transfer of other land to the UEP. Shields said the sale will net about $3.2 million in total cash, which will be used to repay money the state loaned the trust earlier this year.

"It will give us substantial capacity to repay the state," Shields said of the sale.

The UEP acquired Harker Farm in 2007 to satisfy an $8.8 million judgement against now-imprisoned FLDS leader Warren Jeffs. The farm later prompted legal skirmishes over ownership.

The sale will be further discussed in a hearing Nov. 22.

Shields and Wisan also announced during Tuesday's hearing that they have developed a plan to auction off about 40 non-residential properties in the Short Creek area. Wisan said the properties are open land or commercial space, and that after compiling an initial list he went through and removed the more "sensitive" properties. Among the properties Wisan removed from the auction list is a community garden in the center of town — which is prominently marked with a "UEP" sign on a rock wall — and the knoll on Berry Knoll Farm. Berry Knoll previously came up as a candidate for sale, but that plan was stopped when members of the FLDS Church argued the site is sacred to them.

Wisan and Shields also discussed occupancy fees in Short Creek homes, other lawsuits and other topics during Tuesday's hearing.

— Jim Dalrymple II