Hideout residents begin referendum effort to put annexation on the ballot
Hideout residents have begun the process to challenge the town’s annexation of hundreds of acres of Richardson Flat, setting the stage for the town’s voters to decide the issue at the ballot next year.
Town Attorney Polly McLean confirmed on Thursday that the town received an application for a referendum with 10 sponsors.
Among the referendum organizers is Kurt Shadle, who resigned from the Town Council this summer due to frustration with the annexation process.
“This whole annexation issue has been highly contentious and if I had not resigned my seat in protest I would have voted ‘No,’” Shadle wrote in an email to The Park Record. “Given the fact that several Council people voted yes with the understanding that this issue would be decided by a referendum, I submitted the referendum application (Wednesday). This process will ensure that all Hideout residents will be given the chance to voice their opinion on annexation and determine whether the Town moves forward or not.”
Town officials declined to release the application by Friday morning, but Shadle indicated that two current town councilors had joined as initial co-sponsors.
If the application is accepted, organizers would be tasked with collecting around 100 signatures in the next few months in order to put the issue on the ballot. The number of signatures required and the deadline to collect them will be determined in coming days as town officials evaluate the application.
The Town Council last Friday voted 3-2 in favor of annexing 350 acres of Richardson Flat for a future town center site with businesses and 600 residential units.
Summit County over the summer sued to stop the land move and had initial success in the courtroom, but eventually lost two attempts to prevent the town from voting to annex the land. County officials have indicated the legal battles would continue, possibly for years.
But the future of the annexation may ultimately be decided by Hideout residents before the litigation concludes.
McLean told the Town Council before the annexation vote that a referendum could undo the annexation, and multiple councilors indicated that allowing voters to weigh in was key to their decision to support the project.
Officials also inserted a provision into the development agreement that it not take effect until after the results of a referendum are certified, apparently pausing development progress until residents have voted.
Any vote would only be open to Hideout residents, though Hideout officials have said they would like to include their neighbors around the Jordanelle Reservoir, like the developments in unincorporated Wasatch County just to the town’s north.
There are several bureaucratic steps before the measure makes it to the ballot.
According to state code, the town has 20 days from last Wednesday to determine the authenticity of the application, including the signatories. The code requires at least five initial sponsors that are Utah residents and have voted in an election in Utah in the last three years.
Once the application is deemed valid, the town attorney must determine what sort of referendum is being sought, which will decide the number of signatures organizers must collect.
If McLean determines the referendum regards land-use law, that would require signatures of 40% of the town’s active voters, while other distinctions would require either 30% or 35%.
Wasatch County Clerk Cal Griffiths reported that Hideout has 281 active voters, so it appears that organizers will have to collect between 84 and 113 signatures from Hideout residents.
After the town determines the application is valid, it has five days to issue signature collection packets. Organizers would have 45 days from that time to collect the required number of signatures.
Once organizers gather the signatures, the packets would be sent to Griffiths to verify their authenticity. Every signature would have to come from a registered voter who is a Hideout resident over 18 years old.
If the number of signatures is deemed sufficient, the issue would be placed on the ballot.
According to state code, certain referendums are required to be evaluated in general elections, which occur in November, while others may occur in a special or primary election, possibly next June.
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The Jordanelle Reservoir is at about 67% of its capacity, not the lowest its been but a level that officials say is concerning.