Interested in a home built for four wives and 27 kids?
By Brooke Adams
The Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake Tribune
Article Last Updated:01/01/2007 02:56:15 AM MST
COLORADO CITY, Ariz. - A real estate ad for a recently abandoned home
at the Utah-Arizona state line might read something like this:
3 level. 8 bd/8 ba. New carpet, paint. Custom closets, granite
window sills. Jacuzzi tubs. 2 kitchens, one per wife. Unfinished bsmt.
Fruit rm. Rose garden, wood/coal shed, horse corral, coop. 6 chickens.
LOTS of privacy.
Sound attractive? How about this one: A 19-bedroom, 23-bathroom
mansion in Hildale with three kitchens, one stocked with
commercial-grade equipment. The bathrooms have oversized or Jacuzzi
tubs. The living room is large enough to accommodate an orchestra,
Both homes, last occupied by relatives of polygamous sect leader
Warren S. Jeffs, are among a dozen residences recently dumped by the
Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
And Bruce R. Wisan, who is running a property trust set up by the
sect, is not sure what he'll do with either one. The growing stockpile
of homes is the latest twist in the standoff between the FLDS and
Wisan, who has managed the trust since May 2005. A Utah court placed
Wisan over the trust, which holds virtually all land and homes in the
twin towns, to protect its assets from litigation targeting the church
and its leaders.
But the FLDS have paid little heed to Wisan since the takeover.
They've been no-shows at three town meetings he set up to share his
plans for the trust.
Last year, none of the FLDS faithful paid property taxes on homes
they occupy until demand notices threatening eviction were tacked to
Wisan is reviving that door-to-door campaign again this year. So
far, only half of the $602,000 that was due Nov. 1 to Mohave County
has been paid. Wisan has six eviction notices ready to send out next
More empty homes - and no one to pay taxes on them - may just add
to Wisan's quandary.
He has allowed a dozen or so ex-FLDS members ousted by Jeffs to
reclaim homes they proved an interest in or that they built.
"I don't have any families out there that I'm aware of that would
be able to handle that kind of a house," he said. The 19-bedroom home
housed a husband, four wives and 27 children.
Wisan is not just talking family size, however.
There are taxes to be paid and, without a viable claim to a home,
Wisan will expect interested parties to pay "some kind of fair market
value." Wisan also has proposed residents pay for property deeds to
help cover costs of running the trust; he initially suggested $20,000
but now says the fee will be much lower.
Meanwhile, Wisan is trying to stay positive - and hoping people
plan to stay put.
"I am not overly concerned with what we have right now, but if
every week I get three or four or five houses then, yeah, I'll be
concerned and have to take a different approach in terms of what I'm
doing," Wisan said. "We don't have that many requests that if I get 75
empty homes that I'll be able to fill them all. I'd have to go to Plan
That is, try to pitch the properties to outsiders who are not
trust beneficiaries. Would there be any takers?
The FLDS are an insular group who even avoid contact with family
members cast out of the faith, which means they aren't likely to be
the friendliest of neighbors.
And there is this: A few of the homes given over to Wisan are
Across the street from the deluxe home listed above is a pioneer
home vacated months ago. It looks OK from the outside but time,
neglect and vandals have taken a toll.
It has a fairly standard setup: two kitchens, two living rooms,
eight bedrooms and three bathrooms.
"This is at least a three-wife home," said Isaac Wyler, an ex-FLDS
member who works for Wisan, as he wandered from room to room taking
Broken glass, sheetrock and red dirt litters the basement rooms.
Upstairs, children's scribbles are visible where wallpaper has peeled
away. In one room, vandals have hacked right through a sheetrock wall
to expose the adjacent bathroom. Taped to a mirrored closet door in
the same room is a paper that says, "Keep Sweet No Matter What. It Is
a Matter of Life or Death" - a favorite saying of former FLDS leader
Rulon Jeffs, Warren's father.
On Field Avenue in Hildale there is another vacant seven-bedroom,
six-bathroom home that could be a tough sell for Wisan. Man-sized,
soon-to-be tumbleweeds have taken over the front yard and a cat has
had its way inside the home, leaving piles of feathers everywhere.
There is the usual detritus left behind when people move: pieces
from a children's puzzle, a Sampson the Sheepdog book and old, never
opened bank statements. But there are some surprises, too.
One kitchen has been stripped of every appliance and all the
cabinets. Yet, an upstairs bathroom opens to a sparkling clean
two-person Jacuzzi tub, which looks almost ready for water.
Words written with black marker on the door mirror ask: "Did you
think to pray today?"