Hideout hears from the public on Richardson Flat development
Hideout’s plan to annex hundreds of acres of Richardson Flat for development faced almost unanimous opposition Monday night when the Town Council heard from the public for the first time on the matter some 95 days after the proposal was first unveiled this summer.
The commenters cited economic, strategic, legal and moral reasons for their disapproval, with five commenters in favor and roughly 30 opposed in the three-hour virtual meeting.
Only a handful identified themselves as Hideout residents, each of whom opposed the idea. Two Hideout residents said they were now embarrassed or ashamed to say they lived in the town amid the controversy surrounding the annexation attempt.
One proponent of the project said it was hard to rise in favor of it when the overwhelming sentiment was tilted so strongly in opposition.
The town is seeking to annex 350 acres on Richardson Flat where developer Nate Brockbank has said he will create a new town center and commercial services Hideout leaders say are desperately needed. The plan also calls for more than 800 residential units, which town officials had not publicly sought.
The land is in Summit County, while Hideout is in Wasatch County. Before this year, Summit County would have had to consent to such an annexation, and thus thought it was protected from what its officials have called a land grab. But a bill presented at the Legislature on the last night of the general session in March cut Summit County out of the process entirely.
The legislation has since been repealed, but the town has until Oct. 19 to act on the annexation before the repeal goes into effect.
On Monday, some commenters rejected the substance of the development plan, citing the value of open lands and the importance of the area’s mountain town feel. Others seemed to agree with the town’s stated contention that the area needs more commercial services like grocery stores and gas stations.
But nearly all of the commenters disagreed with how the annexation attempt has unfolded.
The commenters included the area’s representative in the state House of Representatives, Tim Quinn; Summit County councilors and Park City mayors, both current and former; and other regional development activists and local residents.
The meeting started with Quinn, R-Heber, reiterating a point he had made at a previous public meeting, that the Legislature’s intent in repealing the law was to prevent Hideout’s ability to annex the land.
A town councilor had previously indicated he would not support the annexation if it was the Legislature’s intent to prevent it.
A Hideout resident commented next, saying he felt somewhat embarrassed to be a Hideout resident, the first in a string of about 20 straight commenters who opposed the plan.
Of the five proponents who commented, four appeared to have ties to the development or real estate sector, while one said he was excited at the prospect of being able to afford a house in the area.
Despite the at-times emotional rhetoric — one commenter extolled the councilors to look into their hearts and make the moral choice — the meeting was generally cordial, with two exceptions, and most commenters thanked the Hideout elected officials for their work on the project.
The meeting proceeded slowly amid many technological hiccups. After one hour, only seven members of the public had commented.
Some of the town’s previous meetings have been marred by attempts to hijack the proceedings, profane interruptions and anti-semitic and homophobic participant names on the virtual platform. In response, and to avoid what Mayor Phil Rubin called attempts at Zoom bombing, the town decided to stream the meeting on YouTube while inviting commenters one-by-one into a simultaneous Zoom meeting.
There were more than 30 commenters at Monday’s meeting, but in another 18 instances, the mayor attempted to call on meeting participants only to be met with a minute or more of silence. It appeared that nearly 200 people watched the meeting.
Most of those who did speak asked the town to pause the proceedings. Some asked officials to consider the challenges of securing municipal services for Richardson Flat and the potential liabilities of developing next to a heavily contaminated soil repository.
Many expressed sympathy with the town’s need to create more tax revenue but said that this plan was not the right way to go about it.
The Wasatch County town, which has a population of about 1,000 residents, was born a dozen years ago amid a short-lived state law that essentially allowed the developer and majority landowner to circumvent Wasatch County’s land-use authority in the area. It relies on one golf course for commercial tax revenue.
Residential development is generally seen as profitable for a project’s developer, especially in a real estate market that local Realtors have said is one of the most active they’ve seen, with no shortage of people looking to buy homes in the area. But property tax revenue generally barely covers the cost of municipal services, and municipalities rely heavily on commercial tax revenue to pay their bills.
Commercial development, which Hideout officials say is the impetus for the annexation attempt, can take longer to be profitable for a developer. In pushing for the annexation, Hideout officials have said the need already exists for commercial services like a grocery store and gas station in the area, and that the need will only intensify as residential developments entitled around the Jordanelle Reservoir are built.
State law forbids annexation for the sole purpose of acquiring municipal revenue. The developer’s attorney, meanwhile, has said that Brockbank’s proposal needs a dense residential component to ensure the businesses there survive, and pushed back on a requirement proposed by the Planning Commission that the commercial areas be built in the first three phases of the development’s construction.
That same attorney indicated to the Hideout Town Council in September that the Legislature intended to allow the town’s annexation to proceed when it allowed a standard 60-day window before the repeal legislation took effect.
Summit County has several pending lawsuits to stop the annexation. A hearing was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon in one case, in which the county contends Hideout is violating a court order barring a previous annexation attempt.
The Town Council is set to meet Tuesday evening, after The Park Record’s press deadline, to discuss the public comments from Monday’s meeting. The 60-day window to annex the land closes Oct. 19, and a potential vote is scheduled for Wednesday.
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The opposition to a proposal for a development at Park City Mountain Resort has enlisted a veteran of the intense dispute regarding Treasure, which unfolded over the course of years and offered some parallels to the talks regarding the PCMR project.