The Hideout Town Council took up recommendations Tuesday for a swath of land it is contemplating annexing on Richardson Flat, moving forward with an abbreviated approval process that is bound by a timeline to act before the short-lived state law allowing the annexation is taken off the books Oct. 19.
While the approval process moved toward normalcy — a recommendation from a planning commission forwarded to a town council; officials debating issues like traffic, parking and density — the litigation that hangs over the annexation process continued apace.
Hours before the Town Council meeting, 3rd District Court Judge Richard Mrazik denied Summit County’s request to issue a temporary restraining order against developer Nate Brockbank and Dutch mining company Stichting Mayflower to prevent the annexation of roughly 350 acres on Richardson Flat.
That is one of three lawsuits the county has filed to attempt to stop the annexation of land within its borders.
Summit County Manager Tom Fisher called the denial one battle in a larger war, claiming that the county had won two of the first three skirmishes and that the county had ample other avenues of legal recourse to block the annexation.
Hideout has a public hearing scheduled Monday, Oct. 12, to seek public input on the proposal for the first time. That is the last step required by state code before it can vote to annex the land and obtain the authority to determine how and whether what has been called Park City’s eastern portal is developed.
Summit County Attorney Margaret Olson said there are multiple legal bases to set aside an annexation ordinance even after it has been voted on, indicating that the county is not forced to secure a victory in court before the town votes to annex the land.
Mrazik stated that his denial of a temporary restraining order should not be perceived as a judgment on the overall merits of the county’s case or its chance of success at trial, but he indicated that the underlying issue appeared to be one that should be taken up against the town itself.
The county has sued Hideout in 4th District Court, as well, and a hearing in that matter was scheduled for Wednesday, hours before an anticipated vote on the annexation.
Judge Jennifer Brown granted a temporary restraining order to preserve the status quo in that case and the county charges that Hideout has been violating that order by continuing an attempt to annex the land, alleging the town is operating in contempt of court.
Brown, when she issued the restraining order, said the she could not put a blanket ban any future annexation attempts by the town, but that she expected ensuing actions by the town to end up in court, as well.
The county is alleging that the town has violated open meetings laws in pursuing the annexation and that the current annexation attempt is largely the same as the one that was barred by Brown’s order.
On Tuesday evening, the Town Council continued to evaluate the developer’s proposal for what to build on the land. If it decides to move forward with the annexation, the town expects to simultaneously adopt an annexation master development agreement with the developer.
The plan would cover what type of project could be built on the land and likely include what zoning would govern it, how much density would be entitled and what sort of amenities would be included.
Officials had previously contemplated Brockbank’s proposal for 836 residential units, 80,000-square-feet of commercial space and amenities like a church, school and public safety buildings, as well as a chairlift rising to the top of what was dubbed Richardson Peak.
In its recommendation to the Town Council, the Hideout Planning Commission expressed a desire to cut the residential density in half, add more commercial space and reduce multi-family residences.
In response, the planner hired to design Hideout’s potential new town center, Eric Langvardt, told the Town Council that the plan wouldn’t be financially viable with the limitations in density the Planning Commission recommended.
Town councilors appeared amenable to adding back some residential units, though they too rejected the idea of multi-family housing like multiple linked townhomes.
Brockbank said he would take the council’s input and submit a revised plan.
Other points of contention included the 5-acre size of the school parcel, the issue of who would pay to operate and maintain the proposed chairlift and the type of commercial development that should go on the site. Councilors appeared mixed on the proposal to ban drive-through restaurants and suggested that they might be open to car-centric development like a gas station. Langvardt and the town’s planner, Thomas Eddington, cautioned that sort of development normally requires paving a large amount of land.
The developer’s attorney, Bruce Baird, advised the council multiple times on issues relating to the application, suggesting less stringent mechanisms for tying commercial development to residential build-out and that provisions to secure municipal services like water and sewer would be easy to write into a development agreement.
As for commercial development, Baird advised that it takes residences to drive commercial development and that sometimes businesses arrive on their own schedule and can be hard to catalyze.
Hideout officials have repeatedly said that the overwhelming need for commercial services like a local grocery store has driven the push to annex the land on Richardson Flat.