Summit County sues Hideout in attempt to prevent annexation before August state Legislature special session
Summit County filed a lawsuit Friday against Hideout seeking to stop the town’s annexation attempt before a special session of the state Legislature convenes in August, a session in which county officials expect the recently passed state law enabling Hideout’s move to be overturned.
In a 60-page filing in 4th District Court, the county alleges the town engaged with developers Nate Brockbank and Josh Romney in an enterprise involving secret meetings, a misdirection campaign and deliberate deception that culminated with “bait and switch” legislation that was misrepresented to state legislators with the purpose of subverting Summit County’s land-use authority.
The county is seeking an injunction to prevent the town from annexing the land around Richardson Flat until all legal objections have been fully litigated and before the Legislature meets in a special session that is anticipated to begin Aug. 20. Hideout has indicated it may take action on the proposal after a public hearing Aug. 18.
The lawsuit refers to the annexation attempt as “hostile and fraudulent” and alleges a pattern of deception dating back to early 2019 in which the developers sought to “defeat” the county’s land-use authority to develop land that Summit County and Park City have long planned to be kept as open space.
On July 9, the Hideout Town Council passed a resolution announcing its intention to annex roughly 650 acres of land controlled by Summit County around Richardson Flat, intending it for a mixed-use development pursued by Brockbank and Romney. County officials at the time called the move a “land grab.”
Before new legislation passed in March, such an annexation would have required Summit County’s consent.
Hideout Attorney Dan Dansie said Hideout has, and will continue to, follow the rules governing the annexations.
“No final decision has been made on the annexation,” he wrote in an email to The Park Record. “There are public meetings scheduled for August 12 and August 18 where issues associated with the proposed annexation will be vetted in accordance with existing statutes. In our view, the County’s complaint is unfounded and the Town will respond accordingly.”
The developers’ attorney, Bruce Baird, who helped craft the legislation in question, said he was not surprised by the lawsuit.
“The county seems to have forgotten something called, I’m not sure, maybe the First Amendment of the Constitution, that allows citizens and their representatives to talk to their elected representatives on legislative matters,” Baird said, addressing allegations that the developers engaged in secret, one-on-one meetings meant to circumvent open meetings law requirements. “Let me be unequivocal: Neither the mayor, nor I, nor my clients did anything inappropriate in any way.”
If it annexes the land, Hideout would control land-use decisions for a large portion of the eastern portal to Park City, opening the door to the kind of development both Summit County and Park City have shunned in the area, but that could provide a vital commercial tax base for the cash-strapped town.
The lawsuit claims the development in question, which it calls North Park, would include 200,000 square feet of retail commercial space, 100,000 square feet of offices and industrial uses and 3,500 residential dwellings, bringing an estimated 10,000 residents to the area. This is the first time those specifics have been publicly released and The Park Record was unable to verify those details.
Hideout officials have said that Summit County and Wasatch County have failed to plan for the explosion of growth around the Jordanelle Reservoir expected to result from projects, mostly in Wasatch County, that have already been entitled. Hideout Mayor Phil Rubin has also said that the town’s residents have to drive into Park City, Kimball Junction or Kamas for basic services like groceries because the area lacks sufficient commercial offerings.
Hideout officials further claim the development would ease some of the congestion on S.R. 248, a point with which Summit County and Park City officials vigorously disagree.
The lawsuit claims that the town violated open meetings laws and that the annexation plan was “pre-cooked” in closed session before any public meetings.
In addition to aiming to halt the annexation, the county is also seeking reasonable attorney’s fees and costs associated with the lawsuit.
It further claims that, per the pre-annexation agreement, the developer, rather than the town, would pay these fees. The developers are not listed as defendants in the lawsuit.
The county also alleges that Wells Fargo Bank acted to conceal the town’s annexation plans. The bank’s attempt to split a parcel of land at Richardson Flat to remove an EPA Superfund site and avoid potential environmental liability would leave “the taxpayers of Summit County holding the ‘proverbial bag’ with respect to those environmental clean-up and remediation costs,” according to the lawsuit. The county estimates those costs at more than $50 million.
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Judge Jennifer Brown indicated the breadth of the day’s proceedings left her unable to render a judgment before Hideout’s first scheduled public hearing Wednesday evening.