PAGE — School administrators were among a group of Page citizens last week who expressed concern with the proposed construction of a new hotel near the intersection of Lake Powell Boulevard and Elk Road.
Speaking at a public hearing during a regular Page City Council meeting, Page Unified School District Superintendent Rob Varner and Tse'Yaato' High School Principal Traci Parker both urged council to consider suggestions to keep students and children in the area safe if construction were to move forward.
Tse'Yaato' High School, which is part of the Coconino County Regional Accomodation School District, is located across the street on Elk from the site of the proposed hotel. Parker said her primary concerns with the hotel are the traffic it would bring to the already heavily-traveled Elk Road, as well as the number of large vehicles and boats that could end up parking on the road.
"Ever since the roundabout (on Highway 89) was completed, the traffic on Elk has boomed tenfold. The street is a residential street," she said. "It's not marked, it has potholes everywhere and the amount of traffic zooming around is crazy."
Parker continued by saying there are roughly 67 elementary-aged PUSD students who live in the adjacent Vermillion Apartments that line up at a nearby bus stop each morning. Getting to and from the bus stop could become more hazardous for them with a hotel in the middle, she opined. She was also wary of her own students at Tse'Yaato' - many of whom drive to school in the morning – having to navigate what could turn into a chaotic section of town each morning.
"It gives me pause knowing an 87-room hotel will be going up," she commented, adding that a hotel could also inherently and unavoidably host people who pose a threat to themselves or students and within such a close proximity.
Parker said she also believed Antelope Hotels Corp., the owners and developers of the land parcel, were underestimating the 10 parking spaces they would need for oversized vehicles like RVs and boat trailers.
"I drove around at 7 a.m. on Oct. 21 and looked at the other hotels around town. The minimum number of boats and trucks at those apartments was 10. The range was 10 – 14, but this is in October, the [busy season] is already over," she said.
Varner echoed Parker's concern about the visibility of PUSD students heading to the bus stop each morning should large vehicles park alongside the road outside the hotel, and proposed council at the very least make the road along the proximity of the hotel a no parking area. He said the district will have to relocate its bus stop and pickup area further down the road and suggested the city also lower the speed limit on Elk Road, too.
The two said they had considered proposing to get the area reclassified as a school zone, but said it wasn't feasible in the near future due to a number of different factors.
Page Mayor Bill Diak described Page's current situation with increased tourist traffic and hotel growth as "growing pains," but said council always tries to remain cognizant of the community's needs first.
A spokesman from Iron Rock Engineering, a firm working with Antelope Hotels to develop the site, told audience members the companies were doing everything they could to assure the hotel has as little impact as possible to the surrounding area.
He said this includes making sure the hotel's official address is listed on Lake Powell Boulevard, providing wider specialized parking infrastructure, and complying with the aforementioned proposals to mitigate the risk for Page-area students.
In other action, Page City Council approved an ordinance allowing the sale of the former site of Page Utility Enterprises/Page Electric Utility at 29 Poplar Street to Page resident Michael Ruffel for a price tag of $150,000.
Council also approved the purchase of a Ford F-550 Type 1 Ambulance for the Page Fire Department at $184,853. Page Fire Chief Jeff Reed told council many of the department's ambulances are showing their wear and age – with one ambulance more than 20 years old. He said he would like to begin rotating out the department's first-out ambulance every five years moving forward.
A green light was given to the Page Police Department to purchase a Goserco Eventide Logging Recorder as well, which records all radio and telephone and audio in Page PD's dispatch center. The current system is more than six years old, the department reports, and is nearing the end of its life cycle. The replacement system will cost nearly $35,000.