Court upholds approval of Wyndham; Hotel doesn't violate master plan, judge rules; Downtown


The state's second-highest court has upheld a Baltimore Circuit Court ruling that said the 31-story Wyndham Inner Harbor East hotel does not violate a master plan created to guide development in the area near Little Italy.

The Court of Special Appeals' ruling on a lawsuit challenging a city ordinance permitting the Wyndham essentially ends a community group's chances to further stall or derail the $134 million project on planning grounds.

John C. Murphy, an attorney for the Waterfront Coalition Inc., said the group intends to petition Maryland's highest court to hear the case. The state's Court of Appeals, however, rarely hears cases brought from the lower appeals court.

The ruling

In the ruling Wednesday, Judge James S. Getty said the Wyndham does not violate the city code or urban renewal plans.

"Beauty being in the eye of the beholder, some will see it as an architectural gem and others as a monstrosity," Getty wrote. "Neither view has relevance to the legality of the legislative acts creating the concept or the method employed to accomplish the change."

The Waterfront Coalition argued that the hotel would have more than twice the number of rooms allowed under the master plan and that its height would exceed the plan's limits.

Originally, Inner Harbor East's master plan called for a 13-story hotel.

"The current hotel keeps within the overall plans of the city," said Michael Beatty, a vice president of H&S; Properties Development Co., the real estate arm of baking magnate John Paterakis Sr., one of four partners building the hotel. "The master plan was always meant to be a market-driven, flexible plan."

3 actions brought

The lawsuit challenging the Wyndham on grounds that it violated the Inner Harbor East master plan that restricts development is one of three court actions filed by the coalition in an effort to kill the hotel.

Last year, the East Baltimore citizens group lost a case before the Court of Special Appeals that challenged zoning changes allowing the 750-room hotel to proceed.

In the third case, the citizens group won a favorable ruling in Baltimore Circuit Court in November, when Judge Richard Rombro struck down a "payment in lieu of taxes" [PILOT] program that provided $75 million in tax breaks for the Wyndham. The hotel's developers have appealed that case.

The General Assembly is considering a bill introduced into the Senate Monday that would allow PILOTs for hotels such as the Wyndham and other privately developed projects costing more than $10 million.

If enacted, the PILOT legislation would be a major change from the existing law, which allows negotiated property tax breaks only for certain types of projects and for projects built on city-owned land.

Pub Date: 2/12/99

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