Congratulations, City Council Proposed Wyndham Hotel: Baltimore lawmakers did the right thing in delaying votes until they get sufficient information.

November 25, 1997

THE CITY COUNCIL acted prudently by not taking hasty action last night on two zoning bills concerning the proposed Inner Harbor East Wyndham Hotel. Now that consideration of those measures has been postponed until at least Jan. 26, the City Council should use the next nine weeks to make sure that it has all the answers about that controversial project.

For example, we still do not know how massive that $132.6 million hotel would be. Would it really become the city's second-tallest building, rising some 50 stories -- or 500 feet -- over the harbor's edge, as some drawings suggest?

It is time for developers to come up with solid answers and reveal their detailed plans to the public. This is a crucial matter because the City Council is being asked to lift all height and density limits not only for the proposed hotel but for other future buildings in the Inner Harbor East area. All buildings on the land, south of Little Italy, are currently restricted to a maximum height of 180 feet, or 18 floors.

The City Council also ought to insist on full disclosure of the proposed hotel's financing.

The public still does not know the ultimate cost to taxpayers. All parties agree it is considerable -- more than $50 million. But where would that money come from? From bonds? From forgiveness of city property taxes? Or from funds currently earmarked for other empowerment zone projects?

And what are the proportional equity stakes of members of the development team, including Baltimore bakery mogul John Paterakis, a political contributor to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and council members?

The public needs to know because once the Paterakis partners win regulatory approvals and get the hotel built, they plan to sell 95 percent of their ownership to the out-of-state Patriot American real estate trust. Thus the original, equity investors will secure a quick profit. In contrast, the taxpayer of Baltimore will only get a share of the development's net income -- not the gross. In the past, agreements signed by the city under this formula have produced only negligible revenue.

Before the City Council acts on any legislation pertaining to the proposed Wyndham Hotel, it has to make sure the taxpayers of Baltimore are fully protected.

Pub Date: 11/25/97

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