Hideout cleared to move forward with annexation after court ruling
Hideout cleared the last legal hurdle that could have prevented it from voting to annex hundreds of acres on Richardson Flat Thursday evening when Judge Jennifer Brown ruled against Summit County in 4th District Court.
While the legal challenges to the annexation attempt may last for years, the ruling paved the way for Hideout to vote on its plan to annex 350 acres on Richardson Flat for developer Nate Brockbank to build a new town center there.
A vote was scheduled Friday evening, after The Park Record’s deadline. Previously scheduled votes were postponed to give more time for negotiation, because of court order and due to technical difficulties.
The annexation process is subject to multiple lawsuits from Summit County, one of which Park City has joined, but the town now appears poised to vote on the proposal.
The county had some initial courtroom victories, including a preliminary injunction Brown issued against the town based on a previous annexation attempt. But the county suffered two defeats in a matter of days recently that ended its bid to prevent the town from voting. In each case, a judge noted the ruling was preliminary and not a judgment on the overall merits of the cases.
Summit County officials have said that there are legal avenues for challenging the validity of an annexation if one occurs, but the county’s legal team had also endeavored to prevent Hideout from voting on the annexation in the first place.
Summit County Attorney Margaret Olson indicated the county’s fight would continue.
“This is far, far from over,” she said.
In the 4th District Court case, the county alleged that the town’s current annexation attempt is materially the same as the previous annexation attempt that Brown had barred the town from pursuing. The county alleged the town was in contempt of court for violating that injunction.
Brown disagreed, saying the new annexation attempt is distinct from the previous one.
In her ruling, Brown clarified that her original injunction was based more on violations of open meetings laws than on preventing the alleged harm that would be done to Summit County if the town went ahead with its plans. Brown indicated that she was not in a position to rule on the potential harm caused by an annexation attempt done in accordance with a state law that is set to be repealed Oct. 19.
Hideout passed a resolution announcing its intent to annex roughly 650 acres on Richardson Flat on July 9 along with a pre-annexation agreement with Brockbank. The meeting featured relatively little public dialogue from the Town Council, and county officials have repeatedly accused the town of pre-cooking the decision in violation of open meetings laws.
The town has since repealed that resolution and pre-annexation agreement and has begun a new annexation attempt that involves a new resolution and pre-annexation agreement, though it includes much of the same land as the original attempt. The new annexation appears to be a modification of that plan, involving the same developer and an adaptation of the same overall idea, though significantly smaller in size.
In restarting the annexation process, the town may have avoided possible open meetings act violations from the first attempt, Brown indicated.
Earlier this month, the county lost another preliminary challenge, this one in 3rd District Court. The county argued in that case that it owned at least two acres of a parcel of land that the town is seeking to annex. That parcel is owned by Dutch mining company Stichting Mayflower, and Brockbank has indicated he has a deal in place to purchase the land if it is annexed into Hideout.
Summit County’s ownership claim dates back to a deal with the Quinn family in 1927.
State code requires written consent from all the landowners in this type of annexation, and the county essentially argued that it could prevent the annexation by withholding its consent. It further alleged that cutting out its portion of land would amount to an illegal subdivision.
Judge Richard Mrazik disagreed and denied the county’s request for a temporary restraining order, though he said the preliminary ruling did not render a judgment on the overall merits of the county’s case, which could be adjudicated at trial.
Hideout initially scheduled a vote on the annexation on Wednesday evening but postponed it after Brown barred the town from voting until she had ruled. Town officials also indicated they needed more time to negotiate with the developer. Thursday’s vote was pushed to Friday after Thursday’s session was abandoned because of technical difficulties hosting the virtual meeting.
That is the second time that Hideout has been forced to cancel a crucial public meeting because of technical issues. Town officials indicated they are investigating whether the vote was purposely sabotaged.
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