Hideout votes to annex Richardson Flat, but town residents could have final say in a referendum
Nate Brockbank hadn’t spoken in the first three hours of Hideout’s Town Council meeting Friday, the pivotal session when town officials were expected to decide whether to move ahead with the annexation that has the potential to remake Quinn’s Junction and has dominated local politics even during the summer of the pandemic.
Throughout the approval process, the developer generally let his attorney speak for him. But he took the floor when the stakes were highest, just after four of the five Hideout town councilors had finished saying they didn’t support the annexation proposal and as it looked as though his bid to develop hundreds of acres in Summit County was slipping away.
An hour later, the Hideout Town Council voted 3-2 to annex roughly 350 acres of Richardson Flat into its boundaries, gaining land-use authority over the undeveloped land in Summit County and paving the way for the mixed-use development and new town center Brockbank plans to build there.
Two councilors who voted for the annexation after indicating they would not support it said that they were influenced by a proposal that Brockbank vigorously supported to allow Hideout residents to vote on the annexation.
A group of Hideout citizens could challenge the annexation resolution by filing for a referendum, and the town’s agreement with Brockbank includes a provision that it not take effect until the results of a potential referendum are certified. A vote, if a referendum were filed, would be months away.
Hideout Attorney Polly McLean told the council that if the referendum were to succeed, the annexation would be undone.
The annexation has been the subject of multiple lawsuits and condemnation from Hideout’s neighbors and neighboring elected officials. Contrary to decades of precedent, Hideout was not required to receive the consent of the county that contains the land thanks to a state law that has since been repealed.
The vote came three days before the Oct. 19 deadline when cross-county annexations like this one would once again be outlawed by state code.
Late on Friday, following two hours of tweaking the legal agreement that would govern the project, councilors went around the virtual table to offer their opinions on the development.
With the exception of Chris Baier, the four other councilors indicated they would vote against the proposal. They said, variously, that the process was rushed, that transparency was lacking, that they disliked the process that brought about the state law or that they would trust Park City and Summit County to make good on their promises of regional collaboration.
Then Brockbank started speaking.
He sounded animated, raising his voice at times and appearing to speak with passion. He defended himself against allegations that he was a “land-grabber” and indicated that Hideout would never be welcomed by Park City and Summit County as a negotiating partner and regional player if it didn’t annex this land.
“I remember sitting in one of the first meetings we were talking about this, and you guys were worried about how are you going to pay a police officer, when Park City, in their same meeting, was wondering how they’re going to get their $77 million that they’re just a little bit short to build their arts center,” Brockbank said. “The reason they have the money is because they have the commercial (businesses). And if you think there’s any way possible they’re going to sit down with the Town of Hideout and help them — I just don’t see it.”
Brockbank also offered to pay to build the new town hall/community center that Hideout officials are seeking — a hefty financial contribution and one that he had not previously offered — and to continue to pay for studies about the project’s financial feasibility and traffic and environmental impacts.
Hideout Mayor Phil Rubin, who has been a staunch proponent of the annexation plan but does not have a vote on the Town Council, echoed some of Brockbank’s sentiments.
“I think you can’t sit at the card table if you don’t have cards,” Rubin said. “… I bet sometime in the next five to eight years there’ll be something going on right here, it just won’t be Hideout’s.”
Councilor Jerry Dwinell, who, along with Ralph Severini, voted for the proposal after indicating that he opposed it, echoed those words in later discussions. And Baier has said repeatedly that Hideout would never be welcomed to the negotiating table unless it controlled more land.
Park City and Summit County have been trying to stop the annexation vote in the courtroom and with old-fashioned politicking, with Summit County representatives participating in settlement talks for five weeks with Hideout officials and Park City offering to hire an independent party to broker regional planning sessions.
Hideout officials said they’d received calls from current Park City Mayor Andy Beerman, former Mayor Dana Williams and Summit County officials, as well.
Their efforts ultimately proved unsuccessful, and Summit County Manager Tom Fisher said he was disappointed by the outcome of Friday’s vote.
“They now bear the responsibility of taking advantage of the nefarious legislative actions of the developer to sneakily change pending state legislation for the profit of the landowners and ultimately at the expense of all who have been so careful to protect what makes the greater Park City area special and unique,” Fisher wrote in a message to The Park Record. “… Their actions to approve the annexation last week could have a chilling effect on their ability to meaningfully and honestly participate in regional planning in the future.”
Summit County Attorney Margaret Olson has indicated the court challenges will continue.
After the annexation narrowly passed, Hideout councilors unanimously passed the annexation master development agreement that councilors have spent at least a dozen hours negotiating in public.
The 53-page document governs key elements of the project like how much and what type of development should be built and how the town will be protected against future costs related to environmental cleanup, among other provisions.
The latest version of the plan calls for 600 residences — 120 of which would be earmarked for affordable housing — and 95,000 square feet for commercial businesses, which would have to be built in the project’s first phase.
Other amenities include the town hall/community center, which is also seen as a senior center; an assisted living facility; parks, trails and open space; and a chairlift to the highest point on Richardson Flat.
As of Monday evening, Wasatch County Clerk Auditor Cal Griffiths said he had not received any referendum paperwork, though he had fielded calls from people requesting the number of active voters in Hideout. A referendum effort would require signatures from 35% of the town’s active voters to put the question on the ballot, with a vote likely to come next spring.
Referendum organizers have seven days from when the resolution was passed to gather five co-sponsors and file paperwork with the Hideout town clerk. Hideout has 281 active voters, Griffiths said, and if a referendum is filed, organizers would need to collect roughly 100 signatures.
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