ANNAPOLIS — Downtown Frederick was the center of attention Thursday as Maryland’s senators debated a $16 million appropriation in the state’s capital budget that would benefit a proposed hotel and conference center on East Patrick Street.
Frederick County Sen. Michael Hough, R-District 4, opposes the project and pulled four amendments relating to its funding out of the budget for a separate vote.
In two sets of votes, though, the senators voted 28-15 and 31-16 to support funding for the project.
The capital budget could get final approval in the chamber Friday morning. The appropriation for the hotel and conference center project was not included in the House of Delegates’ version of the budget, so it will also face scrutiny from a 10-member committee of budget negotiators if it remains in the final Senate version.
Sen. Ron Young, D-District 3, supports the project and urged his fellow senators to approve the funding during a debate that was largely between him and Hough, though other lawmakers weighed in from time to time.
Plans for the 207-room Marriott and 24,000-square-foot conference center are based on a combination of public and private dollars. Plamondon Hospitality Partners is expected to pay $53 million for the hotel portion of the project.
As amended, the Senate’s version of the 2018 capital budget includes $16 million in grants for the project. In fiscal 2018, the project would receive a $5 million grant. Other amendments include a $7.5 million grant preauthorization for the 2019 fiscal year and a $3.5 million grant preauthorization for the 2020 fiscal year.
On Thursday afternoon, residents opposed to the project started an email campaign to drop the funding from the budget.
Influential Annapolis lobbyist Bruce Bereano said earlier this week that he would continue to work against state funding for the project. He represents two other hoteliers in the county, Brad Kline and Randy Cohen.
But the project also has influential supporters.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. said Thursday that he believes the city needs and deserves the money to drive the downtown Frederick economy. “I believe in helping all segments of our state,” said Miller, whose district includes Calvert, Charles and Prince George’s counties. “This is very important for western Maryland, particularly the city of Frederick, and I hope it goes through.”
Project updates hinge
on funding clarity
Richard Griffin, the city’s director of economic development, said Thursday that officials are aware of the Senate’s latest discussions on the funding and are optimistic about the project’s future.
“Obviously, we continue to be optimistic that the legislators will see the benefits of this project and continue to help support its funding,” he said.
He explained that the next phase of the project, the design, will depend on the state funding.
“The way this works is that once the total funding package has been determined for the project, then we will go into the design phase,” Griffin said. “The funding helps determine exactly what we build, what we design and what we bundle. Then we’ll move into the construction phase once it’s designed.”
Construction will take about 20 months, Griffin said. Officials hope to start construction by 2018.
Griffin added that he is unsure how the existing proposed funding schedule, which is spread out through 2020, will play into the project. Right now, he said, officials are hoping the state’s portion is approved, so they can begin tackling the design.
“This remains a very high priority of our mayor and he continues to indicate that the return on investment to the community is very high on this project,” Griffin said. “And, the business community has spoken and firmly supportive of the project. We’re moving forward and looking forward to building and we’re hopeful that the state funding comes through.”
Pete Plamondon Jr., co-president of Plamondon Hospitality Partners, said in an interview last week that the project is awaiting funding approval from the Legislature to determine the details of the design.
“We are going to assess what dollars are available to us and design and scale accordingly,” he said.
Plamondon also said the company is dedicated to funding the project and will stay involved regardless. However, he said the proposed project is the most viable one for the property.
“We wouldn’t have proposed it if we didn’t think it was best and most compelling option, if we didn’t think it could make money,” he said.
Ginger Trautman, office administrator for The Plamondon Cos., said Thursday that he was traveling and not available to comment on the latest state funding discussions.
The proposed hotel and conference center property at 200 and 212 E. Patrick St. is owned by a business entity formed by members of the Randall family. The Randall family also owns the parent company of The Frederick News-Post.