Developer says there was ‘no hope’ of getting project that spurred Hideout annexation play done in Summit County
To hear real estate developer Josh Romney tell it, this month’s controversial Hideout annexation attempt had its roots in a February voicemail from Summit County Council Chair Doug Clyde.
“I have a voicemail with Doug Clyde saying he’s not interested in meeting with me under any circumstances,” Romney said in an interview Thursday. “… The (Summit) County Council was not willing to even entertain meeting with us. We knew that there was no hope to getting something done in Summit County.”
He and partner Nate Brockbank had been meeting with Summit County staffers for months about their proposal to develop hundreds of acres near Quinn’s Junction, he said, but the lesson he took from that encounter was that the county’s elected officials never wanted to see that land developed and that to get the project off the ground, he’d have to look elsewhere. The developers had submitted an application to the county in January related to a development in the area, but Romney said it had been bogged down.
A short time later, on March 11, the state Legislature passed a bill allowing inter-county annexation, though it was not presented that way at the time, opening the door for the ambitious attempt by the 12-year-old town to move to annex 655 acres of land in Summit County for a mixed-use development.
Romney and Brockbank are in talks with the town of Hideout about that development, and Hideout Mayor Phil Rubin said, to his knowledge, they’re the first to avail themselves of the new provision in state code.
Rubin and Romney say the idea is to create a new town center with shops, homes and offices that would provide necessary services for the quickly growing municipality whose residents now have to drive elsewhere for basic supplies.
In an interview, Clyde said he didn’t recall the voicemail specifically, but agreed that he had denied a meeting. He said it would have been inappropriate to meet with a developer who had business pending with a county planning commission because the County Council would have been the final land-use authority for the now-dormant development application.
“Once they apply for some sort of project that requires approval from the Planning Commission, the County Council or members of the County Council do not involve themselves in discussions with the applicant until such time that the matter moves to the County Council,” Clyde said. “For us to act independently of the Planning Commission with the applicant is inappropriate.”
Clyde also questioned the notion of growth for growth’s sake and pointed out that the Snyderville Basin Development Code restricts entitling new development density unless there is a compelling countervailing public interest.
Both Romney and Rubin both said the goal of the project is to make a walkable, bikeable mixed-use area that would get people out of cars and help with traffic congestion issues on S.R. 248.
The mayor suggested the project could entail buildings that include commercial on the bottom floors, like restaurants or shops, office space above that, and residences on top.
Romney, the son of Utah junior Sen. Mitt Romney, said his goal is to develop a project that would feel at home near Park City and be more like Old Town than Promontory.
“We’re going to avoid any big-box retail. I don’t think it fits in with the area,” Romney said. “We want to keep this a kind of Park City-type development.”
Rubin has said repeatedly that the amount of growth entitled around the Jordanelle Reservoir will require an increase in both municipal and commercial services. Hideout residents have to drive to Kamas, Kimball Junction or Park City to buy even a gallon of milk.
“We’re trying to think big and we’re trying to think further out than the end of our fingertips,” the mayor said in an interview. “Hey guys, in 10-years’ time, if we have 10,000 homes of the granted ones, all those (residents’) needs have to be met in 10 years’ time.”
He and Romney view the land Hideout is seeking to annex as having the potential to solve issues beyond just supplying a new grocery store. Romney said there would be hundreds of affordable housing units included in the project, and both mentioned transit as a key component of the plan, as well as a new Hideout town hall. But the extensive growth entitled around the reservoir, mostly in Wasatch County, will also likely require increased municipal services like emergency response and schools, which could find a home in the project area.
Romney and Brockbank had applied to Summit County to change the future land use map around Quinn’s Junction in January, a preliminary step required before changing the land’s zoning, which currently restricts development to very low density.
Romney said it took several months to be placed on the Snyderville Basin Planning Commission agenda, and even then, only a part of the project was considered. Less than a week before the first public hearing was scheduled July 14, the Hideout Town Council moved to annex the land, adopting a resolution July 9.
The Wasatch County town’s move to annex land in Summit County drew the ire of representatives of each neighboring jurisdiction. But Romney said the notion that it came as a surprise to Park City and Summit County is hard to believe as he had met with representatives from both areas multiple times to make them aware of the plans.
“(They) absolutely knew it could go into Hideout, (but I) don’t think they knew exact timing,” Romney said. “Part of that is they haven’t necessarily been development-friendly, (we) didn’t want to let them know every detail of what we’re doing.”
Rubin said one of his goals in recent meetings with officials from Park City, Summit County and Wasatch County has been to learn their concerns with the project and potential ways to mitigate them.
Both Romney and Rubin said they were supportive of a bus rapid transit system, though neither suggested paying for it, and both touted the strength of the nearby Richardson Flat park-and-ride lot as a component of a future mass-transit system.
Town officials have met with representatives from Wasatch County, Park City and Summit County in the days immediately after announcing their intention to annex the land. Rubin said the neighboring elected officials in the meetings expressed displeasure at the way the annexation process was handled, but that everyone acted professionally.
“I don’t believe that public service functions around ‘take their ball and go home,’” Rubin said.
Romney suggested that, while Park City Transit might not want to work with the project right away, he hoped they’d collaborate in the future. Rubin, too, suggested that he wanted to seek the help and input of Summit County officials, like land planners, to help craft a development agreement.
Hideout started as a housing and golf course development project in Wasatch County and was incorporated as a town in 2008 under a short-lived state law that the Legislature overturned the following year.
Businesses supply more tax revenue to municipalities than residences do, and Hideout has for years relied on the golf course as its sole source of commercial tax revenue. In addition to supplying commercial services, the mixed-use project would supply revenue that would help the town economically. It has relied on shoe-string budgets in recent years.
Rubin has touted regionalization as key to mitigating the pressure that will come with the growth that is already entitled in the Jordanelle area. He said Hideout has wanted a seat at the table at those discussions and that the annexation move has ensured that the town’s voice is heard.
“Well I think we just, we wanted to make sure that we got moving and we wanted to make sure people would find time to sit down. I don’t mean that they wouldn’t at some point. Now we’ve kind of forced the issue, moved the — way up the list, and that’s a good thing,” he said. “… I think it’s the opportunity to drive regionalization. It’s a corner of the area that touches four different municipalities. Either we’re going to figure out how to work together or — I’m hoping we’re going to figure out how to work together because otherwise we’ve got a problem over here.”
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