Citizen letter to Mayor McClement questions $27.8M taxpayer subsidies for corporate Marriott

July 6,2017
To the Mayor McClement and Board of Aldermen:
Seven weeks ago you [Mayor McClement] claimed that NO PUBLIC MONEY would be going toward the Downtown Hotel and Conference Center; that in fact, Plamondon, the developer was paying for his Hotel and Conference center all by himself!
That doesn’t ring true to me.
Already, you and the Board of Aldermen have spent close to 2 Million tax dollars on the “pre-development costs”, including a 2010 study which you constantly cite claiming absurdly over estimated economic impacts, based on data from 2008. That was 9 years ago!
In the new “one pager”, in spite of 27 fewer hotel rooms and a 5000 sq ft smaller conference center you are STILL using those absurd projections from the 2010 Critique and Update that you paid 25K for by Crossroads Consulting and Gaming and Hospitality Solutions. Back then, you were telling us the public cost would be $10 -12 Million.
Additionally, you and the county have spent approximately 200 thousand dollars on a huge lobbying effort to get millions of public dollars for this one developer’s hotel which directly competes with every other hotel in the County and every event space as well!
You also spent 334 thousand dollars on Hotel Consultants from Jones, Lang, LaSalle to set up a pretend open procurement process. You paid to have JLL work 86 Hours with Plamondon, on his proposal, pro forma and presentation and only 4.5 with the only other bidder, Wormald. You even paid JLL to skew the procurement by eliminating other potential hotel sites just so you could get MORE public funds to buy the Randall’s old Frederick News Post property for $3.6 Million dollars. That’s 2 Million more than it’s valued. Who pockets the extra 2 Million? And JLL head consultant, after crafting the RFP to match what he had coached Plamondon to propose, created the criteria for judging the proposals and sat on the Hotel selection committee. That was extremely unethical!
Now, we can see it was a complete waste of taxpayer dollars because the updated HOTEL and Conference Center project has changed just enough so that the 2014 RFP is invalid! That old RFP required that the hotel have 200 rooms and 24K Conference center and it said no city owned property would be used. Now it’s a little smaller and you’ve agreed to buy Plamondon the land. How many other bidders might have submitted proposals with these current parameters? You ought to send out a NEW, truly fair RFP without the shenanigans you paid for last time!
Better yet, just stay out of it! Just let the free market decide which businesses succeed and which fail. **Plamondon himself said this project is not viable without Millions in public funds**. If it’s too grandiose and cannot support itself, it shouldn’t be built.
There were plenty of alternatives for Downtown Hotels and even a film studio project, which still wants the old Frederick News post buildings. Why should you waste State and local taxpayer dollars to give corporate welfare for a big box hotel chain that will ruin the character of this beautiful historic district in this cool city!
Peter Samuel had asked the City through PIA request for the evidence of a new deal, specifically, the project budget. Only ONE day before you voted to take Millions of taxpayer dollars from the State, the public finally got a quick peek at the one pager dated 2017-07-05.
Really? Was that 7 weeks worth of number crunching? There is still NO evidence that the developer will pay for his own Hotel and Conference Center! I**n fact, there is still evidence that we taxpayers from the City, County and state will CONTINUE paying for it!**
The language in the State Capital Budget bill clearly contradicts what the Mayor and your Economic Development Director, Richard Griffin have been saying about this deal. The legislation in the State Grants are for the “ Downtown Hotel and Conference center”.
The department of Economic Development of this City continues to draft these so-called “One Pager” documents, and withhold them until right before you schedule a vote to give more corporate welfare to one developer.
This “one pager” is again all Smoke and Mirrors and worse than before, there is NO actual itemized BUDGET showing which parts are Plamondon’s and which parts are on us!
As I read through it I see you CAN’T tell us any details because you don’t even have a new agreement with a developer yet! Richard Griffin, when asked by Alderman Bokee tonight if it was 50 Million that Plamondon would be contributing, refused to state any number at all.
After all these years, you and the public know even less about this deal than before. You have a 9 year old study propping up a rigged procurement and you haven’t even drafted a new agreement with any developer yet, but you unanimously approved this on your consent agenda! You want to take 16.85 M plus 11M = 27.85 Million out of taxpayer’s pockets for this nonsense? Why don’t you work this hard to get funding schools or other authentic public projects?
Two months back you were claiming the Plamondon owned conference center was infrastructure, and the public had to pay for it. You were asking for 31 Million public funds, and now, supposedly with the developer paying for both the hotel and the conference center himself you are still asking for it’s 28M from the State’s public funds. We are still on the hook when this fails.
The Public costs only went down 3M but Plamondon is supposedly building the Conference Center. How is that possible?
The Historic Preservation Commission has NOT approved demolition of the last remaining Tannery in the state. Are you planning on over-riding any decisions they may make in order to further your agenda?
Will the city purchase the old FNP property for Plamondon before there is even an approved site plan or building permits?
Are you not jumping the gun here? Where’s the fair and open procurement Request for Proposals for a 183 room hotel with 20K sq ft of Conference space? Where’s the engineering study showing it’s safe to consider using the site so close to the creek walls? Where’s the approval of the Maryland Historical Trust? Where’s the Traffic study? Where’s the new Agreement between you and a developer chosen by a fair procurement process? Where is the budget and the accounting?
I am asking that you Aldermen show you are responsible representatives of the people. Everyone wants a great, appropriately sized and located Downtown hotel but this one is neither, and it’s terrible waste of public funds. We have far better uses for our tax dollars than giving a ubiquitous Marriott our Millions. Please, stop putting more Lipstick on this PIG!
Thank you,
Jane Weir