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Judge grants partial preliminary injunction on Hideout’s ‘land grab’ effort

(Rick Egan | Tribune file photo) The town of Hideout in Wasatch County is trying to annex open space on the outskirts of Park City near Richardson Flat in Summit County, July 14, 2020. A judge presiding over a lawsuit in the case granted partial victories to both sides on Thursday.

A judge has partially strengthened Summit County’s effort to block the Town of Hideout from annexing several hundred acres across county lines for a development near Park City, while leaving the door open for the town to try again.

Almost a month ago, 4th District Judge Jennifer A. Brown issued a temporary restraining order against Hideout when Summit County filed a lawsuit seeking expedited action. After learning of the plan, a county council member called the move “quite a land grab.” The county claims the town schemed with developers Nate Brockbank and Josh Romney, secretly drawing up plans to scoop up 655 acres that are zoned rural and that the county’s master plan preserves as open space.

The town and developers allegedly sought to convert them into a dense commercial and residential area without getting county approval. In a complaint, Summit County attorneys called the plan “pre-cooked.” They argued the Hideout Town Council violated open meetings law by not provide proper public notice of the pre-annexation agreement with the developers and a separate resolution expressing an intent to annex.

The council repealed the resolution on Aug. 14, but left the agreement with the developers in place. Hideout’s lawyers then argued the repeal made Summit County’s lawsuit moot. The county disagreed.

As the two parties squabbled, the judge rescheduled her oral ruling twice to keep pace with the numerous complaints, motions, oppositions and exhibits that have flooded the court since Summit County first filed the suit on July 31.

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Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune

“The pace at which filings are being made in this case has been fast and furious,” Brown said at a virtual hearing Thursday afternoon, where she called the lawsuit a “short-lived but very prolific case.”

Amid the court battle, the Utah Legislature repealed a bill from earlier this year that had opened the door for Hideout to absorb land without Summit County’s consent. The county contends the repeal indicates lawmakers never intended to allow the “hostile” annexation, especially since the developers’ lobbyist had a hand in drafting the legislation.

The Hideout Town Council is now considering a last-ditch effort to annex again before the Legislature’s repeal goes into effect in less than 60 days.

In Thursday’s hearing, Brown partially ruled in favor of both parties. She agreed that Hideout’s repeal of its intent to annex made some of Summit County’s lawsuit moot. She further declined to block Hideout from a second annexation attempt before the Legislature’s repeal becomes law.

But she also issued a preliminary injunction against Hideout’s pre-annexation agreement with Brockbank and Romney, meaning the town will have to completely restart the annexation process.

The judge noted that her ruling did not prohibit Summit County from taking future action to block Hideout’s next annexation effort.

“I realize this ruling may well mean that we’re all going to be back here again in the near future,” Brown said. “... I could see these same issues being raised again under a newly passed [annexation] resolution, which the Town of Hideout has made no secret of its intent to at least discuss.”

In the meantime, Summit County is embroiled in a second lawsuit in the 3rd District against Brockbank, Romney and Wells Fargo Bank. The county alleges that the bank helped the developers acquire a large chunk of the proposed annexation land through an unlawful foreclosure. The court is scheduled to hold a hearing on Summit County’s request for a temporary restraining order in that case on Sept. 9.

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