In a congressional version of "Let's Make A Deal," Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, is offering swaps to stop a large-screen theater at the entrance to Zion National Park.
Behind curtain No. 1, Owens is offering World Odyssey Inc. his help to persuade Congress to buy the 11.6 acres at the park entrance, where the company wants to build the theater and a hotel, and help it find an alternate site.Behind curtain No. 2, Owens is offering to help persuade Congress to swap that land for any other suitable federally owned land where the large-screen movie theater could be built instead.
Environmentalists worried about ruining park vistas have continually screamed encouragement to make a deal. And World Odyssey says it would consider an alternate site but insists the present one wouldn't degrade the park - and so maybe no deals are needed.
That emerged from a letter Owens wrote Tuesday to World Odyssey. It granted a World Odyssey request for a meeting - to be scheduled later - and then suggested the possible deals to help find an alternate site.
"When an alternative site is identified, Congress could perhaps be helpful in trying to arrange an exchange - if the site is public land, or if some third-party exchange can be designed - or, conceivably, purchase of the lands in question, with the money to be used for property acquisition elsewhere in Springdale," Owens wrote.
But an earlier letter to Owens from World Odyssey shows it hopes to convince Owens and other critics that use of the park entrance site will not damage the park.
"We feel confident that once you have reviewed what this project really is, and really isn't, that you will feel very comfortable with the entire development," wrote World Odyssey Chief Executive Officer John Delmare.
"World Odyssey has been in the design phase of this project for over two years. This is about six times longer than the average project would take. It has taken this long for one very simple reason: We care about this site and Zion National Park."
He outlined why he felt it would not hurt park vistas. "Our land is across the river from the tent campground at Zion. Because of the setbacks from property lines, the berm at the river edge, the landscaping along the river, the depressed meadow in which we are located, and the lowering of the buildings into the ground, our project will not block any views from the campground of the beautiful Zion Canyon."
Still, Delmare opened the door a bit for deals when he wrote, "We have always remained open to all ideas which may lead to a better project. This includes exploring alternative sites. We continue to work with the town of Springdale, the National Park Service and other interested groups to identify alternative sites."
Owens jumped into the controversy about the theater when he orchestrated a letter from 19 members of the House Interior Committee objecting to the project.
One committee member who did not sign was Rep. Jim Hansen, whose district contains Zion. He sent letters to members of Congress blasting Owens' effort, saying whether to allow the theater is up to Springdale and no one else.
"For Congress and other `outside' interests to attempt to dictate to any city as to what it may not allow on private property sets the very worst kind of precedent."