The Hideout Town Council held its first public meeting Friday evening in an attempt to renew an effort to absorb a large swath of land across county lines near Park City.
Summit County has filed lawsuits against the town and its developers to block the effort. Earlier this week, a 4th District judge ordered Hideout to restart its annexation process after the county said the Town Council failed to abide by open meetings law.
Before that ruling, the council had repealed an intent to annex resolution when its public Zoom meeting wouldn’t allow all members of the public to participate during a hearing for comment. Friday evening’s work session did not include a public comment session or any votes, but it revealed that the council still struggles with online public meetings and technical issues.
Right at the start, a few participants started interrupting and mocking the town’s attorney as she explained the annexation’s legal status. The Town Council then changed the meeting settings to mute all participants unless an administrator allowed them to speak. That caused hiccups of its own, as council members and staff were suddenly muted themselves.
Many of the meeting’s nearly 100 participants took to the chat feature to type expletives and post a flood of comments criticizing the town’s expansion plan, calling it a “landgrab” and an “illegal and illegitimate process.”
“Today is not the day we’re taking public input,” council member Chris Baier reminded the participants, telling them to send the council emailed comments. “That’s the appropriate way to provide your input.”
Council members attempted to find a way to disable the chat feature but were unsuccessful.
The Utah Legislature recently repealed a provision from earlier this year that allowed a town to absorb land without a bordering county’s consent, which opened the door to the current imbroglio between Summit County and Hideout.
Even though the repeal had two-thirds majority support that could allow it to take effect immediately upon the governor’s signature, it did not include that language in the bill. That means it will not become law until the end of October.
“We have heard that was part of a compromise to allow time for the Town of Hideout to complete annexation if they chose to do so,” said Robert Mansfield, an attorney for the town in the legal battle with Summit County. “... But we don’t know that for sure.”
The town’s elected officials took time at the meeting to criticize Wasatch County, where Hideout is located, and neighboring Summit County, which is taking legal action to block the town’s expansion.
“We’re in this very odd place of need, but being ignored by one county and perhaps, I’m going to say, despised by the other,” Baier said.
Baier noted that Hideout is located at a northern “notch” in Wasatch County, which limits its options for in-county growth, and that Wasatch County spends most of its attention on the growth of Heber Valley.
Council members expressed frustration with having to travel to either Park City or Kimball Junction to buy groceries. Both areas are about a 15-minute drive from Hideout. The council members also explained that the town is rapidly growing, possibly due to urban dwellers fleeing to less populated areas to escape the pandemic.
“Bottom line, the growth is coming whether we like it or not,” said council member Robert Nadelburg, adding that the town of about 1,000 residents is looking at a future population of “tens of thousands.”
Nadelburg then took a dig at Park City, which has also resisted Hideout’s cross-county growth plans, saying the ski destination “could have done a better job managing [its] growth ... I don’t even go into downtown Park City because of Kearns Boulevard.”
Council members and developer Nate Brockbank also threw some punches at local media for its coverage of the annexation issue, saying reports were “one-sided” and that reporters exaggerated the density of the development after reviewing documents obtained by Summit County.
“To keep using words like ’high density’ and numbers that aren’t reality ... it is frustrating that we seem to be fighting a media war at the same time that we’re trying to look at doing what’s in service to the community,” said council member Jerry Dwinell.
Development vision come into focus
Brockbank’s plans for the 626 acres he seeks to annex into Hideout have mostly been vague, but he shared more detail with the public during Friday’s meeting.
Large sections of land that have deed disputes with Park City would remain open space for the time being. Twenty-five acres would be dedicated to commercial use, including a grocery store. The north end of the property near Highway 248 would include 272 units of workforce housing. Other large sections of the land are dedicated to about 500 housing units on large lots. The plan also includes a mountain bike park and, potentially, an indoor surfing facility and pool.
“So we really have some cool things ... this is just people who have reached out to us. We haven’t done any marketing ourselves,” Brockbank said. “Retail is not going to be an issue. There’s so much demand, it’s very exciting.”
Brockbank added that the current plan is still “about 60% open space.”
The Town Council did not definitively say Friday evening whether it plans to move forward with a new expansion effort before the Legislature’s repeal becomes law. If the town does pursue a new plan, Mayor Philip Rubin reminded council members that Summit County would undoubtedly move to block the annexation again.
“I have no doubt [we] will see additional legal challenge regardless of the amount of transparency we provide here,” Rubin said.
The council has tentatively scheduled another meeting to discuss the issue at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 8.