SEDRO-WOOLLEY — A proposal to build a destination resort on the grounds of the former Northern State Hospital gained support this month, after the Port of Skagit Board of Commissioners and the Skagit County Commissioners wrote letters agreeing to explore land-use changes necessary for the plan.

In a letter dated Feb. 12, the port commissioners cited job creation, a boost for Sedro-Woolley’s and the county’s tax base and “spin­off” businesses as reasons to get behind the project.

“We acknowledge that significant challenges exist and would have to be addressed before the project could go forward,” the letter states. “But a potential economic development investment on the scale proposed by Hospitality Focus Inc. is extremely rare in the Skagit Valley.”

Larry Dustin, an adviser to Hospitality Focus Inc. and Realtor Pete Papadopulos presented the idea for a resort during public meetings last fall.

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Their vision for a resort includes a 300-room hotel, large equestrian center and other recreational activities, and a four- to six-mile-long high-speed road course for private cars and motorcycles.

Currently, the 953-acre site is divided into two pieces: a state-owned 227-acre piece of land where the hospital campus is located and a county-owned 726-acre parcel surrounding the campus that contains fields, forest and the Hansen Creek salmon recovery habitat.

The county-owned portion was purchased in 1991 and turned into a county park called the Northern State Recreation Area.

The resort proponents are looking to enter into a long-term lease agreement for the state portion and a chunk of the county-owned portion of land.