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 — As the General Assembly’s 2016 session winds down, the fate of a bill to secure $19.8 million in state bond funding for a downtown Frederick hotel and conference center is in question.

The bill received its final hearing before a Senate committee Tuesday, one day after “Crossover Day,” the traditional deadline for bills to be moved from one chamber to another. Bills moved by that day have the best chance of passing into law.

Members of the Senate Finance Committee, considering the bill Tuesday, didn’t express much hope for its passage.

“It’s a local bill, and we go by the delegation,” said committee Chairman Thomas “Mac” Middleton, D-Charles County. “The delegation voted, the majority, against the bill. And the House hasn’t moved that bill, and I doubt that they will.”

Within the Frederick County delegation, all three Democrats who represent the city of Frederick supported the bill. Four Republican members who represent other parts of the county opposed the bill. Delegation Chairwoman Kathy Afzali, R-District 4, abstained.

A House version of the bill was considered in early March, but it has yet to come up for a committee vote.

But bills can move out of a committee late and through legislative hoops required to reach final passage before midnight on April 11 — if there’s a push from the right lawmakers.

Project advocates remained optimistic outside the Senate committee hearing room.

“It’s going to get through,” said Roger Wilson, Frederick County’s director of government affairs and public policy.

Tuesday’s bill hearing was unusual in some ways. The House and Senate have been meeting for extended floor sessions all week to move bills through to the other chamber, and many lawmakers are now being called from their own committees to give testimony in the opposite chamber.

At one point, Sen. Ron Young, D-District 3, the sponsor of the Senate bill, wanted to pass around a photo of Carroll Creek lit up at night to show the vibrance of downtown Frederick — but there were no lawmakers present close enough for him to hand the photo.

A state trooper stepped forward to carry the bill to Middleton and other committee members.

Young said the hotel would build upon the downtown revitalization that started with the Carroll Creek flood control and park project, which the state has invested heavily in.

A hotel “is something we have been working on for years,” Young said. “We think it will start a second renaissance in downtown Frederick.”

Two panels spoke in opposition to the project and two spoke in favor, though advocates said the lawmakers should have received hundreds of letters of support for the bill in their offices.

Proponents and opponents traded testimony about what economic impact the project might have, the need for a downtown conference center, how the building would match its historic surroundings and potential environmental concerns at the site.

Randy Cohen, owner of the Holiday Inn near Francis Scott Key Mall, told committee members it was unfair for his privately funded expansion to compete with the public funding being considered for the downtown project.

For one Finance Committee member, the scene was all too familiar.

“This is like déjà vu to me,” said Sen. James N. Mathias Jr., a Democrat from the Eastern Shore.

Mathias said he and other lawmakers from the Ocean City area came to Annapolis for years to get help from the Legislature for a similar bill to secure funding for expansion of the Ocean City Convention Center.

Just like this year with the Frederick hotel plan, there would be dissent and plans would be sent back to the drawing board, he said.

“We’re here deliberating these bills and one part of your community says no, and the other part says yes. It puts us in a very difficult position. ... All I was saying is, go home and work it out,” Mathias said.

Young, after the hearing, said he still hopes the bill could pass this year, but the project could move forward without the bill passing.

“There are several possibilities for the project,” he said. “It might happen some other way. We’re going down all the roads.”

The $19.8 million bond bill represents the largest chunk of public funding for the conference center, which is now projected to cost about $69.8 million.

About $44 million of that cost will be paid by the developer of an attached full-service hotel, Plamondon Hospitality Partners. The rest would be a combination of city, county and state funding.

The project’s budget includes $14.8 million in bond funding from the Stadium Authority, but the bill is written to include the higher $19.8 million figure that the authority asserts could be paid back through revenue generated by the project within 20 years.

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.

(27) comments

petersamuel

It’s time for the Downtown Partnership and the County Chamber of Commerce and the City officials to rethink these begging expeditions to Annapolis. The business groups who say this conference center hotel is so vital for their upscale staff and clientele should put their own money where their mouths are and form Downtown Frederick Conference Center LLC. That could raise the money needed from the businesses that stand to benefit from conferences. As shareholders they’d control its operations, be responsible for its management, share any profits, take any losses. We could respect these people more if they behaved like real businessmen and women. Leaching off taxpayers they deserve contempt..

DickD

Amen, you said it like it is. Great comment.[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

Dwasserba

Standing there with a photo and no one to hand it to. Aw. Take the hint.

KellyAlzan

About 3 weeks ago in my comments here, I said that this proposed hotel will have a special room reserved for Ba'Lane

DickD

Thought this was supposed to be a hotel, not a jail.

elymus43

The sooner the better to get rid of this matter.

DickD

So, Ron is going to go ahead with this one way or the other. Was his son down to Annapolis to help his father?

BlueDawn666

Not likely check this out:

Former Frederick County Commissioner's President Charged With Prostitution

http://www.wfmd.com/articles/wfmd-local-news-119935/former-frederick-county-commissioners-president-charged-14521842/#.VvJ4ci0Cqbw.facebook

DickD

Yes, but did he go all the way to Annapolis for that reason or was he down there to help his father and took a little time off for fun?

jerseygrl42

this hotel should not be built if it cannot stand on its own two feet; the idea of the taxpayers paying for a substantial piece of this project is ludicrous and will benefit two families and leave the public to deal with the tainted property ( ARSENIC) along with the debt if this deal happens...and no mention any longer of the $15 MILLION garage that the taxpayers will also pay for as part of the project......how nice for the Randall and PLAMONDON folks; as always , its all about the MONEY

gary4books

It may be a "local delegation" that opposes a hotel fund - but how many are from the City or live in the City? This is more of a rural and urban divide. If the hotel did not need some assistance, there would be one now.

KellyAlzan

LOL - YOU THINK????!!!!

Loggs

so if the rural community wants something that requires assistance, we better make sure urban reps don't vote for it. It's the "You don't help me and I wont help you" syndrome.

BlueDawn666

the sponsor of the Senate bill, wanted to pass around a photo of Carroll Creek lit up at night to show the vibrance of downtown Frederick ......Seriously? Stop with the slick sale job, ain't no one buying it anymore..and no one bought it yesterday.

KellyAlzan

Ronnie young grasping at the straws.

No one questions how nice. It's the public funding, vibrant or not.

sofanna

NO public funding!!!

sofanna

One of the most important issues to remember, is that Carroll Creek flooded downtown Frederick when a hurricane came through. Yes, it's beautiful, but hasn't the flooding issue been taken care of?

The hotel project is not a NEED as was the fixing of Carroll Creek. And, I was surprised at the comment, "the project can move ahead without the legislature passing the bill". Are you kidding me? Absolutely the wrong approach and those involved should take a huge step back to look at what is driving this project so hard.

And the words, "state, county, and city" will contribute to this project monetarily. WRONG! Seems to me no one is looking at the future, 10 years down the road. I don't want to pay more taxes because of this project.

A humanitarian project makes much more sense with all the homeless CHILDREN and adults living on the streets of Frederick, as noted recently in a FNP article. The Public School system is not the right venue for these homeless children. The children and adults who are homeless need A LOT of care and be able to live in a safe environment with some measure of stability. This type of project would HELP Frederick and it's citizens. A hotel/conference center will do very little to help the homeless in Frederick.

joelp77440

Nobody wants to hold a convention next to a mall. That is why that convention center died years ago. Malls are out, downtowns are in. Let's let the HI die the death it deserves. I have not stepped foot in that place in 20 years. Not because I don't want to but there has been no need to.

KellyAlzan

Correct. We're there to have a convention, not shop. Not shop at a mall. And not shop at some down town store. Period. All business.

shiftless88

When I go to a convention I pretty much work and eat, I don't go shopping or wander a downtown

KellyAlzan

WORD.

And, shopping is done online these days. no one goes to stores

public-redux

No one goes to stores anymore because they are too crowded.

shiftless88

Let's be clear; the opposition to this is generally not that people don't want a hotel and convention center, it's that we don't want to use public funds to do so. The Carroll Creek project used public funds but it also benefitted a wider swath of people both directly and indirectly. These public funds will benefit two companies primarily and perhaps a bit of trickle down for others. For the price the benefits are too imbalanced.

Hammer

Thank you opponets! Let it die this year. Bring us a reasonable plan and honest rationale besides simple political and economic boosterism. A few citizens stopped a mighty Frederick elite machine.

BlueDawn666

They did stop the Frederick Elite machine and you all can read about how they stopped it on this page. See we the people do have power. Thanks to all.

FoFC Downtown Marriott Watch
https://www.facebook.com/groups/1498307467136953/

rbtdt5

I can't view that as I don't have a facebook account

KellyAlzan

told you so

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