Cook County orders religious fundamentalist leader to ‘cease and desist’

Posted on May 30, 2019


GRAND MARAIS, Minn. — Cook County sent a cease-and-desist letter last week to Fundamentalist Church of Latter-day Saints leader Seth Jeffs after a site visit to his Pike Lake property found multiple permit violations.

According to the letter, the disruption of the landscape was significant and had occurred outside the scope of issued permits. Jeffs 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. Lane did not return messages seeking comment Wednesday, May 29.

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 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 gained notoriety for child marriage and continued to practice polygamy even after the mainstream Mormon church banned marrying multiple spouses in 1890.

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