Fillmore Funding Gets City OK

The Silver Spring, Md., city council gave its blessing March 4th to a recommendation that Montgomery County allocate $2 million in its 2009 budget for a live music venue, expected to be a Live Nation-operated Fillmore theatre.

The funding is part of the construction budget recommended by Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett, who came under fire for quickly inking a deal with Live Nation shortly after negotiations with another possible operator, The Birchmere, broke down last year.

The Lee Development Group would donate land valued at about $3.5 million for the project. Live Nation has agreed to renovate and convert an existing structure as a Fillmore-branded theatre for about $2 million.

The controversy over the project grew when I.M.P.’s Seth Hurwitz, a Montgomery County resident and operator of Washington’s 9:30 Club, submitted a proposal to construct and operate the proposed concert theatre one day before Leggett announced the agreement with Live Nation.

One councilman voted against the allocation and another abstained on the March 4th vote.

"On balance, I think this is in the public interest," Councilman Philip Andrews told Maryland’s Gazette.

But the public financing of the venue, which has been leased to Live Nation over the objections of community members and some local officials, continued to draw criticism.

"I think it is a bad deal, a bad process. … I fear that it will not be what people thought it would be," councilman Roger Berliner told the paper.

The funding had been held up when a council committee asked for more details about the deal with the county and Live Nation. The county and state have already set aside $2 million each toward the project. The final hurdle for the county’s funding plan will be the passage of the annual budget later this year.

"The council put all of these questions aside for now, for fear of losing state money," Hurwitz said in a statement. "Apparently they are under intense pressure to pass this through no matter what the deal is.

"Hopefully that will not carry over to the remaining opportunities to scrutinize all of this. Our offer stands to build this at our sole expense, with the developer transferring the land directly."