A back-&-forth in the Comment section of the Frederick News-Post 2016.10.26

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It began with a critical comment by me on the Frederick News-Post’s slanted backgrounding sentence in a report on the hotel project.

Samuel: It is seriously misleading (of the Frederick News-Post) to say that $31 million of state, county and city funds will cover “public parts of the project.” About $16m of this $31m in fact goes to the conference center which is to be an integral part of the hotel, controlled, managed and operated by the hotel owner at the hotel owner’s expense but with the hotel owner booking events and pocketing all event fees. The hotelier will also have a monopoly on catering services. The only ‘public’ aspect is a City entitlement to a few free days use and 10 percent of any net conference center profits.

There is to be a condominium-type agreement to have the state financier MEDCO ‘own’ the conference center and lease to the hotel owner for a token rent, but for all intents and purposes the $16m will be taxpayers gifting a private conference center to the hotelier as an adjunct to the hotel.

Plans are still vague on parking but about $10m of public money is set aside for parking space onsite. Much of that will apparently go for a parking basement under the hotel so public money will be building all the pilings, the foundation slab and the columns supporting the hotel. If this was a financially viable project public expenses would be limited to about $5 million offsite work on upgrading utilities and the adjacent streets, sidewalks and connections to the Carroll Creek promenades. P Samuel

Donald Burgess: As usual (Samuel) your comments are terribly confused. On one hand you say Plamondon will have a monopoly and get rich pocketing all the money. On the other hand, you also say there is no demand for the hotel and conference center and it will go belly up. So which is it? Will it be highly successful, or fail miserably?

You say it will be a traffic nightmare, but also say it will fail. Huh huh huh? If it fails there will be no traffic. You complained when Plamondon would own conference center, now you are complaining that they will not own it.

Your silly arguments are like ping pong balls randomly bouncing all over the place.

Samuel: Mr Burgess, this project is highly speculative, meaning it could well be very successful for Plamondon or it could go belly up. Either way it will take business, jobs and tax revenues away from investor-financed competitors, and cost $31 million of upfront public money. My complaint has never been that Plamondon owned the conference center but that it was being financed with taxpayer money. That remains the case.

‘Ownership’ is a legal technicality when longterm contracts allow the conference center property to be operated by the hotelier as an integral part of his business at a token rent. It remains a $16m gift by taxpayers to Plamondon’s business.

Burgess:  Samuel, you are changing your story again and again. You have repeatedly ad nauseum claimed there is no market for the hotel and conference center and that it is guaranteed to fail. You say MSA bailed because they are convinced it will fail. You say MEDCO involvement guarantees it will fail. Oh what a tangled web you weave when first you practice to deceive.

Samuel: Burgess, I have said we should be concerned about possible failure because $31m of public funds are going to the project and because City sponsorship and City ownership of the land puts City ‘on the hook’ to keep it open with ongoing subsidies if it is failing.

As to MEDCO it has a two for two failure rate (Rocky Gap and Chesapeake) with hotel conference centers. Why handicap the Frederick project further with these people as project managers and owners representatives? It’s crazy.

I’ve never presumed to know the future sufficiently to “guarantee” any outcome… heck no, I’ll guarantee you this is going to cost taxpayers more the longer the downtown hotel farce goes on.

Fredmd1704: (Samuel) You do not speak for the majority.

Samuel: Fredmd1704, I think a majority oppose taxpayer subsidies for a business. I think a majority want to see a revival of the downtown including hotels and would prefer those hotels to (be) better scaled than the City project to fit into the existing downtown without demolition of historic buildings. I think a majority would like to see hotels that work for  different budgets as opposed to a single ‘upscale’ hotel catering to the rich at $160/night room rates as the City project does. I could be wrong about the majority of course in which case I am happy to express a minority opinion. Majorities are sometimes wrong.

Fredmd1704: Samuel, Have you taken a stroll along the Carroll Creek Linear Park in downtown Frederick recently (that was paid for largely from public funds, i.e, your tax dollars)?

Too bad you weren’t around back then. Perhaps you could have prevented public money from having been wasted on that magnificent anchor to our beautiful downtown.

The next time you ponder a walk, or attending a festival, or wedding, or business grand opening along Carroll Creek, be careful to avoid the appearance of “feeding off the government.”

Samuel: The Carrol Creek Park is an excellent governmental project and a commendable use of public funds. It does a great utilitarian job of averting flood waters underneath while serving as a beautiful public amenity above. As pure public works the Carroll Creek Flood Control and Linear Park is the polar opposite of the City sponsored Downtown Hotel project that is a dirty mix of business and government and is wasteful and damaging to the City. Plus I doubt it will ever get built, though I’m sure in the meantime it is preventing us getting rightsized investor funded hotels downtown.

Actually I came to Frederick (about 25 years ago) when the first stages of the mighty flood control conduits were under construction, and I’ve always been a fan.

joelp77440:  Uh, a majority voted for it . I support the hotel, so in a way, my taxes dollars and representation is working for me.  People have a real hard time understanding democracy.

Samuel: joel77440, Slim majority 4 to 3 in Winchester Hall, Tuesday. In Annapolis in the spring the vote of the state delegation was 5 to 3 against the hotel, and a majority of the house and senate appropriations committees declined to advance the hotel support bills. In the City so far the hotel maintains a (united front), so it’s a mixed picture.

Regardless, democracy allows dissent from majority decisions. I hope City officials will come around to giving up on this project which is so slow and chaotic it is set up for vote after vote after vote. Meanwhile of course nothing actually gets built, or even seems to get close to construction.  (LATER THOUGHT: perhaps there should be a vote of all downtown residents. They have never voted for it.)

Fredmd21704:  (Samuel) enjoy the screw, me other the other hand welcomes a hotel finally in downtown.

Samuel: Seven years have passed since the City’s Incompetents and Hangers-on started this project and they have a lousy site, a hotel plan that doesn’t fit the site, no parking plans, no historic preservation review, no traffic study. A state agency, MSA has bailed on them. They are years away from construction.

Killing this idiocy of a City ‘project’ is needed in order to clear the way for some practical entrepreneurs to design and build a hotel, or preferably hotels, plural ,without tens of millions of taxpayer $s. It is we the citizens who are being screwed under the present scheming and we are NOT getting a hotel.

Burgessdr: The hundreds of businesses that make up the Downtown Partnership and Chamber of Commerce and support the hotel pay millions in taxes each year to the city and provide jobs for thousands. You pay zero, notta, zip, nothing in city taxes and provide no, none, zilch jobs.

Your only contribution is impotent trash talking.

Samuel (wondering how he thinks I get out of paying City taxes): Donald: Actually I do pay City taxes and because quite a chunk of my income goes on those taxes I have that chunk of $s less to spend on groceries, house maintenance, telecom, books and other regular non-government goods and services, and so any jobs my taxes support are offset by jobs NOT created via the grocery store, and in home maintenance, telecom, computer etc. Paying taxes creates government jobs certainly.  After-tax spending creates non-government jobs. The more you pay in taxes and the less you have to spend after tax, the more government jobs you generate and the fewer non-government jobs. “Impotent trash talk” you say. I’ll leave it to others to judge who does that.

Burgessdr: Samuel. You are either confused or are being deceptive. The only financial liabilities will be on Plamondon and bond holders. Zero of your property taxes, sales taxes, income taxes will be involved. In the very unlikey event that Plamondon doesnt pay taxes the bondholders get screwed. No taxpayer dollars invloved. Enough of your nonsense.

Samuel: Burgess, taxpayer dollars are certainly involved. The project has already spent to the tune of several million $s of City and state spending on the many consultant companies, their studies and reports, lobbying and the salaries of City DED employees promoting the project.

The City is presently going for more state grants and setting aside City CIP and parking fund $s. More taxpayer $s. The ‘preauthorization’ of two state capital grants of $7.5m is state taxpayer $s. As to the hotel tax rebates and TIFs they are proposed to create county and city debt — taxpayer debt.

Property tax increments and rebated hotel tax revenues from DH&CC used for debt service will bet at least partly offset by tax decrements elsewhere as business moves from existing establishments to the DHCC.

This is a City designed, City sponsored project, with a City selected developer on City owned land. That puts City taxpayers firmly ‘on the hook’ when it loses money and Plamondon tells us he can’t keep it going without ‘some support’ from the City  or state.

The City is threatened with a huge empty deteriorating embarassing space if it gets foreclosed on. And to the extent bondholders get screwed the City and the County’s fiscal reputation is tarnished, and borrowing for schools, utilities and the like made that much more difficult and costly. Anyone who denies City costs and liabilities is living in la-la land.

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