This land near the lower table rock is part of 2,000 acres on the former John Day Ranch set to be developed into a destination resort pending final approval from Jackson County. 7/19/07 Denise Baratta

County designates resort areas

Jackson County commissioners opened the doors to two Sunriver-style destination resorts Wednesday that together would amount to almost 3,000 acres north of Central Point.

The commissioners unanimously approved the final reading of an ordinance that designates certain areas in the county as having the potential for a destination resort.

The biggest proposed resort would be up to 2,000 acres on the former John Day Ranch off Highway 234 near the Table Rocks.

Another resort has been proposed by Bernie Zieminski on 880 acres north of Central Point on the former Hidden Valley Ranch.

"It's going to have a big impact on the county," said Bob Cole, a minority partner with John Elmore, owner of the John Day Ranch property.

With the commissioners' decision in hand and barring any appeal, he said detailed plans for the resort along the Rogue River will begin in earnest.

He and his partner have hired golf course architect Jim Engh to design one and possibly two courses. Engh has designed courses in Colorado, Napa Valley, Calif., and Ireland.

Cole said the land could potentially accommodate 27 or possibly 36 holes. In addition, the resort might feature a small hotel, a spa and home sites.

Cole said 700 acres of the property are in a nature conservancy and of the remaining property, 50 percent will be open space.

"We'd like to do it as 'green' as possible," he said. The project, said Cole, should blend into the surrounding environment.

The resort would have adequate water, he said, drawing from wells and from the Rogue River.

Cole said Jackson County is overdue for a destination resort because of its climate, amenities and location.

He didn't want to speculate on how much the resort would cost, but said it would be a boon to the local economy.

As an example, the 1,700-acre Eagle Crest Resort in Deschutes County contributes $4 million in additional property tax revenue annually, according to land consultant Linda Swearingen.

Zieminski said he is still committed to building a resort on his land just west of Tolo Road, roughly bordered by Interstate 5 to the north and Old Stage Road to the south.

"We spent three years and a quarter-million dollars," said Zieminski. "We're going to get this done."

Zieminski's project is expected to cost about $400 million and would have a hotel, luxury home sites and a golf course. Originally, Zieminski planned to build a nine-hole course, but said he is now looking at 18 holes.

Commissioner C.W. Smith said the destination resort ordinance is the result of a lot of hard work, but added it was unfortunate that other potential resorts were left out.

The proposed 1,400-acre Hartnell Ranch southeast of Medford was dropped from the county's destination resort area after the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development, 1000 Friends of Oregon and the Oregon Hunters Association all voiced their opposition.

"I'm disappointed in the state of Oregon," said Smith.

ODFW said the area was in the middle of sensitive wildlife habitat for blacktail deer.

Commissioner Dave Gilmour said, "I feel we have a pretty sound ordinance. It will have good consequences for our county."

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or

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