Developers have tentative approval to start building a luxury resort with golf and skiing on the Idaho side of Bear Lake.

The Black Bear Resort plans to start selling the first of thousands of custom building lots by summer 2009, giving the market for high-end developments time to recover.

Idaho regulators still have to be convinced the resort has enough water rights. To compensate for groundwater withdrawals, the developers say they bought a ranch at another location where they will leave water rights untouched.

"Bear Lake County never had a project as big as this," said Bill Poce, senior vice president of marketing for the Salt Lake City developers, Bruce Barrett and Brad Auger.

The group, The Retreat at Bear Lake LLC, planned to unveil its plans at a news conference Thursday in Salt Lake City.

The developers acquired 2,207 mountain acres from cattle ranchers and others for the membership-style residence club. Building lots are being advertised for up to $925,000. Golf and ski memberships will be sold for hefty fees.

That has been the model for a number of developments around Park City and in other Western resort areas that have fallen on hard times. Buyers have turned skittish, banks stingy and market turmoil from the U.S. subprime crisis is drying up credit.

"We understand the problems they're going through — some related to sales, some related to banking problems," Poce said Wednesday. "But there is still some activity in that market, and our marketing entry price is going to be substantially lower."

The Bear Lake County Commission gave approval June 18 for the resort's first construction phase, subject to resort officials working out water rights and road access.

Poce said the first phase will include selling 163 building lots for development.

"I'm just opposed to the way they're going about doing it," Rick Thomas, who is reluctant to grant a road easement across his property, told the Herald Journal of Logan.

"I don't think you should approve a project without guaranteed right of way and guaranteed water," he said.

Developers said they can build other roads if they can't get permission to widen a road on the family's property.

The resort also plans to build a 600-slip marina on Bear Lake and a ski area.

Poce said developers likely would start building a small ski hill on private land, but that it would take a federal land exchange to make a larger and more commercially viable ski resort.

"We realize that's a long process," he said.

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