With the economy in a slump, backers of a proposed destination resort near the Table Rocks say the project that could pump millions into the region likely will be delayed.

With the economy in a slump, backers of a proposed destination resort near the Table Rocks say the project that could pump millions into the region likely will be delayed.

"From our standpoint, we're just going slow because of the economy," said Bob Cole, a minority partner with John Elmore, owner of the John Day Ranch property.

He said loans for these types of projects are not easy to secure in this economic climate.

"If we have to wait another six months or a year that's OK," he said. "The bottom line is if anybody goes out there and wants a $60 million to $70 million loan for this kind of thing, it is very difficult. They (banks) are very nervous."

The 2,100-acre property wraps around the Table Rocks off Highway 234.

Cole, who is mostly recovered from injuries after a 100-foot ponderosa pine crashed through his Sams Valley home last winter, said he intends to file all the paperwork with the county and complete environmental plans by the end of summer, hoping to get the approvals in place by the end of the year.

Originally, Cole thought the actual construction could start by late 2008 or early 2009. "It's still not out of the question, but it probably is," he said.

If the economy turns around next year, he said it's possible the project could start six months to a year later than he expected.

However, he said, "We're not going to jump in until the time is right."

Many of the features of the resort have not been decided, but Cole said he expects the golf course will have 18 or 27 holes, but not 36.

The resort would have anywhere from 500 to 1,000 residences, plus overnight accommodations that total 50 percent of the final number of residences.

In Eastern Oregon, some destination resorts have been criticized for not adhering to the requirement that they offer sufficient overnight accommodations.

Cole said he's aware of the criticisms and the Table Rock resort will be careful to meet those requirements.

Cole said other businesses in the area are taking a more cautious approach to building, citing Lithia Motors' decision to delay building the Medford downtown renovation known as The Commons.

Bill Leep, co-owner of Sequoia Partners LLC , said his Paradise Ranch project in Merlin is far enough along that there won't be any foreseeable delays.

"It's full steam ahead," he said.

He said he has already met his quota for selling lots, with agreements for 29 lots out of 200 having been worked out so far.

Leep expects the 7,418-yard-course — which will be the longest in Southern Oregon — to open by mid-summer 2009.

Sympathizing with Cole's dilemma, Leep said, "I'd probably be in the same boat if our timing was the same as his."

Venture capital is particularly difficult to come by right now, said Leep.

Despite the problems, he said, "I encourage these guys to stay on board."

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com.