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Hideout special district votes after failing to hold required elections for 14 years

The Jordanelle Reservoir as viewed from one of the empty lots in Hideout's Golden Eagle subdivision, June 28, 2023. "“It's one of the most breathtaking views I've ever seen," said John Blamer.
Rob Winder
/
KPCW
Hideout's Golden Eagle subdivision is one of the neighborhoods within Local District No. 1.

Hideout’s Local District No. 1 has ballots out for the first time after more than a decade without its mandated elections, and it's not a typical vote.

Hideout’s Local District No. 1 is a special service district that manages infrastructure for about 800 land parcels. The Town of Hideout sits east of the Jordanelle Reservoir and was incorporated in 2008.

Now, the district is in the middle of an election to replace all three members of its board of trustees.

The district was created in 2010 to pay for the construction of and improvements to transportation, water, gutter and sidewalk infrastructure and more. It manages millions of dollars in special assessment bonds, used to pay for infrastructure primarily in the Soaring Hawk and Golden Eagle subdivisions.

When the district was formed, the resolution creating it dictated how elections should be run. The first trustees were appointed by the Hideout Town Council, but the resolution said after their initial terms expired, any future trustees should be elected by property owners within the local district. And there’s a twist: as Utah law permits, votes are weighted based on the amount of land owned in the district’s service area. Individual residents’ votes count less than developers who own numerous parcels.

An anonymous person contacted the district’s manager, Dave Merrell, shortly after he took on the role last fall. They wanted to know whether board elections were being managed correctly. Merrell said he hired an attorney to check it out.

“We realized that we weren’t electing the trustees properly,” he said. “We’re doing this election to correct that.”

In fact, elections weren’t being held at all.

The Soaring Hawk and Golden Eagle subdivisions are two of the primary neighborhoods served by Local District No. 1.
The Soaring Hawk and Golden Eagle subdivisions are two of the primary neighborhoods served by Local District No. 1.

Merrell confirmed this June is the first time Hideout Local District No. 1 is holding an election. That’s why all three seats are on the ballot, instead of the typical staggered approach.

Brad Christopherson, the lawyer Merrell hired, said he got involved early this spring.

Christopherson said he doesn’t believe the lack of elections over the past 14 years was malicious.

“I haven't seen any evidence of intentional violations of any laws,” he said. “It's more lack of awareness than anything else… In my opinion, it's just a group of folks doing the best they can and not knowing that it should have been done differently.”

Nine candidates are now running for spots on the board – including all three current trustees and the mayor of the Town of Hideout, Phil Rubin. Other candidates for the board are Hideout homeowners Jeff Schiff, Damian Taitano and Mark Trenchard.

The current trustees are Dean Heavrin, Will Pratt and Thomas Baxter, and all have ties to Mustang Development, the original developer of the Town of Hideout.

Heavrin is an agent for Golden Eagle, a subdivision in the district. Pratt is an agent for JKCS Investments, and Baxter is an agent for Mountain Resort Land Company. All three companies are Mustang subsidiaries.

Mustang manager Bob Martino was one of the original trustees for the local district and later served as Hideout’s mayor. Litigation between Mustang and the Town of Hideout over development density permissions is ongoing.

According to a list of properties in the Local District No. 1 shared with KPCW, as of the end of April 2024, Mustang and its subsidiaries own almost 60% of the square footage in the district: almost 10 million of the district's 17.3 million square feet.

No details about the election or the current leadership have been posted on the local district’s website. Information was mailed to residents. Candidates had a week to declare their intent to run June 1 to June 7, and voting by mail runs through June 28.

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