Robert Gehrke: Summit County sues to block Hideout’s ‘land grab’ near Park City

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) The town of Hideout is trying to annex open space on the outskirts of Park City near Richardson Flat, Tuesday, July 14, 2020.

Summit County is suing the town of Hideout to block an attempt by the hamlet on the banks of the Jordanelle Reservoir from reaching across the county line and annexing hundreds of acres for a developer aiming to build on the land just outside of Park City.

In the complaint, filed Friday in 4th District Court, Summit County alleges that Hideout was deceitful and underhanded, plotting in secret meetings with the developer — Nate Brockbank and his partner, Josh Romney — to keep Summit County and the public in the dark until it was too late.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Robert Gehrke.

At the center of the dispute is an annexation bill that had been hammered out to address a situation in Weber County, but was amended without debate on the second-to-last night of the state legislative session to allow Hideout to annex land outside the area without the county’s approval.

Sen. Kirk Cullimore, told the Deseret News he was misled when he pushed the key amendment.

Bruce Baird, an attorney for the developers, confirmed that the lobbyist, Mike Ostermiller, brought the language to Cullimore to add to what had been a consensus bill with an eye toward the Hideout annexation, “among others” and contends it’s good public policy.

Cullimore indicated he intends to seek the repeal of the provision when the Legislature meets in a special session Aug. 20. That could be too late. Hideout has scheduled a hearing on Aug. 12 and a vote on Aug. 18 to finalize the annexation before the Legislature can act.

The area in question is known as Richardson Flat, on the doorstep of Park City. Currently the county has zoned it for limited residential development, in agreement with the city which wants to prevent sprawl and large commercial projects on that end of town.

“This is the essence of local control and is essential to the tourism economy which is the life blood of Summit County,” the county says in its complaint.

Summit County is asking the judge to block that action, arguing that Hideout, which is in Wasatch County, violated the Open Meetings Act, concealing the annexation issue and “intentionally misleading the public” before an earlier vote on the issue, which should nullify the vote.

Summit County also alleges that town officials had secret meetings with Brockbank and Romney to orchestrate the annexation, beginning even before the new law took effect.

Hideout attorney Dan Dansie says the town followed all the applicable laws and said that there is nothing wrong with meeting with potential developers.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) The town of Hideout is trying to annex open space on the outskirts of Park City near Richardson Flat, Tuesday, July 14, 2020.

“In fact, it’s our understanding that these same developers met with Summit County officials and Park City officials about the same project,” he said. “The meetings that we had with these developers would have been similar in character and substance to the meetings they had with Summit County.”

Baird, the attorney on the development project, was more direct.

“The entire premise … that there’s some evil secret conspiracy here is ridiculous,” he said. “All local governments talk to anti-developers and developers all the time. It’s something called, I’m not sure … oh, the First f****** Amendment.”

According to the county, Brockbank and Romney intend to build a mixed-use development called “North Park,” which includes more than 200,000 square feet of retail commercial space, 100,000 square feet of office space and 3,500 residential units, which would bring an estimated 10,000 residents to the area.

The town of Hideout currently has a population of 900.

Brockbank and Romney had petitioned Summit County to rezone the area and the county had scheduled a hearing but the developers canceled it. The county claims that was a “subterfuge” to give them time for the law to take effect so they could proceed with their Hideout annexation plan.

Baird said that’s not the case. He said they abandoned the Summit County proposal because residents in Summit County and Park City — “those who already got theirs” make it impossible for developers.

“Summit County is controlled by the pitchfork and the torch crowd,” he said. “Very simply: It’s a mobocracy.”

Dansie confirmed Friday that there were discussions about adding the North Park development to an adjacent billion-dollar ski resort development that is under the jurisdiction of a legislative-created entity known as the Military Installation Development Authority.

The resort plan — which includes rooms for the Air Force — is controversial because it gives lucrative tax breaks to developers and is exempt from the normal county and municipal planning and zoning processes.

But Baird said that the developers never received a formal financial proposal from the MIDA board.