Fillmore Proposal Draws New Fire

Live Nation’s proposed construction of a Fillmore-branded venue in Silver Spring, Md., continues to be a flashpoint for controversy in Montgomery County political circles, though the latest dust-up doesn’t appear to pose a threat to current plans.

The county’s planning board chief brought some heat to the issue July 20 by referring to a deal offered by county executive Isiah Leggett as a "blank check" to the developer of the project, adding it would do more harm than good for downtown redevelopment, according to the Washington Post.

The paper reports Leggett has proposed a bill that would exempt the project from planning agency review and allow the developer, Lee Development Group, to delay construction of other projects in the area for up to 15 years while moving ahead with plans to donate land to the county for the proposed Fillmore.

Planning Board Chairman Royce Hanson reportedly told the Montgomery County Council that while he supports bringing a Fillmore to Silver Spring, the proposed bill is too risky and "doesn’t pass the laugh test."

Hanson told the council the plan could harm nearby projects, create less public space and promote unimaginative design.

According to the Post, local development plans that include performance space are generally approved in a package that allows the planning agency to negotiate for plazas, green space and other amenities.

"We see better ways to secure the Fillmore without turning the planning process on its head, and, more importantly, there are ways to deliver a better product for Silver Spring," the Post reported Hanson saying at the recent hearing. He described the Fillmore project as a "crabbed vision" that limits the site’s potential.

Administration officials, Lee Development Group President Bruce H. Lee and several local business leaders disputed Hanson’s comments and testified in favor of Leggett’s proposed bill.

Lee reportedly testified his business had no plans to develop the site, formerly a J.C. Penney store that is now part of a proposed entertainment district, until it was approached by a former county executive hoping to bring in a Birchmere music hall.

Those negotiations failed last year and a deal was subsequently struck with Live Nation to instead bring a Fillmore to Silver Spring. The county was criticized for making the deal without issuing a formal request for proposals as well as for an estimated $8 million subsidy funded by both the state of Maryland and Montgomery County.