An ambitious development project at Solitude Ski Resort is a step closer to getting under way following the Salt Lake County Planning Commission's rezoning of 38 acres to allow construction of 280 lodging units.

If endorsed by county commissioners, the zoning change will allow Solitude owners to build the overnight lodging complex at the Big Cottonwood Canyon ski area.But Solitude must get a number of other approvals from the county and the U.S. Forest Service before development of the resort's 10-year master plan can begin.

The 1987 master plan calls for existing base facilities to be torn down and replaced by a new day-use resort center, construction of lodging units and the reorientation of ski trails on the mountain.

The rezoning request for 38 acres of Solitude and Forest Service land now will be the subject of a public hearing before county commissioners, who will have the final word on approving or denying the application.

In granting its approval for the rezoning request, the planning commission rejected the recommendation of the county planning staff, which urged a six-month continuance to allow completion of the county's Wasatch Canyon Master Plan regulating canyon development.

The delay would show the county's good faith in the master planning process, staffers argued. But planning commission members, with one dissenting vote, agreed that the Solitude project is specifically excluded from the canyon master plan, and so approving the rezone request would not break faith with the master planning process.

The planning commission restricted Solitude to development of a maximum of 280 overnight units. Resort owners last month got county approval to scale back to 280 units their original request for 320 units, which received preliminary approval in 1982.

Should commissioners approve the rezone, Solitude owners must then come back to the planning commission requesting a conditional use permit that will allow them to begin phase-by-phase construction of the lodging units in five buildings.

Solitude also still needs Forest Service approval to build a ticket booth and employee housing on 10 acres of federal land included in the planning commission's rezone approval.

And most importantly, Solitude needs Forest Service final approval to build a $3.2 million sewer line the length of Big Cottonwood Canyon. The planning commission's preliminary approval of the lodging units is conditional upon completion of the sewer line.

Wasatch-Cache National Forest officials approved construction of the sewer line last year after environmental impact studies. But environmentalists appealed that approval to the Forest Service regional office in Denver, and a final decision could take months or longer.