A last-minute legislative maneuver appears to have paved way for Hideout’s annexation plan, drawing ire of Park City, Summit County
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include comment from Sen. Cullimore.
With fewer than 75 words, Sen. Kirk Cullimore introduced a substitute bill the night before the Legislature’s general session concluded in March that appears to pave the way for more than 650 acres near Quinn’s Junction to be developed against the wishes of the county in which it is located.
In introducing the substitution to H.B. 359, Cullimore, R-Sandy, told fellow legislators that the changes, as he understood them, may appear to be large, but were actually technical in nature and that the substitution had consensus approval from the stakeholders involved.
In an interview, Cullimore said those stakeholders include trade associations of cities, towns and counties and a property rights coalition. He said he is looking into whether that consensus of support had been misrepresented to him.
The law appears to allow for a municipality in one county to annex land from another county without approval in specific circumstances. That’s something that Summit County officials oppose and say goes against decades of precedent.
The language in the law has specific requirements for the land in question, requirements that Hideout’s recently unveiled plan to annex land in Summit County appears to meet.
“It does have the smell that it was done for one person, doesn’t it?” said Jami Brackin, a Summit County deputy attorney who is seen as a legislative and land-use expert. “… Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark, as Hamlet would say.”
Now, Summit County officials are giving a hard look at the law’s language to see if there’s any recourse against an ambitious play being made by neighboring Hideout to annex land the county has wanted to maintain open space or eyed for very low density development.
Developers Josh Romney and Nate Brockbank are pursuing a mixed-use project that would bring commercial revenue to the town, along with municipal and commercial services for its residents and those expected to soon move into the booming area around the Jordanelle Reservoir.
Summit County Council Chair Doug Clyde said the county strongly opposes the annexation and the development and thinks it would have severe impacts on traffic on S.R. 248 and U.S. 40. He said the county would explore any legal remedies it might have to counter the move.
“Just more residential development that essentially builds a bedroom community for Park City is neither in our interests nor, I believe, in Park City’s,” Clyde said. “… The whole thing was suspect and I believe to some degree underhanded, but their ability to do this stemmed from the misrepresentation that was associated with the bill that was passed through the Legislature.”
Park City Mayor Andy Beerman also denounced the process Hideout is using to pursue the annexation and said that the project itself is not a good fit for the area.
“With the Mayflower/Jordanelle project looming, we already have 20,000 new units planned on our boundaries. This is too much growth to manage,” Beerman wrote in a message to The Park Record. “More sprawl will only degrade regional quality of life by worsening our current challenges: traffic, workforce, affordable housing, carbon footprint, and preserving community character. Hideout should be focused on improving their existing town center, not pandering to powerful and connected developers.”
In an interview, he characterized the developers as attempting to “essentially drop a Kimball Junction-size project” on land the city and county had long wanted to leave undeveloped.
While he agreed with Hideout Mayor Phil Rubin’s contention that the town’s citizens need a place to shop for essential services, Beerman questioned why that couldn’t be done within the town’s boundaries, pointing out that the developers in question already have residential projects underway there.
Romney said he and Brockbank have already done extensive work in Hideout, building around 300 residential units.
Rubin said that there isn’t enough land inside the town to accommodate its commercial needs, and that what land remains undeveloped has already been platted for residential uses.
“It’s almost all built or the building permits are granted,” Rubin said.
Romney has said he became convinced that he’d have to take a different tack after Summit County elected officials made clear they did not want the land to be developed.
It appears likely this issue will be taken up by the courts, and Rubin said the town is prepared for that eventuality. The Legislature could also act at a special session anticipated next month, a solution Brackin said Summit County would welcome.
Romney said he pays close attention to bills in the Legislature that deal with land use, as most developers do.
“Any time there’s legislation that’s getting done that involves land-use authority, we’re always paying attention. We made sure to hire — we made sure to monitor those things closely,” he said in an interview. He characterized the ability to annex across county lines as benefiting municipalities like Hideout, not developers, and pushed back on the notion that it was done “in the dead of night,” as a Park City deputy city manager put it.
“It not only passed in the regular session and a few sessions since then, they’ve had a chance to look at it,” Romney said. “The idea that it was done behind closed doors is ludicrous. It was done out in the open.”
Rubin cited a different bill, S.B. 5004, when the town adopted a resolution indicating its intent to annex the land. That bill deals with peninsulas or islands of land left over after annexations, among other things, but it is unclear how it affects this annexation.
The 655 acres included in the proposed annexation, a number supplied by the developer, wrap around the heavily contaminated chunk of Richardson Flat, leaving a peninsula.
The Hideout attorney, Daniel Dansie, was not immediately available to explain the impact of S.B. 5004 on the annexation, and one of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. David Buxton, R-Roy, said it had no bearing on the Hideout annexation.
Both men who represent the area at the statehouse, Rep. Tim Quinn, R-Heber, and Sen. Ron Winterton, R-Roosevelt, voted against H.B. 359, with Winterton being the only senator to do so. He said his intent was not to prevent inter-county annexation, as his understanding was that the bill dealt with other issues. Instead, he said that he didn’t want the state involved in annexation, which should be a local issue.
“I own a large piece of land and I don’t want city fathers telling me what I’m going to do with my land or to have higher taxes because they want the land to develop, that should be my choice,” he wrote in an email.
Quinn said that he voted against S.B. 5004 because there should be checks and balances against municipalities seeking to annex land, but did not respond to a request for an explanation of his vote against H.B. 359.
Quinn was the lone member of the House of Representatives to vote against the substitute bill.
Hideout is required to hold a public hearing no fewer than 30 days after it announced its intent to annex the land July 9. The date of the hearing is expected to be announced shortly. After the hearing, the town may adopt an ordinance annexing the land. No date for the August special session has yet been announced.
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Utah’s legislative general session is set to end on Friday, and if history is any indicator, there will be a flurry of floor amendments and last-minute changes for county officials to monitor.