Judge issues injunction against Hideout in annexation lawsuit
A judge on Thursday barred Hideout from acting on a pre-annexation agreement the town passed in July in its controversial pursuit of annexing more than 650 acres of land in Summit County near Richardson Flat, a crucial ruling that comes weeks before a law preventing that type of cross-county land move takes effect.
In issuing an injunction, 4th District Court Judge Jennifer Brown called the process that led to the pre-annexation agreement troubling, noting that the town approved the agreement with virtually no public comment and that it is possible the town violated open meetings laws.
Summit County, which sued Hideout in July in an attempt to stop the town from annexing the land, was quick to declare the ruling a victory. In the county’s view, the injunction prevents Hideout from pursuing the contested land further, according to County Manager Tom Fisher.
“We’re pretty happy with (the injunction),” Fisher said in an interview. “It’s a result we were looking for.”
An attorney for Hideout did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Brown stopped short of ruling that Hideout cannot initiate any annexation attempt on land in Summit County. The town is free to pass another pre-annexation agreement.
Following the ruling, Hideout’s Town Council scheduled a Friday evening work session to discuss the annexation effort.
The county contends, however, that Hideout would be in violation of the injunction if it were to approve another pre-annexation agreement regarding the disputed land near Richardson Flat.
Fisher said Summit County is prepared to take further legal action if Hideout continues to pursue the land. Brown acknowledged that possibility, saying “I realize this ruling may well mean that we’re all going to be back here in the future.”
Summit County would prefer it not come to that, Fisher said.
“Just from the standpoint of being a manager in local government, it’s unconscionable to me that Hideout would continue to attempt this,” Fisher said.
The legal battle surrounding the annexation attempt may have long-lasting ramifications. Hideout desires the land, near the eastern entrance to Park City, so it can allow developers Nate Brockbank and Josh Romney to build a massive mixed-use development involving up to 3,500 residential units and 300,000 feet of commercial space.
Summit County has recoiled at the notion of being stripped of land-use authority on such crucial acreage, contending that county residents, through their representation at the County Courthouse, should determine what happens on the land as opposed to Hideout.
The county has also criticized the process Hideout used to pursue the annexation, alleging in the lawsuit that the town and developers held secret meetings and waged a campaign to deliberately deceive state lawmakers into passing legislation that allows a municipality to annex land across county lines without the neighboring county’s consent.
Hideout and the developers have denied allegations of wrongdoing.
The bill’s floor sponsor, Sen. Kirk Cullimore, R-Sandy, has said substitute language in the legislation that legalized that kind of annexation was misrepresented to him. He, in turn, told his fellow legislators that the substitute language involved only technical changes.
Last month, the Legislature sought to undo that mistake and repealed that language in a special session. The repeal, though, will not go into effect until mid-October.
Hideout indicated prior to Thursday’s ruling that it would try to use that window to move forward with annexing the land near Richardson Flat.
The lawsuit against Hideout is not the only legal avenue Summit County has taken to try to halt the annexation. The county also sued the developers, along with Wells Fargo Bank, claiming Brockbank’s acquisition of the land is invalid. The county argues the land was illegally subdivided and that the constable who facilitated the sale and prepared the property deeds did not have the authority to do so. The constable is also listed as a defendant in the suit.
A hearing in that lawsuit is scheduled Wednesday.
The annexation attempt has been contentious ever since Hideout unveiled its intent in July to pursue the land. Park City also opposes the annexation, meaning the controversy has pitted Hideout against its two closest neighbors to the west.
In a prepared statement Friday morning, Park City Mayor Andy Beerman urged Hideout to abandon the annexation effort.
“I am thankful to our Summit County leaders for standing up to protect our quality of life, and truly hope Hideout will consider a regional planning process inclusive of public input and collaboration,” he said. “Hideout should look within for their commercial development and mend fences with their partners so we can work together on addressing regional issues.”
At one point, it appeared Hideout itself may have put an end to the ordeal when it repealed a key resolution following a botched attempt in mid-August to hold a legally mandated public hearing on the annexation. A Zoom mishap prevented the hearing from occurring.
Lawmakers repealed the legislation shortly after. But Hideout didn’t give up, declaring its desire to use the 60 days before the repeal becomes law to annex the land.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated with additional information.
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