A new luxury hotel coming to Houston will get a free ride, thanks to a special deal approved by the city council. Houston will be handing out a $43 million tax break to bring a luxury W Hotel to the city.
The deal was approved overwhelmingly by city council members, with little discussion, in a vote of 16-1. Amy Peck was the lone dissenting vote.
Backlash from the community was swift:
“The fact that the city council approved a $43 million tax break for a luxury hotel is a slap in the face,” said Charles Blain of Urban Reform, a Houston-based organization that advocates conservative reforms to city government. “But what’s worse is that only one council member, Amy Peck, stood against the deal.”
The deal is a change from the city’s original development plan. When proposals for a hotel were solicited in 2014, Houston officials made it clear there would be no tax abatements.
“When the city originally sent the proposal out, they told potential bidders that the project wouldn’t include any tax incentives,” said Blain. “It wasn’t until the current vendor was selected that the tax incentives were added on. This deal was questionable from day one and should infuriate Houston taxpayers.”
“Even the chairman of Houston First, the agency charged with tourism for the city, said the deal wasn’t the best possible deal for taxpayers,” Blain continued.
While bad for taxpayers, the deal is very good for Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner’s cronies. Developer Al Kashani, who is leading the project, served on Turner’s inaugural committee and has donated to his campaign. Two investors involved with the project have also given money to Turner and serve on boards he appointed.