The July 9 vote by the Hideout Town Council to begin annexing 655 acres of land in Summit and Wasatch counties for use as a commercial development area and the controversial legislation that made it possible has drawn the ire of county officials and state lawmakers.
Hideout Mayor Phil Rubin tells KPCW that Hideout was not involved in the passing of Senate Bill 359 and says that, if anything, he hopes this process has started a serious discussion about the future needs of residents around the Jordanelle Reservoir.
Growth around the Jordanelle Reservoir is showing no signs of stopping. It’s possible up to 20,000 housing units will be built in the various communities around Jordanelle in the coming years and Hideout Mayor Phil Rubin says the move to annex the land in Summit and Wasatch County was one based on need -- not greed.
“If you look at us now, most of us, when we go to Park City, nine trips out of ten, we’re going to Park City because we need to buy groceries or get gas or dry cleaning or a haircut or whatever and not to go recreate or take advantage of events like shows or whatever,” Rubin said. “It’s only going to get worse with these additional units coming.”
According to a 2018 estimate by the U.S. Census Bureau, Hideout has just shy of 1,000 residents but has plans in place to allow for significant growth in the future. Rubin says as the Jordanelle region continues to grow and with large projects like the Mayflower development on the western shore of the reservoir well underway, Park City’s current crowding and traffic problems will only get worse as more and more people make the Wasatch Back their home.
Rubin says the needs of the region are currently not being addressed by already existing developments in the area. He adds that branching out into Summit County for future commercial development was necessary due to the fact that almost all of the land in the Hideout area is already zoned for residential housing.
Hideout created an annexation policy plan in the summer of 2019 that included the 655 acres in question.
Tom Fisher is the Summit County manager and says the county has been against any annexation moves by Hideout into that area of the county since the beginning. He says the land in question has been part of Summit County’s general plan for years.
“This land has gone through high scrutiny by the public and elected officials in Summit County,” Fisher said. “It’s part of our general plan and we support our general plan.”
S.B. 359 was passed in the closing days of the 2020 legislative session and included an amendment that allowed Hideout to begin the annexation process without the consent of Summit or Wasatch county. Despite the coincidence, Rubin says Hideout was not involved in the legislative process and was only made aware of the new law after it was passed by the legislature.
“No, we did not lobby for that, we were not active in any way, we’ve had no communications with the state legislature professing support for it,” the mayor said. “We were made aware of it by the lawyer for the developer who said, ‘Hey, you guys might want to take a look at this new legislation and talk about what you want to do.’”
Opponents of the controversial amendment in S.B. 359, including Rep. Tim Quinn, who represents Heber and Park City in the House of Representatives, are hoping to repeal the law in an August special session of the legislature. Fisher says the current law creates potential problems for counties across the state and could open the door for municipalities to both approve and deny future development projects through these at-will annexations.
“You could also imagine the opposite where a city who doesn’t agree with, perhaps, some type of development proposal that’s happening across the county border, they could possibly annex in order to stop development,” he said. “The issue could happen both ways.”
Both Rubin and Fisher say if some or all of S.B. 359 is repealed, the status of Hideout’s annexation plans will likely be up to lawyers to sort out. Hideout Town Council will have an official public hearing on the annexation plans at 6 p.m. on Aug. 12.