Hideout’s annexation has been overturned in court (updated)
Summit County victory appears likely to be appealed
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with additional comment.
A 4th District Court judge ruled Tuesday that Hideout’s annexation of part of Richardson Flat was done unlawfully, a decision that will almost certainly be appealed but the most declarative ruling to date on the legality of the Wasatch County town’s controversial attempt to control hundreds of acres in Summit County.
Judge Jennifer Brown, ruling with Summit County in its lawsuit against Hideout, called the annexation “invalid from its inception,” saying that it was enacted after a crucial deadline last fall, though the Town Council voted before that date.
Brown issued a summary judgment in Summit County’s favor, striking down the annexation ordinance that Hideout town councilors approved last fall.
For an annexation ordinance to be effective, the judge said, it must be enacted and not merely adopted. She said the ordinance was enacted after the window allowing such annexations had closed.
Hideout Mayor Phil Rubin indicated Wednesday morning the town would appeal the ruling.
“Hideout did everything properly throughout the annexation process, and I continue to believe that Summit County’s claims are baseless,” he wrote in a prepared statement. “I feel confident that the annexation will be upheld in the appeals process.”
Summit County Attorney Margaret Olson said that the ruling shows Hideout “lost its race against the clock.”
“To many observers, it seemed impossible that Hideout would be able to complete all statutorily mandated steps to complete and effectuate an annexation in 39 days,” Olson wrote in a prepared statement.
She was referencing the time between the beginning of Hideout’s second annexation attempt and the effective date of the repeal.
“Today is the beginning of the end of this unfortunate episode in Wasatch Back land use relations,” she wrote on Tuesday. “Summit County hopes that all stakeholders — Summit and Wasatch Counties, municipalities therein, special service districts, landowners, and developers — can put this episode in our collective past and work cooperatively toward regional planning solutions for the important growth and service issues facing our region.”
Rubin offered similar sentiments about the importance of Wasatch Back communities working collaboratively for solutions to the growth-fueled problems like traffic and overcrowding that are predicted to only worsen. He has said consistently the annexation is an attempt to provide services for the thousands expected to move into the homes springing up around the Jordanelle Reservoir.
Hideout residents apparently also want to see the kind of development town officials envision, voting overwhelmingly in a referendum to support the annexation, with results released hours after the judgment was announced.
The judgment, however, put a significant dent in the development’s chances of moving forward.
The ruling apparently hinged on requirements in state code that ordinances must be posted in public places or published in a newspaper of general record to be “enacted.”
Summit County argued, and Brown agreed, that Hideout did not post the ordinance until after the deadline to do so had passed. Brown also said a certificate of annexation, which the town obtained from the lieutenant governor’s office, was based on inaccurate information.
Brown said Hideout did not dispute the facts underlying the case, including when the ordinance was posted, but she said an appeal court may find she had erred in her application of those facts to state law.
Before the Utah Legislature passed a law in March 2020, annexing land in a neighboring county required that county’s approval. Legislators repealed that law in a special session later last year, but the law remained in effect until the repeal became effective Oct. 19.
Hideout town councilors approved an ordinance to annex much of Richardson Flat on Oct. 16, hurrying to beat the deadline and holding marathon meetings at which they negotiated significant aspects of the project in open meetings.
But Brown ruled the ordinance only became effective on Oct. 26, a week after the kind of annexation Hideout was attempting had once again become illegal. In addition to the annexation being across county lines and lacking Summit County’s consent, the land is across a ridgeline from the town itself and not contiguous to the town’s borders. That necessitated what is called a “cherry-stem” annexation, which the law’s repeal also limited.
Summit County has vigorously opposed the annexation since Hideout officials first announced the plan last July. Developer Nate Brockbank is seeking to annex 350 acres of Richardson Flat into Hideout to develop 600 homes, nearly 100,000 square feet of businesses and a new town hall and community center.
If Hideout annexes the land, it would be able to control how and whether it is developed. Summit County plans call for the land to be very low density development or retained as open space.
There are several pending lawsuits that can affect whether the annexation occurs, but officials have indicated the lawsuit ruled upon by Brown was central.
If Brown’s ruling is upheld in appellate court and the ordinance is again judged to be unlawful, Hideout would need to pursue the annexation under current state law.
Legislators made the process of cross-county annexation easier in the last general session, Summit County officials have said.
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