Judge upholds ruling denying hotel tax break

Stage set for appeal by Wyndham developers

Accommodations

January 08, 1999|By Kevin L. McQuaid | Kevin L. McQuaid,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore judge refused yesterday to reconsider a ruling striking down millions of dollars in tax breaks for the planned Wyndham Inner Harbor East Hotel.

Baltimore Circuit Judge Richard T. Rombro's decision to uphold his November ruling eliminating $75 million in tax breaks for the 31-story hotel sets the stage for a lengthy appeal, and possibly a campaign to alter state laws in the next General Assembly session.

In rejecting a motion by the $134 million hotel's developers to reconsider the ruling, Rombro reiterated that "payment in lieu of taxes" (PILOT) programs are prohibited in Baltimore unless they involve city-owned property.

PILOTs allow developers to negotiate property taxes with governments, rather than pay the full amount as assessed by the state.

"I did not arrive at this decision lightly," Rombro said in court. "The court is well aware that this is an important project for the city, the developers and the community."

The Wyndham, designed to contain 750 rooms, is one of three hotels being planned to serve the city's expanded Convention Center.

Attorneys for the developers, a team led by John Paterakis Sr.'s H&S Properties Development Co., filed the motion after crafting a new PILOT program with the city.

So far, however, no new PILOT has been presented to the City Council for approval.

"This was a gimmick to get around taxation," said John C. Murphy, an attorney representing the Waterfront Coalition Inc., a group of East Baltimore businesses and community groups challenging the hotel.

"We certainly got everything we wanted."

Stephen A. Goldberg, an attorney representing the developers, said killing the PILOT would instead cost the city millions of dollars in lost parking, hotel, property, and other taxes.

Pub Date: 1/08/99

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