Local News

Tusayan Town Council Defies School Board’s Wishes and Votes To Confiscate School District land To Accommodate Developer

September 18, 2014

The Tusayan Town Council, with the exception of Bill Fitzgerald, has voted to endorse taking land from the Grand Canyon School District to accommodate a high traffic road that would connect the Stilo Kotzin project to Highway 64 along Long Jim Loop Road. It’s part of the application process for the Forest Service which requires a southern route but not that specific route.

As we have reported, the Grand Canyon School district has voted in opposition to this route because the road would accommodate thousands of vehicles a day and run right next to a playground and a future school site. Board members feel putting all that traffic near where children play is a safety hazard.

The route was cooked up behind closed doors by Stilo, the Forest Service, and Town Staff, and selected council members. Up until September 17th, there was never a town council vote on the route.

The vote to endorse the Road to Kotzin finally took place at a September 17th council meeting, months after it was selected and after considerable public pressure for an open debate. Councilmember Bill Fitzgerald cast the only no vote. He said, “I am opposed to this whole process…this whole thing lacks proper planning.” Fitzgerald also expressed frustration that neither the Town nor the Developer had any public debate on the issue. It was accidentally debated June 4th when former mayor and school district board member Pete Shearer raised concerns. But that interchange was not agenized and doesn’t qualify as public debate.

Red Feather properties manager Clarinda Vail, who worked for years to get the school site, referred to the fact the Sanitary District holds the utility corridor. She said, “Has the Sanitary Board approved this application? If that answer is no then you cannot move forward with this item. I hope you will do the responsible thing if not for legal reasons then to maintain the air of respect and cooperation that we have worked so hard together to apply in this entire process.”

Mayor Bryan still makes the questionable claim that there was open debate on this June 4th. Here is a link to the minutes. He also says this is intended to simplify the process for the Forest Service. The Town   says the route is also required by the Forest Service. Not exactly. A southern route is required but not the Long Jim Loop Road route. Here is the statement the Forest Service gave the Watchdog:

“The Forest Service did not require the Town to submit that particular route.  The Forest Service asked the Town to submit a proposal that used the least amount of new road construction to access their property.

We understand how contentious the topic of development in Tusayan is. However, the Forest Service role is not to pick sides but rather to diligently review and conduct environmental analysis on what’s being proposed on National Forest lands.  We plan to conduct a thorough environmental analysis, and we will invite the community’s participation in that process.”

Another southern access route at the northern roundabout of Highway 64 was previously designated. There is a Park Service parking lot in the area but there is still plenty of room for a road. That was the route originally voted on by the council when the development plan was originally approved. The town was forced to acknowledge this September 17th and Mayor Bryan says should the Forest Service approve the long Jim road route, the development plan would have to be amended.