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Lawmakers repeal controversial annexation law that sidestepped counties

Repeal stemmed from Hideout’s effort to annex land near Park City

SHARE Lawmakers repeal controversial annexation law that sidestepped counties

The town of Hideout wanted to annex hundreds of acres from Summit County and Wasatch County, including the land pictured in Summit County in July.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The move by the town of Hideout to annex 655 acres for commercial development over the objection of Summit County is dead after lawmakers on Thursday repealed a law that allowed cities to bypass surrounding counties’ permission.

“It did cause quite a bit of ruckus in my district,” said Sen. Ronald Winterton, R-Roosevelt, during a special session called largely to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. He added the issue may resurface in the 2021 legislative session.

“It’s something that we hadn’t anticipated, not knowing it was there. So I appreciate this effort and good faith. I think the process was flawed. So this will give us an opportunity to bring it back in the session if we want to fix it and have the input properly there,” Winterton said.

Summit County sued Hideout, in Wasatch County, to stop the annexation of land on the other side of the highway from Park City. Opponents say the move to annex was a result of sneaky legislative tactics that legally paved the way for a “land grab” for what would become another Kimball Junction-like expansion.

The county alleged a lobbyist for developers Nate Brockbank and Josh Romney, son of Sen. Mitt Romney, 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.

The Senate sponsor, Sen. Kirk Cullimore, R-Draper, said when he carried the legislation last session, “it was represented to me at that time that all the stakeholders of the underlying bill were aware and had seen” a last-minute substitute. Four months later, Cullimore said, questions surfaced about whether there was a consensus and so he sought a repeal.

Hideout sought to annex the land for what it said is badly needed commercial development to employ future residents of the rapidly growing area.

The town may have been successful if not for a botched hearing via Zoom last week that prevented the required public meeting before moving the plan forward.

Rep. Calvin Musselman, R-West Haven, said the repeal was necessary given the urgency to fix issues related to annexation and the incorporation of cities. He, too, indicated a further legislative fix would be necessary next year.

“There are some issues as it pertains to property rights within the annexation and incorporation world,” he told his colleagues Thursday. “Hopefully we can dive into them and protect private property rights.”

Brockbank, one of the developers, said in a statement Thursday evening that they would work with both counties and the town of Hideout to address the issues.

“Although this has been a challenging process, we appreciate the efforts of many who are truly committed to addressing the area’s significant needs,” he said. “We remain committed to being part of cleaning up and putting to beneficial use this long neglected and seriously contaminated part of Summit County. We look forward to bringing all of the parties together and continuing this important work, which will be a benefit for generations to come.”