TUSAYAN, Ariz. - A massive resort and commercial project proposed near the Grand Canyon is probably dead.
In order for the project to move forward, the builder Stilo Development Group, and the city of Tusayan needed a road easement approved by the Kaibab National Forest.
Today, the Kaibab National Forest Supervisor Heather Provencio notified the Town of Tusayan that its application for road and utility easements on National Forest System land is being returned and will not receive further evaluation and processing.
That means the Stilo project may be scrapped.
Last April, the Forest Service began taking initial public comment on a proposal to grant a road easement to the town of Tusayan, just a few miles from the rim of the Grand Canyon. The easement would allow access to a 350-acre project led by Stilo Development Group that will include hundreds of homes and millions of square feet of commercial space just outside of the town.
The former mayor of Tusayan who has been pushing for the project for nearly 10 years, Greg Bryan, was disappointed.
"The town spent a couple hundred thousand dollars to work with the forest service thinking it would approve the easement," he said, "but we were certainly misled."
"This is a travesty and abuse of power by the Forest Service. Just because they're getting political pressure from environmentalists they deny the easement. The public has every reason to speak, but we thought we had made adjustments to the project to alleviate some fears."
According to a letter to current Tusayan Mayor Craig Sanderson from Provencio, "the proposed project does not meet agency requirements for initial and second-level screenings and, therefore, is being returned to the town, as the Forest Service may not process such an application for authorization."
The letter also states that "the Forest Service received 2,447 unique comment letters, 85,693 form letters, 86 comments connected to a blog, and two petitions with 105,698 signatures. After the close of the initial formal scoping period, the Forest Service received in excess of 35,000 additional comment letters. The vast majority of the commenters opposed the Forest Service authorizing the proposed roads and infrastructure.
“Based on the comments received, and considering the other information I have regarding the proposed project, I have decided to reconsider application of the screening criteria to the proposal,” Provencio wrote in the letter to the mayor.
Provencio went on to cite specific agency requirements that the town’s application failed to meet under both initial and second-level screening criteria. This includes consistency with the Kaibab Forest Plan; the necessity that the proposed use not create an exclusive or perpetual right of use or occupancy; the requirement that the proposed use must not unreasonably interfere with the use of adjacent non-National Forest System lands; and the provision that a proposal must be rejected if the proposed use would not be in the public interest.
“Based on information received in the record, I have determined that the Tusayan proposal is deeply controversial, is opposed by local and national communities, would stress local and Park [Grand Canyon National Park] infrastructure, and have untold impacts to the surrounding Tribal and National Park lands,” Provencio wrote.
Andy Jacobs, a representative with Stilo says, "We don't know exactly what this means, or if we have other things we can do," he said.
"It's a disappointing thing, we were very surprised when we found out a few hours ago. At this point the project is on standby. We need the weekend to think about what's happened and regroup next week."