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Residents discuss rumors of new Autocamp site at City Council meeting

Autocamp Yosemite is one of many locations owned by the company. Autocamp is currently looking to install 80 to 100 airstream trailers in Williams south of the Canyon Coaster Adventure Park. Williams mayor Don Dent has voiced his disapproval of the project. (Photo/Autocamp)

Autocamp Yosemite is one of many locations owned by the company. Autocamp is currently looking to install 80 to 100 airstream trailers in Williams south of the Canyon Coaster Adventure Park. Williams mayor Don Dent has voiced his disapproval of the project. (Photo/Autocamp)

WILLIAMS, Ariz. — The Williams City Council convened for their regular meeting March 9. During the public participation portion, a few residents voiced support for a rumored Autocamp partnership with Canyon Coaster Adventure Park.

According to Williams Mayor Don Dent, Canyon Coaster Adventure Park representatives had previously approached the city to discuss a possible partnership with Autocamp.

Dent said Canyon Coaster Adventure Park owner Scott Towsley is considering a proposal from Autocamp that would create a "glamping" resort to be located on property adjacent to the park. The resort would host 80-100 Airstream trailers, along with other amenities.

Dent says the project has only been informally discussed, but he and City Manager Tim Pettit were not in favor of the project.

“We discussed it and gave our opinions, which are negative of this project and location for the community," Dent said. "We gave them a number of reasons why. I will stand by what I said, and there are plenty of reasons behind it.”

Autocamp, a California-based luxury camping business, proposed a ‘glamping’ development for Cooper Ranch in Williams back in 2021. The pioneering lodging company hosts travelers in upscale, aluminum Airstream travel trailers, lavish tents and cabins, and had hoped to turn the historic ranch property into a commercial “glamping” location.

The proposal was set to come before the Coconino County Planning and Zoning Commission in May 2022. However, the applicant was still in talks with the U.S. Forest Service regarding concerns about access, fire risk and other impacts. The project, proposed for county land, never came to a vote before the Williams City Council, and for now, the Cooper Ranch Autocamp rezoning decision remains postponed.

The company withdrew an application for a property in Sedona near Bear Mountain in early 2021 after tribal leaders and a coalition of local residents opposed a similar luxury camping development because of the rural location, increased chance for wildfire and impacts on sacred sites.

Should Autocamp move forward with their newly proposed project in Williams, they will need to present their plans to the city and submit an application for a special use permit. They would need to go before the Coconino County Planning and Zoning Commission. In addition, the council will need to approve the rezoning of the area for the glamping project to proceed, Dent said.

Community members Jan Purdy and Monty Hudson voiced support of the project at the March 9 council meeting, stating the Autocamp site would generate significant tax revenue and job opportunities for the city while fitting the nostalgic vibe of Route 66.

“The Airstream trailers and Route 66 bring nostalgia to the many people who love to travel this route,” Purdy said. “A lot of people are for it but the council seems to be against it, and I don’t really understand why…I think it’s a good deal for Williams.”

Purdy currently owns the land Autocamp wishes to purchase for the project. Purdy also sold the property that now belongs to the Canyon Coaster Adventure Park.

“Personally, I think it’s a good thing,” Hudson said. “I’d like to see something like that in this town.”

Despite some positive feedback from residents, Dent expressed his disapproval of the project and declined to endorse it on behalf of the City Council.

“It’s not only Autocamp, it’s any of these companies that try and come in here, they’re not a good fit for the community,” Dent said. “And at that location, they’re really not a good fit.”

Dent's reasons for opposing the Autocamp project echo the concerns that prevented the Cooper Ranch proposal from gaining much traction.

Among the reasons Dent cited was the limited access to the property, with only one road in and out, which could pose serious problems in emergency situations like fires. The Williams Fire Department has already raised concerns about this, emphasizing the need for wide roads to allow fire trucks to access the area unimpeded. Additionally, with 120 people staying on the property, there could be potential issues with evacuation in the case of an emergency

According to Dent, Towsley believes the resort would help bring tourism to Williams in the winter months. However, Dent disagreed with the notion that camping in the snow would appeal to many people. And as for summer tourism, Dent feels the community is already limited in terms of resources.

“In the summer time we are maxed out. The community is maxed out on water, sewer, everything else,” Dent said. “We don't need another 120 cars and another 120 people.”

For now, the project is in its nascent stage, and has yet to make significant progress.

In other council news:

A representative from Air Methods helicopter ambulance services spoke to the board. Air Methods helicopters are properly-equipped and staffed for medical service. The company conducts over 100,000 transports annually.

The company intends to open a base in the Williams area on March 29 but first is seeking the council’s approval in constructing a landing zone. The company aims to work with the Williams Fire Department.

The council will meet for their next regular meeting March 23.

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