A polygamous sect on the Utah-Arizona border recently put 1,300 acres of its land there up for sale while purchasing property and building new compounds in Texas and Colorado.
The most recent transaction took place in October when David Allred, a representative of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), bought a 60-acre parcel near Mancos, Colo.
Allred had purchased another 60 acres near the same area in southwestern Colorado in July 2003. In November 2003, he bought a 1,691-acre ranch near Eldorado, Texas.
In both states, Allred told officials the land was for a corporate retreat and hunting lodge. FLDS leaders later told authorities in West Texas that the property would be a refuge from pressure from the attorneys general in Utah and Arizona.
The Texas compound has grown to a dozen buildings. The two Colorado parcels each had a few existing buildings, one of which has been remodeled into a four-bedroom, four-bath home, and a couple of new structures have been added.
Rodney Parker, a Salt Lake City attorney for the FLDS Church, said the Utah acreage has been for sale for a while and is not contiguous to the sister cities of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., where the FLDS is based.
"It doesn't really fit in well with their community," Parker said Tuesday. "They can use that money for these other projects."
The land is in four pieces totaling 1,311 acres and is being offered by Aspen Management Investments in Hildale for $4.6 million. A company Web site refers to the acreage as prime development land.
The church, whose members embrace plural marriage as a tenet of their faith, has come under scrutiny during the past few years by law enforcement and anti-polygamists. Opponents claim the FLDS forces underage girls to become the plural wives of older men and pressures teenage boys to leave the 10,000-resident community on the Arizona Strip north of the Grand Canyon.
There are three civil suits pending against the FLDS and its president, Warren Jeffs. One alleges Jeffs sexually molested a boy, another says the FLDS systematically forces adolescents to leave their homes and the third alleges a member was fired from his job because he no longer adhered to the faith.
The purchases in Mancos, which is midway between Cortez and Durango, Colo., drew attention when Allred refused to allow Montezuma County Deputy Assessor Scott Davis inside the buildings. Davis said Allred's actions are legal but make appraising the value of the property more difficult.
"You take the best information you've got and you err on the side of being over, not under," Davis said. "You sit on the road, take a pair of binoculars and take a guess."
The two parcels, officially bought by Sherwood Management Group Inc., sit in an isolated part of the county with a population of 25,000, surrounded by public land. The U.S. Forest Service closes a gate to a nearby road after hunting season, meaning there is little traffic around the FLDS property.
Allred paid above market value for the land, $669,000 for the first parcel and $725,000 for the second. Their market values are estimated at $400,000 and $200,000.
In Texas, Allred paid $657,500 for the planned retreat called the YFZ Ranch. Schliecher County Sheriff David Doran said the 40 or so people living at the ranch have caused no problems.
When word got out about the identity of the ranch owners, Doran contacted the sheriff in Washington County, Utah, to learn more about the FLDS. He is planning to do the same for his counterpart in Montezuma County.
"We're basically going to share what we know," Doran said.