Making over Marble Canyon: New resort development proposed for remote lodge
MARBLE CANYON, Ariz. — Marble Canyon may no longer remain the remote launching point loved by Grand Canyon National Park river runners and Lee’s Ferry fishermen if a zoning change request is approved by the Coconino County Board of Supervisors.
The 163-acre property is set to become Marble Canyon Village, a master-planned resort facility that will include a variety of lodging, shopping, entertainment and wellness-centered recreation opportunities, according to applicant John Bissell of the Hansji Coporation of Anaheim, California.
“Our team has reimagined the Marble Canyon Lodge and designed an extraordinary master-planned cliff-side complex on the 162.7-acre Foster family property that is situated between the Vermilion Cliffs and the Colorado River,” Bissell said.
The property is currently owned by Marble Canyon Company, Stewart Foster and the Arizona Telephone Company and is historically known for its rustic lodge and basic amenities for travelers along US Highway 89A and visitors to Lee’s Ferry and Navajo Bridge.
The original Marble Canyon Trading Post was built in the 1920s, but was destroyed by a fire in 2013 and rebuilt in 2014.
The applicant proposes renovating the Marble Canyon complex by integrating multiple parcels and uses on the property into a single, comprehensive use and resort community.
The existing lodge would be enlarged, and additional lodging options would be added including extended-stay and multi-family units, with new lodging units south of the highway. Lodging options would include 62 lodge units, 92 guest room units, 31 village units and six workforce apartments.
Accessory buildings would include several food and beverage options, recreation services and equipment, retail shops, galleries, recreation areas, a grocery store, a laundry facility, a post office, gas station and trading post.
“The entire renovation will be guided by a centered, environment sustainability program for the design and use of water, waste, energy, building systems, landscaping, irrigation and dark-sky lighting standards,” Bissell said.
The property is currently separated into four zoning designations, which include agriculture/residential, public community, general commercial and open space. The applicant seeks to create a new zone by combining the uses into a single master planned Resort Commercial District.
The resort plans to expand to eventually include banquet halls, conference centers, wedding facilities, bars, microbreweries, craft distilleries, wineries, tasting and tap rooms, campgrounds, equestrian facilities, bakeries, an airport and heliport, a library, a museum and more.
“This restoration effort will not only repair and preserve a responsible use of this property, but also brings an enormous capital investment to the area, creating sustainable jobs, local commerce, and supporting a greater public awareness for outdoor recreation and nature enjoyment,” the applicant said.
The project was approved at the Dec. 2 Coconino County Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, where Bissell and Allan Flatt, president of Hansji’s Terra Vi, presented the project.
“This is an opportunity to upgrade the lodge and the area while working with a sustainable and nature inspired project, while working with the community,” Flatt said. “The Foster family will stay involved.”
Some of the Planning and Zoning commissioners expressed concern about the possible overuse of the area, although they felt upgrading the lodge was a good idea.
Badger Creek resident Mary Landahl expressed concern at the meeting about the potential impacts to Navajo Bridge and the natural environment.
“The area does not need to be improved as that cuts into the natural wonders,” she said. “We know we all need to be good stewards of the land. They community is not against it but would like it smaller.”
The commission approved the zoning request, but wanted to restrict future helicopter tours and OHV rentals, and set a limit to the height of the buildings.
They said they would like the development to use water conservation methods such as captured and reclaimed water systems, and solar energy systems. Landscaping would utilize existing and native plants and drought resistant plants to the greatest extent practical.
They also would like the development to enhance services for the area and build upon the historic development of the property to improve the quality of the local area.
With the close proximity to Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (GCNRA) and Grand Canyon National Park (GCNP), superintendents William Shott and Ed Keable submitted their thoughts on the project to the Board of Supervisors.
The superintendents expressed concern with the potential increase in visitation to the area, especially the impacts to the natural environment and need for emergency services.
“GCNP and GCNRA staff anticipate that increased development will result in increased levels of congestion and demand on the infrastructure and facilities within the park units, requiring more frequent and intense maintenance in these areas and trails while contending with generation of new social trails created by off-trail hiking,” the superintendents said.
The National Park Service believes the proposed development has the potential to greatly benefit the local Marble Canyon community, but increased visitation will result in an increased demand on park operations and staff capacity including emergency services.
“NPS respectfully requests the county and developers provide necessary level of medical training to on-site staff to mitigate the expected need for assistance from GCNRA and GCNP staff,” Shott and Keable said.
The Marble Canyon Village zoning request went before the Coconino County Board of Supervisors March 9.
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