Opponents Not Impressed With Hotel & Conference Center Design Plan

They say they will continue to fight this project for the downtown.

Frederick, Md. (KM). The design plan recently unveiled for the proposed downtown Frederick hotel and conference center does not impress two opponents of the project. The plan calls for 180 rooms rather than the 207 being discussed. It also contains about 20,000 square feet of conference space, and about 160 parking spaces.

The facility is planned for property near East Patrick Street and Carroll Street. It will use part of former News-Post building, and tear down the historic Bierly Tannery.

Jane Weir notes that it is a little smaller than what has been mentioned in the past. “But it sprawls now out to a huge area. And it even has a tail attached to it that wasn’t there previously. So I’m not thinking that it’s appropriate for the site or the Downtown Historic District,” she says. l

Mayor Randy McClement said last week that plan will probably undergo some changes.

Another opponent Peter Samuel, said this plan is an improvement, but “it’s a pretty messy plan. It’s a Y shape and there’s bits and pieces all over the place,” he said.

But, he says, that’s not the main problem with the plan. “I think major issues are that they’re wanting to demolish completely the Bierly Tannery which is a very valuable historic building. It’s been declared to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places,” he says.

Samuel says that could be a wrinkle in plans for the city to get state money to help pay for the project. “State money can’t flow until there’s an agreement with the Maryland Historic Trust that the plan isn’t unreasonable. And having putting it on the National Register of Historic Places, it’s going to be very difficult for them to agree to the demolition,” he says,.

Mayor McClement says the city is awaiting a decision from the Board of Public Works on whether this project gets state funding.

Another problem, says Weir, are the chemicals from the old tannery might be in the soil on that site. “A little bit of research has been done. There were phase one and phase two tests, but there were primarily on the building which contained the Frederick News-Post, and not where the vats were, where the chemicals may have been. So we’re not at all confident that it’s free of toxic chemicals,” she said.

Supporters of the project say no city taxpayer money will be used to pay for this hotel and conference center. But Weir says the language in the city’s capital budget legislation indicates the opposite. “That reads ‘downtown Frederick hotel and conference center provide a grant to the Mayor and Board of Aldermen of the City of Frederick for the acquisition, planning,design, construction, repair and renovation of the downtown Frederick hotel and conference. center.’ That is actually stating in the law that it’s publicly funded,” she said.

The city awarded the contract to build and operate the center to Plamondon Hospitality Partners, and city officials say Plamondon will take any loss if the project fails. But Samuel says the taxpayers are on the hook if this hotel and conference center goes under. “It’s being built on city land. It’s sponsored by the city. It’s the result of a city procurement. I don’t see how anyone in a court of law in this bankruptcy could seriously argue that the city wasn’t involved and the city wasn’t responsible,” he said.

Despite the opposition to this project. both Weir and Samuel say they are not against any hotel in the downtown, just not one this size. “I loved to see a boutique hotel or two, or maybe three or four, privately funded, something creative and special, just the way Frederick is,”: says Weir.

Samuel says the site plan for the hotel and conference center is expected to be submitted¬† to the Planning Department, and from there go before the Planning Commission and the Historic Preservation Commission. ¬† Samuel says there’s still time for citizens who are opposed to speak up. “I don’t think the thing is a ‘done deal’ by any means. I think the public can influence this but they’ve got to participate, and they shouldn’t just think it should be left to one or two people to speak about,” he says.



By Kevin McManus