Soon after he first assumed office as mayor at the beginning of 2010, Randy McClement committed the city to sponsorship of a downtown hotel. It was to be a $45 million, three- or four-year project — due to open by the end of his first term or early 2014. Four years later, it is still a three- or four-year project — 2021 or 2022. Meanwhile, the city’s mismanagement of this project has impressed itself on the Maryland Stadium Authority, the Maryland Department of Commerce, the Department of Housing and Community Development, the majority of the state delegation to Annapolis, and Gov. Hogan. All have soured on it.

And rightly so. The city crew in charge has made so many mistakes. They chose the wrong site for a hotel this large. The trolley building, of course, is being kept, but this leaves the site with almost no usable street frontage. This has so far prevented the applicants from working up a permittable site plan, the site plan submitted last November having provoked a scathing list of 25 objections from city planning, engineering and legal staff last December — still not responded to. The cheeky applicants have simply reproduced that no-go site plan as part of a new memorandum of understanding for Board of Aldermen endorsement! The solution seems to be to buy up adjacent properties on Patrick Street. The new project budget shows extra land purchase obligations for the city, but there is no explanation for this. What does it buy? The aldermen are not told, just asked to sign a vague, unworkable plan and a blank check.

From about 2012 through May 2017, we were told that the city had to finance the conference center to the tune of $13.2 million. Even though it was to be run as part of the Plamondon hotel business, the conference center was to be regarded as “public infrastructure” and taxpayer-funded according to the 2015 MOU.

That has all changed. The new MOU provides for Plamondon to fund the conference center, while the city will fund a basement parking garage plus an engineered “podium” or platform on which the hotel and conference center will be built. We are supposed to believe that the cost to the city of the parking garage and podium is to be covered by $11.4 million allotted for “site development” in the MOU budget. With 160 parking spaces, this works out as a cost to the city of over $70,000 per car garaged — almost three times the cost of elevated deck parking. But the city takes on the risks of cost overruns of building an underground garage and the foundation pilings in the muck next to the creek. Not a good deal for taxpayers!

The strongest reason the MOU should not be renewed is that the 2015 deal was a shady insider fix in which the winning proposal was received and presented to insiders at the Hotel Advisory Committee even before the request for proposals was issued. The RFP was faux competition, political theater for the masses. The Board of Aldermen must stop using taxpayer resources to play favorites with cronies. Once that is clear, we’ll get a bunch of self-supporting lodging places downtown — like Annapolis and other cities. Already the Visitation Academy’s new owners propose a hotel without any special city support.

Finally, we have higher priorities for the use of taxpayer money than an “upper, upscale” hotel. The May flooding you reported has cost some $40 million. The 911 system suffers from budget limits. The cops need new premises. Many roads need fixing. What about affordable housing? Surely these established city/county functions need taxpayer funds ahead of a Chamber of Commerce-sponsored hotel.

Peter Samuel

Frederick

(56) comments

petersamuel

The listing of state agencies that have soured on this hotel project should have included MEDCO which stands for Maryland Economic Development Corporation, not Maryland Department of Commerce. P Samuel

dbjanda1

Let's see a Municipal hotel is a sign of socialism rather than capitalism ..

AnotherFineMess

What Donald consistently fails to understand is that the hotel taxes pay for the hotel therefore no hotel taxes go towards the general fund, for 20 years or so it would seem. Assuming it makes a profit. Previous FNP articles revealed the high likelihood that it would not be profitable!

The hotel places a significant additional demand on the infrastructure, road maintenance, police, fire services to the complex, priority snow removal etc. so for 20 years the hotel is NOT paying to support itself only paying off the debt.

So who ends up paying for years of additional tax demand that doesn’t pay for itself? THE TAX PAYERS! And should that place an unrecoverable drain on the budget, taxes will have to go up.

Red taxes, blue taxes, today’s taxes, tomorrow’s taxes... it doesn’t really matter what you call it. If it’s taxes you’re using to pay for the hotel, it’s YOUR TAX DOLLARS!

Burgessdr

What Ned is consistently ignorant of is that by law a maximum of 50% of real estate taxes can be used in tax based financing. And it will be less than that. Whuch means at least $400,000 per year will be going into tje general fund. What he consistently doesnt understand is that Plamondon will pay income taxes to the state and that their employees will pay income taxes and the additional restaurant employees for 50,000 guests per year will also pay income tax. That is about another $200,000 total. And the guests will be paying sales tax on purchases at restaurants, shops entertainment, etc. That's another $250,000. So that makes $959,000, close to a MILLION dollars a year in state income and county city real estate taxes going into the PUBLIC coffers. In addition, the hotel will cost something like $80 milliion to construct and will generate something like another $3 milliion in income taxes on wages and sales tax on materials going into the PUBLIC coffers. At least we forget the hotel will generate 100 jobs at the hotel and another 50 or so for support services plus of course another 100 or so construction jobs. And job generation benefits not just the workers but the public. Is that so hard to understand. Apparently so

gabrielshorn2013

Hotel jobs? Oh please! There will be a few good paying management jobs, and the rest are low paying bellhops, food service, aND cleaning staff.

If this hotel were financially viable, they would not need the taxpayer funded honeypot to mitigate the risk.

des21

I learned some time ago, if you disagree with Don you are a very bad person. It's childish but it seems to be his mode of living. If you pave it they will come Don!

DickD

Gab, no matter what Don says, in his personal attack on you, you are right and if Don had a good remark about the hotel he wouldn't have had to attack you personally.[thumbup][thumbup][tongue][tongue]

KellyAlzan

Let’s keep in mind all the construction trucks fully loaded using the streets to build this. The streets and water lines will be trashed from it. I mentioned this about a year ago and some thought I was stupid,

gabrielshorn2013

Thanks Dick. We all know that Don is charter member of the "wrecked 'um" club. Don is trying to unsuccessfully pull another fast one. We all know that the hospitality industry is notorious for low wages. He uses the term "average". When you add in the high wages of a few hotel management with the minimum wages of belhops, food service and cleaning staff, the "average " wage gets pulled up. What is the median wage of those employees? Better yet, what is the mean wage of a bellhop minus tips? A cook? A cleaning lady?

Don still can't bring himself to admit what is common knowledge. Without the taxpayer funded honeypot, this project never bappens. He cant admit that there is inadequate parking facilities to service this hotel, making guests or current businesses compete for available parking, or schlepping two+ blocks with their bags at night.

Nobody is falling for his lies. Nobody. Troll on Don!

gary4books

You ignore the extra business to local shops and the service to the visitor who may want to stay over a few days. Important considerations to me.

gary4books

So condescending. But they work hard for their money. How about some respect for them?

sofanna

Keep spinning the facts. If raising property taxes happens to fund this ridiculous project, you know darn well those paying the taxes will NOT receive a return on an investment they did not agree to.

gary4books

The plan was to use hotel taxes and some funds from the "stadium authority."

Dwasserba

Looking forward to the Visitation location hotel that never dragged me through its ins and outs and workarounds. I don't even know the names of those involved, in favor or opposed, nothing about their plans in detail or funding. It's madcap how I'm reveling in the void of information.

elymus43

The people need to wake up and see what BOA members and mayor vote for the hotel/convention center, and VOTE them out of office in the next election....

gabrielshorn2013

Unfortunately, those of us who live outside of the city limits do not have that option. I guess they are counting on that.

gary4books

Counting on it? If you are not in the city, why should you have that option?

gabrielshorn2013

Gary, since they are using county and state funds, we are all affected. Therefore we should have some say on how those funds are appropriated.

sofanna

Or, impeach them, get rid of them as elected officials who care nothing about Frederick's reality, just their own legacy.

gary4books

How does a good legacy mean they do not care about Frederick?

gary4books

Why get rid of good people?

DickD

As stated many times here, if this was something guaranteed to make money, it would have been done long ago.  No politics would be needed.  Politics enters the picture when you are trying to get money that is not normally appropriated for private business.  And any private business investing their own money would make a better choice of location, But this was political to get the Plamondons to buy into a sneaky under handed deal that would give more money to the Randalls than they could get by merely selling their old newspaper business.  

gabrielshorn2013

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup] Absolutely agree Dick!

jerseygrl42

Peter, your comments as always are spot-on and the actions by our elected officials to date have been despicable

sofanna

Agree.

Jim Hartley

Jersey, your comment illustrates why your reasoning can't be trusted. Our elected officials are trying to improve our civic life with minimal risk to us taxpayers. They may be wrong, or misguided, or correct, or willing to do something unpopular for the ultimate good of the city. You, on the other hand, seem to enjoy stirring up anger. Not what we need these days.

KellyAlzan

I do not agree with you.

sofanna

You've got to be kidding. Risk is risk and the taxpayers did NOT sign up for this.

richardlyons

Looks like Peters letter is about 12 hours too late. Plamondons got a sweetheart deal. Taxpayers not so much.

des21

I was just going to write that given page 1.

sofanna

The taxpayers always have to pick up the cost the developers should be paying but don't want to. PATHETIC!

gary4books

If we could have a hotel downtown, without any public assistance to get it started, we would have one now. But while the project is not a sure money maker for the investors, it is one that will help local business and bring more people to Frederick. That is a plus and that justifies the use of our public money. It is an "uphill" battle to oppose the hotel project and since all the public elected officials in Frederick have approved , some have to slight t them to make an argument. They are wrong. The Hotel is a good project. We should let it be built.

richardlyons

Totally disagree. Some "uphill" battles are worth waging. This is one. I don't buy the "it's a done deal so get on board" argument you proffer. Some local business may be helped and maybe more touristas will come to Frederick, but perhaps the project will fail. What then? Who is left holding the bag? As always, the taxpayers. As Peter says better to use the public monies to fix roads and other legitimate public works projects, than lining the pockets of the Plamondon family.

sofanna

Exactly! Money that should be spent on SCHOOLS!

gary4books

Spendkng is either productive or it is not. There are no good reasons not to spend on both hotel and schools or neither. If you think that few or no local businesses will benefit from more customers, then oppose the idea. But try not to say "either / or" when that is irrelevant.

gabrielshorn2013

Remember that lesson from Econ 101, “guns or butter” where resources are not unlimited? Our funds are not unlimited Gary.

Burgessdr

As usual, uninformed. The only taxes used for the hotel project will come from the hotel itself. Your logic is twisted. How are taxes from the hotel going to be used for public work project, if the hotel does not get built and hence does not pay any taxes?

gabrielshorn2013

Good lord Don, will you stop trolling with your lies already? !! There is up front taxpayer money being used on this. It has been cut from about $30 million to about $16 million, but it is still there! Read the front page article.

KellyAlzan

how come you're the only one not understanding any of this?

richardlyons

Before popping off should do your homework.

gardenwhimsey

If the city is contributing money, it is coming from our taxes. If the county is contributing money, it is coming from our taxes. If the state is contributing money, it is coming from our taxes...into the pocketbook of the Plamondons. If you want to fund their hotel, write them a check. I prefer my tax money go to upgrade/improve the water plant or schools, etc., and not to further enrich the Plamondons.

KellyAlzan

Don thinks it’s ok for the tax money that the hotel would generate to be used to pay back loans. That’s not a loan. If a self funded person built this, the same tax money would go BACK INTO THE SYSTEM for real use

sofanna

LOOK at the whole picture! There is absolutely NO guarantee that taxpayers are not going to be involved in funding this atrocity.

gabrielshorn2013

Agreed. The county and state have better things to do with their money than support this boondoggle that benefits very few.

gary4books

"Done deal?" Not my argument. I just suggest that if so many elected officials (Not counting those outside the City) like the idea, it may have merit. I do not know Mr. Cohen, but he has paid agents to fight the deal. How many who object so strongly get paid to do so? I would be surprised if any are paid. But I was surprised to see Russian agents in our elections. Who knows?

nbouqu1

The academic literature is clear, these projects do NOT bring additional tourists in.

sofanna

This project is SUPPOSED to benefit the City of Frederick. Let their taxes be raised, not the County who get ZERO benefit from this project and will probably end up paying for the failure.

Another "legacy building" gone amok.

Jim Hartley

Please provide multiple citations from the academic literature. I'm persuadable if the data are good. High impact journals are of course preferable.

gabrielshorn2013

One word...Google. pick your appropriate reference from the query response.

gary4books

Why? Who would write an academic paper on a Frederick Hotel? Who indeed?

Jim Hartley

Please share your query terms. I prefer Google Scholar. Or even better, is there a Wikepedia article that illuminates the issues? Just plain Google is far too trollable in my experience.

gardenwhimsey

Why would we want to bring more people to Frederick? The roads are already clogged. The prices for housing have been driven up by the influx of people from Montgomery County making it difficult for those born and raised here to be able to afford to live in our hometown.

Jim Hartley

Good points, Whimsey. But don't expect them to have much influence, "greed is good" has been the mantra since Ronald Reagan.

gary4books

Not more people. They are already here. But those who stay late or visit "tasting rooms" may need an overnight stay and this will meet their needs.

KellyAlzan

Gary, you obviously are not a business man

gary4books

Thank you for sharing.

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