A group of developers has purchased a west-side orchard from the LDS Church to develop a hotel and full-service resort spa on county land.

Jack A. Nester, president of American Moab Ranches Inc., announced from offices in St. George that the company acquired approximately 29 acres from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The company also has offices in Mission Viejo, Calif.Tuesday, the Grand County Planning and Zoning Commission recommended rezoning the property from residential to commercial use to accommodate the planned development.

The recommendation is expected to be on the agenda for action by Grand County commissioners at their next regular meeting Feb. 18, said Commissioner Sam Cunningham. The next step would be to schedule a public hearing on the proposed rezoning.

County Planning Commissioner Tom Rees said the proposed development will also be discussed Feb. 14 at a regular meeting of the Moab City Planning and Zoning Commission, because the city has expressed interest in annexing the property.

Rees said the city would prefer that the county rezone the orchard before annexation. The orchard is surrounded by city property and is bounded on the west by residences across Fifth West Street, by a pasture and Pack Creek across Williams Way on the south, by a mobile home park to the east and by a residential area to the north.

The general plan is to construct a hotel complex with more than 200 rooms and a spa with all support amenities, according to information provided to planning commissioners by Moab real estate agent Randy Day, who is representing the developers.

In a press release Feb. 1, the company president said the complex will be designed "commensurate with" its natural setting.

Grand County Commissioner Manuel Torres said Tuesday that he understood the landscaping for the proj-ect leaves many of the trees intact.

Don Steed in St. George declined questions about the proposed development Wednesday. He said company officials were meeting that morning in St. George to discuss several projects, and he would refer questions on the Moab project to his partner.

"There's several things in the mill and I'm not sure which one they'll be considering," Steed said.

Day, of All American Agency in Moab, first brought public attention to the project last November while developers were still negotiating for the purchase. He described the proj-ect to planning commissioners as a "destination resort" with as many as 300 rooms, shops, dining and lounge facilities, and convention capabilities.

Day said the developers considered the view of the portal of the Colorado River to the west to be important, and plans were to build no higher than two stories.

At that time, some nearby homeowners expressed concern that the commercial activity might adversely affect the residential character of the area.

The closing on the sale took place around the first of January, said Don Cook, Moab LDS Stake president.

He said the orchard had been operated by volunteers of the church for about 20 years. About three years ago, church corporation officials in Salt Lake City decided to sell it, he said.

"The church made a decision to disband itself from projects that were more difficult to work with, in the cannery process," Cook said.