A meandering Hotel project changes course — perhaps to face facts & cut fat

The City’s downtown hotel project has always been something of a meandering mess. It is now changing course. cityoffred

1. The multi-party MOU or City sponsored concept for the project — how it is to be financed, owned and operated — has failed after only being endorsed by County government, and then only tenuously by 4 votes to 3.

Maryland Stadium Authority wants no more to do with the Frederick project. Another supposed ‘partner’ MEDCO “tabled” the City draft, its executive director Robert Brennan (despite buying into the idea of a DH&CC) saying the board decided not look at it again until the City provides more information, and ensures it is working along with other state agencies.

Even developer Plamondon hasn’t signed onto the Griffin MOU.

2. Chair of the Frederick County delegation to Annapolis Delegate Kathy Afzali says the downtown hotel project is “dead” and  that “the City is in denial.” She told City officials in a meeting yesterday morning (Nov 17) in City Hall it was “time to lay the project to rest.” A similar line was pursued by Senator Michael Hough and Republican Delegates Barrie Ciliberti, David Vogt, and William Folden.  Kathy Afzali is quoted in the Frederick News-Post (FNP) as promising: “If it comes forward in its same format, we will continue to kill it.” The Governor too is opposed to state funding, Afzali says.

3. Democratic delegates Karen Lewis Young, Carol Krimm and Senator Ron Young remain supporters of the City project. Krimm was quoted in the FNP: “I’m not going to walk away from it. It’s too important.”

But they express some frustration with the City’s handling of the project. Krimm had reached a solid understanding with MSA reflected in HB1474 under which that state agency would finance a City-owned conference center but not a privately owned hotel and conference center complex. That went down in flames because Mayor McClement insisted, in contradiction of HR1474, that the City would not own, run, our accept any financial risk on the conference center.

Senator Ron Young doubts the state will fund the project unless the City is willing to “step up,”  he told the FNP, and take ownership of the conference center. The City can’t expect to go on year after year asking for project support, Young says, being quoted: “If it isn’t worked out this year, it’s probably dead for a long time.”

4. The project continues to change its colors chameleon-like. The FNP quotes the City’s project manager Richard Griffin as saying the “scope of the project may change… if costs exceed anticipated funding” which he emphasized was provided for in his multi-party MOU.

Hopefully this means a major scale-back of the project — reducing the rooms to perhaps 120, reducing or eliminating the conference center, reducing the need for car-parking and for upsetting traffic patterns nearby.

5. The biggest question: Will the City and County be able to maintain political support for the project in their own constituencies if the state has withdrawn?

Or if contrary to repeated reiterations the City has to take ownership? 2016.11.18

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