SALT LAKE CITY — Summit County filed a lawsuit Friday to stop the tiny town of Hideout from relying on “bait-and-switch” legislation to annex hundreds of acres of land outside Park City for commercial development.
The complaint in 4th District Court seeks to prevent Hideout, which is located in Wasatch County, from taking over 655 acres between U.S. 40 and state Route 248 in Summit County until the Utah Legislature acts on a controversial annexation law in August.
Hideout has scheduled a public hearing for Aug. 12 and decision on Aug. 18 in order to thwart any effort by the Legislature to repeal the law at its anticipated Aug. 20 special session, the lawsuit says.
Opponents of the annexation say sneaky legislative maneuvering legally paved the way for a “land grab” for what would be another Kimball Junction-like expansion on the other side of the highway from Park City.
Despite protests from Summit County, Park City and Wasatch County leaders, Hideout’s Town Council voted in July to move forward with a process to annex the land, which developers Nate Brockbank and Josh Romney, son of Sen. Mitt Romney, want to develop but haven’t gained the support they’d need from Summit County.
Romney and Brockbank turned to Hideout, a small town nestled east of Jordanelle Reservoir, where the idea was warmly received.
Hideout’s move to possibly annex the land — which was included in an over decade-old Park City land deal to be set aside for open space and recreation — would clear the way for a commercial development that Hideout Mayor Philip Rubin said would help employ residents of thousands of future homes already headed for construction and help alleviate Park City traffic.
Summit County’s lawsuit says Hideout has never had adequate municipal revenue and services since its incorporation in 2008 under another questionable law that has since been repealed.
“Within this framework, a developer and defendant Town of Hideout began a course of conduct with the express intent of defeating long-standing annexation laws and the Snyderville Basin General Plan and Development Code through a joint enterprise which included secret meetings, failure of legal noticing requirements, hidden documents, obfuscation of public processes, and the same type of lobbyist misdirection at the Utah Legislature which gave rise to the Town of Hideout in the first place,” according to the suit.
Summit County contends that Hideout amended its annexation policy to reach across the border in 2019 when state law would not allow for such without the county’s consent.
The county argues a lobbyist for the developers worked outside normal legislative processes to “bait and switch” a bill in March with “custom-made special purpose legislation” eliminating the county consent requirement and restricting the ability of a county to protest such an annexation.
After learning of the “deception” involved in getting the bill passed, the Legislature and governor intend to repeal it in the special session, according to the lawsuit.
Sen. Kirk Cullimore, R-Sandy, and Rep. Calvin Mussleman, R-West Haven, told KSL in July that they were told there was consensus over the bill and its changes, and both said they couldn’t recall who represented that to them in the chaos of the Legislature’s final days and hours.
But in a separate interview, property rights lobbyist Mike Ostermiller said he was accountable for that misrepresentation to both Cullimore and Mussleman.
“I accept full responsibility for that,” Ostermiller said last week. “I want to be 100% clear. I told Sen. Cullimore and Rep. Mussleman there was, as far as I knew, consensus between the parties involved in drafting the legislation.”
Ostermiller said at the time he believed there was consensus, and it was his oversight if the Utah Association of Counties hadn’t been included. He said there wasn’t anything “sneaky” or “ill-intended” happening, but rather he may have forgotten to include key partners in the conversations in the final days of the session.