The candidates running for Frederick mayor and aldermen would be hard-pressed to consider themselves serious contenders without having an opinion on the city’s proposed downtown hotel and conference center.

The 180-room hotel and 20,000-square-foot conference center planned for 200-212 E. Patrick St. along Carroll Creek calls for the use of both public and private dollars, with the city set to contribute a third of the $31 million total in public spending, along with the county and state.

The multimillion-dollar project has been in the works for years and gained significant headway with the reveal of the first design in the spring and a major Historic Preservation Commission vote last month.

Sitting elected officials, along with the members of the economic development, business and tourism communities, fully support city taxpayers helping to foot the bill for land acquisition, site preparation, utilities and on-site public parking for the project. However, other members of the public have expressed opposition to the city’s role as a funding partner.

Summary of thoughts

According to interviews performed with the balloted candidates in a recent series of podcasts by The Frederick News-Post, the majority support the city remaining a funding partner, and all who participated support the downtown hotel overall.

Republican Mayor Randy McClement and his opponent on the ballot, Democratic Alderman Michael O’Connor, both fully support the project and the city’s continued funding support.

O’Connor said he believes the city needs to take a more active leadership role in the project, though.

“We have to be the entity that is clearly and unequivocally leading the charge,” he said. “And I’m just not sure, as I’ve watched this process, that that’s been true. It’s been great that we’ve got these great partners, but I don’t think the public is clear, necessarily, about who is actually the captain of the ship.”

McClement explained that the city came in as a partner when the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce began moving forward with it. Now, he said, city officials are working with the chamber and the other partners to bring the project to fruition, which he said, has been challenging because of the funding uncertainties.

“All of [the partners] had stakes both in input and in financial terms,” McClement said. “So it’s not just the city doing this. This is all these partners working together to make this project go forward. I’d be the first to admit ... that getting the financing was the hardest thing to do.”

Of the nine aldermanic candidates interviewed, all but one — Republican Hayden Duke — said they support the city continuing to serve as a funding partner for the project.

Duke said he was against the taxpayers footing the bill, but he supports the project overall. He explained that giving money to this project would not be fair to other businesses that want to locate downtown and do not receive any financial assistance from the city.

Republican Katie Bowersox, the 10th candidate for the Board of Aldermen, did not respond to requests to participate.

Project status

Members of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission voted in September to allow for demolition of the early 20th-century Birely Tannery building as long as proper historic mitigation efforts are performed.

The vote spearheaded a series of workshops now underway with the commission to go over the project’s design details. Commissioners will eventually approve the design and it will move on to the city’s Planning Commission for final approval.

The Historic Preservation Commission met in a workshop with developers Plamondon Hospitality Partners and architects with Bates Architects on Sept. 28 and discussed plans for the tannery site once the building is demolished. A workshop held Oct. 8 addressed plans for rehabilitating the neighboring Frederick Trolley building, which most recently housed The Frederick News-Post, into a retail site. The commission is set to meet again Thursday at a workshop and continue design discussions.

Also running parallel to the Historic Preservation Commission’s efforts are meetings between the project partners, key stakeholders and local groups that have missions related to preservation of cultural resources, and the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development and Maryland Historical Trust. The meetings are required as part of the Maryland Historical Trust Act of 1985’s consultation process, which requires state agencies to consult with the trust on projects receiving assistance. The downtown hotel project is set to receive money from the Department of Housing and Community Development. Representatives from the department formulated the guest list and invited attendees to the first meeting held Wednesday, which was not open to the public.

Sara Luell, the department’s director of communications, said in an email that representatives of 19 organizations attended the meeting.

“The historic significance of the site and the proposed plans for the project were discussed, and time was provided for attendees to ask questions and provide comments,” Luell said in the email.

Luell also said several ideas for mitigating the site were discussed but time ran out before any decisions were made. In turn, she said that another meeting will be scheduled to further the discussion.

Richard Griffin, the city’s economic development director, occupied one of the seats at the table Wednesday, representing the Department of Economic Development. He said after the meeting that roughly 50 people attended with almost every historic preservation entity in the community represented.

“We had a good conversation about what’s being lost and what’s being done,” he said.

One idea that particularly struck him was from one of the attendees who suggested making the hotel a hub for telling the story of Frederick.

“We can tell a story of history and the hotel can be an important part of how that story is told,” Griffin said. “I thought that was a good idea.”

Overall, he said he thought the meeting went well and that a lot of good information was shared.

“It was well-attended, the people who came were good speakers and presented their thoughts in a real positive way,” Griffin said. “We looked forward to and hoped to get to that level of interaction with stakeholders.”

Follow Mallory Panuska on Twitter: @MalloryPanuska.

(32) comments

birdie

Ever one seems upset about tax money beinging used to funds this. Won't the hotel bring in more revenue and tax money into the county once its built? Seems to me a little investment upfront will payoff in the long run.

rbtdt5

[thumbup]

jthompson

Not really. While you will hear an enormous amount of fanfare from proponents of the deal about how much the DH&CC will pay in taxes through the front door of City Hall, you won't hear anything about how much the DH&CC will get through the back door in the form of tax breaks, tax credits, tax rebates, grants and low interest tax free loans that don't have to be repaid, etc.

joelp77440

[thumbup]

gary4books

[thumbup]

gary4books

This was supposed to be under "Birdie" as for taxes, a Hotel should raise taxes for all the busineses close to the Hotel - not just the one business. "A rising tide floats all boats."

rbtdt5

Of course everyone is for it. It will be great for the city and county.

elymus43

Ask all of the candidates running for office this time "If you were wealthy and had money to invest, would you invest any of your money in hotel/convention center"????

jthompson

Better yet, ask: "Mr./Ms. Candidate, will you require the proponents of the DH&CC to personally guarantee the repayment of all monies invested in the deal by the taxpayers?"

KellyAlzan

Building the hotel is one thing.

Using public dollars is another.

Steering the project so that only the plamamdoons can be involved is where the whole problem lies.

THERE ARE investors, great investors, who can bring this project to fruitation WITHOUT needing / using public dollars.

Go ahead, support and build this hotel. Can't see it from my house. But go back and look for an investor developer that has the funding.

The hotel I'm harpers ferry - 80 million dollars all private money.

The fsk holiday inn, conference center coming - all private money.

gary4books

I expect this headline really concerns you: "Cities Pile on Tax Breaks, Perks to Host New Amazon Headquarters
By: Don Reisinger | October 20, 2017 "

KellyAlzan

This hotel is no different than the Jefferson Tech Park bridge.

gary4books

[smile]

jerseygrl42

very "cute" headline, but at least 1 candidate had the sense to disagree with taking $31 Million of taxpayer money to create additional wealth for two families , Randall and Plamondon, one of whom stated in this paper months ago that the hotel really wasn't a necessity as the surrounding hotels only book at the rate of 67% currently....this project as currently crafted is a disgrace and should be killed...taxpayers have many more important infra-structure challenges to deal with according to Jan Gardner with a price tag of a half Billion dollars due to prior over building allowed by the prior BoCC....lets put that money to work where it belongs

User1

[thumbup][thumbup] and very "misleading" headline also. Where is the survey showing PUBLIC support for the hotel period? Of course there's unanimous support for city funding....Why use private money for a private enterprise? Wonder what the kickbacks are? Just another illogical/illegal use of my tax money.

DickD

[thumbup][thumbup]

elymus43

The voters are left with no choices to voter for, this is a shame. Mr. Thompson is right with his comment. Randy is the best of the mayor candidates. We need all new BOA members. None of the candidates talk about the issues. THE VOTERS NEED TO WAKE UP FOR THIS ELECTION. It's going cost them in higher taxes in the future.

micky

We wring our hands about the lack of turnout at city elections and the answer is in this article ,Except for one, maybe two candidates show me an ounce of difference between them all, AH !!, let's see do I vote for twiddle dee or twiddle dum, or not at all?

gary4books

"Nattering nabobs of negativism."

jerseygrl42

...and we know what happened to him...

Thewheelone

Nice alliteration, Gary![wink]

gary4books

Not mine. Just some history when all the other remarks are such fun to read.

jthompson

Yet another example of the replacement of our economic system from one based on entrepreneurial capitalism (where investors use their own money), guided by the invisible hand of the marketplace, to an economy based on politics (where politicians invest the taxpayers' money), guided by the equally invisible hand of lobbyists, political action committees, campaign contributions and public relations experts. I recognize that my old-fashioned belief that private business enterprises should go to the financial markets for their capital, rather than the government, is out of touch with our modern political economy.

DickD

And the State funding can mostly be blamed on Ron Young![sneaky]

gardenwhimsey

If they want to spend public money to build the hotel, they should put it on the ballot and let the public vote on whether or not we want our money to be used for the benefit of a privately held company.

BstD59

There is nothing wrong with a hotel downtown. There is everything wrong with using taxpayer dollars. Shame on every candidate who supports using public funds for a private enterprise.

User1

Does this mean that since I'm technically a part owner (with my taxes) I get free or discounted stays? Won't hold my breath! If it's OUR money then WE should have a say. Interesting to see the income sources of ALL the county commissioners and elected officials. We need to drain our own swamp!!

Titanman123

Very embarrassing for mike Bowersox that his own daughter is a no-show candidate. He serves on the gop committee even.

Crusty Frederick Man 64

Looks like there is only one honest candidate worthy of voting for. The rest would rather steal from the tax payers to profit a certain group of people. So sad ! [sad]

KellyAlzan

[thumbup]

KellyAlzan

Building the hotel is one thing.

Using public dollars is another.

Steering the project so that only the plamamdoons can be involved is where the whole problem lies.

THERE ARE investors, great investors, who can bring this project to fruitation WITHOUT needing / using public dollars.

Go ahead, support and build this hotel. Can't see it from my house. But go back and look for an investor developer that has the funding.

The hotel I'm harpers ferry - 80 million dollars all private money.

The fsk holiday inn, conference center coming - all private money.

gary4books

"I'm harpers ferry?" OK. Reminds me of the time a person said "Call me a cab." And the reply was "OK. You are a cab."

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