MONKEY ISLAND - Delaware County officials gathered last week to hear a proposal for a countywide tax incentive program to promote the development of a $500 million resort complex at Shangri La.

Hotel developers Peter C. Boylan III and H. Drake Leddy propose a countywide, 5-percent hotel bed tax over a period of up to 25 years.

In addition to the hotel tax, the developers are asking county officials to set up an incentive district that would in turn be eligible for tax incremental financing.

Designed to boost the state's economy by attracting and retaining business, tax incremental financing, commonly referred to as a TIF, was created in 1990 by virtue of the Oklahoma Local Development Act.

If approved, the TIF district would be a local incentive, separate of a state tax credit for the resort that state Rep. Doug Cox and state Sen. Charles Wyrick sought for the past two sessions, but were unable to get final approval from fellow legislators.

Setting up a TIF district is something that won't take money from anyone's pocket today, hotel developer Leddy told commissioners Dave Kendrick and Kenny Crowder during a special county commission meeting at the former Shangri La Resort.

Traditional local incentives for other state projects have included property tax breaks to the developers.

Countywide voter approval would be needed to implement a motel tax, officials confirmed.

The developers have estimated that on completion, their three-phase, high-rise complex would provide an estimated 855 area jobs, not including those that would be generated from initial construction.

Leddy gave a breakdown of jobs that include plans to employ 170 people at the hotel and condominium units, 35 to 40 for the wellness center and 16 at the spa.

Extending the runway of the Grand Lake Regional Airport another 2,000 feet - utilizing hotel property to do so - to accommodate larger aircraft, is also a future possibility, Boylan said.

The developers said they hoped to attract 100,000 visitors annually, many to attend corporate-sponsored retreats, seminars and business conventions.

Boylan suggested the county hire attorneys from the Center for Economic Development Law, an Oklahoma City-based firm, to guide them through the process of setting up a trust authority.

Kendrick said he wouldn't be comfortable making any sort of commitment until the county's legal counsel, the district attorney's office, had reviewed the material.

That trust authority, according to Boylan's recommendation, would be formed to include the commissioners, state legislators Cox and Wyrick, the two local school district superintendents from Grove and Cleora, and local business representatives.

School districts have written letters in support of the project because traditionally tourists purchasing condominium resorts do not send their children to local schools, but contribute property taxes to the coffers, Boylan explained.

No formal vote was taken by the commission, but Kendrick directed County Assessor Leon Hurt to more fully explore the impact a TIF district would have on the tax rolls and bring that information back to county officials.

Construction of the entire complex, Boylan said, hinges on his firm being able to secure a permit for a commercial dock.

The Grand River Dam Authority approved the dock and, in turn, hired the Washington, D.C.-based law firm of Guiliani and Bracewell to address issues.

In a letter dated May 31, Guiliani and Bracewell asked for an extension of time to gather a laundry list of requirements including safety and navigational matters, property ownership, calculations related to the Davis Cove excavation proposal and comments offered by area residents.