After more than a half-year of debate by county politicians, the County Council plans to vote later this month on whether to raise hotel rental tax rates in the county.

The council heard from more than two dozen people at Tuesday night’s meeting, the majority of whom support County Executive Jan Gardner’s proposal to increase the rate from 3 percent to 5 percent.

The rate increase would translate to a little more than $900,000 in estimated additional revenue each year.

The county collects the tax and passes about 97 percent of the revenue to the Tourism Council of Frederick County.

Gardner (D) introduced a bill to the County Council to increase the rate, coupled with a memorandum of understanding agreement that outlines how the money will be spent by the Tourism Council.

The agreement includes stipulations that could allow some of the tax revenue from a proposed downtown hotel and conference center to be returned to pay debt on the project through a rebate.

The tax rebate would be limited to 85 percent of the revenue from that hotel. No money from other hoteliers would be funneled to any proposed downtown hotel project in the county, according to the agreement.

County and tourism officials have said the language was added to the agreement to assuage concerns about the proposed tax increase from some county lawmakers and opponents of the proposed downtown hotel and conference center project during the 2016 General Assembly session.

However, one of the county businessmen who pays the tax remains adamantly opposed.

Randy Cohen, owner of the FSK Holiday Inn, said his business pays about 20 percent of the county’s hotel tax revenue each year. He called the hotel tax bill “very harmful” to other county hoteliers because one business would get an advantage in paying down its debt.

“If the government helps build your competition, they will tip the scales,” said Cohen, who is redeveloping his own property near FSK Mall to include a newly renovated conference center.

Richard Griffin, the city’s director of economic development, said the hotel tax will support $3.5 million in debt payments for the conference center for the 25 years the agreement covers.

Griffin said the city is making sure the conference center is protected as a public investment, which will spur economic development in the county.

Frederick Mayor Randy McClement and Thurmont Mayor John Kinnaird testified in favor of the bill Monday, highlighting its local economic development spending. Newly elected Brunswick Mayor Jeff Snoots stood with Abbie Ricketts, chair of the Brunswick Main Street board, which supports the increase.

With the increased rate, the Tourism Council would receive an estimated $2 million each year for tourism-related programs, according to a county breakdown. A majority of the total revenue, 62.5 percent, would go to Visit Frederick marketing and operations.

The remaining funds would be divided between an existing grant program, a new grant program for municipal Main Street enhancements and a new destination-based program that would promote community events, agritourism, and other economic development and tourism projects.

The state legislature authorized the county to implement a hotel tax in 2004 and gave county government the authority to raise the rate to a maximum of 5 percent.

An increase to 5 percent would still leave Frederick County’s hotel tax among the lowest in the state.

For fiscal 2016, hotel tax rates in the state ranged from a low of 3 percent (Frederick and Cecil counties) to a high of 9.5 percent (Baltimore City). The counties that border Frederick had rates equal to or higher than the proposal: Montgomery’s rate was 7 percent, Washington County was set at 6 percent and Carroll’s rate was 5 percent.

A bill by Republican members of the Frederick County delegation that would have frozen the tax rate at 3 percent was introduced during the 2016 General Assembly session, but failed to gain traction.

The Frederick County Council is scheduled to vote on the bill at its Aug. 30 meeting.

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.

(66) comments

DeDeuceCoupe32

What happened to the Jan fan club. Why would Gardner Make a decision that wouldn't benefit her constituents. This is what leaders do, lead from the front.

rbtdt5

She's getting a kick back.

KellyAlzan

Free food from Roy's for life

Hammer

Why would we double the Tourism Council's funding with no presentation of what the funds will be used for? What is the ROI on Tourism? Will another Millon dollars bring another 100,000 visitors? Salary increases fro the Tourism Director?

Hammer

There is quite a high likelyhood that the proposed DHCC will actually promote the decline of downtown business as a few years pass and it fails to perform well. Then it depresses the local economy and seeks furtehr public funds to be input into its failing money pit.

gary4books

I would want to fund even a small chance to help our downtown businesses. Why not?

petersamuel

Richard Griffin is a shameless shyster, saying the City is "making sure the conference center is protected as a public investment..." It is a City gift to the developer. It is a public investment only in the sense that it is being paid for with public money. The conference center is being designed by Plamondon's architects to Plamondon's requirements, and it would be an integral part of the Plamondon hotel building. It is to be controlled by Plamondon, which would book events there, and collect the revenue. Contrary to Griffin's Orwellian language it is not being "protected" in any way. It is simply being given to the developer for his use as part of his business. Fortunately the conference center is most unlikely to ever get built because the developer has located it where the Birely Tannery building stands. The City's Historic Preservation Commission would flatly contravene their Historic District Guidelines if they approved a demolition. Representing the last remnant of a major industry on the creek for over a century the Tannery building is clearly of historical significance. Such buildings are only ever approved for demolition when they are so deteriorated as to be unrepairable. The Birely brickwork including the spectacular smokestack is in excellent condition and repairs to the roof and windows are very doable. Griffin's conference center will never be built there. P Samuel

BstD59

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

bicep42

Was there any mention of how this would affect the local homeless population, who are frequently housed in hotels by social service agencies and private charities? This means that they will be able to help fewer of our most vulnerable citizens, including children.

Jane and Ed

I brought it up as part of my comment. Yes, these increased room taxes will hurt those who need a break the most, while gifting the Plamondons with a 25 year exemption from contributing fairly to tourism.

KellyAlzan

And was there any mention of how this would bring bedbugs to all the beds on Patrick street???

gary4books

You sy this again and again, as if it had merit.

DickD

"Randy Cohen, owner of the FSK Holiday Inn, said his business pays about 20 percent of the county’s hotel tax revenue each year. He called the hotel tax bill “very harmful” to other county hoteliers because one business would get an advantage in paying down its debt." I agree with Randy, raise the tax rate, if you must, but none must go to the Ranall/Plamomdom scheme to raid and scam out taxes.

Jane and Ed

If this is ever done, the State debts incurred by the Downtown Hotel hinge upon the false premise of "induced demand". In order to meet its projections it must get 52,600 brand new customers a year without vampirism from the other hotels/conference centers in Frederick county. At the current room tax rate, 3%, Frederick would be more likely to induce conferences. Raising this tax will make Frederick less competitive to conference planners.
Raising this room tax will cost the least fortunate. For example, charities like SHIP that spend thousands at low price county hotels to help desperate families by housing them temporarily. I personally would rather see my donation to homeless kids go toward more to eat, an extra pair of shoes,or school supplies, than to an extra room tax for Tourism to dole out in whatever ways they choose.

The biggest problem with this tax is not that it raises the hotel room tax rate, it's that if the county votes to approve it, the tax will not be applied evenly to all hotels. The Downtown Hotel and Conference center will NOT be contributing it's fair share to Tourism, while hotels outside the quarter mile radius of the City will. That means it exempts Plamondon. The Hotel proponents already want 31 Million in Public Funding frim city, county and State sources, but if this bill passes, this one hotelier gets to take 85% of the tax he collects and pay down the debt he incurs for 25 years, while the full tax collecredit by all other hotels pays to promote Plamondon new Downtown Hotel some more. Already the city and county, Tourism and Downtown Frederick Partnership have paid over 70K to lobbyists to promote the Plamondon owned hotel and conference center. Already the City has spent about 1.5 Million in pre-development fees for the Plamondon owned hotel and conference center, all the while claiming no tax dollars are being spent. This came out of the CIP. It is real. This tax, applied unevenly is unfair to other local hotels as it advantages Plamondon enormously with another "public funding" source for 25 years.

DickD

Good analysis, Jane, thank you.

KellyAlzan


Good analysis, Jane, thank you.

BlueDawn666


I agree with Mr. Cohen this isn't fair for his hotel and the other hotels to support the DHCC...how does this make logical sense and why would any hotel owner agree with this:

Richard Griffin, the city’s director of economic development, said the hotel tax will support $3.5 million in debt payments for the conference center for the 25 years the agreement covers....so unfair to the hotels that were built without public dollars to have to support one that is...how can anyone be okay with this, hotel owners and the tax payers? We are supporting the DHCC from the front end from the back end and from the middle with our tax dollars..we will forever be supporting the DHCC with our tax dollars.

If the DHCC was actually going to make money hand over fist the Plamondon's would have already built it....they are smart business people who rake in 20 million dollars a year in revenues..and yet we are to believe that they are so incompetent that they need public money to help them build a successful business..REALLY? So either we are to believe that they have suddenly become idiot business people or this is the biggest incident of government corruption that has ever been pulled in Frederick? I thought what Blaine did was bad but boy this takes the cake.

Ask yourselves why do the Plamondon's need corporate welfare? Remember they rake in 20 million dollars in revenues a YEAR...so they can't afford to finance this project on their own? Well they could right? They haven't because they know they can never turn a profit...see proof that we are being scammed.....

Griffin said the city is making sure the conference center is protected as a public investment, which will spur economic development in the county...and this is spurring of economic growth is all based on bogus reports..that we the taxpayers paid for.

There is absolutely NO GUARANTEE that the DHCC will spur anything at all in the way of "economic" growth..what it will spur is a GUARANTEED need for our tax dollars to continually support it....Richard Griffin just said so...

For the actual real truth about the DHCC please visit these Face Book pages and become an informed taxpayer. You deserve to understand just what your tax dollars are paying for when it come to the DHCC..and remember you are paying for something that you are very likely NOT EVER going to use.

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

The Frederick Chronicles
https://www.facebook.com/The-Frederick-Chronicles-489681077776883/

threecents

"No money from other hoteliers would be funneled to any proposed downtown hotel project in the county, according to the agreement." I think that statement is flawed, as it appears the other hotels are paying the taxes for the "downtown hotel project." I think the best way to handle this is to either reduce that 85% to 50% or get the money from a different tax, assuming out tourism council really needs it.

gary4books

I do not see that Mr. Cohen pays 20% of the tax. Rather it seems that his customers pay the tax. Also, I see his business coming from drivers on the highways and that he will not get much competition from a hotel that is miles away. Most just pull off the road and look for a place to stay that is near the highway.

Perhaps some studies could clear this up for me and the others who decide the issue.

KellyAlzan

Exactly, that's the whole issue.

KellyAlzan

If jan continues to support this proposed hotel tax, I will start an online campaign to support Kirbie for the upcoming county executive seat.

I was successful with my campaign in ensuring Ba'Lane got the boot. I will be successful in ensuring that Jan gets the boot, too.

Mark my words.

pickrellfamily

So you'll support Blaine v2.0 just to get back to Jan?

KellyAlzan

Nice twist. Jan is making her own bed. Jam is putting the county in alignment for Kirbie to achieve a victory. By her poor decsioon(s).

Kirbie is 2-0. He has won all his campaigns thus far.

threecents

How is that a twist?? Kirby is Blaine V.2.

DickD

3 and you are out, Kelly.

pickrellfamily

*back at Jan

BstD59

Really, Kelly? Really? Wow, you just lost all credibility with me. You would actually vote for a loser like Kirby who would destroy everything Frederick stands for over a hotel tax? Wow. Just wow.

KellyAlzan

You're missing my point.

KellyAlzan

Jan was not elected because people were impressed with her.

Jan was elected because Ba'Lane secured her the election.

With Jan doing stuff like this, she is securing Kirbie the win.

You folks think Kirbie is dumb. He is not dumb. Billie is the dumb one of the bunch. Kirbie is the angry one, but not the dumb one.

DickD

Kelly, you can argue all day long who is the dumbest, Billy or Kirby, but we still do not want Kirby under any circumstance.

BstD59

No, Kelly, I'm not missing your point. Personally I strongly oppose a downtown hotel, especially if it is funded in any way by the taxpayers. This is an issue I disagree with Jan on, but to say I won't vote for her over this one disagreement is childish at best. So far, in my opinion, Jan had done an outstanding job, and I don't know of one leader, Democrat or Republican who never had half of their constituents disagree with them over one thing or another. But a smart, informed voter reviews everything before making a decision of whom they will vote for. To claim that Jan is giving votes to Kirby over this one issue is absurd.

KellyAlzan

Ba'Lane could have had the CE seat. he had it in the bad, in the early beginning. some of his decisions / actions cost him the job.

The next election isn't going too be so easy for Jan (if she wants the job).

I would like to see Jan remain the CE.

Why would she support taking tax revenue to support a private business? That's exactly what Ba'Lane did with the nursing homes.

Its not what people who support Jan what to hear, but its true.

supporting common sense Issues like this (using tax from hotel A to pay for Hotel D), and you can bet its going to cost her votes.

Rose will win the school board.

And if Jan wants to renew her CE seat - its going to be different animal next round.

Raise the hotel taxes all you want. But don't you dare use a dime to pay for the Plamandoons venture; use the money for police, fire, rescue, and / or education.

jthompson

I wouldn't go that far. I'm a very poor Republican. I won't pull the lever against someone simply because I don't agree with them 100% on every issue. It is very likely that my party will nominate a candidate for County Exec who will want to bulldoze and pave the county over from the Mouth of the Monocacy to the Mason-Dixon Line. It is therefore very likely that I will support Jan for a second term, assuming she chooses to seek one.

BstD59

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

KellyAlzan

Pretty sure there will be a dozer or two at the hotel site. Via money from the state of Maryland. Aka: tax payer dollars.

At least when Natalli dozes from one end to the other - it's with his own money, Mr Thompson.

jthompson

Not quite all his $$$. Most developers must finance the costs of infrastructure (water, sewer, roads, etc.) "up front" via market rates of taxable interest and hope the eventual sale of lots will bring in enough to cover the infrastructure costs and a fair profit. In the case of Urbana, the County (w/o my support) facilitated millions of $$$ in low-interest, tax free loans paid by lot purchasers.

gary4books

I do.

BlueDawn666

Kelly I can understand why you are upset.....but Kirby is not the answer.. Let's wait and see who is going to run for CE and go from there...[wink]

This may spur some others to throw their hats into the ring...there are a lot of angry taxpayers out there...

phydeaux994

Boy, aren't you full of yourself and other things this morning? Taking credit for ousting Blaine? By yourself? You would campaign for Kirby Delauter? When did you start hating Frederick County? Boo, hiss!!??

KellyAlzan

just drawing attention to the issue. people love drama.

Many are very angry that Jan is supporting this. Including myself

rbtdt5

And many are not angry

des21

You may think that you are powerful somehow but there is no way that KB will ever be elected for anything beyond his current position. In fact, I doubt he'd get re-elected to that. Like Trump, his self-inflicted wounds have utterly damaged his "brand."

"Mark my words." LOL [beam]

des21

Sorry, KD.

tonyc51

I must say, you do have a high opinion of yourself Kelly.

KellyAlzan

confidence

Thewheelone

Ba'lane did enough for himself to ensure his demise; Kelly, I think you have an inflated view of your influence on politics around here. True, you did strike chords against the Blaine crew, but I don't think Jan will be quaking in her boots at your threat to unseat her.

KellyAlzan

she will unseat herself. and I don't want that to happen. if she continues to support foolish stuff like this proposed hotel tax - she will unseat herself.

Jan may very well not want the CE seat. That's fine. My concern is that she will make it easy for KD or the like.

richardlyons

Quite a claim being responsible for Blaine's ouster. I guess the voters had nothing to do with it.

armillary

Kelly always tells us so.

bmclearen

I wonder if Blaine will get any support at all if he is allowed to run for office after his coming conviction on 4 prostitution charges.

jthompson

My good friend and former colleague and I had honest policy differences on the wisdom and desirability of the hotel tax and the uses for the funds generated by it. We continue to have those differences. On its face, the proposal INCREASES the tax rate from 3% to 5% for all hoteliers. However, the side agreement with the Tourism Council effectively DECREASES the rate of the tax imposed on the DHCC to 0.75% (5% nominal rate less 85% rebate = 0.75% effective rate). There would be no economic difference if the proposal simply provided for two (2) different rates, namely, 0.75% for the DHCC and 5% for everyone else. In form, the proposal appears to assuage the concerns of the other hoteliers about their tax $$$ subsidizing the DHCC. In substance, is creates an equally inequitable difference in the effective tax rates paid by the DHCC and other hoteliers.

KellyAlzan

John, no need to address the subject by referring to jan as your good friend and former colleague. In law school they teach to stick to the facts and leave out personal emotions.

jthompson

Those are the facts.

KellyAlzan

Correct they are. the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Would you point that out, too?

Burgessdr

Fundamentally flawed argument. Funds going to conference center are supporting tourism. Conference attendees are mainly overnight visitors spending $300 per day.

KellyAlzan

For that to happen, the conference center would need to have full bookings. Which, so far nothing points to there being a market in Frederick that will ensure that.

We do not have Amish people and Amish farms - we have villages of Urbana and Latinos.

We do not have scenic historic rivers surrounded by national park - we have a man made concrete lined creek.

So, fundamentally.....

tonyc51

Kelly, while I do not believe that the DHCC is unnecessary, and will be a drain on city resources ( much as the new Hargett Farm park) I must say I think you underestimate the beauty of Frederick and surrounding areas.

tonyc51

Meant to say the DHCC is unnecessary, sorry for the typing problem

gary4books

Why don't you like Latinos? You do not even like Frederick.

DeDeuceCoupe32

KA is a business owner. That would be considered discrimination. 11 million employed illegal immigrants, yet not one employer admits to having one on payroll illegally. Its the new democratic way when that is considered good honest competition against businesses that comply with Fed. immigration laws and not conceding to crooked loopholes. Don't see any difference here in Jans assessment of the new tax.

KellyAlzan

Deuce makes a good point😉

Which leads me to wonder how would a biz owner know who is not legal? Do non-legal employees talk with a lisp or limp wrist? What are the indicators?

An employee is required to obtain certain documentation from all employees, whether white, brown, or black. Anythibg beyond that is out of our jurisdiction

jthompson

Advocates of transfers of wealth from the public coffers to private pockets often justify the transfers via talking points that can neither be objectively proven or disproven. The taking points made by Mr. Griffin "spur economic development" and the Mayors "local economic development" are examples.

petersamuel

This ridiculous, endless City project has been blocking economic development downtown for eight years now. Investors wanting to build smaller, practical hotels downtown have been repeatedly told they aren't wanted because the City's project will take care of the demand. Those who want to proceed anyway cannot get bank finance because of fear the City project might actually get built and open 200 rooms at rates that will undercut any private enterprise. Eight years have gone by now and plans have not even been submitted for Historic Preservation Commission approval. Millions have been spent on mediocre consultants, studies and lobbying. A sham competed procurement has been revealed and serious legal matters could intrude. The sooner this disgraceful boondoggle is killed the better for the City's economic development and its damaged reputation. P Samuel

BlueDawn666

Peter that is what Lennie is saying...it is ridiculous and it is being sold to us the taxpayers as spurring economic development and local economic development....something that cannot be proved or disproved..thinking that the average taxpayer will not think deeper about it ..guess they must think we are all Trump supporters, unwilling to think past our noses..they thought wrong.

gary4books

Some projects are difficult to fund because they benefit many local businesses while no single person gets rich. Public funding is the answer and the results will be obvious to all the local shops. It will not be a mystery. The mystery will to find a person who thought it was a bad idea to have a hotel downtown.

Jane and Ed

That's a great way to explain it.

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