Land-use officials in Minnesota’s northeasternmost county have issued a cease-and-desist order for earthwork on a building project with connections to a former leader of a controversial religious sect.
A letter from Cook County Planning and Zoning administrators addressed to Emerald Industries LLC and Seth Jeffs says a project underway on Pike Lake Road isn’t complying with a wetland exemption and grade and fill permit.
The project, which has a permit for building a 6,000-square-foot pole barn with living quarters on 40 acres, has raised public concern because Jeffs was convicted in 2006 of harboring or concealing his brother, former Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints leader Warren Steed Jeffs, who was sentenced to life in prison for child sexual assault involving members of the sect.
The sect separated from Mormonism in 1890 after the church renounced polygamy.
Seth Jeffs also pleaded guilty in 2016 to food-stamp fraud as part of a federal investigation into the practice of diverting benefits to church members.
Community members have raised questions about whether the site in Cook County will be used by the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints.
A letter issued May 24 says Zoning Administrator Bill Lane and Land Use Specialist Mitch Travis visited the site recently and found disruption to the landscape “outside of all relevant permits.”
The county officials cited a list of 13 concerns, including an improperly installed silt fence; lack of site erosion and sediment control measures; storage of equipment, fuel and other hydrocarbons in a wetland; driveway construction exceeding estimates and impacts to wetlands exceeding what is permitted.
The letter orders Jeffs to stop all site activities until “comprehensive erosion and sediment controls are established and site stabilization is demonstrated.”
Seth Jeffs could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Land Services Director Tim Nelson said Wednesday that the county routinely does follow-up visits after issuing permits and “we do have to absolutely treat every property owner independently and equally.”
Nelson said Jeffs “has been contacted and he has been cooperative.”