Hideout withdraws intent-to-annex resolution, but hasn’t ruled out trying again (UPDATED)
After accusations ranging from backroom dealing to elaborate schemes to defraud the state Legislature to secret meetings meant to avoid public scrutiny, it was, of all things, a Zoom blunder that appears to have derailed Hideout’s bid to annex hundreds of acres of land in Summit County before lawmakers have a chance to revisit the issue.
Technical difficulties prevented Hideout’s virtual public hearing from beginning Wednesday, and Town Attorney Dan Dansie said that made the town unable to satisfy the statutory requirements to hold a scheduled vote on the issue Aug. 18. That is two days before the Legislature is expected to begin a special session and, potentially, repeal the short-lived law that made the annexation attempt possible.
Early Friday afternoon, the Hideout Town Council repealed the resolution that announced its intent to annex the land, ending for now the bid to control 655 acres on the eastern portal of Park City and develop it into a shopping and residential center against the wishes of both Park City and Summit County, with the latter suing to stop the move.
Judge Jennifer Brown was scheduled to rule on whether to allow Hideout to proceed with its annexation attempt later on Friday afternoon, but early in the day pushed her ruling back a week, meaning the temporary restraining order that bars the town from annexing the land remains in place.
The town didn’t abandon its hope to annex the land, but must now pass another intent-to-annex resolution to “reset the clock” on the process.
Hideout Town Councilor Kurt Shadle, acknowledging the controversy surrounding the town’s move, said that it would be best to postpone any move toward annexation until the state Legislature has clarified its position on the short-lived law that allows, for the first time, cross-county annexation without the other county’s consent.
The town is seeking to annex 655 acres around Richardson Flat for developers Josh Romney and Nate Brockbank to build a mixed-use development that would feature no less than 200,000 square feet of retail commercial space, 100,000 square feet of offices and industrial uses and 3,500 residential dwellings, according to court documents filed as part of the lawsuit. Park City and Summit County have long planned for the land to be used for extremely low density development or to be held as open space.
Summit County officials estimate such a development would bring 10,000 residents to the area, while a representative of the developers said they did not anticipate building that many homes.
Town officials have disputed the notion that they had viewed the start of the Legislative special session on Aug. 20 as a deadline to annex the land, but they are now turning to the Legislature for guidance.
“The last thing we want to do is come across like we’re doing something nefarious,” said Town Councilor Jerry Dwinell. “We don’t know what the Legislature intended. If they intended this to be what’s passed, we’d like to move forward. If they repeal it, they’ve stated what their intent actually was. … At some point, we’ll know what they actually meant.”
The county contends the developers’ lobbyist purposely misrepresented a substitute bill to legislators as having consensus support and making no meaningful changes to state code. That turned out to not be true. Several legislators have said they would seek to repeal the law.
Prior to the legislation’s passage earlier this year, Hideout would have needed Summit County’s consent to annex the land.
Officials from Park City, Summit County and Wasatch County applauded Hideout’s decision to back away from the annexation.
Park City Mayor Andy Beerman and Wasatch County Councilor Kendall Crittenden indicated those two jurisdictions would be open to working with the town to provide the commercial services it says its residents — and residents anticipated to be coming to the area around the Jordanelle Reservoir — need.
The annexation process was unusual from the start, and since the ill-fated public hearing Wednesday did not occur, there was virtually no formal public comment on the plan, which could have forever altered more than 1 square mile of land near Richardson Flat.
Some local residents have said they like the idea of a grocery store or gas station in the area, while others have decried the concept of growth in the area.
Wednesday’s public hearing was required by state law before the town could vote to annex the land, but it never officially began.
Town officials apparently inadvertently started two simultaneous Zoom meetings while trying to accommodate in-person commentary at the Town Hall. For more than a half hour, the majority of the Town Council was in one meeting while members of the public who had followed the publicly announced link were waiting in another.
Town officials scrambled to rectify the issue for the better part of an hour before deciding that the public’s ability to comment on the issue had been meaningfully hindered.
Around 7 p.m., a town official announced there were 133 people in line to participate in the meeting, and Mayor Phil Rubin and town councilors apologized for the technical error.
“Holy crap,” Shadle said at one point, swiveling in his office chair and putting his hands behind his head.
He later said the town had no choice but to reschedule the hearing and apologized for wasting the public’s time.
Wrangling with the technology appeared to fall to Rubin and a town councilor. Rubin has said the town has four full-time employees and there appeared to be no dedicated technology staffer present at the meeting.
Officials had planned to extend Wednesday’s hearing to the Town Council’s next meeting on Aug. 18, at which the council was scheduled to vote on the proposal.
But after being forced to call off Wednesday’s hearing, Dansie said the Aug. 18 hearing could not occur, as it was an extension of a hearing that never began.
“The Aug. 18 hearing was predicated on this hearing going forward,” Dansie said. “… The 18th really was a continuation of the 12th. When the 12th didn’t happen there was nothing (to be done).”
There is specific criteria in state code for this type of annexation, which has never been attempted in Utah. It requires municipalities to publicize public hearings within 14 days of passing a resolution indicating an intent to annex the land. Hideout passed such a resolution July 9, and so the town was unable to re-notice the hearing without passing a new resolution. Further, the notices must appear for at least three weeks, which would have placed the rescheduled hearing far past the Aug. 20 special session.
Summit County is still locked in litigation with Hideout, alleging that the developers and town officials engaged in an enterprise to hide their intentions from the public by skirting public meeting laws and that a lobbyist, on behalf of the developers, defrauded legislators to misrepresent the bill regarding cross-county annexation, among other allegations. Hideout officials deny the claims.
Summit County manager Tom Fisher said that the developers had not officially withdrawn their application with the county, and encouraged them to contact the county to move forward.
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Summit County has asked a 4th District judge to throw out Hideout’s attempt to annex Richardson Flat before the June 22 referendum when Hideout residents are set to vote on the proposal.