Exchange with Senator Ron Young on his Facebook page

Ron Young: Regarding the Frederick Hotel and Conference Center: It is not a special interest project. The City of Frederick’s Comprehensive Plan included hotels and a conference center on Carroll Creek in the mid-1980s and as well as the current 2010 Comprehensive Plan. These projects have been in the works for decades for the betterment of the City of Frederick, Frederick County, and the State of Maryland.

It’s not free money.

Current funding from the State is NOT for the hotel and only covers 52% of the total Conference Center costs. The public bond funding for the Conference Center will be repaid from the increase in tax revenues generated by the Conference Center.

This is not corporate welfare. The capital improvement funds in the budget are for investment within the State of Maryland to support tax revenue generating projects.

This is not money coming from schools, that’s a separate funding area in the budget. This project is not taking money away from non-profits or other agencies, that is a separate budget funding area. The Conference Center bond is Maryland investing in Maryland. If this money is not spent locally in Frederick County, it WILL be spent to fund other capital improvement projects in another part of the State of Maryland that will not benefit the residents of Frederick County.

Peter Samuel
Senator: this is so, so silly. By your definition anything that gets stuck in a politicians’ precious comprehensive plan, and is in the works for decades, is for the betterment of the city, the county, and the state.

Maybe politicians eager to spend other people’s money and eager to garner campaign contributions aren’t the best judges of the kind of hotel we need.

Maybe sometimes politicians just want to reward their generous friends with ‘public support’ (read ‘corporate welfare.’) And the fact that the hotel is ‘in the works for decades’ might just mean that it makes no sense, and that we should try a different approach.

Too big

Maybe downtown Frederick doesn’t need a 207 bed hotel with multiple in-house restaurants and bars and 600 person ballrooms, exclusively ‘upscale’ when our visitors come from across the income spectrum.

Just maybe this project is mismanaged when eight years after the first consultant report its cost has doubled, and the call for public subsidy has trebled, while it has still not been able to generate plans needed to begin an application for City permits.

Maybe the fact that three state agencies, the Stadium Authority, MEDCO and DHCD have each declined to support the project is sending us a message about how it looks to the experts. Or that the City’s financial consultants Municap have valued the project on opening at $30m while it is proposed to spend $84m.

Maybe it was not so smart of the City to choose a site that includes two historic buildings, both determined by the state preservation regulators to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Isn’t that asking for a years long drag-down, knock-out fight with historic preservationists over demolition of historic buildings.

Might it not be better to follow the example of Annapolis and let entrepreneurially minded people repurpose existing buildings or build on vacant lots and risk their own money, rather than the taxpayers’. That way citizens would have some say, and we’d likely get a rich array of different kinds of lodging facilities, more modest in size, and more suited to the historic district than the City-sponsored Marriott monopoly.

Senator, I always admired your work as Mayor to create the Carroll Creek flood control conduits and the splendid canal and promenades — a great public work for which you will long be remembered with admiration. It is sad to see you now reduced to promoting the squalid boondoggle of a state sponsored hotel.

Ron Young
If you had any understanding of what makes a downtown work or cared for the future of Frederick you would get off of this ego trip and work for something positive. I had to deal with uniformed negative people on everything I did to bring Frederick back.

The(re) is always a handful of people without vision who get their thrill out of opposing things rather than contributing. I was told
(i)f I did Carroll Creek I would lose the next election. I did. Knowing that I would do it again. I feel the same way about the Hotel- Conference Center.

Mayor McClement & Board of Aldermen

We are not funding the Hotel. The funds are for the conference center. I know that you know that as well as you know that a lot of the information you spread is not accurate. If you feel that you need to be an obstructionist then be an honest one.

The taxes generated at the complex will pay the State back. It will create hundreds of new jobs and will spur a great deal of economic development around it. The Creek and the development planned around it were well

Thought out plans that we started in the 80’s with some of the best planners and developers in the country. They were good plans then and are still good today. Thankfully I believe most people today realize it.

You helping a greedy owner of another hotel owner are doing a good job. Of poisoning a all group of peoples minds. Think of the good you might do if you turned your energies towards something useful.

Peter Samuel
Senator, you are the one spreading misinformation. You write: “We are not funding the hotel. The funds are for the conference center.”

That is not what your capital budget bill says. It reads: “Downtown Frederick Hotel and Conference Center. Provide a grant of (at one point $1m, then other grants to the tune of $16m total) to the Mayor and Board of Aldermen of the City of Frederick for the acquisition, planning, design, construction, repair, renovation, and reconstruction of the Downtown Frederick Hotel and Conference Center…” The law you yourself are finagling through the General Assembly, bypassing the regular appropriations committees and avoiding public debate, explicitly recognizes the hotel and conference center as a single entity. If your intentions were only to fund a conference center as you claim, then why wouldn’t your bill specify that the state grants were for the conference center alone, and was conditional on separate ownership and accounts from the hotel.

Senator, you know full well that Mayor & Board of Aldermen under Randy McClement has always refused to take responsibility for a conference center insisting that it be built and run as an integral part of the hotel business. This was laid down in the 2014 procurement of the hotelier (RFP 14J) and was written into the December 2015 MOU/contract with the City.

Please cease your futile effort to mislead, Senator. Your bill does NOT fund a conference center. The bill you push directs state money to an integrated hotel and conference center business proposed to be operated by a developer selected in a sham competed procurement. Corporate welfare is too gentle a term for what you are complicit in supporting, senator.

Second, you mislead, Senator, in claiming that taxes generated will “pay the state back.” Only viable businesses pay taxes and this is not a viable business. Conferences are hugely oversupplied with conference buildings. Few make money, most stagger on taking hotel tax revenues and even general fund appropriations.

Frederick is poorly located compared to existing, mostly financially marginal, conference centers in the Washington/Baltimore metro area. Hotel experts say the hotel portion of the City project is flawed in that 207 rooms is too large for the market, that making it exclusively ‘upscale’ as specified by the City misreads the market, and the site is too small and awkward of access from the interstates.

Senator, jobs, payrolls, follow-on developments, and tax revenues all depend on the viability of the business. That in turn depends on where consumers spend their $s. Even at a successful downtown hotel/CC the $s they spend will be $s they do not spend at competing establishments, which then support fewer jobs, smaller payrolls and lower tax revenues. That is why studies find such boondoggle projects at best cause jobs, payrolls and taxes to be moved around. They rarely have any net positive impacts. They do corrupt local politics and hobble our economy with more public debt.

Third, you mislead in suggesting this $31m City, County and State support is necessary to have a hotel downtown. The City government hotel effort, now in its eighth year is so badly mismanaged, it has missed so many deadlines, it has chosen such a poor site, it faces overwhelming opposition on historic preservation grounds and for its traffic and parking issues, it will only break ground, if ever, after huge strife and further years of delay.

Meanwhile this threat of a behemoth hotel complex underwritten by tens of millions of public funds kills the private financing of more personal, self-financing lodging facilities —B&Bs and smaller hotels (plural.)

Birely Tannery

Senator, a monopoly Marriott of big box store proportions is simply not good for downtown historic Frederick. We’ll attract more visitors and more follow-on development, I suggest, by allowing local entrepreneurs to cater to variety of tastes and budgets in lodging by repurposing empty buildings and constructing new on empty sites, but not on this site. The mega-project that you want to shower with state money requires demolition of the Birely Tannery and half of the historic trolley building, and proposes to substitute a massive 5-story building of dubious financial viability. It’s a dud, and it won’t fly.

NOTE: This is as posted to Senator Young’s Facebook page except that it is given paragraph breaks and editorial corrections not in the original. I tried to focus on the Senator’s more serious errors, but there are so many it is impossible to pick up on them all, and keep a comment to a reasonable length. Being lectured as being on an ‘ego trip’ is rich, coming from a politician who just loves a podium! 2017.04.01

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