The Town of Tusayan just outside Grand Canyon National Park is now the owner of a parcel of land to be used for affordable housing construction. As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, the transfer is part of a large and controversial development project.
The land was deeded to Tusayan by the Italian developer Stilo Development Group USA. The company plans to build five-star hotels, a dude ranch, a shopping area, a cultural center and hundreds of homes outside the national park entrance.
Stilo initially defaulted on a 40-acre land transfer that was key to the development project. But, after nearly a year of negotiations, Tusayan received deeds last week for half of that land. The remaining 20 acres are currently in escrow. They’ll be deeded to the town once the U.S. Forest Service approves road and utility construction easements for Stilo’s land. Tusayan Mayor Greg Bryan says the land transfer is an important step for the residents of the town.
“Five hundred sixty people here in Tusayan, there are seven private homes. Everybody else lives in company housing. And that makes a very unique environment here. We’re trying to change that so people can put down roots that have been here for 15, 20 years,” Bryan says.
The main controversy over the project has been identifying a water source, which Stilo has yet to do. Conservation groups and officials with the National Park Service say tapping groundwater for the development would be detrimental to the natural springs and ecology below the South Rim of Grand Canyon. But, Bryan says the town is sensitive to those concerns.
“Stilo has to find the water. They don’t find the water that’s an acceptable volume and an acceptable source, they won’t be developing,” he says.
A spokesman for Stilo says the company hasn’t made a decision yet on a water source. Though he says drilling a well hasn’t been ruled out, water could also be piped in from the Colorado River.
Bryan says no timeline has been established for transferring the second 20 acres to Tusayan and the start of construction could be years away.