Expressed concerns over potential environmental impacts

December 20, 2011

The following letter was submitted to ABC 15 and was published on the station's website.

 By Carolyn K. Oberholtzerof the Rose Law Group
Stilo Group’s Camper Village, TenX and Kotzin Ranch land use plans present two troubling issues: they were approved without adequate analysis on the potential impacts to the Town of Tusayan and Grand Canyon and the land uses and densities approved are not in conformance with the Tusayan Area Plan.  
Stilo is funded by a large Italian investment firm called Gruppo Percassi. In the 1990’s, this organization lost a ballot measure to build a massive resort and retail project at near the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  In 2010, Stilo successfully pushed to incorporate Tusayan, a town of less than 500 people, spending nearly $700,000 on the effort.  Stilo paid large ‘win bonuses’ to community members after incorporation, several of whom eventually won Town Council seats. 
This past August, Stilo presented the Council with three very large and intensely dense development requests, including an annexation that would double the Town’s size.  The plans, together, include over three million feet of commercial space and thousands of residential units. Throughout the Stilo development hearing process, concerns were raised over the lack of detail and failure to conform to the Tusayan Area Plan- which, by statute, governs the Town’s rezoning decisions. 
The Area Plan promotes sustainability and measured growth by requiring development plans to be supported by detail and engineering analyses. Commercial rezonings must identify building layouts and be limited in size to areas that are site planned. Yet the Stilo projects were approved with just land use bubbles and without any supporting engineering reports or traffic studies, and without site plans for the massive commercial areas. 
The Area Plan allows only low density housing where a property is accessible by Forest Service Roads. TenX and Kotzin Ranch have only Forest Service Road access, yet the Town’s approvals will allow the same types of high density housing seen in urban Phoenix.
The Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent expressed concerns regarding the development proposals due to the potential environmental impacts to the Park and on the region’s water supply.
The nearby Havasupai Tribe voiced concerns that its vital water supplies will dry up if Stilo is permitted to drill for groundwater; something that is permitted in the project approval documents. 
The Sierra Club was also an advocate for more details. 
More housing was the driving force behind the rezoning approvals. But Stilo representatives acknowledge that development of traditional housing on its properties is years away. For now, only temporary rentals will be built on their Camper Village property, and those will be phased out when the commercial development comes.
Tusayan has great development potential and the opportunity for the prosperity that comes with it. The Stilo projects were opposed by many stakeholders, local businesses and citizens- not because they are anti-development-  but because there wasn’t a thorough analysis of sustainability and impacts to the environment before the applications were approved. Without that analysis, which is required by the Tusayan Area Plan, the benefits of the proposed development cannot be weighed against the burdens that the development may have on this community and the fragile environment that sits at the doorway to the Grand Canyon.