Local News

Land Grab: Stilo, Forest Service Move Ahead With Dangerous Road Near Park And School Site Despite Objection From School Board

September 13, 2014

By Michael Anthony Scerbo

Even though the Grand Canyon School Board voted against a road through its property, The Forest Service, the Town of Tusayan, and Italian developer Stilo are still pursuing a high traffic roadway to accommodate a controversial development plan. A roadway that would put thousands of cars a day next to the Town Park and a future School site.


The Grand Canyon School Board feels a major roadway on land it owns that would carry thousands of cars a day from Highway 64 to the Stilo Kotzin site doesn’t belong next to a town park where small children play or a future school site.

On September 9th, the School Board vote against the road on its land after a special meeting that lasted almost 5 hours. However, despite all of that deliberation, despite the research, Tusayan and Stilo are moving ahead with the land grab, and the Forest Service seems to be enabling the whole process. The Forest Service claims easements give them the right to expand Long Jim Loop Road through school district land whether or not the school district likes the idea. The Forest Service says the school district’s objections will be noted in the overall approval process.

It appears the Forest Service has sided with an Italian developer looking to build a controversial project that would add thousands of homes and three million square feet of commercial space, rather than side with the local residents who are looking out for the safety of children.

The first time the road route was discussed was in late May when Councilman John Rueter and Town manager Will Wright met with the school board at a 7:45am meeting. The school board would later say they were misled during that meeting in which they voted in favor of the road. Once they got all of the facts the Board voted again, this time rejecting the road during a July meeting.

At the September 9th meeting resident after resident spoke out against the road as Stilo strongman Tom DePaolo (pictured right) looked on. Neither DePaolo nor his PR rep Andy Jacobs took the podium in favor of the plan. That task was left to Tusayan mayor Greg Bryan, an employee of Stilo business partner Elling Halvorson.

Bryan repeated the claim that the controversial Road to Kotzin was debated out in the open. That’s despite the fact that there was no council vote on the road; nor was there an open debate by the Town; nor was the road part of the General Plan.

Bryan tried to dispute the notion the land grab was cooked up in secret when he said the item was debated at a June 4th meeting,  “June 4th, your decision was brought up to the Town Council and there was discussion in the process, and all five Council minutes, the minutes will reflect there was no opposition,” Bryan said.

The Watchdog was at the June 4th meeting the Mayor referenced. The road to Kotzin was not a separate agenda item. THE ONLY REASON it was discussed was because former mayor and current School board member Pete Shearer mentioned it during a discussion on the status of the Town Park. He told Mayor Bryan, the school board’s attorney had some concerns.  

Here is a link to the minutes.

The only reason there was no objection is because details of the roadway were never debated openly by the Town Council.

Councilman Bill Fitzgerald noted that. Fitzgerald is the only member of the Town Council not on the payroll of Stilo or its business partners. He spoke out at the September 9th School Board Meeting. He’s fed up with the secrecy in which the route was selected. Fitzgerald says he learned about the Kotzin access route after it had been selected, “It should have been discussed with the Town Council. I didn’t discuss it. I didn’t vote on it.”

There was no Town Council vote.  The controversial route was selected in secret by the developer, Mayor Bryan, and the Forest Service.

The vote to reject this route was three to two. Originally School Board President Kevin Hartigan, whose employer APS stands to make a bundle if the Stilo development goes through, tried to put the fire out with a motion that the School Board take no position on the route. Hartigan saw the writing on the wall and knew the community would not stand for a vote in favor of the road.

School Board member Pete Shearer said no way. “I want to make a decision tonight.” He says his priority is the safety of the children.

Shearer along with members Brian Donehoo and Judy Beckerleg voted to send Stilo packing. Hartigan and School Board Member SuZan Pearce preferred to take no position.

The vote however may be for nothing. The Director for the Center for Biological Diversity, Dr. Robin Silver, was also at the meeting and asked the question, “Why are we here?”  That’s because even though the Board voted no, the Forest Service will not reject the application despite the School saying don’t build a dangerous road near where children play.

After the meeting Silver expressed his displeasure with the Forest Service’s willingness to play ball with Stilo, “The Forest Service right of way at issue here is the lynchpin for a massive new development that will overwhelm Grand Canyon National Park’s infrastructure and will destroy Havasupai Falls on the Havasupai Indian Reservation and Indian Gardens within the Park.  No Forest Service right of way, no development,” Silver said.

He added, “In my nearly thirty years of conservation work, I have never seen such deceitful and energetic efforts by the Forest Service to hurt the Native American and environmental communities on behalf of a developer.  And this includes Mount Graham, Fossil Creek, the snowbowl and Canyon Mine.”