Question of whether lawmakers intended for Hideout to proceed with annexation rises to the forefront
What a difference two days makes.
On Tuesday, Hideout town councilors indicated during a public meeting that they would likely abandon the attempt to annex hundreds of acres of land in Summit County after their two representatives at the Statehouse told them it was absolutely not the Legislature’s intent to allow Hideout to proceed with the move during a 60-day window before a law barring the annexation takes effect.
“Unless new evidence comes to light, I’m questioning whether we have a need to revisit this (annexation attempt),” Councilor Jerry Dwinell said Tuesday, minutes before seconding a motion allowing the issue to be heard two days later.
But at Thursday’s meeting, Dwinell said he’d reconsidered what the Legislature intended after receiving calls from two legislators, and he voted along with three of his fellow councilors to start a new annexation process.
On Tuesday, Dwinell said he needed more clarity about what the Legislature intended when it declined to add a special effective date when it repealed the bill allowing for the first time a city to annex land in a neighboring county without that county’s consent.
Legislation is effective 60 days after the session in which it was passed is adjourned, unless legislators add a special effective date, which requires a two-thirds majority vote. The repeal vote passed that threshold, and other bills during the August special session had special effective dates, but the repeal bill did not.
“To me, this feels like the door is closed but they left the window open and now we’re looking to climb in the window,” Dwinell said on Tuesday.
Rep. Tim Quinn, R-Heber, and Sen. Ron Winterton, R-Roosevelt, attended the Town Council meeting Tuesday. Each said the Legislature’s intent in repealing the law was to stop Hideout’s attempt. The lawmakers said they intended to address further annexation issues in the 2021 general session.
Upon hearing that, Dwinell said he did not think this annexation attempt was the right one.
But two days later, Dwinell’s opinion changed, after the calls he said he received calls from the other two lawmakers.
Bruce Baird, a lawyer for the developer involved in the annexation, suggested during Thursday’s meeting that he had previous knowledge of the calls. He said the calls came from the original bill’s sponsors, and that they were also made to Hideout Town Councilor Chris Baier.
Baird was involved in crafting the legislation, passed in March, that allows this type of annexation, which legislators have said was misrepresented on the Senate floor.
Sen. Kirk Cullimore, R-Sandy, was a floor sponsor of the substitute bill that allowed the annexation. He has said the bill was misrepresented to him and introduced the measure to repeal that language during the August special session.
In an interview Thursday night, Cullimore said he called two Hideout councilors that day, though he declined to say who had suggested he do so. He said he had not spoken to Baird on the matter.
Cullimore said his intent was not to indicate that Hideout should proceed with the annexation, but rather to avoid wading into an ongoing legal dispute to the advantage of one side or another.
“It’s not the Legislature’s place to come in and pick sides,” he said. “… It was not my intent to influence (Dwinell’s) vote, not to open the door (to Hideout’s annexation attempt).”
Cullimore added that considering a special effective date was not a priority during the one-day August special session.
“Frankly, as the floor sponsor, I was not paying attention to the effective date as I ran the repeal,” he said. “(The) usual implementation rule just applied to this. That wasn’t even a topic of conversation at the time.”
“My intention was to repeal the bill and that we would go back to square one so the policy could be properly debated,” he added.
Rep. Calvin Musselman, R-West Haven, the original bill’s sponsor, said during the special session that there were issues related to annexation that deserved further scrutiny, but voted to repeal the language allowing the annexation.
In an interview Friday morning, Musselman said he had spoken to a Hideout town councilor Thursday but that it was not his intent to convince the official to go forward with the annexation.
“I can’t speculate on what he’s thinking or what he took from those conversations,” Musselman said. “Could technically there be an opportunity? Well yeah, apparently. … Did I think that Hideout could proceed in that window? I suppose it was possible but I honestly didn’t think that they would.”
Musselman said the law was repealed at the request of the Utah Association of Counties because that group had not been consulted on the original legislation.
He added that the neither the legislation nor the repeal were intended specifically to be to the benefit or to the detriment of any specific landowner, city or county.
What was clear Thursday was that Dwinell had a different understanding of legislative intent than what he had taken from Winterton’s and Quinn’s comments Tuesday.
Also at the meeting Thursday, Hideout Mayor Phil Rubin read a message from Quinn, claiming that the lawmaker told him he would cancel a regional summit Quinn was organizing if the town went through with the renewed annexation push.
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