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2/4/2014 10:22:00 AM
Zipline owners to ask Williams Council for second chance
Historic Preservation Commission, Planning and Zoning and City Council to all review request for new contract
Williams Mayor John Moore (left) and Flagstaff Mayor Jerry Nabours ride the Route 66 Zipline near the end of the 2013 tourist season. The zipline’s owners hope to convince Williams City Council members to renew the attaction’s contract with the city. Ryan Williams/WGCN
Williams Mayor John Moore (left) and Flagstaff Mayor Jerry Nabours ride the Route 66 Zipline near the end of the 2013 tourist season. The zipline’s owners hope to convince Williams City Council members to renew the attaction’s contract with the city. Ryan Williams/WGCN

Marissa Freireich
Williams-Grand Canyon News Reporter

The Route 66 Zipline may not be leaving town just yet.

Logan Checketts, the company's owner, applied for a special use permit to continue operating the ride early last month.

Now three city groups will put on public hearings and review the request. The Historic Preservation Commission's hearing is Feb. 11 at 11 a.m., the Planning and Zoning Commission's hearing is Feb. 20 at 7 p.m., and the City Council's hearing is Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. All meetings take place in the council chambers, at 113 S. First St.

"What it's going to do is bring out all the public comments, positive and negative, so that'll give council something to weigh on," said Tim Pettit, the city's chief building inspector.

Council members approved Zip Adventures' original proposal for the installation of two Soaring Eagle zipline rides at the corner of Railroad Avenue and Grand Canyon Boulevard at their April 25 meeting by a 4-3 vote.

Councilmen Bernie Hiemenz, Craig Fritsinger and Jim Wurgler voted in favor of the proposal. Vice Mayor Don Dent and councilmen Lee Payne and Frank McNelly voted against the proposal. Mayor John Moore broke the tie by voting in favor of the proposal.

Under the original agreement, the city received a one-time payment of $25,000, plus 18 percent of gross revenue after the $25,000 share was reached.

Revenues from the zipline's first season "only slightly exceeded the $25,000 deposit," according to City Manager Brandon Buchanan's staff report to the mayor and council.

In its original proposal, Zip Adventures projected the city would make about $271,000 per season.

At their Nov. 14 meeting, council members voted 4-2 to decline the renewal of the lease agreement between the city and Zip Adventures LLC. At that meeting, Wurgler changed his vote to oppose the zipline, saying after the meeting that it looked too much like a carnival ride.

"Council did tell Logan afterwards just in conversation, hey you know if you can go through the processes and all the processes agree on it or give us a positive recommendation that they would look at it for a revote," Pettit said.

Checketts said in an email that the company is going through the process again because it believes the majority of the community supports the zipline.

"It is our intention in doing this that everyone will have a voice and meaningful conversations to learn what the citizens of Williams really want," he said. "If they really don't want the zipline then we will go peaceably with no offense taken."

Moving the zipline would be a big step that would require a large amount of work and money, he said.

"Once we move it, it would be cost prohibitive to ever bring it back," Checketts said. "Before we make such a move, we want to be sure it is what everyone wants."

Checketts added that the company wanted a chance to operate the zipline for a full tourist season. The zipline opened in mid June and had close to 14,000 riders for the season. In its original proposal, Zip Adventures projected Williams would average 900 rides per day for six months.

"Our business plan anticipated many more riders than we actually had this first year," he said. "However the zipline in Williams is still a good business model and we would like the opportunity to have a full season and help this business grow in Williams."

Checketts said the commissions and council should consider keeping the zipline because it made money for the city, employed 15 people and was a good tourist attraction.

If the zipline stays, Zip Adventures plans to move one of the rides to a different city since one ride can handle the demand in Williams.

When the council approved the original zipline proposal, some people were upset that the Historic Preservation and Planning and Zoning commissions had not had any input. Pettit said the issue was not required to go before the two commissions.

"Not the legal way but the correct way would have been to go in front of these other two commissions," Pettit said.

Regardless of the Historic Preservation Commission's decision about the zipline, the matter will continue on to the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z), which will take into account the former's recommendation. If the P&Z votes against granting the permit, it will be Checketts' decision of whether to proceed to the council hearing.

"The council is going to be looking at it strictly from the recommendation of the rest of the commissions," Pettit said.

The Historic Preservation Committee generally considers architectural designs, aesthetics and the historical significance of the downtown area.

The Planning and Zoning Commission is involved because the zipline is located on the city's parking lots which public property.

The high tower of the zipline is located in the city's Historic Preservation District, while the low tower is in the Central Business District (CBD). Amusements are allowed in the CBD.

"It is something that is not necessarily disallowed or that is allowed in that district but is out of the ordinary," Pettit said.

When the zipline went up downtown, it received mixed reviews from the community.

"We had some historic properties that said it took away from their values in the downtown area, it was a distraction from what Williams really was meant to be," Pettit said.

However, Pettit added that he has heard opinions on both sides of the argument.

"I've had just as many people downtown saying, 'Why are we getting rid of it, it's good for the district, it's good for business," he said.

Checketts said he was surprised that some people believe the zipline does not fit in with the historic downtown area since the company displays a 1957 Chevy at the site, plays 50s and 60s music, and designed its ticket booth to look like a 50s diner.

"We feel everything about our operation fits in with the historic theme of downtown," Checketts said. "It adds atmosphere to the historic nature of downtown. People come over and dance to the music, check out the antiques, go for a ride, have a great time and go away smiling."

More information about the permit or hearings is available from Pettit at (928) 635-4451.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, February 6, 2014
Article comment by: Wade Simon

If council votes to keep the zip line ride , I would like to see it extended the length of the town, making it worth while to ride , like real zip line rides. I believe the council will do what's in the best Interest for the City Of Williams. Thank You: Wade H. Simon

Posted: Thursday, February 6, 2014
Article comment by: Sean Casey

I think that the zip line gives our visitors one more reason to stop in and/or stay a little longer in Williams. Our average visitor stay is less than 1.5 days and the more attractions we have ... the more time (and money) they will spend in Williams.

This is also a great way to improve that area of downtown. If there is more foot traffic, the store fronts might be improved and we would be able to extend our downtown experience beyond the main strip. Let's not fool ourselves .. that side of downtown doesn't exactly encourage foot traffic right now and is far from welcoming. What is the harm in letting them stick around and pay our city $50,000 or more per year?

Posted: Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Article comment by: J Sheward

I hope it stays and they get a full season. I do however worry about dropping to one unless they keep parts onsite.

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