Hideout’s proposed development comes into focus as multiple lawsuits proceed
Plans to name the highest peak on Richardson Flat. Developers contemplating a self-driven, magnet-based transit connection to Deer Valley Resort. Elected officials preparing for a conflict on the level of a “holy war.”
These are some of the details that have trickled out in public meetings and court filings in recent weeks regarding Hideout’s contested attempt to annex hundreds of acres in Summit County.
As the days count down to the much-anticipated Oct. 12 hearing when the public will have its first real chance to comment on a plan to develop part of Richardson Flat, information continues to emerge about both the proposed development and the legal maneuvering going on behind the scenes.
The Hideout Planning Commission on Thursday heard the most detailed sketch yet for the town center developer Nate Brockbank is proposing to build. The plans are preliminary and depend, first, on the land being annexed into Hideout, and then an extensive approval process with the Hideout Planning Commission and Town Council.
The most arresting aspect is what planners expect to use to draw people to the town center and create vibrancy there — a chairlift rising to the top of what they’re calling Richardson Peak that will shuttle bikers, hikers and sightseers to one of the tallest points on Richardson Flat and provide them opportunities to spend their money at shops and restaurants near its base.
The town center, which Brockbank has said he envisions as more akin to Park City’s Main Street than Kimball Junction, would include 194 condominiums and places for a 24,000-square-foot grocery store, a police and fire station, a condominium hotel and other commercial enterprises. The Smith’s at Kimball Junction is 60,000-square-feet.
In total, the development proposal includes three separate villages, more than 800 residential units and 80,000 square feet of commercial uses and sites for an assisted-living facility, church and school. The school, commissioners were told, would be in the Park City School District.
While town officials learn details about what sort of project would be developed on the land, at least three separate lawsuits are proceeding through two different courts to determine whether the town has the right to annex the land at all.
Summit County is suing more than a dozen defendants including Hideout; Brockbank and his former partner Josh Romney, son of U.S. Senator Mitt Romney, as well as several related LLCs; Wells Fargo Bank; Dutch mining company Stichting Mayflower and one of its subsidiaries; five John Does; REDUS Park City LLC; the United Park City Mines Company; and a Utah state constable.
Richardson Flat was the dumping ground for decades of mine tailings and contains a site with Superfund-level contamination that Summit County estimates will cost $50 million to clean up. The town’s previous annexation attempt over the summer essentially included all of the land in Richardson Flat that wasn’t owned by Park City or in the contaminated site.
Brockbank subsequently pared down the project area from 655 acres to 348 to avoid what his attorney said was battling with both Summit County and Park City simultaneously.
Park City has joined one of the lawsuits and is attempting to enforce a development agreement from the late 1990s that restricted development on land owned by United Park City Mines on Richardson Flat in exchange for development rights elsewhere, including what is now Empire Pass. The city claims the agreement also gives Park City the right to annex the land into its borders.
In an Aug. 6 letter, Park City Manager Matt Dias wrote to REDUS Park City that the city will protect its development agreement and appeared to threaten moving forward with a pending approval process for a subdivision called Twisted Branch, which was scheduled to appear before the city’s Planning Commission.
In other court cases, Summit County claims that parcels of land have been illegally subdivided to remove contaminated land and allow the annexation of only the non-contaminated area, and to cut out a part of one of the parcels that the county owns.
The county further alleges that Hideout has violated open meetings laws by failing to give adequate notice before a public meeting is held, conducting some business in private during public meetings and other charges of impropriety, claims the town has denied.
The county secured an injunction against the town’s first annexation attempt, which included the land that the town is currently attempting to annex. The town claims that the new annexation attempt is a completely different affair and is not bound by the injunction; Summit County claims the move is an extension of the previous annexation.
In one of the more incendiary claims made in the hundreds of pages of court filings, the county accuses Hideout Mayor Phil Rubin of testifying under oath in an evidentiary hearing that he had no prior knowledge about the legislation allowing this type of cross-county annexation before it was passed earlier this year despite discussing it with Brockbank in March. Neither Rubin nor Hideout Town Attorney Polly McLean immediately responded to a request for comment.
The filing also includes an excerpt of communication between Rubin and the Hideout town administrator, Jan McCosh.
According to the court documents, on July 9, the day the town first publicly announced its annexation attempt, McCosh wrote Rubin, “You do know that this is likely to be at the level of a ‘holy war,’ correct?”
According to the filing, the mayor replied, “Yes. No worries Thanks.”
A hearing is scheduled on Tuesday, Oct. 6, to weigh the county’s request for a temporary restraining order against annexation actions by Brockbank, Stichting Mayflower and others.
Plans continue for the development, though Brockbank has acknowledged it has been complicated by the uncertainty around whether the land will be annexed.
The development team touted the benefits of the Rail Trail running through the proposed town center, offering non-vehicle connectivity to many area attractions. The town center would be north of Richardson Flat Road, while the bulk of the development would be south of it.
Brockbank said he had pursued a personal rapid transit system idea to connect to Deer Valley that would include embedding magnets for self-driving pods to shuttle people to their destinations.
He indicated the idea collapsed along with his initial talks with Summit County and was further burdened by what he estimated as its $9-million-per-mile price tag.
Hideout officials indicated talks about the development plan would continue at a Planning Commission meeting Monday, a week before the Oct. 12 public hearing. Acting Planning Commission Chair Ralph Severini suggested the developers do away with some of the denser townhome concepts in favor of more single-family homes on larger lots, indicating the developer would be able to recoup a similar profit from that arrangement and that it would balance out the housing types in the area.
He indicated that the commission might be willing to see a reduction in open space to accommodate that goal. Roughly 206 of the project’s 348 acres are currently set aside for open space. Brockbank said the higher-density townhome projects would enable the affordable housing component of the project.
The commission also heard from a traffic engineer, who reported that the development at buildout would not increase traffic to the point of unacceptable service levels. That projection relied on the two intersections that would feed the development getting traffic signals — one at S.R. 248 and Richardson Flat Road, and one at S.R. 248 and Brown’s Canyon Road.
Environmental issues were also discussed at the meeting. A lawyer retained by the developer spoke of the possibility of developing so-called “brownfield” sites, contaminated areas that have been developed in other parts of Utah.
A representative of the Utah Department of Environmental Quality said he would deliver sampling data to the town that might inform its decision about the contamination of the land it is considering annexing.
In general, the representative said, the boundaries of contaminated sites like the one in Richardson Flat are drawn to encompass all the land the department and the federal Environmental Protection Agency believe to be contaminated. He also said that the land contemplated for annexation had undergone previous remediation work.
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The Park City lodging industry in recent weeks experienced an uptick in projected occupancy numbers during the dates of the Sundance Film Festival, but the figures remain depressed from a typical year during the largest special event on the city’s calendar.