Local News

Stilo Land Use Plan Off The rails

February 10, 2013

by Mike Scerbo 

The Tusayan Town Council’s decision to approve a land use plan that includes three million square feet of commercial space and thousands of new homes and no water source has left the plan in limbo and Tusayan residents waiting for long promised affordable housing. Stilo remains out of compliance in its agreement with the Town of Tusayan.

Stilo representative Tom DePaolo made several stunning admissions during the February 6th Town Council meeting. There still is not water supply. DePaolo said, “Legally we have a right to use groundwater. (It's)Legal, but it may not be the wisest decision for a number of reasons.” He said Stilo might spend the next 20 years in court if it tried to use groundwater.

That’s because the Havasupai Tribe, the Sierra Club, and the Superintendent of the Grand Canyon National Park have all said Stilo could dry up tribal water supplies and Grand Canyon springs if it uses groundwater.

DePaolo says Stilo will now try to get water from the Colorado River at Laughlin and then send it to Tusayan via a complicated combination of trains and pipelines. “These are  possibilities; that’s all they are,” DePaolo added.

After months of experts saying using groundwater is bad for the environment DePaolo was forced to admit, “We do believe that groundwater withdrawal does have effects on springs in the park.”

For months Stilo has tried to get approval from the Arizona Corporation Commission for a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity (CCand N) that would pave the way for a Stilo-operated water company. With no water supply, the Corporation Commission kept asking Stilo for additional information. Now DePaolo admits, “The ACC application for the CC and N is another example that was premature.”

The interim housing effort has also hit snags. The promises of two dozen brand new prefab units at Camper Village have evaporated. Drainage and rights of way issues have cut the number of sites from 24 to 12. However that’s not really a problem because there is no long line of buyers. A Jeep tour company bought three. Someone else bought another.  DePaolo would like to alter the deal with the town to permit more single-wides, duplexes or ‘quads’ to bring the price tags down. When asked about Tusayan business owner Elling Halvorson’s pledge of $250,000 to help with low income housing, DePaolo replied, “I don’t believe it’s finalized yet.”

Even the sewage issues are backed up. Faced with the problem that the existing Tusayan Sanitary District can’t handle the additional sewage created by the Stilo plan, DePaolo floated the idea of using “BioMass” plants to convert human waste into energy.

Essentially the Stilo plan hinges on somehow getting water from the Colorado River at Laughlin, and turning human waste into fuel. That varies starkly from what voters were promised nearly three years ago when Stilo pushed for incorporation.