Live Nation Doesn't Need Tax Breaks, Residents Say

By Ann E. Marimow and Miranda S. Spivack
Washington Post staff writers
Thursday, October 4, 2007

Not all Silver Spring residents are celebrating the likelihood of a Fillmore music hall in the downtown arts district. Local e-mail discussion groups are abuzz with chatter from residents who complain that the required $4 million investment from the County Council and another $4 million from the state would not be wise investments.

For those who missed the news, County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) announced a tentative deal last week with music producer Live Nation to build one of its Fillmore music clubs at Colesville Road and Georgia Avenue, in the old J.C. Penney location. Live Nation, one of the world's largest producer of live concerts, was spun off in 2005 from Clear Channel Communications.

"An $8 million subsidy for a publicly traded company is not a good use of taxpayer funds," said Rich Swanson, a Silver Spring resident who started the group Save the Birchmere when negotiations to bring a branch of the Alexandria music hall to the same building fell apart in July. "This is a big business, and taxpayers should not be paying to jump-start this development."

Others neighbors said they worried about the potential for young, raucous crowds at the club, which is planned to hold up to 2,000 people.

Leggett said this week that the money is intended to "spur economic development in a location and time you want," no different from taxpayer incentives for companies such as Discovery in downtown Silver Spring.

As evidence, Leggett pointed to a study released Monday that shows that the nonprofit arts and cultural industry in the county have a $117 million impact on the local economy.

The figure is a combination of $51.6 million in spending by cultural organizations on salaries, supplies and the like, in addition to $65.4 million in spending by audiences on food, parking and souvenirs associated with cultural events.

The numbers, compiled as part of a survey by the nonprofit group Americans for the Arts, show more of an economic impact from the arts in Montgomery County than , or Arlington, Fairfax and Prince George's counties.

Planning, So to Speak

Unraveling the county's growth policy is not for those with an aversion to acronyms and planner-ese.

Things got so obtuse at Monday's meeting of the Montgomery County Council's committee reviewing the new plan that even former planning board member Nancy Floreen (D-At Large) said she was having trouble figuring out how to explain it to her constituents. Here's a sample:

Council deputy staff director Glenn Orlin: "On the pammer chart, what you pointed out, is that in the proposal now in the yellow triangular area . . . why is it 50 percent?"

Transportation planner Dan Hardy: "The stair step was the best indication of pass-fail . . . something to say we are doing preventative medicine."

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