An Italian developer and the town of Tusayan filed a new draft proposal to the U.S. Forest Service last week in the hopes of building a road and utility lines to two vacant properties just south of the Grand Canyon, in a renewed effort to build resorts, cultural centers and hundreds of homes.
The proposal asks to set a corridor that improves forest service roads, creates bike paths and installs utility lines for water, electricity and internet providing access to undeveloped land known as the 160-acre Kotzin parcel and the 194-acre TenX parcel. The proposal lists the corridor’s intent to connect the Kotzin and TenX parcel to Tusayan’s wastewater treatment plant.
The proposal cites the original Tusayan plan that informed past requests, and is very similar to their past easement request. The Kaibab National Forest rejected the last proposal in 2016 because of stress on the Grand Canyon National Park infrastructure after more than 200,000 people submitted comments. The majority of the comments opposed the plan. Critics questioned where the water for the residents and commercial properties would come from, saying the size of the properties would pull too much from the Grand Canyon.
Stilo and Tusayan write in their proposal that their pitch to the Forest Service has changed based on that feedback by offering a solution to solve the problems with their water use and size of the development. The proposal suggests bringing in 20 6,000-gallon trucks to transport 275,000 gallons of water per day for their commercial properties, but they would continue to pump groundwater from the city’s three groundwater wells for residential areas.
Additionally, Stilo and the Town’s proposal suggests they would be open to building their parcels 33% less dense than what Tusayan’s zoning code allows.
“Stilo has always envisioned something that makes sense for the area,” Jacobs said. “We understand it’s a very sensitive part of the world.”
The town of Tusayan has signed onto the project, citing the 6 million visitors to the park last year as a reason for a need for expansion. Plans also include allowing a cultural center for tourists to learn about Native American communities, offering shuttle services to reduce lines into the park and stimulating the Tusayan economy lodges to house those people looking for a place to stay, according to Brady Harris, vice mayor for the town of Tusayan. Tusayan, a town of almost 600 just south of the park, moved to incorporate as a city in 2010.
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“It takes an hour and a half, two hours to get through the town and through the airport. We’re hoping to relieve some of that stress," Harris said.
Robin Silver, co-founder of the Center for Biological Diversity, doesn’t believe the proposed solutions are clear enough or go far enough to warrant approval, especially in light of the park’s ongoing water need. He sees the strain on water resources as a harm to the park, thereby harming the rest of Arizona.
“This is just another attempt to develop the same project that they’ve been trying to develop now for decades,” Silver told the Arizona Daily Sun. “Same project, same damage to the park, just some minor changes and trying to have people think that there’s a difference; there’s none.”
Kaibab officials are reviewing the draft proposal to decide whether it will merit a deeper environmental review within the Tusayan Ranger District. If the proposal is accepted, the public would be allowed to comment on the project when reviewed under the National Environmental Policy Act guidelines.
Jacqueline Banks, a spokesperson with the Kaibab National Forest, said the Forest Service often gets proposals for special-use authorizations for things like as weddings or developments, but said all proposals must be consistent with laws, regulations, orders and policies of the land.
“The most important thing is we spend whatever time is necessary to ensure a thorough review for consistency with those screening criteria,” Banks said.