Navajo lawmakers will unlikely discuss a bill to develop a proposed tourist hub at its fall session this month.
Councilman Ben Bennett, Grand Canyon Escalade bill sponsor, told a legislative official Wednesday to keep the bill off Navajo Nation Council’s Fall agenda, which starts Oct. 16. Bennett plans to petition for a special session, said Tom Platero, Legislative Services executive director.
“The Escalade bill is still active,” he said.
Bennett had said in July when Navajo Nation Council’s Naabik’iyati’ Committee overwhelmingly voted 14-2 rejected the bill, developers would regroup and a bill could be ready for the council’s vote by now. That’s not happening, for now, Platero said.
The Escalade bill wants the council to approve a master agreement with Confluence Partners LLC, from Scottsdale. The partners ask the council to withdraw 420-acres of land, approve a non-compete agreement, waive certain parts of the Navajo Nation Code and fork out $65 million for Escalade’s infrastructure.
The partners would name their project Grand Canyon Escalade, which would feature a hotel, a restaurant, a discovery center and a parking lot on the rim overlooking the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers. The bill also proposes a gondola that takes tourists to the canyon floor, where a café, an amphitheater, a garden, and river walk will be available.
Other tribal officials said Bennett apparently is seeking a new strategy for the bill’s approval. It’s possible the councilman abandoned plans for negotiating parts of the legislation, which include questions about why $65 million will be allocated to off-reservation developers when the nation’s funds are scarce. One delegate also criticized a competition clause in the bill because it would wipe out his chapter’s efforts to develop a tourism site.
Bennett needs to petition 13 of 24 council members to sign their names to launch a special session, Platero said.
The unpopular, controversial bill started moving toward the council in August 2016. It has stalled many times because Bennett either pulled it off the council’s standing committee agendas for various reasons.