Notes for hotel skeptics meeting#3 2016.05.23

List of objections to this project

— it’s a boondoggle

— use of $31m of public money (state, county and city) to subsidize one City selected business in competition with others that self-finance

— danger of ongoing city taxpayer obligations through city purchase of the land for the developer, city selection of the sites, city specifications for the hotel in the RFP, city choice of the developer,  conference center called public infrastructure, state insistence that City take responsibility for operating costs and losses (HB1474/SB1308)

— repeated official promises that taxpayers “not on the hook”

— ‘sold’ with hype, spin & pseudo-science, incessantly repeated nonsense about the big spenders it will attract, jobs, revenues, supposed ‘catalytic’ effects

— cost and risk have been added by the City’s selection of sites and by its specifications in the RFP,  insistence on 200+ rooms, and full service (indoor pool, gym, business center, redundant extra restaurants, bars, cafes….. and the conference center)

— government-sponsored convention/conference centers “always lose money” (John Fieseler, GOP Club 2016-05-12) “There’s no money in the conference center” Plamondon official 2015-12-03 during M&B discussion.

show the bar chart of red projects

— yet we have no forecasts of how much it will lose

— record of loser CC projects: Baltimore, Ocean City, Chesapeake Cambridge, Rocky Gap in MD Lancaster PA like Frederick (“There’s a glut, they are overbuilt.”)

— special interests (Chamber of Commerce, Major Employers Group) have driven this project from the very beginning

“…I’d like to invite Elizabeth Cromwell to speak because this project had its genesis at the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce. The Major Employers Group of this organization really kicked this off.”  Richard Griffin director City Department of Economic Development speaking before Mayor & Board of Aldermen Dec 3 2015

COMMENT: Business fully entitled to conference centers and hotel facilities it needs but IT HAS NO RIGHT to ask taxpayers to fund

— process of City sponsorship is so tortuous, longdrawn out

“I’ll never forget like it was yesterday picking up the Frederick News Post (in 2005) announcing the funding of the Interstate 70 interchange project where it was federal dollars and building the East Street Extension as a means to get into our beautiful city. And I called Richard (Griffin) and I said: “(W)e can start talking about a downtown hotel.”  Pete Plamondon, at City celebration of state money 2016-04-13)

— cozy relation between Plamondon the chosen developer and leading City official

COMMENT: They’ve been talking ever since.

— eleven years after Pete Plamondon talked, there have been consultations, studies, presentations, discussions, the City site selection, Coronation of Plamondons, begging expeditions to Annapolis, coniditional grants and loans

– but there is still no agreed financial plan, no plans submitted for City permitting, no planning commission or historic preservation review, no published traffic impact study, difficult cost sharing agreement with county and state just starting

— this heavily subsidized mega-hotel project is a great wet blanket over entrepreneurship in lodging downtown, and has deterred normal investment

— bad site chosen requiring removal of last century-old tannery buildings, hazardous contamination undetermined, difficult traffic access, heavily constrained site

— project faces uphill battle to obtain City permits from Planning Commission and Historic Preservation Commission

Unreported news

— taxpayer funding  of lobbyist to defeat opposition, City paid $13.5k, Tourism Council $2.5k toward Chamber of Commerce effort

— Cost increase of >20% $44m to $53m in Plamondon portion of the project

2016.05.23

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