Tom Clyde: Hideout attacks!
The town of Hideout, the next door neighbor most of you didn’t know you had, has just stunned Summit County and Park City by announcing its intention to annex land at Richardson Flat. The land has been in play for a while. It’s owned by United Park City Mines and others. Developers Nate Brockbank and Josh Romney have it under option, and have spent months trying to convince Summit County to rezone the land for commercial development. Summit County didn’t like the plan, Park City hated the plan, and nothing happened.
The developers approached the town of Hideout about annexing. But Hideout is in Wasatch County, and the land is in Summit. Cross-county municipal annexations used to require the consent of the county. Summit County declined. So what’s a developer to do when long-standing state laws get in the way? Well, there’s always the Legislature, and there’s always a legislator or two more than willing to come to the rescue when commie pinko local zoning gets in the way of somebody’s God-given right to build a strip mall.
So the last Legislature slipped in a special, largely secret, deal at the last minute, removing the requirement for county consent. Gov. Herbert signed the bill in the last month, and the ambush has begun. Over 900 acres of land at Quinn’s Junction will soon be under Hideout’s zoning.
The town of Hideout itself is an interesting piece of work. For a very short time, through other legislative shenanigans, pretty much any place could incorporate as a town. They had to have 100 residents and the consent of the owners of a majority of the land. If a property owner couldn’t get the zoning he wanted from the jurisdiction he was located in, and couldn’t figure out how to get annexed into another more friendly jurisdiction, well, the Legislature decided he ought to be able to create his own jurisdiction. So the developer was given the right to tax, condemn and zone by creating his own municipality. After a year or so, lawmakers decided that letting real estate developers create bogus towns to write their own zoning was going a bit too far, even for Utah’s developer-controlled Legislature. They repealed the “make your own town” provision, but, of course, Hideout was already there.
The most successful of these towns is Bryce Canyon City, better known as Ruby’s Inn, where the biggest commercial center in Garfield County formed their own town, snagging the sales tax that used to go to the county. There was an existing population center there. In Hideout’s case, the “town” was just a proposed development that was having trouble getting approved by Wasatch County. It’s erupted into a real town since. Hideout’s only revenue comes from property tax and whatever sales tax is generated from the golf course. The people who live there could certainly benefit from having reasonable access to a grocery store. There’s no place on earth with that many houses and no Starbucks. So their motivation in developing a commercial center is pretty reasonable.
I’m not sure there is much Summit County or Park City can do about it. For decades, both fought to keep the S.R. 248 corridor undeveloped. But then came the hospital, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard headquarters, the county Health Department, the film studio, suburbia, a string of collision repair shops, storage units — and the open corridor is looking pretty developed. It remains to be seen if Hideout’s planning for a mixed-use, residential and commercial development on the acreage is any worse than, say, Kimball Junction.
There’s the whole issue of traffic on 248, which is already more than the road can handle. Adding a bunch of commercial space there, staffed by employees who can’t afford to live close by and have to commute by car, will only make it worse. Throw in all the residential already approve in the surrounding area and, frankly, I’m not sure additional residential at the Quinn’s site would make much difference. You can only kill something so dead. Soon enough, traffic will back up from the light at Comstock Drive all the way to Tabiona, even without this project.
So while Hideout seems to have acted in a particularly jerk-ish way on this, its need for a solid tax base to support what has become a real town is pretty reasonable. Whether Summit County and Park City can find ways to work with Hideout, and maybe do some regional transportation planning, remains to be seen. It’s not off to a great start. There could be opportunities on the Quinn’s property as a location for some facilities Park City lacks — like an assisted-living center — or other things that require a larger footprint than exists in Park City. Or it could be Kimball Junction’s fast-food-o-rama all over again.
But it really is disgusting that this kind of legislative skullduggery happens year after year, creating real instability in local planning.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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Columnist Tom Clyde has been unable to nab a ski reservation so far, so instead he’s catching up on all the important animal-related news going on in the world.