Downtown hotel 1

An artist’s rendering of the downtown hotel and conference center project, as viewed from the northwest corner of Patrick and Carroll streets.

ANNAPOLIS — For about 24 hours this week, it looked as though $200,000 were heading to Frederick as planning money for a proposed downtown hotel and conference center.

A committee of lawmakers hashing out differences in the House and Senate versions of the fiscal 2017 operating budget said Thursday afternoon that they would direct the money to the hotel project.

However, when Republican members of the Frederick County delegation — who voted earlier this session against a bill seeking a much larger sum — caught wind of the plan, they pushed to cut the allocation.

By early Friday afternoon, the $200,000 was gone from the budget. But lawmakers say the topic of hotel funding could come up again next week relating to the state’s capital budget.

What happened?

On Wednesday, the House of Delegates passed its version of the state’s fiscal 2017 operating budget. The Senate passed its version of the measure a week earlier.

The two chambers’ budget bills had 58 differences. Neither side would accept the other side’s version as a whole, so a conference committee met to resolve the conflicts.

Among them was a House amendment to remove $1 million from the projected cost to demolish buildings at the former Baltimore City Correctional Complex.

The conferees and their advisers — none from Frederick — decided to redirect that $1 million to a few other projects.

On Thursday, $200,000 for the Frederick hotel was on the beneficiary list. After the dustup Friday, the Frederick project was replaced by another.

One conferee, Sen. James “Ed” DeGrange Sr., D-Anne Arundel, said the hotel and conference center allocation was removed from the operating budget discussion, but would come up in later discussions.

“We’re going to be dealing with that in the capital budget,” DeGrange said. “In some form.”

The House is expected to formally approve the capital budget early next week. Then, that budget bill is likely to go to a conference committee.

What’s next?

There is at least one issue, and now possibly two, relating to the downtown hotel project in the state’s capital budget bill.

The first relates to an amendment to a 2012 bond allocation of $250,000. Then-Sen. David Brinkley and then-Delegate Galen Clagett requested that bond bill for the acquisition, planning and design of the Downtown Frederick Hotel and Conference Center.

This year, the Senate version of the capital budget extended the city’s deadline for matching the grant and cashing it in until 2018.

Extensions are not uncommon, and several were in the Senate’s version of the capital budget bill this year.

Sen. Michael Hough, R-District 4, said he’s opposed that general obligation bond since 2012 and felt the delegation should have had a chance to weigh in on the extension. It’s unclear who requested the amendment, but the change was in the Senate version of the capital budget that passed that chamber unanimously on Wednesday.

The second potential issue relating to the capital budget is whether an additional appropriation for the Frederick project could come through the House version of the bill, or during conference committee negotiations.

Republican members of the Frederick County delegation met Friday and drafted a letter to budget conferees saying they opposed additional allocations for the project.

Tussles over the downtown hotel and conference center have dominated delegation business this year in Annapolis.

County lawmakers introduced two project-related bills this year. One, backed by Frederick City Democrats, would authorize the Maryland Stadium Authority to issue $19.8 million in bond funding for the project. Another, backed by Frederick County Republicans, would have capped the county’s hotel tax rate to keep that revenue from funding the downtown project.

Both bills face steep odds against passing this session.

Who requested the money?

No one in Frederick County’s delegation on Friday claimed responsibility for asking budget conferees for a hotel appropriation.

“$200,000? No,” Sen. Ron Young, D-District 3, said when asked if he’d made the request.

He wouldn’t mind funding for the project, however. “I hope that we get a whole lot,” Young said.

Delegate Carol Krimm, D-District 3A, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, supports the downtown hotel project. She said she didn’t know who suggested the hotel allocation, but she would’ve welcomed the money.

“If there’s money there, I would support it because it keeps the project moving,” Krimm said. “We are concerned about keeping the project moving.”

Hough said he opposes any additional money for planning the project. He believes it will be used, in part, to pay for lobbyists to keep asking lawmakers who don’t support the project to change their minds.

Delegate David E. Vogt III, R-District 4, said he didn’t know about the conference committee allocation discussion. Delegate Kathy Afzali, R-District 4, who abstained from voting on the hotel bond bill in February, also said she didn’t know about any request.

Delegate William Folden, R-District 3B, said he’s against a $200,000 allocation for the hotel project because money is needed in other areas, like a gym or parks and recreation services at the planned Butterfly Ridge Elementary School near the Hillcrest neighborhood in Frederick.

Delegate Barrie Ciliberti, R-District 4, said the funding issue had become muddied, along with other particulars of the project. He wants a better, more detailed plan before the General Assembly gives money to the project.

Delegate Karen Lewis Young, D-District 3A, said she didn’t know about the $200,000 requested of the conference committee, but she would have supported it.

“Those of us who represent the city of Frederick will continue to make every effort possible to make this project a reality,” she said.

The proposed hotel would be on the property at 200 and 212 E. Patrick St., which is currently 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.

Follow Danielle E. Gaines on Twitter: @danielleegaines.

Danielle E. Gaines covers politics and government in Frederick County, splitting her time between Winchester Hall and The State House. Having grown up in Illinois, she lived in New York and California before settling in Maryland.

(25) comments

gary4books

I take this as an example of what money can do to a discussion. All sorts of half baked ideas are put forward. How many of the opinions come from outside the city and perhaps from biased sources? I do take many ideas as sincere and welcome them.

Dwasserba

"Muddied." You said it. This would be funny if it weren't so painful to read.

Burgessdr


Just Say No to those that are anti-business, anti-jobs, anti-tourism, anti-revitalization and anti-Frederick City. They oppose everything, never propose anything positive. Just Hey Na Na No No.

bosco

I'm positive that if the hotel and convention center were a viable business plan, it should be built with private money, not taxpayer money to enrich the Randall$ and the Plamondon$.

I'm positive that I'm anti public funding of a private business.

petersamuel

It is anti-business, anti-jobs, anti- etc to promote a bloated boondoggle like this that won’t pay its way, and which has been valued at $36m but costs $70m to build. It is anti-business,-anti jobs etc to increase taxes in order to gift public facilities to one city-selected developer. A pro-business, pro-jobs, pro-Frederick way would dump this bloated boondoggle and take multiple sites through historic preservation and planning commission review, and hazardous waste remediation and allow quick development of pre-permitted projects that will be fully investor financed. This $70 million piece of nonsense has gone 7 years now and just failed once again to get state support adding another year of delay. It is not going to happen. Time to face facts.

Burgessdr

If it wasn't for public investmentioned in the private sector, downtown Frederick would still be one big eyesore like it used to be. If you don't like public investment, please do not walk along Carroll Creek or eat in any restaurants downtown or try to find a job in or near the City.

DickD

And if we don't already and don't care if you ever build another hotel in downtown Frederick? But why would that make a difference in whether it is an eyesore or not? Just a lot of empty rhetoric.

petersamuel

The Carroll Creek Linear Park and flood control project is a superb exercise in public works. It is terrific. It is government doing what the private sector can't do because there is no revenue stream. But it is worthwhile because it improves the life of visitors and locals alike. That is exactly what government should focus on. By contrast the hotel conference center is a business which will charge people for lodging and charge people who stage conferences, weddings and other meetings. It is a private operation, and government should not be playing favorites, should not be choosing who is allowed to build on the site, should not be designing the facilities in an RFP, and it should not be scrounging around for subsidies for the operator. It isn't even successful as a scrounger we learned this week. All the City is doing is wasting a lot of time and money and failing to build in 8 years what could be built in two. This conference hotel fiasco is case study in what government should not even attempt to do.

Doritos

who wants to walk along carroll creek with all the crime and drug activity going on there

Burgessdr

Also please don't go to the Weinberg, or to the new public library, or to the Delaplaine, or participate in any of the many events sponsored by the Downtown Partnership each week, or plan to take the Marc to work.

DickD

Don't do any of that now and if I want to catch the Marc, there are more convenient places than the City of Frederick.

bosco

The Weinburg, the Delaplaine, and the Downtown Partnership events are not private businesses created to enrich the Randall$ and the Plamondon$. Don't equate a public library with a Marriot hotel unless I can check into a room for the weekend with no out of pocket costs like I can check out a book at the library. Using your logic, the Carroll creek project would be owned by Ron Young and we would need to pay Ron to walk along it.

Doritos

where have you been the library is not new its been there for 14 years

Burgessdr

Since you claim to be an economist, please provide us with your RIMS 2 or IMPLAN model projections of the economic impact of the hotel and conference center.

DickD

No to Corporate Welfare, call it what it is, not your nonsense.

petersamuel

This $200k-from-nowhere caps a week of fiascos for the outrageous boondoggle of a downtown conference hotel project. $31 million of public money the boosters of this hotel want to spend for an ‘upscale’ conference facility so desperately needed by the chamber of commerce and its acolytes that they won’t put a single dollar of their own money into it. In Annapolis this week they were given a firm No to the $20m of state money, they were after. The bills died in both the House Appropriations Committee and then in the Senate Finance Committee. And they lost the mysterious $200k to boot. Hoooo-rah!

elymus43

This thing keeps dragging along. Thank Senator Hough and the Republicans for trying to stop the thing. The whole hotel idea is a loser.

Frayou

What upsets me is this country is in debt and continues to spend money for things we don't need. The 1 million mentioned in government corporate wellfare is just one example of tax payer money's that doesn't need to be spent. Imagine all the other cases of tax payer money being wasted.

LeonardKeepers

why is a fancy hotel needed in downtown frederick anyway.this seems like some politician's brain child.i see no need for a fancy hotel in downtown frederick

bosco

It's not, but the project is being pushed by our elected politician$ so that the Randall$ can sell their vacant property to the City and the Plamondon$ can build a privately owned hotel, with the help of the taxpayer$.

Call it what you may, it's corporate welfare. If it was a viable project from a business standpoint, it would already be underway. Take a look at the financial reports for the Ocean City Convention Center and you'll see that Maryland taxpayers are on the hook for that facility's operating deficit. In other words, it's losing money and the taxpayers are making up the difference.

DickD

'................ politician's brain child" Yes, the Randall's wanted to sell their old building and could not get a good price for it. So, they went to the Plamondon's and plotted how they could get tax dollars for it. Then they got good old Ron Young and Karen to support their project. That is how politics work.

Dwasserba

It's not a need, it's a "want" that can get "us" to the "next level" where we're fancy.

KellyAlzan

It's needed so that The Ba'Lane doesn't have to travel to Annapolis to he gratified. This way when he's caught in a sex sting (not to be confused with sexting) - his buddy sheriff chuck Jenkins can let him walk away free.

DickD

Here we go again, still trying to get tax money for the Plamondons and Randalls. Ron and Karen Young have to go.

Doritos

all the youngs have to go

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