Could a tiny Utah town’s expansion dreams get snuffed out by its own residents?

Hideout Town Council and its developer will host public informational sessions ahead of the June 22 referendum vote.

The Hideout Town Council snatched up hundreds of acres in a neighboring county last October — despite raising the ire of state legislators, neighboring local governments as well as the town’s own residents.

Now those residents will decide the annexation’s fate in a referendum late next month.

Until then, the property’s developer and town officials will hold public informational sessions about the planned 350-acre expansion, called Silver Meadows, which is located in Richardson Flat near Park City. At the first such public session, held Wednesday evening, Hideout Mayor Phil Rubin made his case for growing the town.

“Given the demand for nearby services that will only increase as 1,500-plus previously approved units get built around Jordanelle [Reservoir],” Rubin said at the virtual hearing, “I encourage you to vote recognizing that it will further the goals ... of the community if we choose to move ahead with the annexation.”

Kurt Shadle, a former council member who abruptly resigned amid annexation discussions last summer and a vocal opponent of the move, said the town’s controversial decision had created an “unnecessary distraction” for the town.

“The lawsuits that have been filed and probably will continue to be filed are going to sap much of the attention of the town governance, probably for several years,” Shadle said. “Before I resigned from the council, know that annexation has sucked most of the air out of the town and its ability to do some of the things it really needs to confront.”

The Town Council did not allow live comments at the online meeting Wednesday. Instead, the town asked residents to submit thoughts to a town email address.

No comments were received.

The Silver Meadows developer, Nate Brockbank, will hold two live meetings to collect feedback, on May 19 and June 9, Rubin said. The Hideout Town Council plans to hold one more informational session, tentatively scheduled for June 8, before the June 22 referendum vote, the mayor added. Residents can send questions and comments to hideoututah@hideoututah.gov.

Model for the state or an ill-conceived plan?

Hideout, with a population of about 1,000 residents, is in Wasatch County, but Silver Meadows is in Summit County and includes about 350 acres in an area called Richardson Flat. Brockbank intends to build homes, a commercial downtown core, a new town hall, a school and recreational amenities on the land, and annexation proponents say the development is necessary to meet the town’s growing needs.

“The developer is on record saying the development will be self-sustaining,” Rubin said, “that it will pay its way.”

He also shared a letter in support of the annexation from the Utah Taxpayers Association, which praised the plan for granting zero tax incentives to the developer.

“We believe this model should be replicated across the state,” the association wrote, “and that, upon completion, the results of this development, and the leadership shown by Hideout Town, will be a standard for other cities and towns to replicate.”

The association further warned that the town needed to diversify its tax base. Otherwise it could face bankruptcy in as little as 10 years.

“My view is that’s a poor assumption,” Rubin said. “Your council would not allow the town to go into bankruptcy.”

Rubin also shared draft reports exploring environmental, traffic and fiscal concerns raised by residents, which are available for review on the town website.

Shadle said he worries about where the growing town would get water for its new development.

“That’s the most important issue that any new town or community in Utah faces when it seeks to expand,” he said. “I don’t think the developer and or the town has a clear path for that water supply.”

He also noted “dramatic” growth in the area had become “explosive” due to the coronavirus pandemic, and urged better cooperation with neighboring county governments, cities and homeowners associations.

Summit County has adamantly opposed Hideout’s annexation, but the Utah Legislature created a short-lived opportunity for Hideout when it passed a law allowing a municipality to annex land in another county without the county’s consent.

When Hideout moved to do just that, the Legislature repealed the law but did not make the change immediately effective. That allowed the Town Council to successfully exploit the legal loophole mere days before it closed last October.

But the council and mayor battled angry comments and Zoom bombing at meetings as they discussed the move, as well as protesters showing up at their homes. The town and its developer are also embroiled in numerous lawsuits over the annexation.

In one such lawsuit, Summit County is arguing that Hideout’s annexation is invalid because it wasn’t properly noticed, as reported by the the Park Record, which could add yet another twist in the bedroom community’s attempt to grow into a thriving municipality rivaling nearby Park City.

A 4th District judge has agreed to hold a hearing on Summit County’s claim on June 7, mere weeks before Hideout’s June 22 referendum vote.

Details about the referendum

Ballots for the referendum will be mailed out to registered voters in the town starting June 1. Only those who are registered to vote, with their primary address listed in Hideout, will receive ballots. Residents can check their status or register to vote on the Utah voter registration website.

The voter registration deadline is 5 p.m. on June 11. Those who miss the deadline can fill out a provisional ballot at the Hideout Town Hall, located at 10860 N. Hideout Trail, but will need to bring a picture identification and proof of address, such as a utility bill or paycheck stub.

Those who do not receive a ballot should contact Town Clerk Alicia Fairbourne at 435-640-2188. Ballots cannot be forwarded to another address by the U.S. Postal Service.

Ballots can be mailed back or dropped off at the Town Hall until 8 p.m. on June 22.