Legislation introduced that gives up to $36M tax break to Maryland Live casino for hotel and conference center

Chase Cook
Contact Reporterccook@capgaznews.com

Maryland Live owner The Cordish Cos. is poised to receive up to a $36 million tax break after legislation was introduced at Monday night’s County Council meeting that would negate property taxes for a proposed hotel and conference center.

In lieu of paying those yearly property taxes, The Cordish Cos. would pay the county $1 a year for 30 years. A final report on the estimated property taxes is expected Oct. 23 but the county auditor noted the max property tax value couldn’t exceed $1.2 million a year. The Cordish Cos. owns Maryland Live and proposed the hotel and conference center next door. The payment in lieu of taxes deal, PILOT, would begin fiscal 2019. County officials believed the actual property taxes waived as part of the deal would be far lower than $36 million.

The proposed hotel would have 310 rooms and the conference center would be 30,000 square feet with a ballroom, 4,000 seats and would serve as a free place for the county to hold high school and the community college graduations. The 12 high school graduations a year cost the county about $62,400 annually, according to the auditor’s fiscal note.

The bill was requested by County Executive Steve Schuh and also sponsored by County Councilman Pete Smith, D-Severn, who represents the area where Maryland Live is located.

Providing the PILOT is possible after Schuh lobbied the General Assembly in 2017 to change the county’s PILOT program to allow waiving taxes for commercial properties. Previously, the county could offer tax breaks in exchange for housing developments to charge affordable rents. County officials have said the conference center is the only commercial property being considered for the PILOT.

This deal replaces a previous $22.5 million tax increment financing deal the council passed by a narrow vote in 2015. Tax increment financing deals allow the county take out bonds against future increases in property tax revenues to pay for development and infrastructure. In February county officials said the PILOT legislation accomplishes the same thing as the tax increment financing deal.

The council also considered legislation that would provide tax breaks for public safety officers who live within the county. Police officers, sheriff’s deputies, firefighters and other county public safety responders would be eligible for a $2,500 property tax credit after working for the county for a year. The bill received several amendments Monday night, one of which included limiting the credit to five taxable years.

“It was my intent this tax credit would be a thank you to public safety officers in the county,” said Councilman Jerry Walker, R-Crofton who introduced the bill.

Representatives of Schuh’s administration said the tax credit as proposed is a “tax shift” that would end up increasing taxes of non-public safety officers. They also raised concerns about creating a divide between public safety officers who live outside the county.

Due to the bevy of amendments the public safety officer property tax credit bill was pushed back to the Nov. 6 meeting.

In other business, the county council delayed legislation that modified when Board of Appeals members can participate in decisions. Current law forbids Board of Appeals members from participating in decisions if they miss the first hearing of an appeal. The new law allows the Board of Appeals to participate in the decision as long as they attend one of the first two meetings in a multi-meeting hearing.

The bill was held until the Nov. 20 meeting after questions about clarity.

“It is a bit restricted when you have a set of hearings that are very, very long,” said Richard Forgo, chairman of the Board of Appeals. “We have some that go 17 to 25 hearings. If you miss one you are gone.”

Copyright © 2020, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad