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Heber City • After about 14 years of searching for a location, the U.S. Air Force and a state agency are poised to begin development of a four-star hotel near Park City's ski resorts.

Although it still could be years before construction starts, the hotel is to be built on six acres in Wasatch County on prime recreational real estate, according to public records.

For winter guests, the hotel will sit adjacent to Deer Valley Resort in walk-in-your-ski-boots distance of its Jordanelle Express Gondola.

When the snow melts, there are nearby mountain bike trails. Guests will have views of Jordanelle Reservoir all year long.

"The goal is to provide a world-class recreational opportunity for our service members and their families," said David Williamsen, chief of the enhanced-use lease office at Hill Air Force Base.

The public will be able to stay at the hotel, too, but a number of rooms at reduced rates will be set aside for personnel from all four branches of the military and military retirees. Williamsen said the Air Force envisions a graduated scale where the lower your rank, the less you pay.

The arrangements will be similar to hotels the U.S. Army operates next to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., and in Honolulu, Williamsen said.

The U.S. military considers such hotels valuable to morale. Hill Air Force Base once had a lodge ­— Williamsen said it was more like a barrack — on ground it leased from the U.S. Forest Service in Weber County. The Forest Service took the land back in the 1990s when Snowbasin Resort expanded.

Williamsen said the Air Force decided it wanted a four-season lodge and began looking for a spot near Park City about 2002. The project has had starts and stops since then as zoning concerns arose and the tourism and construction markets struggled. Williamsen said about 50 sites have been considered through the years.

The breakthrough arrived when Wells Fargo agreed to donate the 6 acres on the condition a four-star hotel be built on them, according to minutes from a state agency called the Utah Military Installation Development Authority, known as MIDA. The MIDA board hopes to have the land transfer completed by Sept. 1.

MIDA is the state agency that has spearheaded a commercial projects next to Hill Air Force Base and utility construction for the National Security Agency's Utah Data Center. State law allows MIDA to acquire military property and operate much like a municipality to install infrastructure and impose taxes. Those taxes are to go back into the development and help finance the hotel project.

Financing should also come from the company that wins the contract to operate the hotel. Williamsen said Congress is not appropriating money for the project.

Wasatch County Manager Mike Davis said his county won't receive much tax revenue from the project for 25 years. That's when, under state law, MIDA's taxing authority expires. But the project could be beneficial to the county before then.

The Air Force hotel property and the surrounding parcels have long been eyed for development, Davis said. The Air Force hotel will begin installing the necessary infrastructure.

"It's a little bit of a kick start," Davis said, "and that's why we bought into it."

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