500 acres of Richardson Flat sells for $5 million
The western half of Richardson Flat, some 500 acres including a contaminated soil storage site and park-and-ride lot, were sold at auction Thursday for $5 million.
For a quiet stretch of sagebrush and rolling hills, Richardson Flat sure has attracted a lot of attention recently.
First, Hideout tried to annex the land into its boundaries for a large-scale residential and commercial development.
Then came multiple lawsuits.
The town dropped its claim on the western half of the land, which Park City is now trying to annex into its boundaries.
Meanwhile, the land was sold on Thursday.
With a winning bid of $5 million, Wells Fargo Bank and another creditor, Midtown Acquisitions, purchased more than 580 acres of Richardson Flat at a Sheriff’s sale at the Summit County Justice Center.
The purchase includes land that contains the Richardson Flat park-and-ride, for which Park City has a long-term lease, and a repository that contains soil with Superfund-level contaminants. The purchase does not include land Hideout is attempting to annex.
An attorney representing Wells Fargo declined to comment on the purchase.
The sale was ordered by 3rd District Court Judge Richard Mrazik to partially offset a debt of more than $150 million that the property’s former owner — United Park City Mines Company — owed Wells Fargo and Midtown Acquisitions.
As for what the change in ownership means for the land’s future, Park City contends that the land is bound by a conservation easement that severely limits its future development regardless of ownership. That conservation easement dates back to negotiations that resulted in the development now known as Empire Pass.
And Deputy Park City Manager David Everitt told KPCW that a new owner won’t change the process to bring the land inside Park City’s boundaries, either. If the land is annexed into Park City, the city would control how and whether it is developed.
“From the city's perspective, we feel very strongly that that does not affect the annexation process at all,” Everitt said of the ownership change. “Because when the annexation petition was initiated, the owners were who they were, and they were ones that did not in any way initiate a protest with regard to this land. So the sale of the land does not affect the protest process, it does not affect the annexation process, because of when the petition itself was actually filed.”
Four entities are trying to stop the annexation through official protest, including one company that is owned by Wells Fargo. Only one of those protests — and not the one from the Wells Fargo subsidiary — was deemed valid by the Summit County Clerk. That protest is scheduled to be heard in early February.
Wells Fargo set the price for the land at $5 million and was the first and only bidder. It bid on credit, meaning the bank bid against the outstanding debt owed to it.
A court last year found that a separate attempt to sell much of the same land was void. That land sale was the subject of a lawsuit that alleged, among other things, that the land was illegally subdivided to carve out the contaminated soil repository.
Summit County Attorney Margaret Olson said the winning bids for the land that didn’t include the repository totalled $11.8 million in the prior void sale.
Thursday morning just after 10 a.m., about a dozen people watched the proceedings inside the courthouse, including representatives from Summit County and Park City. In an earlier related sale, local developer Rory Murphy bid unsuccessfully for another of United Park City Mines’ holdings.
That, too, was purchased by Wells Fargo and Midtown Acquisitions.