Hideout, seeing opportunity before law repeal, starts a second annexation attempt
Hideout began a new process on Thursday night to annex hundreds of acres in Summit County, attempting to take advantage of a tight window before a state repeal goes into effect and such annexations are once again illegal.
Its previous attempt, which took officials from neighboring jurisdictions by surprise when it was begun in July, is currently barred by court order resulting from a lawsuit from Summit County, and the county has indicated it would sue to stop this attempt, as well.
Hideout Town Councilors Jerry Dwinell, Chris Baier and Bob Nadelberg voted to support a new, pared-down annexation that covers 350 acres in Richardson Flat. Councilor Carol Haselton opposed the move.
The new annexation straddles Richardson Flat Road and extends about a mile south, just west of the hillside separating Park’s Edge and S.R. 248 from the rolling hills and rangeland of Richardson Flat. The town has been working with developer Nate Brockbank on the project and, if it is successfully annexed into Hideout, Brockbank proposes building a mixed-use development with commercial and residential components. The original annexation covered 650 acres, and Brockbank said he had removed acreage included in the original annexation that is or could become subject to legal challenges.
Thursday’s vote was the latest twist in a controversy that has involved multiple lawsuits, accusations of wrongdoing and recriminations from elected officials and questions of misrepresentation on Capitol Hill, all centered on competing visions for the undeveloped land on the eastern portal to Park City.
Hideout officials say annexing the land is necessary to develop services like businesses, a town center and possibly a school in the area around the Jordanelle Reservoir as the population there is expected to grow significantly in coming years.
Baier said Thursday that she’d like to have a nice grocery store she could bike to, and said kids who grow up in Hideout have to ride a school bus for an hour each way even though there are schools much closer.
Hideout officials further contend that Summit and Wasatch counties have failed to adequately plan for commercial services like grocery stores and gas stations in the area, and that long-standing promises of regional cooperation have failed to materialize.
The only way Hideout’s concerns will be taken seriously, councilors contend, is if the town controls more land in the area.
“Without Hideout being the land-use authority over at least this small amount of acreage, I don’t see how we’re actually going to have any influence or a lasting seat at the table,” Baier said.
“Nice guys finish last,” she later added.
Officials from Summit County and Wasatch County refute the town’s accusations and point to long-standing plans for the kind of services Hideout desires. Some of those projects include businesses in the Mayflower area, parts of which are under construction; in the under-construction Silver Creek Village area north on U.S. 40; at the mouth of Brown’s Canyon, where a small grocery store and gas station have been planned; and in a new mixed-use project going through Summit County’s approval process near Home Depot that involves a large grocery store.
Officials from neighboring Park City and Summit County oppose both the substance of Hideout’s plan and the way the town has sought the annexation, with the county suing to stop it. Both entities have long planned for the area to have very low density development or remain as open space as a buffer to development moving toward Park City in Wasatch County.
Brockbank, through a representative, said this annexation differs from the previous one in that it removes 300 acres that may be subject to various legal encumbrances, including development agreements with Park City and a lawsuit filed by Summit County.
Brockbank said at a Hideout Town Council meeting Tuesday he didn’t want to be involved in a legal fight with Park City in addition to the ongoing one with Summit County.
The representative added that Brockbank bought out his former partner on the deal, Josh Romney, who is the son of U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney. Brockbank and Romney have worked together to develop projects inside Hideout.
Hideout’s previous attempt to annex land in Summit County is barred by a court injunction. The judge in that case said she could not prohibit the town from pursuing other such annexations, but that she expected those matters would end up in court as well.
Other parcels of land that were removed are subject to a separate lawsuit, in which Summit County contends the land was illegally subdivided to cut out a nearby Superfund site with an estimated $50 million cost to clean up contamination from legacy mining practices.
A 3rd District Court judge granted Summit County a temporary restraining order in that case Wednesday, though he clarified that the developer was only barred from taking concrete action furthering the annexation, like consenting for the land to be annexed. The developer can still lobby on behalf of the effort and participate in the public process, the judge said.
On Thursday, Hideout passed a resolution announcing its intent to annex the land, the first step required by state code. The town must now hold a public hearing no less than 30 days from Thursday, after which it could officially annex the land and gain the authority to decide how and whether the land is developed.
The meeting featured several unusual elements, including the developer’s lawyer advocating strongly for the council to pass the measure, the specific parcels of land being added to the resolution while the meeting was in progress and a text message from Park City’s mayor urging the town to halt the annexation being read aloud.
Bruce Baird, Brockbank’s attorney, advised the Town Council to proceed with the matter and said he wouldn’t trust Summit County’s promises to work cooperatively with the town. Baird has sued Summit County several times over land-use matters and has said the county is difficult to work with.
Baird told the council that Summit County had threatened to sue Hideout Town Councilors for criminal racketeering. Summit County Manager Tom Fisher denied that, saying there have been no criminal filings nor any threat of criminal filings.
Baird later recommended the Town Council abandon a line of inquiry and take it up instead in a closed meeting.
Partway through the meeting, as the town attorney adjusted the resolution to include the correct parcels of land, Mayor Phil Rubin read aloud a text from Park City Mayor Andy Beerman asking the town to abandon the attempt.
Later, Baier and Dwinell indicated the town would need to diversify its funding stream as the revenue from building permits begins to lessen, appearing to see the annexation as a way to secure additional funds.
Baier said the town must expand to ensure its viability and that it has to find ways to add commercial sales tax revenue to its coffers.
“In our current situation, we can’t get that without annexation,” she said.
State law forbids annexation for the sole purpose of acquiring municipal revenue.
Nadelberg, who was appointed to the council on July 9, has been a strong proponent of the annexation plan. He said he would not “knuckle under” from legal intimidation and said it was disappointing Summit County had thrown a “legal temper tantrum.”
“There’s a long history in this area of, shall we say, an anti-growth sentiment, and that needs to change. Because, you know, sticking one’s head in the sand and pretending growth isn’t coming is not good policy,” Nadelberg said.
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In a new court filing, Summit County says Hideout should be held in contempt of court for violating previous court orders, referring to the town’s actions as “sinister,” “machinations,” and as “wolves in sheeps’ clothing.”