City Council expected to OK tax breaks for hotel project bTC

March 30, 1998|By Robert Guy Matthews | Robert Guy Matthews,SUN STAFF

After months of deal-making and study, City Council members are expected to approve today $25 million in tax breaks for the developers of the Wyndham hotel proposed for the Inner Harbor East.

Martin O'Malley, chairman of the Taxation and Finance Committee, said that he will bring the bill to the floor for a vote today.

"Yes, it will come out on Monday," said O'Malley, who represents Northeast Baltimore.

Few council members have said that they will vote against the tax breaks, paving the way for construction of the controversial $134 million project proposed by local bakery mogul John Paterakis Sr.

The three council members who represent the area where the hotel would be built said they will vote against tax breaks for the proposed 750-room Wyndham.

"Let the rich guys pay for their own hotels," said Councilman Nicholas C. D'Adamo of the 1st District.

But Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has been lobbying the council to approve the legislation. He wants the hotel to complement the newly expanded Convention Center.

Schmoke also says the hotel would spark business growth in the underdeveloped eastern section of the Inner Harbor.

The city is also in negotiations to build another large hotel, an 850-room Grand Hyatt that would be connected to the Convention Center. The project is headed by Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos, who says he wants about $43 million in tax breaks.

The Wyndham tax breaks are part of $41 million in subsidies for the hotel that the city's chief economic agency says are necessary for developers to build the project.

In presentations to the council, Baltimore Development Corp. chief M. J. "Jay" Brodie said the subsidies will keep room rates low enough to attract conventions.

With the subsidy, room rates would average about $135 per night; without them, $20 to $30 more, Brodie said.

For months, the council has been pressured by some residents who live near the site of the proposed Wyndham to defeat the tax-breaks measure.

The residents say the hotel will destroy the character of their communities and relies too much on taxpayer money. They have filed two lawsuits to stop construction -- one was thrown out, and the other is pending.

The residents also enlisted the help of Del. Howard P. Rawlings, a Baltimore Democrat who unsuccessfully tried to get state legislators to approve sending the project to referendum.

In the past few months, the council has tried to placate residents by reducing the hotel's height and refusing to give the developers any grants or loans or issue bonds for the Wyndham.

If the bill wins preliminary approval tonight, the council will take a final vote in two weeks.

Pub Date: 3/30/98

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