Cook County sent a cease-and-desist letter last week to the leader of a secretive Mormon sect after a site visit to his North Shore property found multiple land-use permit violations.
According to the letter, the disruption of the landscape was significant and had occurred outside the scope of issued permits.
Seth Jeffs, a leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints, and his company must immediately halt all site activities until “comprehensive erosion and sediment controls are established and site stabilization is demonstrated.”
“These are serious matters, even more so given the emphasis Cook County places on the conservation of our wetland resources,” Cook County Planning and Zoning Administrator William Lane wrote Friday. Lane did not return messages seeking comment Wednesday.
The letter cites 13 issues, including disturbing more wetlands than allowed by the wetland exemption allocation; total site impacts exceeding 1 acre; and storage of equipment, fuel and other hydrocarbons in a wetland among many others.
Last year, Jeffs purchased land on Pike Lake Road near Cascade River, and earlier this year Cook County approved plans to build a 6,000-square-foot “pole building/apartment” on the 40-acre parcel, which upset some neighbors and residents of nearby Grand Marais.
A forum was held in May to allow residents to learn more about the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints as well as more about the Jeffs family and how they operate.
“I’m not sure why questions weren’t asked at the county level when some unknown LLC wants to build an almost 6,000-square-foot building on a swamp,” said Shelia Wieben, who lives next to the Jeffs property on Pike Lake Road. “I don’t understand why he got a stamp of approval without more questions.”
The Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints, or FLDS, is an offshoot of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; the group’s members believe polygamy brings exaltation in heaven. Polygamy is a legacy of the early teachings of the mainstream church, widely known as the Mormon church, but the faith abandoned the practice in 1890 and prohibits it today.
Jeffs is the brother of Warren Jeffs, the imprisoned leader of the breakaway sect. Authorities have said Seth Jeffs led the sect’s South Dakota Black Hills compound, a site that has raised concerns among nearby residents.
Seth Jeffs took a plea deal in a multimillion-dollar food stamp fraud case in 2016. His brother, Lyle Jeffs, was sentenced in 2017 to prison for his role in carrying out the food stamp fraud scheme and for escaping home confinement while awaiting trial. He was caught in South Dakota after pawnshop workers spotted him and called police.
Warren Jeffs, considered by the group to be a prophet who speaks for God, is serving a life sentence for assaulting two of his child brides.
This report includes information from the Associated Press.
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