Colorado City sees massive changes after Warren Jeffs

COLORADO CITY, Ariz. (KSAZ) -- Colorado City, Ariz. and nearby Hilldale, Utah have long been known for the grip the FLDS Church has had on the area, with polygamist leader Warren Jeffs crippling the area before being convicted of sexual assault on his child brides in 2011.

The FLDS polygamist sect, under Jeffs, became violent and sheltered. Businesses closed, and people were run out of town. Doomsday was in store for non-believers. Now, the communities are picking up the pieces. and for many, hope no longer lies in the empty words of a false prophet.

Colorado City's first brewery, It's the Edge of the World Brewery, opened earlier in the year. Some say under the old way, the brewery could not have opened. In the wake of Jeffs' imprisonment, beer has been part of the Colorado city rebuild.

And the world didn't end.

Maria Jessop, Ray Hammon, and Nick Dockstader grew up in Colorado City. The trio is not a part of the FLDS Church,

"That whole Warren Jeffs saga, it's just a tiny part, and that part's going away now," said Dockstader.

"I don't see it as so much as leading the way as much as we are part of it like everyone else that's striving towards change," said Jessop.

Part of that change includes owning land. Many settlers in Colorodao City built their own houses on their own plots, but the church owned everything in a trust. It wasn't a problem until Jeffs made it one.

"I used the word exiled," said realtor Charles Hammon. "And there are a number of different reasons as to why people have been leaving Colorado City. It's been to the tune of thousands of people moving out of Colorado City."

Hammon helped make it possible for people to get the deeds to the land from the trust. Subdividing the area had been tricky because of regulations, but a ceremony 12 years in the making was held for the first people to get the deeds to their homes in October. Home ownership could mean mortgages or sales, which could lead to entrepreneurship. Hammon says that's the plan, anyway.

"In a short period of time, we're seeing new businesses crop up, we're seeing people re-invest in this town, we're seeing people taking their homes and get bank financing to finish the exteriors to their houses, we're seeing some of the privacy walls come down, the town is opening up and it's an exciting feeling," said Hammon.

While many around the country were fixated on national midterm elections, the local election in Colorado City had its own drama. The city council had been all FLDS members for the town's history, but non church members competed for three open seats.

"They wanted our home, they wanted our property," said Alma Hammon

Alma and Priscilla Hammon spent their lives in Colorado City. Alma built the home for his family, they had deep roots there, but they were threatened by the old church regime. The history motivated Alma to run for city council as a non-FLDS member.

"It's changing, now that power is sliding away from them, the city council and the city needs to be here to help people, all of the citizens, and not discriminate and help build it up," said Alma.

For many, the writing is on the high walls that used to dominate the town. Colorado City is open for business.

"We can now go in a direction, I think, that can help us and keep us safe, and keep us from going so far down that we can't dig out, we can't have anything," sald Alma.

Colorado City's sister town, Hilldale, has been more progressive with their change, after a majority of non-FLDSs members took over that city's council a year ago.