MacRo LTD Blog

Downtown Hotel and Conference Center Delegation Opposition: What’s Up With That? … and What’s Next?

There’s a lot more at stake in how the Downtown Frederick Full Service Hotel and Conference Center proposal unfolds than whether a game-changing new project continues the evolution of Carroll Creek.

[Editor’s note: Guest blogger Linda Norris-Waldt, whom the MacRo Report Blog has referenced recently, offers up her thoughts and a call-to-action regarding the current circumstances surrounding the City of Frederick’s proposed full service downtown hotel/conference center]

It’s been at least five years since the hotel project has been in the works, but in the past six months, new interest groups are suddenly paying attention; a competitor with political connections has arisen out of nowhere; and the spinoffs that have resulted from the opposition these have generated are jeopardizing our new political framework and our ability to return home well-deserved taxpayer dollars.

Is the “Not Ready for Charter” faction using the Downtown Full Service Hotel and Conference Center as an opportunity to undermine local control?

There is a local bill being pushed by five members of our General Assembly delegation that is a veiled attempt to undermine our year-old and duly voter-approved Charter Government system. They are attempting to block our County Council’s ability to debate and turn down or approve an increase in Frederick County’s hotel tax from 3% to 5% (it is now the lowest in the state, FYI).

You can view the hotel tax breakdown by county here.

Frederick County’s citizens should be watching this closely, because it flies in the face of our 2012 overwhelmingly voter-approved Charter Government, which gave our locally elected County Council authority to vote on local initiatives. Frederick County citizens are being deprived of the local debate that Charter Government empowers. Instead, no matter which side of this question we are on, we must lobby out of county legislators to vote aye or nay on something that we as voters intended to be a local decision.

So, it’s annoying, since I voted for Charter Government; now, I have to research the committees where this bill has landed, figure out which legislators to email, contact them, follow up, explain my position—something I could have done otherwise by appearing at Winchester Hall the night of the public hearing and telling my own Council people. Plus, I have no way to vote against these delegates and senators from other counties in Maryland if they don’t see it my way.

Isn’t it about time Frederick County got some MSA funding?

Don’t you think it’s time Frederick County made the list?

The Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA), through sponsoring bond funding, regularly facilitates projects from around the state—especially in the Baltimore and Washington areas (see their completed projects here).

If you just looked at the link, you realize that not a single Frederick County project is on that list. This is a tax-paid fund that is not going away, and now that we have a majority Republican delegation to align with a Republican governor and two local Republican folk who are cabinet secretaries (Kelly Schulz and David Brinkley) you would think it was a slam-dunk that some of this taxpayer funding would finally come our way.

But, the five Republicans in our delegation have decided again to snub local wishes by opposing a bond bill that would finally lasso some of this money for our own jurisdiction in the form of $14.8 million for the hotel project. Mind you, this is a fund built from our tax dollars as well as other state taxpayers; so they are really cutting off their noses to spite their face, so to speak. If the money doesn’t come to us, it just goes to help another part of Maryland smart enough to accept it.

It’s astonishing to me if any senators or delegates fail to use this clout to acquire a project for our hometown.

Apples to Oranges: No matter what people say, the proposed FSK Conference Center and the Public-Private Downtown Hotel Project are not equal.

The FSK Mall Hotel – call it a conference center if you like, but is not in the right place for conferences where the high-end industry is headed; I know this well from my 9 to 5 profession in marketing and planning events.

I visited the Bethesda North Conference Center (often a comparison point for the downtown Frederick project). It was an unpleasant, windy, cold walk past a half-acre parking lot to reach any restaurant or shopping; the BNCC desk concierge told me that most of their visitors board the metro to spend evenings in Washington, DC; those with cars must drive to restaurants in the Rockville/Bethesda region, so often they simply stay in the hotel’s restaurants.

But we’ve got the appeal of downtown Frederick. The downtown hotel could potentially triple future visitors who would be spending money in our county businesses. Visitors to the FSK Mall site will be a different type of folk who will not be the high-income scientists, historians, human resources and financial associations whose members have a preference not for going to the mall but for strolling among charming city streets with shops and restaurants.

Unfortunately, the downtown hotel project has been hijacked by politicians and interest groups who are using the project to further their own ends.

What can YOU do about this?

It is up to those of us who support a continuously evolving and innovative vision of a nationally respected historic city to take on the unexpected job of lobbying out-of-county legislators to let them know the merits of this project and our citizens’ support for it.

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Linda Norris-Waldt is the Marketing/Membership Manager at U.S. Composting Council and operates NW Communications in Middletown, Maryland. She is a former candidate for Frederick County County Council and is currently the chairwoman of the Ethics Task Force, which was appointed by Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner. The opinions expressed are those of Ms. Norris-Waldt and not necessarily those of the Editor of the MacRo Report Blog.

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