Local News

Grand Canyon School Board Nixes Stilo Land Grab

July 13, 2014

The Grand Canyon School Board has withdrawn its offer to give Italian developer Stilo a big chunk of land along Long Jim Loop Road to provide access to the Kotzin property. That access is a major component in Stilo’s controversial development project which would add three million square feet of commercial space and thousands of new homes to Tusayan. The land sits next to the Town Park and a future school site.

On May 27th, at 7:40am the School Board met with Tusayan officials and agreed to make the land available. On July 8th , at the School District’s regular meeting the decision was made to withdraw that offer. School Board member Pete Shearer said, “We were told some things at were not totally true.”

Among those was that the Long Jim Loop road would be one of several options when in fact it was the only option submitted to the Forest Service. The School Board was also led to believe that the access would be largely for residential when in fact it would be for commercial traffic as well. There is also the questionable claim that giving up the access route would protect the District from any litigation if there were an accident on the road. Not true says the school district’s lawyer.

If Stilo’s attempted land grab and the motives behind it are not widely known, that’s no coincidence. The land grab was not a part of the Tusayan general plan, nor was it ever discussed in open session of the Tusayan Town Council. There was literally no chance for the public to weigh on the idea.

Tusayan Town Councilmember Bill Fitzgerald, an opponent of the Stilo plan, attended the July School Board meeting to speak for himself and not the Town Council.  He was not among the Tusayan officials who met with the School Board on May 27th. He had no role in this thwarted land grab. Fitzgerald expressed frustration with the decisions made at Town Hall and he is calling for more transparency on the Town Council. Fitzgerald said many of the discussions with respect to the Forest Service application have occurred outside the purview of the full Town Council. Fitzgerald has consistently made a point to call for more openness in the Stilo negotiations during Town Council meetings. The Kotzin access fiasco seems to have proven him correct.

At the July meeting of the Grand Canyon School District many former Board members who spent years getting the Long Jim Loop School site from the Forest Service  spoke out. Eric Gueissaz expressed frustration with the Town and the Forest Service, “It seems like nobody gives a damn.”

Current Board Member Pete Shearer led the effort to reconsider the Board’s decision to give up the land. He noted that the Long Jim Loop access would create way too much traffic next to an existing park and a future school site, “We need to focus on the safety of our kids and of the safety of the community.”

If Stilo got its way the road would see about 1,000 vehicles a day.

Right before the vote was cast to withdraw the offer, Board Member Judi Beckerleg said, “I was led to believe this was for a residential area not commercial real estate. And then we were also told that we were one of several alternatives. And we’re learning now that that’s not true. I’m a little upset.”

The vote to withdraw the offer was 4 to 0. Board President Kevin Hartigan was not in attendance.