Hideout Town Council listens to dozens of angry comments about cross-county expansion effort

Screen capture from Hideout Town Council meeting on Oct. 12, 2020.

In its last-ditch effort to expand into Summit County, the Hideout Town Council spent hours Monday evening fielding public comments. Many came from Hideout residents. Virtually none of the feedback was supportive.

The town is trying to absorb hundreds of acres in an area across the county line called Richardson Flat, despite Summit County and Park City’s loud opposition. The annexation was only made possible without Summit County’s consent when the town’s developer used a lobbyist to slip in a last-minute change to an unrelated bill during the 2020 Legislative general session. Lawmakers quickly repealed the provision when they became aware of Hideout’s plans, but the change does not become law until Oct. 20.

Rep. Tim Quinn, R-Heber, reminded council members that leaving a loophole for the annexation to proceed was not the Legislature’s goal.

“I hope you’ll take it from a member of the House of Representatives [that given] his understanding, and all of the colleagues he’s spoken to, this was not the intent to leave a ... window open,” Quinn said.

He cited minutes from the Legislature’s repeal discussions, when lawmakers specifically asked whether “this solves the Hideout issue?”

Quinn had also shared lawmakers' intention to stop the annexation in its tracks on Sept. 9, urging the Town Council not to move forward. Council members forged ahead anyway, restarting the process that required Monday night’s public hearing.

“I think this is going about it the wrong way. I think there was a loophole created by deceit,” said one Hideout resident, adding that he felt embarrassed to tell people he lives in the town. “[The annexation] seems to be isolating us from our neighbors.”

Former council member Kurt Shadle, who resigned in August, read from a petition he claimed had nearly 100 signatures from Hideout residents, including former council members and members of the planning commission.

“Stop this unwise annexation, which will alienate our neighboring communities,” Shadle said.

Some commenters balked at the idea that the town needed grocery stores and shopping, noting the numerous options available a short drive away in places like Kamas, Heber and Kimball Junction. Some agreed that the town needed services and a stable tax base, but disagreed with the town’s ham-fisted approach. Others said the Hideout Town Council wrongly acted like it was “entitled” to expansion.

More than 100 people had queued up to comment at the meeting, according to Hideout Mayor Phil Rubin, but the virtual meeting was once again beset with technical difficulties.

In attempt to avoid the “Zoom bomb” interruptions from online trolls during its Sept. 5 work session, the Town Council required the public to view the hearing on YouTube. Those who wanted to comment were admitted one at a time into the Zoom meeting that allowed them to speak to council members. Several people had a hard time juggling the two platforms. A 20-second delay between the real-time Zoom meeting and YouTube livestream caused long waiting periods and distracting feedback noise.

Some participants could not connect to audio and their comments were not heard, although the town provided an email address for written comments.

Technical and legal flubs have come to define the town’s annexation meetings. A Zoom issue botched the Town Council’s first public hearing. Other public process slip-ups forced the council to completely restart its annexation process.

Moments before Monday’s public hearing began, Park City Manager Matt Dias and Summit County Manager Tom Fisher issued a letter calling the Hideout Town Council’s renewed annexation effort “incredibly hasty” and “borderline unethical.”

The county has filed lawsuits against Hideout and its developer, Nate Brockbank, claiming they engaged in shady deals and largely kept the public in the dark about their plans.

“If Hideout proceeds under repealed legislation, Hideout is supporting dishonest behavior and undermining trust and accountability in local government and municipal officials,” Dias and Fisher wrote.

The Town Council will discuss the comments at a work session scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday. The town has one week to decide whether to finalize the annexation process before the Legislature’s repeal goes into effect.

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