Developers say a lack of parking could doom the proposed $50 million Davis Conference Center complex.

Michael McGurn, an associate with Corporex, the project's developer, has told city leaders that the complex couldn't support a seven-story office tower without a parking terrace.And without the office tower, McGurn suggested that the 223-room hotel adjacent to the conference center might not be possible.

"The way these feed off each other is incredible," McGurn said. "I don't know, without the office building, if the full-service hotel makes sense."

McGurn and economic development officials said the problem can be solved by the City Council designating the land as an economic development area. That would allow the city to offer a tax break to Corporex to build a $4.2 million parking terrace.

Tom Christopulos, Layton's economic development specialist, told the City Council last week that the city's redevelopment-economic development agency could pass its tax-free status on to developers because the parking terrace would have a public use.

The city has begun a 17-step process toward making the designation. The first public hearing on the complex will be Oct. 13 before the Layton Planning Commission.

The developer would save $500,000 a year in taxes that would otherwise go to the city, county, school district and other entities. The money would be put into a trust that would go toward paying off the debt on the parking terrace and keeping a reserve fund in case of financial troubles.

The 640-space, three-story terrace would offer free public parking.

McGurn expects a 12- to 15-month construction period for the complex. A groundbreaking date has not been set.

Councilman Renny Knowlton questioned why government should get involved and help the large Cincinnati-based development company.

"What happens if we don't fund it?" asked Knowlton, concerned about the city's offering incentives for the first time.

Christopulos said the conference center complex, which would be the economic development agency's first project, would contribute to the local economy. Preliminary studies show the center would create 680 jobs that pay more than Layton's many service-oriented jobs.

It could host as many as 39,300 visitors a year and generate up to $115 million a year, said Christopulos, although he warned that the numbers were not official.

Christopulos also credited Corporex with being the first developer willing to risk building a high-rise office building and a major hotel in Layton.

"They are pioneering," he said. "There's no history of this here, and they're taking a risk. This is a way we can promote the long-term best interest of the community."