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Deal is proposed in UEP trust fight

Published: Tuesday, June 16 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

The Utah State Attorney General's Office has filed a settlement proposal to end the dispute over a $114 million property trust once run by polygamous church leader Warren Jeffs.

As outlined in a letter of intent, the proposal returns control of most of the trust holdings to the Fundamentalist LDS Church.

An arm of the church, the United Effort Plan Trust holds most of the land and homes in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., the twin towns where most church members live, and a church enclave in Bountiful, British Columbia.

The Utah courts seized the communal trust in 2005 after allegations of mismanagement by Jeffs. Under the oversight of a court-appointed fiduciary, the communal religious trust has been converted into a secular entity.

The letter filed in 3rd District Court late Monday seeks to accommodate the needs of both current and former church members who have contributed assets to the trust. The letter is only a framework for a settlement that must ultimately approved by 3rd District Judge Denise Lindberg.

Anyone with an interest in the UEP has until June 30 to submit comments on the proposal to the court.

A central issue of settlement talks was the distribution of homes and undeveloped land held by the trust and whether the twin towns should be subdivided. Currently the land is held in large blocks of communal property which often hold multiple homes.

The letter of intent proposes dividing undeveloped land south of the twin towns, with 60 acres going to the FLDS. Another portion of the land would be subdivided into 50 lots to be distributed to former church members who could prove a legitimate claim to trust assets.

Existing residential properties would also be divided under a plan that would allow for both individual property deeds and the retention of larger, communal swaths of land.

The proposal calls for the establishment of a housing panel to decide property claims. Its members would include individuals proposed by both the FLDS and an existing court-appointed advisory board.

The proposal also calls for the removal of Bruce Wisan, the court-appointed fiduciary who has managed the trust since 2005, and for the appointment of a new fiduciary to execute the settlement over a period of about one year.

Additional issues

Parties involved in a dispute over a polygamous church land trust filed a settlement proposal with the Utah courts on Monday. The central issues were the distribution of homes and undeveloped land held in the United Effort Plan Trust, an arm of the Fundamentalist LDS Church. Not all the parties agree on the settlement as proposed.

Some additional issues outlined by the letter of intent filed in 3rd District Court include:

A city cemetery would go back to the FLDS, but 200 plots would be available to nonmembers.

A Beryl dairy would go back to the FLDS upon payment of $250,000 and the FLDS will settle an outstanding lawsuit.

The FLDS would assume responsibility for all outstanding trust litigation, including a multimillion lawsuit from Elissa Wall, the former child bride whose 2001 marriage was the basis for a criminal case against church leader Warren Jeffs.

The city's Cottonwood Park goes back to the FLDS.

Monthly housing occupancy fees on trust homes would drop from $100 to $50 with the money used to pay the salary of the new fiduciary.

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