June 6, 2012

High state fee for Inner Harbor piers rocks the boat at Board of Public Works

Print More
Power Plant at Inner Harbor.

Power Plant at Inner Harbor, restaurants on water.

By Dana Amihere
dana@marylandreporter.com

The Board of Public Works on Wednesday asked the the state’s wetlands administration to explain the high compensation rates of $175 per square foot proposed for three Cordish Power Plant restaurants in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor — Hard Rock, Dick’s Last Resort and Phillips Seafood.

The establishments’ wetlands licenses include fees charged by the state for use of the Patapsco River diverted from its intended use as navigable waters, and  for the direct impact the licensee’s activities will have on the aquatic environment.

The licensing items were officially withdrawn from consideration at this week’s meeting by the executive secretary of the Board of Public Works, Sheila McDonald. But Comptroller Peter Franchot insisted on debating the fairness of the “confiscatory” rates charged to install a roof over the eating and bar area of an existing pier.

Assessing a rate of $175 per square foot is “obviously ridiculous,” Franchot said, and would essentially be a “non-starter,” noting that the highest rate he’d ever heard of for a similar use in Annapolis was $132 per square foot.

An alternate appraisal of $110 per square foot for the value of the over-water rights had been presented to the Maryland Environment Department, but the department chose the higher appraisal.

At about 4,500 square feet, Phillips Seafood has the largest pier and would owe nearly $780,000 above and beyond the project’s construction costs.

“Why should state agencies pull this out of of these businesses?” Franchot asked. “I understand budgets are tight and I guess that they’re looking to beef up their own general fund, but this is clearly not acceptable.”

Gov. Martin O’Malley noted that it’s within the Board’s discretion to reduce the fee, or as in the case of Maryland Broadband in 2008, charge nothing at all for putting in cabling across a state bridge.

Treasurer Nancy Kopp questioned the legality of the projects citing legislation which prohibits structures from being built on piers. O’Malley noted that exceptions to those laws can be granted, and characterized the renovation projects as creating “floating restaurants,”

No decision was made on the proposed licensing fees. The board asked Wetlands Administrator Doldon Moore to come back with some answers in two when the items would be put back on the agenda for discussion and a vote.

  • Maxine012

    Is it really Doldon? Or Donold?

  • Pingback: High state fee for Inner Harbor piers rocks the boat at Board of … | InnerHarbor.com()

  • jayhdavis

    This is in the Inner Harbor in Baltimore City for heaven’s sake!  The City needs jobs, the State needs jobs and all these bureaucrats want to do is drive businesses and the jobs they create away.

  • Gest

    $780,000 is not enough payment to compensate anybody who goes to Philips and is served that indonesian crab meat in a Maryland Crab Cake.

  • Randnash

    A great example of so called Democrats running government. Just because they think someone is making money, they want to rob them of theit livli-hoods. Government seems to forget that these people are biting off huge commitments to bring a business that works to Baltimore . Baltimore is in desperate need of jobs and in fact the government should be giving these folks a tax credit to  build such an enjoyable environment here.
    People actually may tell their friends and bring additional business to Baltimore City. Wouldn’t it be great that these government agencies could actually create a business model and assess the true impact and benefit to the city. Standards have really been lowered and people put in jobs who are entirely incapable of making a business decision. WHen I say buisness, I am talking about state business.

    • Dale McNamee

      Randnash, I agree with you wholeheartedly ! And to that, I add :
       
      Remember, Vote Democrat ! Hope and Change ! Forward !  It’s for the children ! It’s for the infrastructure !

  • Dale McNamee

    From the article: ” The establishments’ wetlands licenses include fees charged by the state
    for use of the Patapsco River diverted from its intended use as
    navigable waters, and  for the direct impact the licensee’s activities
    will have on the aquatic environment. ”

    Huh ?

    Weren’t these issues addressed when the building permits first issued ? Since when has “navigabilty” become an issue ? Maybe in the ” Pre-Inner Harbor” days when industry and shipping dominated the harbor and the Patapsco river…

    The board DOES seem to be punishing the Cordish company for its successes…Payback for not putting the Maryland Live casino in Baltimore  perhaps ? They MUST LOVE unemployed people and reduced revenues…

    I’ve come to expect such moronicy from our “public servants” !

  • Whcampbell

    While businesses that use public property should pay for that use, the price should have some resemblence to the market value.  I recommend that the State publish a invitation for bibs (IFB) making the property available for full and open competition.  Let the market decide who should get its use and what price they will pay.  Maryland politicians don’t have a clue how to run a business.  Just look at the mess they have created with gambling!