Hotel bombs out in 2019 session — no delegation vote on seeking State-$s as legislative session winds down

The Downtown Hotel project looks most unlikely to get any state funding this legislative session in Annapolis. Both the Hogan administration and State legislative leaders said the project needed the full support of the Frederick County delegation before they would even consider it for State funding. 

Yet Delegate Carol Krimm and other hotel proponents have made no move to have the Hotel discussed or put to a vote at a Delegation meeting this year. They know the opponents of the project led by Senator Michael Hough are as strongly opposed as ever to state funding. Delegation meetings are held every Friday morning in Annapolis when the General Assembly is in session. 

A Hough staffer told us today: “They didn’t ever put state aid for the Hotel on the Delegation meeting agenda. It was not put up for discussion. And we’ve had the last Delegation meeting this year. The only way they could get money now is to bypass the Delegation and persuade Gov Hogan to completely change his mind. We don’t see that happening. So the Hotel looks like it’s without state funds for at least another year.”

Mayor O’Connor said January 15 in  answer to a question from me that the Hotel project was “on hold” pending the outcome of efforts to get State funding in the legislative session. If the legislative session is concluding without funding having been obtained, then the City has to decide what to do.

1. Wait another year, and try yet again?

2. Try to reshape the project so it can proceed without state support, putting the whole public sector cost onto City and County taxpayers?

3. Acknowledge the project as a mistake.

‘Infrastructure’ gimmickry went nowhere

One of the dumbest moves this year was an effort to rebrand the hotel project as ‘public infrastructure’ emphasizing the proposal to use state money for a City parking garage, and omitting all reference to the hotel. See the Department of Economic Development’s letter. During Frederick Day in Annapolis the project was described as “Downtown Public Infrastructure to build more public parking” — a reference to the $16.15 million 234 car-space parking structure proposed to be built underneath the DH&CC. Simple arithmetic exposes the absurdity of this as a City Parking garage: $16,150,000/234 = $69,000 per car parking space.

Walker Parking consultants told the City that new parking spaces must cost $15,900 or less in order to be financially viable. Three quarters of the spending ($12 million) would constitute public subsidy of the foundations of the hotel because spending $16.15 million on a mere 234-car garage is absurd.  Why should the State support such extravagance? 

The City has financed and built six above-ground parking garages without any State support. Building the seventh parking garage underneath the hotel would be just another waste of money on behalf of the hotel. Calling it ‘public infrastructure’ fools no one.  2019.02.27

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