Hideout Council declines to vote on reviving annexation

(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.

When the Utah Legislature repealed a controversial provision allowing Hideout to snatch up Summit County land without county approval, it did not become effective immediately. Town Council members wondered whether the loophole was intentional — an olive branch from lawmakers allowing the town to continue its expansion effort as long as it moved fast.

Tuesday night, that illusion fizzled.

The council had scheduled a special public meeting to consider a vote on whether to revive an annexation that has them embroiled in a lawsuit with Summit County. The developer pushing the Hideout’s expansion, Nate Brockbank, presented a scaled-down version of his plan to avoid another legal dispute raised by neighboring Park City. While council members expressed some disappointment in those changes, they ultimately wanted to understand whether they’d have the Legislature’s support for the new plan.

Even though the repeal, passed in the latest special session, had two-thirds majority support that could allow it to take effect immediately upon the governor’s signature, the bill did not include that language. Instead, it will go into effect in late October.

“To me this feels like the door was closed but they left the window open,” said council member Jerry Dwinell.

Two lawmakers who voted on the bill and its repeal chimed in to offer some clarity during the meeting.

“It was not the legislators' intent to leave that window [open] but to go back and go through public process in a general session,” said Rep. Ron Winterton, R-Roosevelt, adding that he’d only learned of Hideout’s plans to begin annexation efforts that day.

“If this goes forward, there will be a lot of problems and years in court trying to figure out how to make this work,” Winterton said.

The bill that opened the door to Hideout’s annexation plans, HB359, had initially been drafted during the 2020 general session to address an unrelated issue in Weber County. Hideout never came up in conversations about the bill, Winterton said.

“Nobody anticipated anything like this,” he said.

A lobbyist working for Brockbank made some last-minute changes to the bill, creating a substitute that allowed a town to reach across county lines and scoop up land without the impacted county’s consent. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Kirk Cullimore, R-Sandy, was told the legislation remained without opposition, according to Rep. Tim Quinn, R-Heber.

“Unfortunately what Sen. Cullimore was told ... wasn’t factual. It was not a consensus bill,” Quinn said. “That’s when the repeal language started coming out.”

The Town Council ultimately voted to end the meeting without approving a pre-annexation agreement with Brockbank or a resolution expressing intent to absorb his property. It could still come up at the council’s meeting on Thursday, however.

Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune

The land lies on Richardson Flat, a mostly undeveloped area between Park City and Summit County’s border with Hideout, which is in Wasatch County. Portions of Richardson Flat are part of an ongoing Superfund cleanup due to historical mining activities, but Brockbank and his business partner Josh Romney allegedly worked with the bank Wells Fargo to carve out contaminated areas from the development.

Last week, a 4th District judge approved an injunction that effectively forced Hideout to restart its annexation process. Summit County had argued that the Town Council conspired with the developers and failed to abide by open meetings law in its first attempt.

Summit County is also in the early stages of a second lawsuit against Brockbank, Romney and Wells Fargo. The county claims the bank illegally foreclosed and subdivided some of the parcels in question, allowing Brockbank to acquire them through questionable maneuvers.

Park City recently revealed its own beef with Wells Fargo and the developer. In a letter sent to the bank on Aug. 6 and shared with Brockbank and the Town of Hideout earlier on Tuesday, City Manager Matt Dias claimed that the city has a preexisting agreement to annex other parcels Brockbank owns in Richardson Flat.

The city had made that development agreement with the land’s original owner, United Park City Mines, and it includes building restrictions. Dias informed Wells Fargo and a company called REDUS Park City, LLC that the city still intends to pursue that annexation.

“Hideout’s attempt to annex this same area is in direct violation of the Development Agreement and being pursued without Park City’s consent,” the letter said.

Brockbank and his attorney Bruce Baird said that they disagreed with the city’s claims, but decided not to develop those disputed parcels or include them in their latest annexation proposal.

“We made [that] decision to try to help avoid fighting a battle on two fronts,” Baird said. “We’re [at] battle with Summit County. At this time we didn’t want to battle with Park City as well.”

All said, Brockbank said he was removing 210 acres from the proposal, leaving a development of about 380 acres. He presented his new boundaries to the council for the first time Tuesday, hours after Park City had shared its letter with the town.

Brockbank tried to focus on the positive, however, pointing out that the development still included 272 units of workforce housing.

Council members expressed some disappointment with the revised plans, hinting that they were reluctant about moving forward even before state lawmakers urged them to wait.

“I have a major concern with removal of the trails, the open space that originally had me interested in annexing this property,” said council member Carol Haselton, adding that she wanted the town to engage in a more collaborative regional planning effort. “I feel that to go ahead with annexation is inappropriate at this time.”