Under red cliffs, Hildale sits next to Colorado City, straddling the Utah/Arizona border. Since 1942, all the property in the twin towns has been owned by the United Effort Plan, a trust that was controlled by leaders of the FLDS faith. Now, for the first time in a generation, townsfolk are being offered the chance to own their own homes.
"I think it's a step in the right direction," says Andrew Chatwin of Hildale. His large home on Willow Street is a work in progress. He has delayed making any more investment in the property until he got the deed to it. He says, "You don't want to risk someone trying to take it away from you."
That's happened a lot during the reign of Warren Jeffs. As the leader of the largest polygamist group in North America, apostates say he kicked out of their homes several men and families. Jeffs controlled the UEP trust. The trust owned the property. But that changed when the Utah Attorney General asked, and a judge agreed, to remove Jeffs as the sole trustee and replace him with a court appointed special fiduciary. Now that special fiduciary, Salt Lake CPA Bruce Wisan, is determined to give the property back to as many people who want it.
It will be a complicated process and Wisan says, "It will not be free." There will likely be a fee charged to each family to cover the cost of surveys, administration and the value of their lot. Still if they built their home, he says they will not have to pay for it. The fees could approach $20,000. Andrew Chatwin believes that is a little high. He would like to negotiate that price down, still he believes that ownership will go a long way to regenerating the community that has been suffering for nearly a decade. "I want to be a free man in my own community."