The numbers alone are staggering: 2,800 acres, $120 million investment, $130 million a year in revenue, 500 permanent jobs, 5,000 people at events.
But behind those numbers is the potential for a seismic change in Douglas County if the proposal for an equestrian-centered resort, slated for a swath of land near Metz Hill Road and west of Interstate 5, becomes a reality. The Pegasus Equestrian Resort & Venue is the brainchild of brothers Quinn and Drew Millegan, investors who live in McMinnville and operate the Woodworth Contrarian Fund hedge fund and Millegan Brothers LLC, among other ventures.
The ambitious proposal is scheduled to be unveiled Thursday night when it comes before the Douglas County Planning Commission for initial approval. Staff from the county’s planning department have reviewed the lengthy proposal and determined that it will “substantially comply” with all pertinent regulations.
“We’ve been looking for a site for more than 10 years, up and down the West Coast, including Washington and California. And then we found this,” Drew Millegan said. “It’s a site that just blew us away because it’s got a full interchange, and 2 1/2 miles of interstate that borders the site. It’s perfect.”
Plans for the project are as ambitious as anything ever proposed in the county in recent memory. The multi-disciplinary equestrian venue will include five indoor arenas — at a cost of $55 million — outdoor grass and sand arenas, a dedicated combined driving course, an equestrian cross-country course and four full-size grass polo fields for equestrian competitions.
The project also calls for a $35 million, 150-room hotel resort and spa facility with restaurants, meeting rooms and convention facilities.
The Millegans and others involved in the project said it would be an economic boon to Douglas County. They estimate that construction could start toward the end of 2022 and that work would provide 841 jobs on site, and another 687 jobs elsewhere in the state. Once completed, the venue would employ about 500 workers — half of them full-time — and pay an estimated $800,000 a year to the county in property taxes, the Millegans said.
An economic analysis of the proposal determined that the total benefit to the region would be $250 million a year in hotel stays, restaurant meals and even potential home sales associated with the venue.
“We won’t have enough restaurants on site, or rooms for everyone, so people coming here will be staying in Oakland, Sutherlin, as far away as Portland,” Quinn Millegan said. “And we’re already hearing from people who want to move out here. The weather is great and it’s beautiful.”
The Millegans said that other developers have tried to build such a facility elsewhere, but have failed due to a variety of factors, including local restrictions, lack of available land, poor locations, difficult zoning and a failure to understand how to package the project.
“Many ventures have tried to combine the process with government funding, but failed due to the compromises and strings attached,” the brothers said on the Pegasus website. “In the few cases we are aware of where sites did move forward, government-funded sites lacked marketing and tended to over-compromise and under-deliver on core venue features.”
The site itself has several unique advantages, the Millegans said, including its proximity to the interstate, its size, its beauty, its low elevation and moderate weather and land that is situated in a way that makes it a low risk for wildfires.
Another plus, according to Pegasus officials, is the private landing strip on site, with a 5,100-foot runway capable of accommodating most private jets, smaller passenger planes and some cargo planes.
Pegasus officials also said the development will not be solely dependent on local governmental services such as fire, police, utilities or schools. As a self-contained resort and venue, almost all services will be provided on-site in coordination with local providers, Pegasus said on its website.
“Given the touristy nature of the participants, the project does not place significant demands on local schools, while at the same time providing significant tax revenues to local schools,” the company’s website said. “Pegasus will increase demand for surrounding businesses, and make it more desirable for equestrian businesses to locate not only in Douglas County, but also along the entire West Coast.”
The Millegans also said they are looking for ways to generate much of the development’s power needs on-site. The brothers said they are exploring a variety of sources including solar, wind, geothermal and bio-fuel, which could potentially turn horse manure into energy.
Plans call for the entire site to have 24/7 gated security. Crowds could hit 5,000 people and 2,000 visitor horses for signature events. Pegasus intends to employ its own mounted horse patrol.
The developers are also looking at continuing some ranch activities and timber management and harvest, as well as putting in potential vineyards and opening a winery/distillery on the property.
The Millegans said they are encouraged that the site has already been approved for a destination resort.
About 20 years ago a developer named Dave Conway filed plans with the county for a proposed project at the same site, called Heaven’s Gate. Pitched as a $23 million dude ranch and destination resort, plans called for single-family homes and a 150-room hotel complex featuring a pool, spa, conference rooms and restaurant.
Heaven’s Gate never got off the ground.
The county planning department has received at least 40 letters from interested parties in response to the proposed development, most in support of it. Letters of support have also come from the cities of Yoncalla, Sutherlin, Drain and Cottage Grove, as well as Travel Lane County and Travel Southern Oregon.
Pegasus also has a letter of support from the United States Equestrian Federation.
The Planning Commission meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. tonight at the OSU Extension annex building, 1134 SE Douglas Ave., Roseburg. Masks will be required and proper spacing requirements will be enforced. The meeting will not be aired live.
The Planning Commission has one of four choices at tonight’s meeting:
■ Approve the development plans.
■ Approve the plans with modifications and/or additional conditions.
■ Continue the public hearing to a specified date and time, or close the public hearing and leave the record open to a specified date and time to allow for additional evidence and rebuttal.
■ Deny the requested destination resort, based upon findings of fact and/or testimony brought forward through the public hearing.