Park City land-use activists vow to fight Hideout’s annexation plan
Drivers heading east from Park City on S.R. 248 might notice open space to their left and right as they leave Quinn’s Junction, but as the road crests the hill and turns to the south, development projects start to materialize on the hillsides just as travelers pass the Wasatch County line.
That’s no accident, two prominent local land-use activists say, and they plan to fight to keep development away from the land they thought they’d preserved decades ago.
Rich Wyman and Dana Williams, who were allies during the decade-long dispute regarding the development that eventually was built as Empire Pass, are gearing up for another fight more than 20 years after the formative events that aligned them.
This time, they’re opposing a plan from the Wasatch County town of Hideout to annex several hundred acres of land in Summit County in the southwest quadrant of Quinn’s Junction for a mixed-use development.
Wyman and Williams said the notion they’ve heard from proponents of the annexation that the land has been neglected and unplanned is incorrect.
“We fought damn long and damn hard to do the right thing to put restrictions in place,” Wyman said. “… We don’t know when the next public hearing will be, but we’ll have a standing-room line out the door, socially distanced. We’ve never done this during a pandemic.”
Williams, a former three-term Park City mayor, said he and fellow activists are considering legal action to stop the Hideout annexation, but hopes the state Legislature will step in before that’s necessary.
Williams said one of the major wins from the Empire Pass negotiations was that the United Park City Mines Corporation agreed to relinquish development rights around Quinn’s Junction and other places in exchange for increased density in Empire Canyon. Now, Hideout is attempting to annex some of that land for development.
“This is an affront to everyone who’s participated here for decades,” Williams said. “… Now we have somebody that’s like, ‘I don’t care what the planning and zoning is, I don’t care what — we’re just going to do it.’”
Hideout appears able to annex the land across county lines thanks to a provision passed by the Legislature in March that allows for inter-county annexation under specific circumstances. It is not the first time the town has sought to use a young state law for its benefit.
Williams was the mayor of Park City when the town incorporated in 2008 under a short-lived law that was overturned the following year.
“We’ve got a new name for Hideout,” he said. “We call them ‘ Gotcha!’”
Wyman said this annexation attempt is indicative of the town’s behavior since it incorporated.
“Judging by their behavior, they think that they can do whatever they want,” he said. “… They wait for the right set of circumstances, they wait for the right set of characters and that’s what they did 12 years ago when they became a city in the first place, and that’s what they’re doing now. If we let them continue to get away with this, this is not going to be the end, this is going to be the way they continue to operate for years to come. You do not reward bad behavior.”
Hideout Mayor Phil Rubin disputed this assertion, saying that since he was elected in 2017, the town has acted in a responsible manner for its citizens and as a regional neighbor. He said citizens in the town, with an estimated population of 1,123, became active after a previous administration granted 700 units of density in one fell swoop.
With development around the Jordanelle Reservoir set to explode in coming years, Rubin has said it is necessary — and will soon be critical — to provide services for the thousands of people who might move in and would be forced to drive into Park City, Kamas or Heber on already-congested roads for everyday errands.
The activists didn’t deny the need for more commercial services, but said that it should be incumbent on new developments to provide them for themselves.
Wyman said it was an opportunity for Hideout to think progressively and to try to build its own Main Street that could rival Park City’s, rather than attempt to bring big box commercial to the area. Rubin and the developers have both denied they will seek big box retail stores like Costco, but the developers mentioned a grocery store like Whole Foods or Trader Joes would be a potential fit.
“Why don’t they try to bring some (mom-and-pop shops) in?” Wyman asked. “They could create a destination: ‘Honey, it’s Sunday, let’s go get lunch in Hideout. They’ve got those quaint little shops.’”
Williams questioned why it was Hideout’s responsibility to provide commercial services for the entire region rather than building commercial within the town’s current boundaries to serve its residents. Rubin has said the town is already platted and that there isn’t enough land to do so.
Wyman said the preservation of open space is a key part of Park City’s identity and is the reason many come to the area. And since much of the land around the city is privately held, development is a constant threat.
“We have to fight tooth-and-nail for every piece of open space we get,” he said.
For Williams, the attempt to develop on open land is nothing new, though the technique is novel.
“We’ve seen this for 50 years — people who come here and say how much our lives are going to be better because of what they’re going to do,” he said. “… As someone who was the government for years, the one line that I shudder at is ‘trust us.’”
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