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Officials face recall votes in Tusayan

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Tusayan voters go to the polls today to decide whether to keep or recall their mayor and vice mayor.

Each supported large new developments that could add some 3 million square feet of new shopping and hundreds of homes at the gateway to the Grand Canyon.

This election comes ahead of a May referendum asking voters to approve or deny the new developments. But voters might or might not get to vote on the development directly -- that ballot measure's fate remains uncertain pending court appeals.

The Tusayan Town Council voted in November to approve 374 acres of condominiums, retail stores, salons, restaurants, time-share rentals, a hotel, a spa and a conference center, and 968 single-family homes, in addition to shared housing, trailer sites, and a dude ranch.

Mayor Greg Bryan and Vice Mayor Al Montoya (each now facing recall) say the 40 acres developer Stilo Group USA pledges to give to the town would be a big improvement for locals. It could eventually hold some 300 or more homes restricted for sale to longtime residents.

If candidates Clarinda Vail, a hotel owner, or Robbie Evans, a fire chief, are elected as replacements, each vowed to ask more questions about water sources and other essentials for the developments.

Neither has said for sure if a development would stand if the majority on the council were to change (one councilwoman resigned earlier this year and has been replaced).

Of 558 Tusayan residents counted in the 2010 U.S. Census, only 28 said they lived in homes they owned. The rest lived in company-owned housing or rented elsewhere.

"My initial goal is to establish housing for people who work and live here, and make it affordable, and make it livable, and make it so it belongs to the people who live here and no one else," said Montoya, who lives in company-owned housing himself.

But there's a conflict of interest here too, said candidate and hotelier Vail, who is running to oust Montoya.

"Four of the current five council members are currently employed by Stilo Group or its partners," she said.

Those types of complaints were raised in the ballot language of this recall election, along with statements regarding a developer-paid trip to Italy Bryan took before the town formed (Bryan took the trip for research purposes, he responded).

Who his employer is doesn't influence his thinking as mayor, Bryan said.

"In the almost 14 years I've worked for the gentlemen I do, they have never once told me what to think," he said.

Bryan wants to keep his seat.

"I hope I'm retained on the council. It's what I want to do," he said.

No matter who sits in these two positions, they will face election again this fall, when both of these seats go up grabs at the end of two-year terms.

Craig Sanderson, on the ballot and unopposed, was appointed to a seat on the Town Council when the former vice mayor resigned earlier this year.

"I'm certainly pro employee/housing," he said.

He's the assistant director operations at Grand Canyon Airlines, which is owned by one of the developers, but he says that would not factor into his decisions as a councilman.

"When I make a decision, I'm not considering the company, and if I have a conflict, I would step out of it," Sanderson said.

The Havasupai Tribe and Grand Canyon National Park have expressed concerns to the state about population growth and water use, urging state regulators to have developers answer more questions.

Those are reasonable questions and must be answered, Bryan, Sanderson and Evans said.

"If we're going to do a development," Evans said, "let's actually look at the water."

The polling location for Tusayan is the Grand Hotel, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Cyndy Cole can be reached at 913-8607 or at ccole@azdailysun.com.

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