Monday, December 23, 2013
Friday, December 20, 2013
I do not know who might have submitted written testimony on the matter besides me. But the questions raised in my testimony were never addressed by the board. In fact, my written testimony was entirely ignored. The only significant issue of any sort, which was not in my testimony, was raised by Commissioner Casey Anderson. Anderson expressed concern that some notation be made in the record to preserve the county's right to provide trail access from Twinbrook Parkway for pedestrians and cyclists.
It is simply beyond belief that a body responsible for planning and transportation can simply decide not to consider the future uses of such a right-of-way. And why the county continues to aid and abet the demolition of what existing affordable housing we have, is a serious question that needs to be answered.
During the discussion, it was revealed that conditions 3, 4, and 5 were revised - 4 substantively - since the staff report was made public. Not even the applicant had the language. Is this what passes for open data and citizen involvement in planning in Montgomery County?
Prior to the hasty vote, Carrier said, "I'm helping the developer here." No one can dispute that.
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
First and foremost among these "consensus" views, is that the suburbs were a 20th Century Mistake. In fact, the suburbs were part of a revolution that created the greatest period of economic mobility and convenience in American history.
But consider the prejudicial language employed by the announcement.
The event itself is called, "Makeover Montgomery." In reality, does a wealthy county, which nearly a million residents have proclaimed a great place to live, need a planning "makeover?"
"Transformation." This noun is defined by Google's dictionary as "a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance." We're not talking about spiffing up the place, then. What's advocated is an upheaval of the current dynamic. Montgomery County currently has two successful edge cities, Bethesda and Silver Spring. They always were downtowns, and have evolved into more densely-developed downtowns. This progress will and should continue. And the bedroom communities around them and north of them have desirable, single-family home neighborhoods, with commercial corridors and shopping centers that provide needed services. In regards to planning, other than the need to address our failure to complete our master plan highway system, and our affordable housing crisis, where is the demand or need to force a "thorough or dramatic change" in Montgomery County's "form or appearance?" From the legion of residents who testified against the radical county zoning rewrite, it's clearly not coming from a majority of the citizenry.
The announcement seeks ideas that will "continue to transform suburbs into exciting, attractive and sustainable communities." Again, this is biased language, suggesting that suburbs are currently not attractive. The population count and diversity of Montgomery County suggest otherwise.
"Taming suburban street design." It's a jungle out there, apparently.
Now, a lot of what's up for discussion at this event is actually worthy of discussion. Improving bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, the relationship of land use and transportation, and affordable housing are important issues.
But referring to "commuting culture" and suburbs in a negative light is counterproductive. Criticizing people who can't afford to live in Bethesda - but want a nice neighborhood and a backyard for kids to play in - for buying homes further out, and driving in to work because it is convenient, is not academic. It's elitist. And the encroachment of urbanization into suburban neighborhoods - now codified in the pending zoning changes - suggests where that "dramatic change in form" is going. That's one extreme makeover Montgomery County doesn't need.
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
A perfunctory planning staff report is recommending the board vote to abandon the right-of-way, citing the North Bethesda-Garrett Park master plan recommendation to do so.
The ramifications of the abandonment are far more complicated than the staff report would suggest, however.
First, and foremost, the main driver of the abandonment is neither sound transportation policy, nor concern for the environment (an Aspen Hill Road extension would cross Rock Creek). Rather, it is to promote and facilitate urban redevelopment of the Halpine View garden apartment complex. Halpine View is one of a dwindling number of affordable and spacious housing developments in the county. Its design, much like Privacy World in Glenmont, emphasizes a suburban scale setting, and well-maintained trees and green space. Certainly, the buildings are aging. But to preserve existing affordable units, renovation would be far better than turning the site into another "town center" for rich people. Current rents at Halpine View range from $1000-$1600 a month, and only about two blocks from the Twinbrook Metro station. This makes the complex a valuable one for working families in Montgomery County.
But much like Privacy World and other models for suburban, multi-family housing development, Halpine View is now sought after by developers for dense, urban-style development. Such "town center" density is entirely inappropriate at this location, literally across the street from single family homes in Twinbrook and Aspen Hill. Furthermore, the lure of redevelopment - dangled by developer-beholden council members for decades in front of landowners in Wheaton, Glenmont, Aspen Hill, Rockville, Bethesda, Long Branch, etc., has discouraged routine renovations and maintenance at some properties. After all, why spend money to upgrade your building(s) if you think you're going to be tearing them down in a few years? Remember that when supporters of redevelopment try to convince you that this or that shopping center or apartment complex is "shabby," or obsolete for "the modern amenities young professionals demand today." Any such amenities can be added to any building.
Rather than giving massive tax giveaways to developers, the county would be better off using those funds to assist property owners - as necessary - to finance such renovations and improvements. That would be a far better use of $72 million than just giving it away to White Flint developers, as the county council did a few years ago.
Beyond the crisis of affordable housing we continue to experience in Montgomery County, Aspen Hill Road extended is a potentially vital transportation facility. Current county leaders have no intention of completing the Rockville Freeway/Rockville Facility (a.k.a. Montrose Parkway, in part) all the way from Falls Road to the Intercounty Connector. Therefore, lateral traffic movement remains severely constrained in the county.
Should the Rockville Facility never be extended to Connecticut Avenue, Randolph Road and other local roads remain the only routes between White Flint and Aspen Hill. In that case, Aspen Hill Road Extended would be an important transportation facility.
There is also great potential for inappropriate use of "rapid transit" to upzone retail centers in Aspen Hill to high-density urbanization. Again, Aspen Hill Road Extended would certainly be a necessity under those circumstances.
Finally, a potentially high-traffic redevelopment is going to occur at the intersection of Aspen Hill Road and Connecticut Avenue - as a Walmart, or otherwise. Yet again, Aspen Hill Road would be a major route for patrons of that site.
In conclusion, there is no immediate need to abandon Aspen Hill Road Extended, other than private profit by a developer. The Planning Board should table this request indefinitely.
Retaining the Aspen Hill Road Extended right-of-way is in the best interests of the public, public safety, transportation needs, and vital to maintaining existing affordable housing units.
Thursday, November 28, 2013
A construction worker was pronounced dead at the scene after a fall in the Poplar Run area of Glenmont this morning, according to Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Public Information Officer Scott Graham. Montgomery County Police are investigating.
Friday, November 15, 2013
The farce that was the last 48 hours of Red Line service on Metro is not the last straw. Whatever the last straw was (I think most riders and employees have lost count at this point), it happened a long time ago. Yet Metro continues to slouch forward, its leadership locking arms with apologists in local government and media. The result is that, in the customer's experience, there has been no positive change whatsoever.
Metro has been a good subway system in the past. Sure, there have always been issues, but nothing like that of recent years. Metro can be at least that good again with the right leadership, and adequate funding.
We've heard a lot about the "aggressive" changes in maintenance, safety and service. Riders have suffered through endless weekend station closures, closures that - along with punitive fare increases - have sent some riders back to their automobiles.
But those inconvenient closures have produced no tangible results. There continue to be delays, derailings, and even another fatal accident that killed an employee. Does anyone call this an improvement?
Yet Metro truly has a Teflon leadership. No matter what happens, it's never held accountable. But riders have leverage beyond their farecards: asking their local and state government officials to tell Metro's leadership enough is enough.
If our elected officials don't take action, we should take action at the voting machines in DC, Maryland and Virginia.
Furthermore, the state of Maryland should consider doing what Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell did three years ago: decide what substantive leadership, operation and safety changes they believe should be implemented, and withhold Maryland's Metro funding until those are enacted. Should that be the first and only means of bringing about real change? No. But if all else fails, is allowing one of the best subway systems in the world to continue to decline an option?
I'm certainly open to other suggestions of how Montgomery County and Maryland specifically can apply pressure on Metro on behalf of their beleaguered residents; feel free to leave a comment below.
But we can't continue to be told that change is just around the corner. When's the last time your train was automatically run, rather than manually operated? How many years have gone by without fixing that problem? I don't even hear Metro, the media or politicians talk about that issue anymore.
I'd like to see politicians show the same animation and fury they generate about plastic bags and trans fat on behalf of an unacceptable level of subway service for their constituents. And, if they don't, they should be replaced with people who will.
We can't go on like this.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
This morning's Washington Post contains an article on the proposed bus rapid transit (BRT) system that will be taken up by the Montgomery County Council today. Some information stated as fact in the article is actually untrue, unproven, or just subjective opinion. Let's correct the public record.
POST: (Headline) "Network of enhanced service envisioned on 10 roads to alleviate congestion"
FACT: There is no factual evidence whatsoever that BRT would "alleviate congestion." Journalism 101 tells us the media should never give authority to one view on an issue, particularly when there is no evidence to back up the assertion. The statement is false, and the headline should have been prefaced with "Advocates say..."
POST: The complete BRT system "would cost as much as $3 billion."
FACT: The Montgomery County Planning Department estimated a countywide BRT system would cost $10 billion. Concluding that was too expensive, planners reduced the size of the network by 50%. 50% of $10 billion is $5 billion.
POST: "It could be at least 2020 before construction begins on the first segment."
FACT: Not true. County master planner Larry Cole stated on County Cable Channel 6 this year that implementation in some areas could begin in early 2014, where major road alterations were not needed.
POST: "BRT is now regarded by many county leaders as the only rational way to address some of the worst commuter traffic in the country."
FACT: We've actually been rated as the worst commuting area in recent years. BRT is far from the only "rational" solution. For example, we know that about 25% of traffic on the American Legion Bridge is traveling to or from the Dulles area. If you built the long-delayed second bridge across the Potomac as an extension of either the ICC or the unbuilt Rockville Freeway, you would remove about a quarter of vehicles from that stretch of the Beltway. BRT can't remove anywhere near that amount of vehicles from roads. Would you spend money on a problem you know you can solve (Legion Bridge), or one that is purely speculative, like BRT?
POST: "[T]here is little room for new roads, [BRT] advocates contend."
FACT: Absolutely false. Rights-of-way exist for the Rockville Freeway, M-83 (Midcounty Highway Extended), new Potomac River crossing, and Northern Parkway. There are virtually no homes or businesses, if any, that would be demolished to build those roads.
POST: "'Nobody's going to widen any more roads or build another Wisconsin Avenue or Georgia Avenue...,' said council member Marc Elrich."
FACT: Interstates 270 and 495 both have room to be widened, as do Rockville Pike, Georgia Avenue and many other state highways. During the 1970s, county leaders deliberately chose not to build critical roads that were designed to allow through traffic to bypass Wisconsin and Georgia Avenues: the Northwest and North-Central Freeways.
POST: BRT "is rooted in the notion that if you take away a lane for cars on a congested road and set it aside for [BRT], some motorists will abandon their cars."
FACT: At least they used the word "notion!" In fact, Cole, the county master planner, said during public hearings this year that planners think and believe that if drivers see a fast bus, they will switch to the bus. They have no data or MoCo-esque area that has implemented a BRT system, much less a successful one. You can't justify reducing the vehicle capacity of MD 355 by 33% when you just "think" or "have a hunch" about a wacky plan.
POST: "County planners...estimate that an exclusive bus lane on MD 355 from the Capital Beltway to Western Avenue, for example, could move about 600 more people an hour than car traffic."
FACT: There is no data that shows any such thing. And the speculation assumes that those 600 people will switch from cars to bus. In fact, the corridor in question already has rapid transit, the Metro Red Line. Subways move far faster than BRT. Yet, those 600 drivers they refer to have already declined to use rapid transit. Why would they suddenly choose to use an even slower "rapid" bus (which moves 12 miles in 48 minutes, according to the county's own data) that doesn't even travel to their destination, downtown DC (BRT will end in Bethesda or Friendship Heights)?
The real fact is, taxpayer money would be better spent on adding more capacity to the Red Line, extending the Red Line to Germantown, expanding MARC commuter rail capacity, and completing our unfinished highway system. There simply is no money to waste on BRT, which is being pushed to expand sprawl urbanization out to areas like Wildwood, Montgomery Mall, Aspen Hill, and Olney.
Friday, September 13, 2013
McDonald's is directly taking on the legendary Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte with... a McDonald's Pumpkin Spice Latte! How does it stack up to Starbucks? Watch my review to find out, as well as learn about the ingredients and calorie count for this new McCafe beverage.
Monday, September 9, 2013
McDonald's Mighty Wings have begun to arrive in Montgomery County, just in time for football season. Watch my review to see how they rate.
These chicken wings have a crispy coating, and a Cayenne pepper zing. Sauces are just the usual McNuggets choices; I recommend Ranch and Spicy Buffalo.
3 wings will set you back $3.19, minus the additional tax.
The wings are scheduled to roll out at all McDonald's locations over the coming days.
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Popeyes new Chicken Waffle Tenders arrived in restaurants Monday. Last night, I stopped by Popeyes to try them. Here's my review, including close-ups of the tenders and special sauce.
Chicken Waffle Tenders are only available for a limited time.
Monday, July 15, 2013
Hostess Twinkies returned to the shelves 2 days early at Walmart. Because the Montgomery County Council has blocked Walmart from opening any additional stores in the county, I was forced to drive up to one of my favorite shopping centers, Milestone, in Germantown.
Sure enough, they had Twinkies.
My understanding is that Walmart is not going to carry Twinkies that have been frozen. That means Walmart Twinkies give us the best opportunity to evaluate the true flavor and texture of this new Twinkie.
Here is my review of this first batch of new Twinkies.
If you haven't subscribed to the Robert Dyer Channel on YouTube yet, now is a good time: I have just passed 1000 subscribers on there.
Friday, June 28, 2013
MOCO PLANNING BOARD "INDEPENDENT" FARM ROAD COUNSEL IS MAJOR DONOR TO POLITICIANS WITH OVERSIGHT IN THE CASE
EXCLUSIVE INVESTIGATIVE REPORT
The "independent" investigator hired by the Montgomery County Planning Board to untangle the Farm Road dispute is actually a massive donor to politicians who have oversight authority in the case.
It was widely reported yesterday that Bethesda attorney Douglas Bregman was appointed by the board. He was relentlessly described as an experienced attorney, highly-respected, and - in the words of Board Chair Francoise Carrier - a man of "unquestioned integrity."
Those traits are not necessarily in dispute. But the truth is more complicated than the Planning Board press release.
"And now," as the great Paul Harvey used to say, "the rest of the story:"
Douglas Bregman is also a very hefty political donor in Montgomery County. And his donations are to politicians who have legal oversight, and may launch investigations, in the Farm Road dispute.
According to Maryland campaign finance records, Bregman donated $4000 to Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler. Gansler has been asked for years, by citizens, and by elected officials, to open an investigation into the Farm Road matter, in which several African-American residents of a historical kinship community in Sandy Spring have been duped out of a road, addresses, and property rights by Planning Department "mistakes" that benefitted a nearby developer.
Gansler now disputes that anyone asked him to investigate Farm Road. But, in fact, Del. Herman Taylor and Councilmember Marc Elrich asked him to do just that, in a joint letter 5 years ago.
Now that the dispute has become high-profile, Gansler could - and should - launch a state investigation. Having a preliminary report produced by a $4000 donor to Gansler is not a good way to start.
Bregman has also donated thousands of dollars to Maryland Senator Brian Frosh (D - District 16). As a legislator, Frosh has oversight authority over the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, of which the county planning board is a part.
But, wait! Frosh is also a rumored candidate for Maryland attorney general.
According to the Washington Post, Bregman was also part of Steve Silverman's staff in his 2006 run for county executive. Silverman was strongly supported by developers in that race. Bregman has also given $1250 to County Executive Ike Leggett.
This is hardly the "objective" investigator we need in this case. Farm Road is a very serious matter. There could ultimately be criminal charges, as well as federal civil rights violations. People could go to jail.
A Bregman investigation that turns up no smoking gun, and recommends modest changes to keep a similar "mistake" from occurring in the future, could defuse higher investigations by Frosh and Gansler. Given the amount of money both have received from Bregman, sadly, there is the - at least - public perception that they would give his opinions more weight.
Given the weight of the issues involved, an FBI investigation is called for. There needs to be a truly independent investigation, with people answering questions under oath, and a thorough search of all existing or deleted computer records, emails, etc. by federal investigators. There is a clear justification for Justice Department involvement regarding the civil rights issues in this case.
I don't believe it's appropriate to "choose your own investigator." Bregman is part of the MoCo political apparatus, that has much to lose if a Farm Road investigation uncovers unflattering details. He may well be of the highest integrity. But that's not the issue here. This case requires a thorough investigation, and one where there can be no perception of favoritism.
Bregman is not the person who can provide that assurance. The state has been implicated in emails uncovered by the group Save Sandy Spring. So it can't provide that assurance of integrity here, either.
We now need a federal investigation of the Farm Road matter, sooner rather than later.
Thursday, June 20, 2013
Tastykake has released a second Hostess knockoff product. First, they cloned Twinkies with Dreamies.
Now they've copied their famous Ding Dongs. Watch my review to find out how successful Tastykake was this time.
"Begun, the Clone Wars have."
Friday, May 17, 2013
Apparently, some opponents of the proposed Montgomery County Bus Rapid Transit system are big fans of American Idol and/or The Office.
The ratio of BRT fans to opponents was much closer at last night's Montgomery County Planning Board public hearing in Silver Spring than it was at the first public hearing last summer. This time around, developer-backed groups turned out more speakers than last July, when opponents dominated the debate. The meeting was certainly poorly advertised.
But the arguments remained the same.
Proponents, and certainly, developers, want the development BRT will allow, and the pain it will cause drivers.
One problem is, the type of community they want Montgomery County to be is not necessarily what a majority of taxpaying residents want. The idea that a small faction can impose itself on the majority, and in a winner-take-all fashion, is simply contradictory to not only the founding principles of America, but to reality itself.
In my testimony, I urged the Planning Board to put the Transit Corridors Master Plan in the context of the county as a whole. They are the county planning body, not the White Flint planning commission.
And we have to run the numbers - the real-world numbers.
With limited transportation money, and an indefinite structural budget deficit, we can't afford to waste money on a bus system that will worsen congestion.
For example, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments' American Legion Bridge study showed that 23% of Maryland drivers using the bridge are headed to the Dulles area.
What that means in real terms, is that a new Potomac River bridge via the unbuilt Rockville Freeway or I-370 would reduce Legion bridge traffic by nearly a quarter. BRT proponents' most Fantasy Island projection of congestion relief, by contrast is 15%. The contrast speaks for itself, especially when the BRT system under discussion will cost $5 billion.
But let's examine that BRT traffic "relief" using real numbers, not Planner Larry Cole's fantasy numbers.
Rockville Pike is currently 70% over capacity.
The draft plan takes 2 lanes from the Pike, reducing vehicular capacity by 33%.
Okay, now we're 103% over capacity.
Now, pretend that the wildest, most fantastical BRT projection came true, just for the sake of argument: Under that dreamy scenario, 15% of drivers "get out of their cars" and start commuting by bus.
That brings us down to 88% over capacity on Rockville Pike.
So, we've spent $5 billion, and increased road rage, and pollution through idling car engines, and...
...traffic is now 18% worse than if we had done nothing!
Does this make sense to you?
Anyway, the majority of turnout last night was from Bethesda, Chevy Chase, and Silver Spring.
Civic associations from Woodmor-Pinecrest, Locust Hill, Bethesda Crest, Chevy Chase West, and Chevy Chase Valley expressed serious reservations about the plan as drafted.
The Montgomery County Sierra Club, the City of Takoma Park, Indian Spring Civic Association, Hillandale Civic Association and Greater Colesville Civic Association were in favor of the BRT plan.
Michelle Riley of the Woodmor-Pinecrest association said her neighborhood will be the most-affected residential area in the county, if BRT goes forward. Riley said the system makes little sense for Woodmor, as the major traffic is related to the Beltway, not the routes targeted for BRT. She also warned of property seizures below New Hampshire Avenue.
Locust Hill and Chevy Chase West shared concerns about losing already-limited neighborhood access due to BRT lanes and turn restrictions.
The Bethesda Crest HOA noted that BRT would eliminate an existing Forest Conservation Area along their community.
While Tony Hausner of Indian Spring supports BRT, one position I do share with him is that zoning along BRT routes should not be changed. Of course, such protection will never be extended to existing residents, as redevelopment of the Georgetown Square and Wildwood Shopping Center are just two of the secret developer objectives with BRT. The others, of course, are to build cities in the country at Science City and Olney, as well as Burtonsville.
There were some 1984-esque arguments made by the Sierra Club. First, that BRT will reduce emissions. That is patently false. BRT could well be powered by fossil fuels. No one has committed to clean fuel buses. Secondly, it is a scientific fact that traffic jams actually increase smog and vehicle emissions. BRT will worsen congestion by 18-33%, at a minimum. Meaning up to 33% greater pollution in Montgomery County.
They also repeated Rollin Stanley's old line, "They're coming." This refers to armies of new residents who are en route to live in Montgomery County in the coming decades. This is complete bunk as well.
Our population can only grow as much as our Planning Board and County Council allow it to. We have absolute control over our own destiny - and density - despite the theatrically-panicked claims of developer-backed politicians and citizens.
Finally, the Sierra Club parroted a popular developer talking point: "More young people are not using cars. They prefer high-tech."
As this plays out in hipster urbanization journals, kids are forgoing cars so they can have iPhones instead.
I'm assuming the Sierra Club hasn't seen the "Cars of GW" slideshow that went viral online. For a less elite example, visit the Montgomery College parking lot in Rockville at 11:00 AM. I rest my case.
Oh, and those coveted smartphones the kids are "saving up" for? Anyone who has attended a movie recently knows that parents buy these phones for kids long before they can even get a license.
And I'd like the anti-car elites to tell us if their $70000-to-start jobs have "must have own transportation" as a requirement in the job announcement?
Get out in the real world with working people and find out what it's like, and why cars are often a necessity. There's a reason why a Baltimore non-profit gives low-income single moms cars so they don't have to use transit anymore. Time and access to more employment opportunities equals more income.
I was glad to see Debra Alfarone of WUSA9 covering the hearing last night. This story has been under-the-radar too long.
One sentence of my testimony ended up in the 11:00 news report. In light of the need to move over a million people in Montgomery County, and the anti-car arrogance of the draft BRT corridor plan, I said "an anti-car attitude at this point is counterproductive."
I couldn't have said it better myself.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
You've probably heard that KFC introduced a new Boneless version of its legendary, original recipe fried chicken on Sunday.
Last night, I bought a Boneless Chicken meal, and here's my review.
The meal included 2 pieces of Boneless Chicken (I prefer dark meat), your choice of 1 side dish (I chose my favorite, mashed potatoes with gravy), 1 biscuit, and a medium drink (Mountain Dew Baja Blast).
I wanted to do a test of the chicken's flavor, juiciness, and meat portion in contrast to the bone-in original.
How does Boneless stack up?
Watch my review for the answers.
Sunday, April 14, 2013
According to Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Public Information Officer Scott Graham, 2 children have been reported to be in a 4-foot storm drain in the 3500 block of Bel Pre Road in Silver Spring.
Firefighters are on scene, and attempting to confirm the report, and find the juveniles, Graham said.
Thursday, April 11, 2013
Montgomery County Planning Department Master Planner Larry Cole told the Rockville Planning Commission last night that a bus rapid transit line along MD Route 355 would take "13-21%" of its ridership from Metro.
Why is this important?
For two reasons. First, it highlights the duplication of existing subway service by BRT. In fact, Commissioner David Hill questioned Cole on that very point at last night's briefing at Rockville City Hall.
Secondly, it confirms my argument from the beginning of this sham of a process regarding BRT: the duplicative service will attract mostly those who already use transit. In the process, it will slash the already insufficient revenue of the Metro system.
Where will that shortfall be recovered from? From you and I, the taxpayers. And again from you and I, in the form of future Metro fare increases.
It begs the question again - if the county has a magic $5 billion in extra revenue to pay for the BRT system, wouldn't that money be better spent on projects that will actually reduce congestion? These would include M-83 Midcounty Highway Extended, the Rockville Freeway, a new Potomac River bridge, expanded MARC service, the Purple Line and an extension of Metro to Gaithersburg and Germantown.
In contrast to those projects, the ridership, density and demand numbers for BRT simply don't add up. With no solid evidence that drivers will "get out of their cars," it's safe to assume Metro ridership will be the target audience for the Emperor's New Bus, thereby providing no congestion relief.
What could ultimately end up happening, is a small BRT ridership, taken in even greater numbers from Metro than Cole's projections suggest, riding $5 billion buses along a now even-more-congested Route 355. And Metro in even worse financial straits than ever.
Rockville Planning Commissioners were understandably skeptical of Cole's presentation.
Commissioner Jack Leiderman asked Cole if he was attempting to "punish" drivers by removing 2 car lanes from 355 for BRT. Cole arrogantly responded that drivers "don't own" those lanes.
Mr. Cole, those of us who live in Maryland not only own those lanes, but we paid for their construction, and continue to pay for their maintenance.
Cole made the mistake of comparing the seizure of 2 lanes for BRT to HOV Lanes on I-270. Anyone who actually drives on 270 knows that the HOV idea was a complete failure, and does continue only as a punishment for drivers. The HOV lane is that one which you turn to the left and see hardly anybody in, while you're crawling or at a complete stop on 270. Not only is traffic still jammed, but you're moving even slower, thanks to the loss of 25% of capacity in the Express lanes. And during rush hour, many HOV drivers are using the lane illegally.
Cole wasn't done making odd comparisons.
When a skeptical Commissioner Dion Trahan quizzed Cole as to how losing already-jammed lanes would reduce gridlock, Cole referred to Ballston in Arlington.
Cole repeated a popular urban myth among "smart" growth advocates, that traffic on Wilson Boulevard in Ballston and Clarendon has actually decreased, despite massive, dense redevelopment.
This is an apples to oranges comparison, and complete bunk. First, the "less traffic" argument is hardly accurate as it relates to Arlington.
But, more importantly, there is no comparison whatsoever between Wilson Boulevard and 355.
The daily traffic count on Wilson is around 15,000 vehicles.
The daily traffic count on Rockville Pike is 43,000 to 46,000 cars.
Wilson is a lower-capacity road than 355.
And Wilson is not an arterial road of the scope of 355. 355 carries heavy traffic from Washington, Frederick, Carroll and Montgomery counties along a corridor that has only one alternative, 270.
In contrast, drivers traveling west-east into Washington through Arlington have many parallel routes to choose from. Rockville Pike is not Wilson Boulevard, and you can't make it so just to satisfy ideology or developers.
Speaking of which, Cole seems to favor both. Cole's recent suggestion to kill the grade-separated Montrose Parkway certainly revealed an anti-highway, pro-developer bias. That's not a good starting point for a planning department that is supposed to ensure adequate mobility of citizens via a multimodal transportation system.
But there's more ideological dreaming, "behavior-modification" scheming, and development cheerleading going on than planning in Cole's department.
Asked by the commission's chair, Jerry Callistein, why no planning has been done for BRT parking, environmental studies, BRT-Metro transfers, BRT vehicle storage, etc., Cole essentially responded that the dog ate his homework. It's hard enough to get the BRT plan passed without worrying about those little details, Cole suggested.
Unsatisfactory answers were the rule in a presentation on an unsatisfactory boondoggle of a BRT proposal.
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Here's something new to try for dinner tonight: Wendy's new Asiago Ranch Grilled Chicken Flatbread sandwich. I stopped by Wendy's last night to try it out myself.
Here's my review, including a zoomed-in closeup of all the fillings in the sandwich: lettuce, salad greens, bacon, tomatoes, grilled chicken breast, Asiago cheese and ranch dressing.
Don't forget the artisan bread, which is one of the strong points in Wendy's attempt to challenge upscale competitors like Panera Bread.
Monday, April 8, 2013
Enjoy lunch or dinner in Silver Spring and Wheaton during Thai Restaurant Week, starting this Wednesday, April 10, and running through next Wednesday, April 17.
The annual event is organized and sponsored by the Royal Thai Embassy's offices of Commercial and Agricultural Affairs, in Washington, D.C.
Participating restaurants in Silver Spring and Wheaton are:
Herbal Thai, 2159 Industrial Parkway, (Silver Spring) 301-622-2552.
Thai Derm, 939 Bonifant Street, (Silver Spring) 301-589-5341.
Nava Thai, 11315 Fern Street, (Wheaton) 240-430-0495.
Friday, April 5, 2013
Fifty employees of the Montgomery County Housing Opportunities Commission staged a protest at yesterday's HOC Commission meeting. According to the DC AFL-CIO, the workers were protesting the layoffs of 10 HOC employees.
Carlos Mellott, field representative for UFCW Local 1994, said the "inspectors are key to completing the work of the HOC. They inspect properties to ensure that they're adequately maintained and safe for residents. They have developed strong relationships with landlords and residents in the area. Not only is this a loss for HOC, it's an erosion of the quality of housing and services provided to Montgomery County's low income families."
Reportedly, the jobs are being subcontracted to the private sector. The county is facing a large budget deficit, but recently created several new executive-level positions with 6-figure salaries.
I thought this news was particularly timely, given tenant complaints regarding Charter House in Silver Spring at a recent County Council town hall meeting.
Photo submitted by Carlos Mellott:
Just in time for the weekend, I have a video review of the newest DiGiorno frozen pizza product at Giant, DiGiorno Pizza Dipping Strips.
This is basically a DiGiorno pepperoni pizza sliced into 4 breadstick-size strips. You get a small, plastic pocket of marinara sauce to dip the strips in. All of this you can heat up in the microwave.
The serving size per person is 2 strips, but that portion is unlikely to satisfy a grown adult. Yet eating all 4 strips is a tremendous amount of salt and fat. So, you will definitely want to pick up a somewhat healthier side item to have with these, if you are trying to reduce your salt and fat intake.
Monday, April 1, 2013
The new Ruffles Max Beer Battered Onion Rings potato chip promises "maximum flavor." Can a chip deliver the flavors of one of America's favorite side dishes? Watch my review and find out! I found these chips at Giant.
Friday, March 29, 2013
Two robberies took place in the Long Branch area Tuesday, March 26. The incidents occurred in the 500 block of Domer Avenue, and in the 8400 block of Garland Avenue/500 Clayborn Avenue.
It is not known at this time if the two robberies were related.
Here is a summary of other crimes in the downtown Silver Spring, Long Branch, and Takoma Park areas from March 23-26:
Assault. 100 block Ritchie Avenue.
Burglary. 700 block Sligo Avenue.
Assault. 8700 block Cameron Street.
Theft. 900 block Ellsworth Drive.
Burglary. 8200 block Georgia Avenue.
Assault. 2200 block Quinton Road.
Theft from vehicle. 100 block Granville Drive.
Burglary. 7500 block Maple Avenue.
Theft from vehicle. 8900 block Flower Avenue.
Theft. 9200 block Colesville Road.
Theft. 8500 block Georgia Avenue.
Burglary. 8400 block Georgia Avenue.
Assault. 8600 block 16th Street.
Stolen car. 7400 block Wildwood Drive.
Theft from vehicle. 8000 block Eastern Avenue.
Theft. 8500 block Piney Branch Road.
Theft. 00 block Wayne Avenue.
Burglary. 400 block Silver Spring Avenue.
Theft. 800 block Easley Street.
Theft. 7600 block Fenton Street.
Thursday, March 28, 2013
One or more thieves is targeting a Wheaton neighborhood in recent days, seeking items from vehicles. On March 25, 3 thefts from vehicles occurred in one small area. One was in the 1900 block of Carmody Drive. The other two were on the same street, in the 1300 and 2300 blocks of McMahon Road.
If you live near that area, make sure to lock your vehicle at all times, remove any visible valuables from the cabin, and report suspicious activity to police.
Here is a roundup of other notable crimes in Wheaton and Glenmont from March 22 to 25:
Stolen car. 2500 block Weisman Road.
Drug arrest. 2000 block Pritchard Road/1998 Carmody Drive.
Theft from vehicle. 2900 block Kingswell Drive.
Disorder. 3300 block Claridge Court.
Disorder. 11600 block Veirs Mill Road.
Drug arrest. 2400 block Reedie Drive.
Assault. 10800 block Georgia Avenue.
Disorder. 2300 block Glenmont Circle.
Assault. 3000 block Ferndale Street.
Drug arrest. 11100 block Georgia Avenue.
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
CRIME REPORT FOR ASPEN HILL, BEL PRE, CONNECTICUT AVE. ESTATES, LEISURE WORLD, LAYHILL - MARCH 22-24
A theft at Leisure World, and a stolen car in Layhill are 2 notable incidents in this Aspen Hill, Bel Pre, Connecticut Avenue Estates, Leisure World and Layhill crime report for March 22-24, 2013.
Theft. 3900 block Aspen Hill Road.
Disorder. 3000 block Bel Pre Road.
Drug arrest. 14300 block Georgia Avenue/4050 Bel Pre Road.
Disorder. 14000 block Georgia Avenue.
Theft from vehicle. 12800 block Bushey Drive.
Theft from vehicle. 3600 block Gleneagles Drive, Leisure World.
Stolen car. 14500 block Layhill Road.
Disorder. 3800 block Bel Pre Road.
Disorder. 1800 block Middlebridge Drive.
Disorder. 4700 block Wissahican Avenue.
Theft from vehicle. 3600 block Bel Pre Road.
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Celeste has a new, Limited Edition Mexican Pizza for One. I found this at Target. Watch my review.
The pizza has beef and chicken crumbles, diced green and red peppers (the same ones from the Celeste Deluxe Pizza for One), imitation cheddar cheese, and pizza sauce. This pizza has the standard Celeste thin crust, and includes a microwave crisping disk.
Saturday, March 23, 2013
Do you like pancakes? Can the pancake experience be shrunk down to a snack cake?
Join me as we find out in this video review of Tastykake Pancake Krimpets!
Friday, March 22, 2013
Just before 12:46 AM yesterday morning, March 21, two armed intruders invaded a home in the 13000 block of Freeland Road in Aspen Hill.
According to police, the suspects demanded money, and then shot a 14-year-old girl and a 55-year-old man. They then fled the scene.
Police describe the suspects as two white males, age 20-25, and say they may know the victims, who are recovering from non-life-threatening injuries.
Do you have any information about this incident? Did you hear or see anything strange in the neighborhood that night? Did you see a vehicle driving through the neighborhood around 12:45 AM?
If so, please call police at 240-773-5100, or remain anonymous at 1-866-411-TIPS.
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
A robbery, a stolen car, and a drug bust at Springbrook High School are among the highlights of this March 15-17 crime data roundup from the White Oak and New Hampshire Avenue areas of Silver Spring.
Theft. Sears White Oak.
Drug arrest. Springbrook HS.
Burglary. 11300 block Baritone Court.
Assault. 11200 block Lockwood Drive.
Burglary. 100 block Colony Road.
Stolen car. 900 block Northampton Drive.
Assault. 9400 block New Hampshire Avenue.
Robbery. 1000 block Ruatan Street.
Assault. 11400 block Lockwood Drive.
Drug arrest. 11500 block Stewart Lane.
Theft from vehicle. 1000 block Kathryn Road.
Drug arrest. 11200 block New Hampshire Avenue.
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Theft. 7900 block Georgia Ave.
Theft from vehicle. 8700 block Leonard Drive.
Theft from vehicle. 8000 block Eastern Avenue.
Theft from vehicle. 1900 block Rosemary Hills Drive.
Assault. 8600 block Colesville Road.
Robbery. 9600 block Merwood Lane.
Drug arrest. 400 block University Boulevard/E. Melbourne Avenue.
Theft. 1100 block Linden Avenue.
Stolen car. 9300 block Piney Branch Road.
Burglary. 1100 block Holton Lane.
Theft from vehicle. 6400 block Kansas Lane.
Robbery. 7800 block Kennewick Avenue.
Assault. 8200 block 16th Street.
Theft. 900 block Ellsworth Drive.
Assault. 800 block Bonifant Street/Grove Street.
Assault. 600 block Silver Spring Avenue.
According to crime data, a robbery took place in the 3700 block of Bel Pre Road Saturday.
More details when they become available.
Monday, March 18, 2013
A sexual assault was reported Wednesday in the Kemp Mill area of Wheaton, according to crime data. A narcotics arrest was made this past Friday at Kennedy High School in Glenmont. And a robbery was reported Thursday on Norlee Drive.
Here is a list of crimes reported to police between March 13-15:
Sexual assault. 900 block Kenbrook Drive.
Stolen car. 2300 block Blueridge Avenue.
Theft. JC Penney, Wheaton Plaza.
Drug arrest. 2400 block Randolph Road.
Theft. 11400 block Georgia Avenue.
Drug arrest. 12000 block Dalewood Drive.
Drug arrest. 11000 block Amherst Avenue/Pritchard Road.
Robbery. 11100 block Norlee Drive.
Drug arrest. 11100 block Veirs Mill Road.
Drug arrest. Kennedy HS.
Saturday, March 16, 2013
Where to go on St. Patrick's Day in the Wheaton-Glenmont area?
The Limerick Pub has to be the top choice.
On St. Patrick's Day, they'll be serving Kegs and Eggs from 9 AM to 12 PM. But all this weekend, they're having live music, raffles, giveaways, and food and drink specials.
Tonight's musical guest will be White Loafer.
Other places to check out are:
The Royal Mile Pub in Wheaton.
Stained Glass Pub in Glenmont, at 12510 Layhill Rd.
Happy St. Patrick's Day!
Friday, March 15, 2013
A robbery, a stolen car, drug busts, and lots of disorderly people, jump off the rap sheet for March 8-11 in Aspen Hill, Bel Pre, Connecticut Avenue Estates, Layhill and Leisure World.
And there really were "no rules" at Outback Steakhouse during a disorderly conduct episode.
Drug arrest. XX Valleyfield Court.
Disorder. 2200 block Bel Pre Road.
Drug arrest. 1440 block Homecrest Rd./3050 Bel Pre Road.
Theft. 13700 block Connecticut Avenue.
Disorder. 3200 block Hewitt Avenue.
Disorder. 14800 block Village Gate Drive.
Disorder. 14200 block Grand Pre Road.
Disorder. Outback Steakhouse.
Theft from vehicle. 3900 block Peppertree lane.
Disorder. 14900 block Habersham Circle.
Disorder. 3600 block Pear Tree Court.
Disorder. 1310 block Superior Street.
Disorder. 12900 block Goodhill Road.
Stolen car. 3300 block Weeping Wiilow Court.
Robbery. 3800 block Aspen Hill Road.
Disorder. 13800 block Georgia Avenue.
Disorder. 13500 block Georgia Avenue.
Drug arrest. 3900 block Bel Pre Road.
Theft from vehicle. 3800 block International Drive.
Thursday, March 14, 2013
Montgomery County is one of the first places in America to get the product launch of McDonald's new McWrap menu item. Click here for an in-depth review of the McDonald's McWrap!
The McWrap comes with your choice of grilled or crispy chicken. There are 3 variations: Chicken and Bacon, Sweet Chili Chicken, and Chicken and Ranch.
Sweet Chili sounded the most unique, so I decided to get that first.
Watch my review for all the details, and my final verdict. You'll also find out about the McWrap packaging, which is not only different, but highly functional.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
There's been another mix-up at the Frito-Lay factory, and I suspect Chester Cheetah had something to do with it!
The result is Cheetos Mix-Ups Xtra Cheezy Mix, and here is my review.
Monday, March 11, 2013
Burglary. 7200 block Cedar Avenue.
Assault. 700 block Sligo Avenue.
Assault. Silver Spring Metro station.
Assault/"other sexual offense." 8700 block Carroll Avenue.
Theft. 2100 block Forest Glen Road.
Theft. 10200 block Calumet Road.
Disorder. Whole Foods, 833 Wayne Avenue.
Robbery. 7800 block Kennewick Avenue.
Theft. 9300 block New Hampshire Avenue.
Burglary. 12300 block Galway Avenue.
Assault. 10200 block New Hampshire Avenue.
Assault/"other sexual offense." 200 block University Boulevard E.
Burglary. 700 block Ludlow Street.
Stolen car. 7400 block Holly Avenue.
Burglary. 7400 block Hancock Avenue.
Disorder. Fenton Street Greyhound Bus terminal.
Disorder. Red Lobster. 8533 Georgia Avenue.
Theft from vehicle. 1400 block Dale Drive.
Stolen car. 9900 block Dameron Drive.
Theft from vehicle. 900 block Robin Road.
Burglary. 7000 block Carroll Avenue.
Theft. 8600 block 2nd Avenue.
Theft. 900 block Wayne Avenue.
Stolen car. 8300 block Greenwood Avenue.
Robbery. 2800 block Duvall Road.
Assault. 7600 block Carroll Avenue.
Burglary. 700 block Northwest Drive.
Sunday, March 10, 2013
A robbery was reported in the 3700 block of Bel Pre Road on Thursday, March 7. The same day/night, thefts occurred in Aspen Hill in the 14100 block of Georgia Avenue and 4100 block of Aspen Hill Road.
Disorderly conduct was reported in Glenmont at Staples, and in the 2300 block of Glenmont Circle.
Meanwhile, here is a list of crimes reported in Wheaton and Glenmont:
Tuesday, March 5:
Disorder. 11500 block Amherst Avenue.
Disorder. 1500 block Ladd Street.
Wednesday, March 6:
Disorder. 11400 Amherst Avenue.
Thursday, March 7:
Theft. 2400 block Hickerson Drive.
Theft. 14100 block Georgia Avenue.
Theft from vehicle. 900 block Clintwood Drive.
Theft. 11100 block Veirs Mill Road.
Assault. Wendy's. Wheaton.
Theft. 11100 block Veirs Mill Road.
Theft. 10900 block of Amherst Avenue.
Drug arrest. 10800 block Georgia Avenue.
Saturday, March 9, 2013
Aspen Hill residents may want to double check their door locks. Three burglaries occurred in that area, not too far apart, this past Tuesday. It could mean one or more burglars are casing the neighborhood.
An assault was reported at Kennedy HS a day earlier. And a car was stolen on Georgia Avenue that day, as well.
Here is a list of reported crimes in Aspen Hill, Bel Pre and Glenmont between March 3 and 6.
Sunday, March 3:
Disorder. 4600 block Dabney Drive.
Theft. 3100 block Hewitt Avenue.
Assault. 4300 block Elizabeth Street.
Monday, March 4:
Stolen car. 14300 block Georgia Avenue.
Theft. Kohl's Aspen Hill.
Assault. Kennedy HS.
Assault. 13800 Parkland Drive.
Burglary. 2500 block Glenallen Ave.
Tuesday, March 5:
Burglary. 13100 block Valleywood Drive.
Assault. 14200 block Wolf Creek Place.
Burglary. 4000 block Postgate Terrace.
Burglary. 14000 block Bardot Street.
Theft from vehicle. Mid-County Recreation Center.
Drug arrest. 2400 block Jones Lane.
Wednesday, March 6:
Disorder. 3700 block Bel Pre Road.
Drug arrest. 4500 block Grenoble Court.
Friday, March 8, 2013
It finally happened: the biggest fast food product launch of 2013, the new Taco Bell Cool Ranch Doritos Taco!
How does it rate? How much Cool Ranch is on there, anyway? Watch my video review, and all of your questions will be answered!
Thursday, March 7, 2013
John Skelton Williams of Silver Spring was struck while crossing Colesville Road just north of Noyes Drive this morning around 9:30 AM.
He was transported to Suburban Hospital with life-threatening injuries, according to Montgomery County Police.
Police say he was struck by a silver Honda Accord driven by Dennis Stewart, of Columbia. Mr. Stewart has not been declared at fault yet, and police are investigating.
If you witnessed the accident, police would appreciate your help in reconstructing what happened.
Please call 240-773-6620. You can remain anonymous if you wish.
Montgomery County Police are asking for the public's help in locating the three suspects pictured below, in connection with strong-arm robberies near the intersection of Colesville Road and East-West Highway, on January 16 and 17, 2013.
The three were described by victims as black males between 25 and 30 years of age. One wore a black hoodie jacket, and another, a tan jacket, and a mustache.
Anyone with information about these robberies, or the suspects involved, is asked to call the 3rd District Investigative Section at 301-565-5835. Those who wish to remain anonymous may call Crime Solvers of Montgomery County toll-free at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
A tree fell on an occupied vehicle this afternoon on New Castle Drive in Silver Spring. One passenger was transported to an unspecified hospital with minor injuries, according to Scott Graham, MCFRS Public Information Officer.
Here is a Montgomery County Police photo from the scene:
CHEVY CHASE LAKE SECTOR PLAN HAS AFFORDABLE HOUSING LOSS SIMILAR TO WHEATON, GLENMONT, SILVER SPRING PLANS
Montgomery County's elected officials continue to say one thing, and do quite another, when it comes to affordable housing.
One myth postulated by developer-backed "smart growth" advocates and politicians, is that this form of planning will generate affordable housing. But in practice, Montgomery's smart growth sector plan and zoning rewrites do the opposite.
You may recall that, a few months ago, the County Council and Planning Board endorsed demolition of hundreds of relatively-affordable housing units on Battery Lane in Bethesda. In return, the county will get a handful of MPDUs it will control.
This pattern is repeating itself all over lower Montgomery County.
The typical ratio is anywhere from 10-20 moderately-priced units generated for every 100+ apartments demolished.
Just do the math.
The latest example came up at last night's public hearing on the Chevy Chase Lake sector plan before the County Council.
While the loss of affordable units in Chevy Chase Lake will be far less than in Wheaton or Glenmont, due to its smaller land area, the unnecessary inclusion of existing housing in the plan is reminiscent of those two rewrites.
Newdale Mews is - relative to usual Chevy Chase living costs - an affordable apartment complex. Rents start around $1300-1400. The apartments are not brand new by any means. But that doesn't mean they cannot be renovated.
But should the sector plan pass as-is, Newdale Mews will be demolished, and replaced by luxury apartments for the rich. According to nearby homeowner Jeff Rule, who testified against the plan last night, only 10-12 MPDUs would be in the new luxury complex.
Again, do the math.
I'm still trying to do the math for the current Glenmont sector plan rewrite. With the exception of the plan to tear down the beautifully-landscaped Privacy World apartments - which has such an overkill of new units planned (1000+!), it could possibly equal the number of affordable units destroyed - several other apartment complexes have been explicitly targeted by planners for demolition.
When I testified before the council last year against the zoning changes in downtown Wheaton, I presented an alternative plan. One that would exempt existing affordable housing, and shopping centers with small businesses (many with Asian or Latino owners), from rezoning.
Instead, I suggested, limit rezoning to properties where the business owner also owns the land. That way, struggling folks don't get forced out of their homes and shops by landlords who want to cash in on the new zoning.
The bottom-line question was, if you don't mean for these apartment buildings to be demolished, and the occupants tossed out on the street, why in the world would you apply the new zoning to them?
But, predictably, the council went ahead anyway. They're also going to give a small fortune to a construction company, to build a completely-unnecessary government building on the current parking for Wheaton Triangle businesses. With parking difficult, customers will be turned away. And that means that - guess what? - more shops go out of business. It's an ingenious plan to speed redevelopment of the Wheaton Triangle shopping centers at the expense of taxpayers, and business owners.
And how about affordable housing? Not to long ago, I heard that a plan is coming forward to redevelop the Ambassador apartments. That is one of the affordable apartment buildings I referred to in my testimony. No one is saying it's the Ritz Carlton. But where are those folks going to go?
And which building is next?
Even an affordable complex dedicated by Eleanor Roosevelt herself, on the edge of downtown Silver Spring, is now facing the wrecking ball. What would she say about that? Don't worry, a developer could probably give a smart aleck answer that would be favorable to new development. Save it for the Planning Board.
Problems in development-crazed Washington, DC, are giving us a glimpse of Montgomery County's future, should we continue on this path.
A spike in the number of DC residents, including hundreds of children, trying to get into homeless shelters. Others are moving to Prince Georges County. Recent news stories have cited the loss of affordable housing as the primary cause of the surge.
Meanwhile, unit after unit of affordable housing is demolished in DC, and replaced by luxury apartments. Wealthy politicians, developers and residents lecture us on the success of "vibrant, walkable, smart growth" redevelopment.
Well, so far the weather experts have been dead wrong on Winter Storm Saturn. Rain starting at 5 PM yesterday? Never happened. 1-3" of snow last night? Nope. Now they're telling us the worst is still to come today. I don't have much faith in these "experts."
Roads are slick but quite passable at this hour.
Schools and the federal government are closed. The Maryland state government is on liberal leave.
Almost all Metrobus routes are running, but some are on "limited" schedules. That means more waiting than usual at bus stops.
Forecast remains the same, with snow accumulation of 5-6" by tomorrow, while other models say anywhere from 3-12".
Stay tuned here and at @SilverSprung and @WheatonGlenmont on Twitter for updates.
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Grocery shopping just got faster and easier at Giant.
Giant has a new smartphone app for iPhone and Android that can replace the self-scanner device you may have used in the store previously.
The Scan-It Giant app helps you with your shopping list, scans each item via your smartphone camera, and then checks you out when you're done. Best of all, app users get special deals beyond the sales and Bonus Card prices.
The service is currently available at Giant stores in Aspen Hill, Burtonsville, Colesville and White Oak. More East County locations will be added over time.
Silver Spring, Wheaton, and all of the East County are under a Winter Storm Watch right now. The sun is shining, but there's a wintry chill in the air.
Winter Storm Saturn is on its way to the DC area.
How many inches of snow will end up falling on eastern Montgomery County tonight and on Wednesday?
The average prediction is 5-6 inches. Some forecasters say it could be as many as 8-12.
But here's an intriguing prediction: the now-famous Euro Model is saying the DC area will receive a 1-3" accumulation. This contradicts the majority of forecasts. Yet it is intriguing because the Euro Model was dead-right about the hurricane last fall.
The fact is, nobody knows. But conditions are right for up to a foot of snow. And it is supposed to be a wet, heavy snow. That means more effort to shovel and plow for humans and machines.
Even though the Euro Model sounds unlikely, you can't rule out the data from a model that has been accurate so many times.
The fact that temperatures will rise above freezing on Wednesday could certainly reduce the potential total accumulation.
But that ice and slush will freeze solid after dark again, so watch out.
Today, expect light showers by 5:00 PM, changing over to snow after dark. Accumulation of 1-2" possible tonight. Winds gusting to 30 MPH.
Wednesday, heavy showers and heavy snow. Accumulation of 5-12" possible through Thursday morning. Winds will gust to 35 MPH. Visibility could be affected if snowfall is heavy, due to winds.
Metro and Metrobus are total wildcards in recent years, in contrast to their past practice of operation during all but the worst snows in prior decades.
Stay tuned here and at @SilverSprung and @WheatonGlenmont on Twitter for updates throughout the storm!
Monday, March 4, 2013
Disorderly customers at the MVA in Glenmont and at Wendy's in Wheaton, a stolen car, and an assault at Einstein HS are among crimes reported between February 26 and March 1, 2013.
Disorder. 12400 block Georgia Avenue.
Theft. 2300 block University Boulevard W.
Theft from vehicle. XX Hugo Court.
Theft. 4D. 2300 block Randolph Road.
Disorder. MVA Express, Glenmont.
Assault. 2800 block Schoolhouse Circle.
Drug arrest. 11300 block College View Drive.
Theft. Macy's Wheaton Plaza.
Robbery. 2700 block Munson Street.
Disorder. 12500 block Winexburg Manor Drive.
Disorder. 12700 block Layhill Road.
Disorder. 11300 block Grandview Avenue.
Disorder. Wendy's downtown Wheaton.
Theft. 11100 block Veirs Mill Road.
Stolen car. 12700 block Holdridge Road.
Assault. Einstein HS.
Disorder. 11300 block Georgia Avenue.
Disorder. 11200 block Georgia Avenue.
Liquor arrest. Parking Lot 13.
The following robberies were reported between February 27-March 1 around Silver Spring:
12800 block of New Hampshire Avenue.
Piney Branch ES, 7510 Maple Avenue.
14200 block of Pear Tree Lane.
Sunday, March 3, 2013
Here is a list of crimes reported to Montgomery County Police between February 25-27, 2013 in the Aspen Hill/Leisure World/Bel Pre/Layhill area:
Thursday, February 25:
Theft from vehicle. 14000 block Castaway Drive.
Theft. 14600 block Bauer Drive.
Theft from vehicle. 4000 block Peppertree Lane.
Theft from vehicle. 4000 block Postgate Terrace.
Theft. 14000 block Georgia Avenue.
Friday, February 26:
Drug arrest. 3200 block Whispering Pines Drive.
Assault. 3300 block Beaverwood Lane.
Theft. 3400 block Hewitt Avenue.
Burglary. 3000 block Hewitt Avenue.
Theft from vehicle. 13800 block Vintage Lane.
Drug arrest. 14200 block Layhill Road.
Robbery. 2200 block Bel Pre Road.
Burglary. 14200 block North Gate Drive.
Saturday, February 27:
Assault. 3800 block Tynewick Drive.
Assault. 14500 block Macbeth Drive.
Assault. 12900 block Margot Drive.
Disorder. 13500 block Georgia Avenue.
Theft from vehicle. 2800 block Vixen Lane.
Saturday, March 2, 2013
There's been a mix-up at the Cheetos factory, but Chester Cheetah isn't complaining. That's because the result is new Cheetos Mix-Ups Cheezy Salsa Mix! How hot is it? How do they rate? Watch my video review to find out.
Bags of this just arrived at Giant this week.
Friday, March 1, 2013
Arthur Dixon is safe and sound. The Leisure World resident was found in North Carolina this morning, Montgomery County Police report.
Dixon had gone missing last night, and police had issued a Silver Alert.
I found this nostalgic recollection of life in Glenmont in the late 1960s posted as a reply to a comment on an apartment rating website.
It's kind of going to waste hidden on there, so I thought I would share it here.
The author is anonymous, but what a great example of the negative impact developer-control of politics has wrought in Montgomery County. Sure, the only constant is change in this world.
But the changes we've experienced over the last decade in the county, in regards to planning and development, are contrary to the more responsible planning and development practices of the past. I'm referring not only to the failure to build roads to support that development, but also the attempt to apply city density to bedroom communities and rural areas, like Glenmont, Wheaton, Olney and "Science City."
Here now is one man's story from the early years of Glenmont. A time when developers could build affordable housing for working families that took advantage of suburban green space, and trees. A more promising time, one we can recapture again simply by adopting a responsible growth policy in Montgomery County:
"In the 1960's, Privacy World was known as the Glenmont Park Apartments. In 1966, my family moved into a two bedroom apartment at the back of the community. We were the first tenant in the apartment. Everything was new.
There were woods on the other side of the parking lot. Metro did not exist. The woods stretched back a great distance. I once saw a black bear and a cub in those woods. There was a swimming pool next to the office. I took lessons and learned to swim there. I played basketball on a basketball hoop that was mounted on the outside wall of a party room building that was located next to the office. I think the pool and the party room building are long gone.
I remember walking down Georgia Ave to the 7-11 to buy baseball cards with my allowance. On the way, I would sometimes look at the cars in the showroom of the Dodge dealer. They once had a Superbird with a huge airfoil on the back. All the car makers had cool muscle cars in that era.
As a treat, my parents occasionally would give me money to by myself dinner at KFC. Back then, nobody worried about the safety of children traveling around by themselves. There were other kids my age to play sports with after school. We road a school bus to Georgian Forest Elementary School.
I remember teenagers wearing peace signs around their neck. Some tenants had relatives serving in Vietnam. They were often tense or emotional when the TV news reported the war. On July 4th, you could see the fireworks from the balconies of the tenants on the upper floor in the front of the building.
The apartment was nice. We were on the second floor. Our balcony faced out on a small stand of trees growing around the creek that was formed from the runoff from the storm water sewer pipe. My younger brother got his head stuck between the railing bars on the balcony. A fireman freed him.
My brother and I shared a bedroom. Our bathroom had two sinks, which was convenient. There was a den off of the living room. My brother and I kept our toys in it. I set up my Hot Wheels track in the living room and a friend and I raced our toy cars. The apartment seemed big, but I was young. The kitchen had a neat passthrough/bar that we used to eat our breakfast.
There was a lot of open space between buildings, a lot more than a developer would leave today. My father played baseball with me in one of those areas. He also taught me to ride a bike when we lived there. During the summer, the Good Humor man came through at night. I was always sad when the summer came to an end and I had to go back to school. When I ate the last ice cream bar of the season from the Good Humor man on the night before the new school year began, it was a little sad and sweet at the same time.
In 1970, when I was nine years old, we moved to a new single family house in Rockville. It was not until decades later that I visited the complex again and took a look around. I recall the apartment complex as a nice place. But a lot changes in forty years. And I no longer see things through the eyes of a child.
I hope others enjoy living there. A lot of that depends on how you choose to look at things and what you are focusing on in your life."
I enjoyed this story, and thought readers might, as well. The primary reason any existing apartment or retail complex has declined in varying degrees, is the temptation developer-beholden politicians have dangled of unlimited, mixed-use redevelopment of said properties. Period. There's no good reason to pave over the entire county, just for easy developer profit, when more sustainable, greener suburban development can provide a better quality of life. As it has previously in Glenmont.
Montgomery County Police detectives are asking the public's help in locating a missing Leisure World resident.
Arthur Lee Dixon was last heard from in a phone conversation around 7:00 PM last night. During that conversation, Dixon said he was about to drive to his son's residence in Clinton, MD to visit his son. But he never arrived, and is now considered a missing person.
Dixon is 84-years-old, 150 pounds, with glasses and graying dark hair. Police say he may be wearing a jogging suit and hat.
Dixon's vehicle is described as a gold, 2003 Cadillac, with Maryland tag 1ELP14.
If you find Mr. Dixon, or have any information regarding his whereabouts, or just think you may have seen that Cadillac, please call police at 301-279-8000. If the situation is an emergency, use 911, obviously.
Thursday, February 28, 2013
Montgomery County Police have just released the first description of the hit-and-run driver's vehicle from Tuesday night's fatal accident on Connecticut Avenue near Randolph Road.
The suspect's vehicle is described as a late 1990s/early 2000s Toyota Corolla of unknown color. Damage should be to the right front corner of the vehicle, and involves the headlight assembly.
If you witnessed the collision, or have any information about the this vehicle (location, repairs made, etc.) please call police at 301-279-8000.
Plaza del Mercado is a classic shopping center in the Bel Pre area of Silver Spring. Having lost its Giant grocery store, it could use a new tenant.
One resident has started a petition that has garnered tremendous support from the community, and now from the second-highest elected official in Montgomery County - County Council President Nancy Navarro.
The petition is asking Trader Joe's to open a store at Plaza del Mercado.
As of this morning, the petition has over 1600 signatures. Navarro has contacted the center's landlord, Federal Realty, to add some political support to the quest.
I commend Council President Navarro for this effort, and I wish other councilmembers would start taking this approach. This is exactly how we should handle "redevelopment" issues in our already-developed areas: asking what citizens want in their neighborhoods, rather than massive, top-down, developer-friendly sector plans such as in Wheaton and Glenmont.
Any redevelopment in our county should benefit those who live here now, rather than some theoretical rich people who we think will move here in the future. And in this case, Trader Joe's would give residents a neighborhood amenity they want, and attract more shoppers who will patronize other businesses while they are there.
And in doing that, no residents are being evicted from affordable housing, nor is any small business going to be run out of business.
Contrast this sensible, winning approach with Wheaton, where the just-approved plan carves up the downtown on a silver platter for developers. The vast number of affordable housing units at the northern end of town are now all rezoned attractively for development. Where exactly will the residents of those buildings go when they are demolished to make way for wealthy, "hip" newcomers?
In contrast to claims that Wheaton is a "long-term" plan, we've already heard that the Ambassador apartments (formerly Best Western) are going to be "redeveloped." Predictably, we've heard little about where current residents will live when this happens. What we have been told, is that the new building will be mixed-income. Which makes it mathematically impossible for all current residents to return. Expect more of the same in the rest of Wheaton.
Meanwhile, the loss of convenient Triangle parking, along with the little-spoken-of sector plan provision that allows a new road to punch through one of the current Wheaton Triangle shopping centers, would seal the sad fate of small business owners there if fully implemented.
All of the taxpayer money going to developers in these plans would be better spent helping landlords maintain and refurbish existing commercial centers and apartments.
I don't believe Irene's should be replaced by Chipotle.
But I suspect most would agree that Trader Joe's replacing a vacant anchor space would only help the community.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Several sexual assaults, 2 stolen cars and a theft at the Thayer Avenue Safeway are among crimes reported across Silver Spring between February 21-24.
Thursday, February 21:
Assault/"other sexual offense." Days Inn, 8040 13th Street.
Theft. 8600 block Cameron Street.
Stolen car. 1200 block Myrtle Avenue.
Assault. 100 block University Boulevard.
Sexual assault. 300 block University Boulevard E.
Assault. 800 block Lowander Lane.
Robbery. 8900 block Sudbury Road.
Assault. 7900 block Kennewick Avenue.
Theft. 7000 block Carroll Avenue.
Theft. 7600 block Piney Branch Road.
Friday, February 22:
Theft. 1700 block Noyes Lane.
Theft. Safeway. Thayer Avenue.
Sexual assault. 9800 block Georgia Avenue.
Burglary. 1900 block Rosemary Hills Drive.
Theft from vehicle. 800 block Pershing Drive.
Saturday, February 23:
Assault. 10700 block of Columbia Pike.
Assault. 8800 block Piney Branch Road.
Burglary. 7700 block Poplar Avenue.
Sunday, February 24:
Robbery. 8400 block 16th Street
Assault. 2500 block Ross Road.
Stolen car. 900 Browning Avenue.
Assault. 600 Sligo Avenue.
Montgomery County Police are seeking witnesses to a deadly hit-and-run in Silver Spring last night.
Marlyn Eres Ali, 53, of the 3800 block of Elby Street was struck by an unidentified vehicle while crossing Connecticut Avenue at Everton Street around 8:00 PM. She died later at Suburban Hospital.
Investigators are asking the public for any information regarding the driver who fled the scene, and the make and model of the vehicle. Police believe the car has front-end damage.
The victim was struck in the southbound lanes of Connecticut Avenue.
If you can help police with this case, please call detectives at 240.773.6620. You do not have to identify yourself to share information.
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Now I've tried all three Flavor Finalists in the Lay's Do Us a Flavor contest, and I'm declaring a winner!
But first, I have to review #3, Lay's Cheesy Garlic Bread potato chips.
Monday, February 25, 2013
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 will be released on Blu-ray and DVD this Saturday, March 2. Which store has the best Twilight package? And which stores are opening at midnight?
No bonus material or collectibles.
Exclusive Blu-ray combo with collectible locket key chain (see photos below). Includes "hours of bonus features."
Exclusive $44.99 Twilight Saga collection, featuring all 5 films, including the new Breaking Dawn Part I Extended Edition.
No midnight openings listed.
Target seems to offer the best packages, and midnight opening parties at the following stores in the region: Alexandria, Woodbridge, Bel Air, Ellicott City, Columbia and Annapolis. (If you're reading this and live in another state, click on the link in the first paragraph above to find the store closest to you).
Take note: early birds can pick up a voucher starting at 8:00 AM, Friday, March 1. Then bring your voucher back to the store at midnight to get your Twilight package.
What Target has is a $22.99 DVD/$26.99 Blu-ray Limited Edition version of Breaking Dawn Part 2, with 50 minutes of exclusive video content, including "black carpet" footage, and "hours of additional bonus content."
But wait, there's more.
A $14.99 Target-exclusive Limited Edition of Breaking Dawn Part 1, in a 2-DVD gift set that includes an actual prop flower from the film's wedding scene (see photo below) The prop includes a Certificate of Authenticity to verify it was actually in the movie.
Walmart has an exclusive Breaking Dawn Part 1 & 2 two-movie package, that includes the extended version of Part 1.
Walmart's other exclusive is a free set of 5 mini-posters (see photos below) that you receive with purchase of Breaking Dawn Part 2. But hurry - while supplies last.
Walmart stores opening at midnight in our region are Nottingham and Hampstead, both of which are in Maryland.
If you're an obsessed fan, you'll have to hit Best Buy for the locket key chain and 5-movie collection, Target for the Part 1 movie prop and 50 minutes of bonus video, and Walmart for the mini posters.
Sunday, February 24, 2013
Local salad chain Sweetgreen will open a new location in downtown Silver Spring this year. The shop will be located at 8517 Georgia Avenue, in the former Living Ruff space.
Saturday, February 23, 2013
Stop by the Limerick Pub in my old stomping grounds of downtown Wheaton tonight.
Steve Morris and Fergus Kennedy are appearing live at the pub tonight at 8:00 PM, for an evening of Irish music.
They've also got a couple of great entrees this weekend:
Leg of Lamb Sandwich is a hand carved leg of lamb in rosemary au jus, placed on a toasted Kaiser roll. With your choice of potato, it is $14.50.
Their Seafood Platter features lightly-fried, fresh beer-battered cod, and panko-breaded jumbo shrimp, oysters and jumbo lump crab balls. With your choice of potato and veggie or salad, it's a deal at $17.50.
Limerick Pub is highly-rated on Yelp and Trip Advisor, and is located at 11301 Elkin Street in downtown Wheaton.
Montgomery County plans to acquire 24 Crest Park Court, near Francis Scott Key MS, for $1,121,000 and make the property part of the adjoining Northwest Branch Stream Valley Park.
But the deal is also subject to an undisclosed "Life Estate Benefit" for the property's owner, Dr. Leonard Deitz. That transaction was arranged at a closed meeting of the county Planning Board not open to the public.
The 5.5 acre estate is being acquired with county bonds, under the Legacy Open Space program.
Crest Park Court is a tree-lined residential street that dead-ends at Northwest Branch Stream Valley Park.