Hideout City Council repeals controversial annexation resolution

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) The Town Council of Hideout on Friday repealed a resolution it passed earlier to annex open space on the outskirts of Park City near Richardson Flat, July 14, 2020.

In a 4-1 vote, the Hideout Town Council repealed a contentious amendment Friday related to the town’s efforts to reach across county lines and annex a large swath of land near Park City.

At issue was Resolution 2020-05, a pre-annexation agreement with developers Nate Brockbank and Josh Romney, son of U.S. Senator Mitt Romney. The Council approved the resolution without discussion on July 9. It also listed the action item on its agenda only 24 hours before the meeting and did not include a copy of the resolution in a public packet.

Council member Robert Nadelberg was the only dissenting vote. The Council said the resolution repeal was due to an Aug. 12 hearing on the annexation, which had to be canceled due to technical difficulties with the virtual meeting.

“In my opinion, our ideal of pursuing a lawful annexation is still important for the town,” said council member Chris Baier.

But the annexation has also become swamped in controversy after Summit County sued to block it, calling the town’s efforts a “land grab” tainted with secrecy.

In a court motion, the county alleged the Town Council held all discussion and deliberation about the resolution in “closed or secret meetings outside the public process.” The county claimed the July 9 vote should be voided under Utah’s Open and Public Meetings Act.

“It was a sham and a violation of law,” the county’s attorneys wrote in their motion.

A judge issued a temporary restraining order against Hideout earlier this month. The court has rescheduled a hearing on the matter for Aug. 21, and Summit County Manager Tom Fisher told The Salt Lake Tribune that “we still expect to hear a decision next Friday.”

Mayor Philip Rubin said the repeal essentially restarts the annexation process but it does not “make the litigation go away.”

Following the repeal vote, the council moved to a closed executive session to discuss the town’s legal situation.

The Town Council had sought to annex 655 acres of an area called Richardson Flat where developers Brockbank and Romney intend to add dense commercial and residential development. Summit County zoned the land for limited development to preserve open space as a counterbalance to the more urban Park City and Synderville Basin areas.

Hideout is located in Wasatch County, but the Town Council relied on a last-minute bill passed by the Utah Legislature that allows municipalities to add land to their boundaries across county lines without getting approval from the impacted county.

Lawmakers have indicated that they intend to repeal the bill in a special session on Aug. 20.

The Town Council has scheduled a vote on the annexation for Aug. 18, before the Legislature could act. Council members now say they want to wait and see what lawmakers decide.

“I think all parties would best served by letting the Legislature tell us what they intended or didn’t intend,” said council member Kurt Shadle. “Once that happens, we’ll have a much better visibility into what our town’s rights are and we can proceed accordingly.”

Council members also maintain that the town needs to annex land to build needed services.

“We still see that we need things like grocery [stores], gas and other conveniences closer [rather] than driving into Park City, Kimball Junction or Heber,” said council member Jerry Dwinell.

The council also expressed frustrations about the town’s location at the northernmost point of Wasatch County, hemmed in by Jordanelle Reservoir and the Summit County line, which limits options for future growth.

Shadle drew parallels to the current pandemic.

“COVID doesn’t respect state, town, county boundaries. Neither does traffic [or] demand,” he said. “I’m hoping that one of the positive outcomes of this is ... to get everyone to realize that we’re all in this boat together.”

Wasatch County Council member Kendall Crittenden told the council that the county perhaps had not included Hideout in its regional planning as much “as it should have.”

“As a county, I think we’re willing to work with you ... and help solve some of your problems,” Crittenden said.

Brockbank, the developer, also expressed frustration over his interactions with both Summit and Wasatch counties.

“I can’t tell you how many names I’ve been called, the Town of Hideout has been called, by these big counties and cities,” Brockbank said. “Hopefully they will work with us,” he said, adding that “I have a hard time believing they’ll work with us.”

Brockbank also claimed the Jordanelle Special Service District (JSSD) had been “gung-ho” about providing services to the Richardson Flat development until the annexation drew controversy. He said he’d “given millions of dollars” to building a new water treatment facility, only for the district not to return his calls.

Crittenden, who is a board member of JSSD, said he was “unaware” of a commitment to supply water and sewer services to the development, commenting that it “is another service area JSSD would hesitate to serve.”

Park City Mayor Andy Beerman joined the meeting to express support of the repeal and pause on annexation. Council member Baier called out the neighboring mayor for his messages in the news and social media against Hideout’s plans.

“Park City has a huge megaphone ... we would ask you to make a better effort to protect the reputation of Hideout, because we are a real town with real representatives,” Baier said. “And we have real constituents here.”

5:15 p.m., August 14: This story was updated to include information about a rescheduled court hearing.