Tom Clyde: Plague, drought, locusts and Hideout
The drought is getting real. On the ranch, the year’s irrigation water is already gone. The river flow is less than 10% of normal, and our water rights are mostly in the 90% that isn’t there. In the same week that the hay got nipped by a hard freeze, we got put on August-level water restrictions. Couple that with this week’s blazing heat and wind sucking the moisture out of everything, and things are “Grapes of Wrath” grim. I fully expect to see a caravan of Range Rovers leaving town, with mattresses and Peloton cycles tied to the roofs as the new arrivals decide that life in this dust bowl is intolerable.
Coming on the heels of the pandemic, it begins to feel a little Biblical. We’ve had plague, locusts, QAnon believers and maybe more fun to come. It’s almost inevitable that some idiot will set the place on fire. We’re already getting the smoke from fires all around the state. I read somewhere that the standing trees, live and green, have about the same moisture content as kiln-dried lumber you’d find at the lumberyard (except that there isn’t any inventory at the lumberyard). Lice, frogs, Mitch McConnell and boils round out the list.
Speaking of boils, the referendum on the Hideout annexation of Richardson Flat is Tuesday. The Town Council has annexed the land, and the referendum is about whether to sustain that action or rescind it. What’s at stake is whether we have insufferable traffic on S.R. 248 because of additional housing and a big commercial area built by the old tailings pond, or we have insufferable traffic on S.R. 248 because all the people who live in Hideout already (and thousands yet to come) are all driving into Park City. Either way, there is nothing that suggests any reduction in traffic in our future.
Hideout wants a commercial development to generate some sales tax revenue. The commercial area would rely on employees who mostly can’t afford to live in our overheated housing market. Something like 15,000 people a day drive up from Salt Lake for local jobs right now. A lot of those are at Kimball Junction. If we end up cloning Kimball at Quinn’s Junction, the increase in traffic will be in different places, causing new traffic jams. The Quinn’s interchange doesn’t work now. What harm could adding a couple thousand more cars every morning do? The idea that Hideout will function as a self-contained community where people live, work and drive around in circles just isn’t realistic. The people stocking the shelves at all those new stores will come from somewhere else, and the people living in Hideout will still drive somewhere else for work. That may be Park City or the Snyderville Basin, or it may be Salt Lake. Most likely it will be a combination. But they aren’t paying for those new houses working at Arby’s.
Hideout itself is a product of some legislative skullduggery from years ago when, for a short time, it was possible to incorporate a town with almost no people in it. The goal was to make an end run around Wasatch County zoning by forming a new town where the major land owners could write their own zoning laws to facilitate their development. For some reason, that plan didn’t include any commercial space. There isn’t a lemonade stand in Hideout. That’s a problem they caused themselves. There could have been a downtown Hideout in their plan. There really should have been a commercial center in their plan. When you take all the housing that is both inside Hideout and adjoining in unincorporated Wasatch County, it’s hard to believe that nobody ever thought they might find a grocery store or gas station useful.
To solve that, more legislative shenanigans allowed Hideout, located entirely in Wasatch County, to annex into Summit County without Summit County having any say in the matter. Summit County has already made all the mistakes you could imagine at Kimball Junction. It was not eager to see them all repeated by the town of Hideout. Hideout is not exactly a regulatory powerhouse, and based on the track record so far, there’s no reason to assume that the commercial center will be any more functional than the mess at Kimball. Including all the traffic.
The concept of small-town livability is long gone when it comes to S.R. 248. A big commercial center will make it worse sooner, but it’s already done. You can’t build thousands of units around Jordanelle (and Kamas and Francis) without impacting S.R. 248.
I hope the voters in Hideout reject the annexation. That would not materially improve traffic, but it would be a nice rebuke of our corrupt Legislature’s willingness to do special favors for favored developers. The whole statutory framework leaves land-use planning up to the local jurisdictions, except when the Legislature decides to pull the rug out from under them through deals like Hideout’s annexation legislation.
But then, Summit County, Wasatch County, Hideout and Park City need to get serious about working together to fix the regional planning mess that’s already in place.
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