The battle over Hideout’s annexation of Summit County open space in Richardson Flat still awaits resolution. It began way back in March 2020 when the Utah Legislature passed a short-lived law, H.B. 359, allowing a municipality to annex unincorporated land across county lines. The public—reviled by the secretive process surrounding a law clearly meant to serve a specific private interest—revolted, leading to the H.B. 359’s repeal, but not before Hideout’s council approved the annexation prior to the repeal taking effect. The council’s approval included a provision for a public vote, placing the annexation’s future in the hands of Hideout residents.
What’s this lawsuit all about?
Judge Brown’s ruling invalidated Hideout’s annexation on the grounds of a state code requiring new ordinances to be posted in public places or papers of record prior to becoming law. Hideout does not dispute the fact they failed to post the ordinance until after the deadline to do so had passed. The case will now head to an appellate court, which will determine whether the district court decision was just or a misapplication of the facts to state law.
The voters had their say on June 22, overwhelmingly approving the annexation by a two-to-one margin. Alas, the annexation was on. Or was it? On the very same day of the aforementioned vote, 4th District Court judge Jennifer Brown sided with Summit County in its lawsuit against Hideout, invalidating the annexation and damping anticipation of the long-awaited ballot count. Alas, the annexation was off. Or was it? The ruling is being appealed, meaning after more than a year of debate, grandstanding, finger pointing and general hand wringing, an ongoing court battle will ultimately decide the annexation’s fate.
Somehow society was able to weather a once-in-a-century pandemic with a mass vaccination program utilizing never-before-seen medical technology to neutralize the spread of a novel virus more quickly than we’ve been able to decide if a town with 358 eligible voters can annex open space next to a superfund site nobody wants to deal with. It’s Theatre of the Absurd. The end is the beginning, and time is a flat circle.
What’s really at stake? Ostensibly 350 acres of land destined for life as open space and low-density development if Summit County retains control or 600 homes and 100,000 square feet of business space including Hideout’s town hall and community center if courts decide the annexation is valid. Underneath it all, perhaps the fight represents the existential quandary for a community walking the knife’s edge between progress and chaos.
Is anything left to debate? The sordid process which brought us here was ill considered. The dichotomies of development vs. preservation and progress vs. stagnation have engulfed every corner of the community along the Wasatch Back. Yesterday’s Treasure Hill is today’s Hideout is tomorrow’s Highland Flats. This issue will be decided in a courtroom, far beyond the reach of the community’s voices. However it ends—if it ever does—one thing is certain: plenty of people will be unhappy about it.