Thursday, March 31, 2016

Man attempts to abduct child in Wheaton Hills, charged with kidnapping

A man allegedly tried to abduct a six-year-old girl from her fenced front yard in the 11400 block of Monterrey Drive in the Wheaton Hills neighborhood of Wheaton Tuesday night. The girl was playing outside around 7:50 PM, when a man opened the front gate, grabbed her, and began heading back out of the yard. Her mother, fortunately, was watching her daughter and ran to place herself between them and the exit, according to a Montgomery County Police account of the episode.

Wresting her child from the man's arms, she ran indoors to call 911, as the suspect fled. He then inexplicably returned to the scene, pounded on the woman's front door, and fled again.

Police had responded quickly, and located the suspect in the 11200 block of Veirs Mill Road.

Kabir K. Salami, 20, of no fixed address, has been charged with one count of kidnapping, one count of false imprisonment, and one count of second-degree assault.  He is being held without bond.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Mayor and Council to tour Takoma Park Library as renovation debate continues

Mayor Kate Stewart and City Councilmembers will tour the exterior of the Takoma Park Library next Wednesday, April 6, at 6:30 PM. They will be considering options for the renovation of the building. The public is invited to attend.

A number of concerns have been raised by library patrons about exterior changes proposed by the architect for the project, including size of windows, spaces for people to gather or for kids to wait for parents to pick them up, retention of the mosaic and landscaping, and the number and width of parking spaces.

The library is located at 101 Philadelphia Avenue.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

East County food summit to be held April 27 in Silver Spring

Faith leaders from east Montgomery County are partnering with the County Department of Health and Human Services, East County Regional Services Center, and the Office of Community Partnerships on a summit on food insecurity April 27 in Silver Spring. The summit will be held at the People's Community Baptist Church at 31 Norwood Road that day from 5:00 - 9:00 PM.

The program will help identify who is offering food services and programs in the East County and volunteer opportunities, promote better coordination among providers, and strategize on how to improve and expand on existing efforts to address food insecurity in this part of the County.

Click on the above flyer to enlarge for greater detail.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Austin Grill closes in Silver Spring (Photos)

Austin Grill has closed in downtown Silver Spring. Perhaps the most energetic of the original locations of the restaurant, it outlasted the others in downtown Bethesda and Rockville. The latter two were converted into American Tap Rooms. This location's ultimate fate is currently unknown.

Rite Aid opens in downtown Silver Spring (Photos)

The new Rite Aid store has opened in the Zalco Building at 8701 Georgia Avenue in downtown Silver Spring. A Redi Clinic is part of the new store.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Silver Spring's Confederate monument

The Confederate statue located on the grounds of the Red Brick Courthouse in Rockville has been a dominant story in Montgomery County news over the last year. But it's not the only tribute to fallen Confederate soldiers in the County.

A monument on the grounds of Grace Episcopal Church in the Montgomery Hills area of Silver Spring marks the final resting place of seventeen Confederate soldiers who were killed in the Battle of Fort Stevens.

According to the history on the church's website, it is believed that Confederate Gen. Jubal Early himself paid the church $100 to have his men buried in the cemetery there. Coincidentally, Early is said to have earlier taken note of the church's need for a roof as he passed by on the way to that very battle, and contributed $100 to its construction.

Early's own funeral was held in an Episcopal church in Lynchburg, Virginia following his death on March 2, 1894.

While the fallen soldiers were buried at Grace Church in 1864, the monument that marks their resting place was erected in 1896. Fascinating story right here in Silver Spring, and another reminder of the complicated history both Montgomery County and the state of Maryland had during the War Between the States.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Sligo Creek Parkway closures March 28-30 in Takoma Park

Sligo Creek Parkway will be closed between 9:00 AM and 3:00 PM from March 28 through March 30, 2016. There will be a detour up Carroll Avenue to Lincoln to Maple during the closures.

This is necessary for the preparation to repair the Carroll Avenue Bridge over the parkway, according to the Maryland State Highway Administration.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Fire in Colesville area displaces two

A townhouse fire late Tuesday night in the Colesville area of Silver Spring has displaced two, and caused over $100,000 in damage to the home and contents. Smoke alarms alerted the residents to a fire caused by an arcing electric socket by a bed around 11:30 PM in the 1100 block of Good Hope Road.

Firefighters were quickly able to locate and extinguish the fire, which had started in a second floor bedroom of the home. No one was injured, according to Montgomery County Fire and Rescue spokesperson Pete Piringer.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

First worksession on Greater Lyttonsville sector plan March 24

The Montgomery County Planning Board will hold its first worksession on the Greater Lyttonsville sector plan this Thursday, March 24. It is currently scheduled to begin at 6:00 PM.

Concerns have been raised about the proposed increases in density, and potential loss of valuable industrial land and the services it provides to the larger community.

One important thing to know if you are a resident, business-owner or landowner: Attendees at the worksession may speak at discretion of the Chairman. It may be helpful to email Chair Casey Anderson by Wednesday to state which issue(s) you would like to address the Board on.

Anderson instituted this policy during the Westbard sector plan process, but did not publicly announce it until the worksessions were over! I mention this so that Lyttonsville-area residents aren't similarly ripped off in the process.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Maydale Nature Center to reopen, $7.5 revamp set for Hillandale Local Park

Last week was a big one for parks in the East County. The Montgomery County Council passed Councilmember Tom Hucker's amendment to reopen the Maydale Nature Center at 1638 Maydale Drive in Colesville. This will be the only educational nature center east of Wheaton in Montgomery County, and is right on the Paint Branch stream, which should greatly add to the potential learning opportunities there.

The Council also approved $7.5 million to renovate and revitalize Hillandale Local Park at 10615 New Hampshire Avenue. Among the many changes planned for the overhaul are the demolition of the Hillandale Office Building, an improved park entrance, a new roadway configuration and parking area (125 parking spaces), sidewalk improvements on New Hampshire Avenue, a hard surface internal trail loop with exercise
equipment and heart-smart trail markers, a new restroom facility, a full size soccer field with irrigation and
fencing, a new playground with public art component, two picnic shelters, two tennis courts with lighting,
two basketball courts with lighting, stormwater management facilities, and landscaping.

Friday, March 18, 2016

ShopHouse opening today in downtown Silver Spring

I know where you'll be eating lunch today in Silver Spring.

Today is the grand opening of the new ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen at 935 Ellsworth Drive in downtown Silver Spring. This new location will bring something else new to the D.C. area - ShopHouse's new Pork & Chicken Spring Rolls, hand-wrapped in fresh rice paper with green papaya and herb salad, and served with chili-peanut dip.

Similar in concept to Chipotle, ShopHouse places a like emphasis on fresh, sustainable ingredients.

"We look forward to bringing the bold flavors of Thailand and Vietnam to the exciting, growing community in Downtown Silver Spring," Tim Wildin, brand director for ShopHouse, said in a statement. "Our fully customizable menu features traditional ingredients and is ideal for customers looking to explore Southeast Asian cuisine in a familiar format."

The restaurant will open at 11 AM this morning.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Takoma Junction project delays "kind of troubling" for Takoma Park leaders

Several Takoma Park City Councilmembers questioned development firm Neighborhood Development Company last night about what's taking so long to get the Takoma Junction redevelopment started. "It sort of seems like we lost a year in the process," Councilmember Tim Male said.

Takoma Junction is currently a low-density commercial area in "Old Takoma" along Carroll and Columbia Avenues. The City owns two significant parcels, and TPSS Co-op and a fire station are among the structures presently located there, mostly of a retail or service nature. Both City parcels are in the Historic District.

A major goal of the redevelopment for the City is to retain the TPSS Co-op store as Takoma Junction's anchor. This requires NDC to negotiate a letter of intent with TPSS before the project can begin. At last night's meeting, NDC representatives acknowledged they haven't even shown TPSS a first draft of such at letter yet. Councilmember Jarrett Smith said "It's kind of troubling" that an LOI hasn't been submitted to TPSS by this point. "The community wants to know why this isn't moving," Smith said.

Councilmember Rizzy Qureshi said there is a "sense of urgency" in the city about the project, and that residents are anxious to see it get started. NDC's CEO and founder Adrian G. Washington was frank in responding to the Council's comments, saying he himself was surprised at how long it has taken. "I would like to see the pace increase, personally," Washington said.

NDC's Diarra McKinney said the company hopes to have the LOI with TPSS within the next 30 days. They hope to meet with TPSS in the next 7 days. Regarding those negotiations, Washington predicted that "we're not gonna get everything we want, and they're not gonna get everything they want."

At the outset of the discussion, McKinney outlined a fairly precise schedule that shows a project timeline extending from March 31, 2016 to 2020. It proposes a community dialogue lasting from March 31 to May 31 of this year. Then the draft planning process would begin, and end with a Council vote on that plan this November 15.

NDC hopes to have approval of its site plan from the Montgomery County Planning Board by October 25, 2017, and to request construction permits in February 2019, with a 2020 delivery expected for the project.

Part of the community feedback process will be the creation of a four-to-eight member Advisory Committee, perhaps one resident from each ward of the City, and at least one member of City staff. The Committee will not make decisions, but will rather give feedback on NDC plans before they are shown to the greater public at meetings.

Two other hurdles to getting that process started are reaching a Development Agreement with the City, as well as a ground rent agreement. Smith urged NDC to reach out for help from the Council and City staff in moving the process along, particularly in dealing with Montgomery County.

Residential housing is under consideration for the Takoma Junction project, but Washington noted that an all-commerical development might be more "dynamic for your city center."

Earlier in the meeting, Mayor Kate Stewart and the Council voted unanimously in favor on the first reading of a bill that would set aside another $50,000 in funds to pay the law firm representing the City in the negotiations with NDC, Bregman, Berbert, Schwartz & Gilday, LLC.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Metro shutdown - now what?

The failure of all three levels of government to hold WMATA accountable, and years of incompetent leadership within that transit agency, have culminated in a full shutdown of the Metro subway system today. That closure began at 12:00 AM this morning. While the public has been told the shutdown will last 24 hours (technically not true, as Metro doesn't operate overnight), there are indications it could last even longer if serious safety issues are found during the inspection of the system's power cables.

Here's the latest as of this hour:

Federal workers have the option of unscheduled leave or teleworking today. It will be interesting to see if the loss of Metro will mean carmageddon, or great driving conditions like we experienced during the Pope's visit.

Driving and Metrobus are the best options this morning. Metrobus and Ride On Bus are both operating on regular schedule this morning.

MARC commuter rail is a legitimate option, with stations in Rockville, Gaithersburg and Kensington. The train can take you into Union Station in the District, where you can connect to other transit options.

Been meaning to try biking to work? This could be the day. Search #WMATABikePool on social media to find fellow riders to make the trip safer. An extra hour of daylight should help tonight.

Capital Bikeshare is offering 24-hour memberships today.

Uber will cap surge pricing in the Washington area at 3.9 times base fares today only. Lyft is offering new users $20 off their first ride during the shutdown.

This is another lesson today - we have to finish our master plan highway system. And we simply must do our homework, vote smarter, and start electing the right people who can get the job done. The results so far speak for themselves.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Wheaton construction update: AVA Wheaton apartments (Photos)

The classic office building at 11501 Georgia Avenue is no more. It has been demolished to make way for the future AVA Wheaton apartments, being developed by Avalon Bay. The development will include 319 apartments, and a parking garage.

Demolition started in December, and there were several delays in the project prior to that. I have a number of renderings of the final project in a post from two years ago, which gives you some sense of how long it's taken to get started here.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Wheaton Library closes, temporary interim library location announced (Photos)

Wheaton residents and Montgomery County officials packed the lower level atrium of the Wheaton Library yesterday, as the community bid the venerable building farewell. Itg will be demolished in the coming months, and a new library and recreation center will rise on the same site, to open in 2018. In the meantime, an interim Wheaton Library will be located directly across Arcola Avenue in the upstairs ballroom of the Wheaton Volunteer Rescue Squad. That interim library is expected to open the first week of May.
Montgomery County Department
of Public Libraries Director
Parker Hamilton opens the
closing ceremony of the
Wheaton Library
Meanwhile, the used bookstore, which is the top source of revenue for the County's Friends of the Library organization, will move into the now-vacant old Silver Spring Library at 8901 Colesville Road. Both of these temporary locations will be open for the duration of the two-year construction of the new Wheaton Library and Recreation Center. And that means it will be that long before any redevelopment of the old Silver Spring Library property can happen.
County Executive Ike Leggett
County Councilmember Nancy Navarro
"Are you ready for a new library?" asked Montgomery County Execuitve Ike Leggett. "Are you ready for a new recreation center?" The crowd roared approvingly. Councilmember Nancy Navarro called it the start of "a new chapter." She noted that fellow Council member George Leventhal had planned to attend, but was involved in a "fender bender" and unable to get there in time.

"And now for my next trick," County Department of General Services Director David Dise began. "We are delighted to have the opportunity to bring to Wheaton a brand new library and recreation center. The sad thing is, we have to tear this building down." Dise recalled that at the start of his career with the County, his first service call was to the Wheaton Library. Just days before Sunday's closing ceremony, he said, his office had received complaints that the climate control wasn't providing the library with the correct temperature.

"This grand old building is trying to make sure we remember it well," he joked of the coincidence. "And we will."

The County's Recreation Director, Gabe Albornoz, greeted the diverse crowd in Spanish. Calling the closure "bittersweet," he said his own kids will use the new library.

Hamilton had her own kids' memories of the Wheaton Library to share. She said she had originally chosen to live in Montgomery County because of its "reputation for inclusion." But when they tried to use the local library, her kids found it wasn't as inclusive as they thought. "They did not feel welcome," she told the crowd. "They were followed around. They were questioned as to why they weren't on the streets or at the mall." Only after visiting the Wheaton Library, she said, did they finally feel welcomed. Becoming a bit emotional, Hamilton said she wanted to personally thank the neighborhood and staff "for making my boys feel welcome at this library."
Montgomery County Department
of General Services Director
David Dise approaches the podium
But the day was a start as much as an ending. "I like to think of this as a beginning," Hamilton told attendees at the outset. "You're going to be amazed at what we build for you," Dise promised while standing a few feet from slick renderings of the modern new facility expected to open by summer 2018. Midcounty Regional Services Center Director Luisa Montero said she was reminded of a quote that said, "A library is a community's portrait." She added that the new facility would "also be a reflection of this community."

"We're very happy that this is coming to fruition," said Kim Persaud, President of the Wheaton Regional Park Neighborhood Association. "It's been a long time coming. The Wheaton community needs this." She said she hopes the interim location can open as soon as possible, as there are some residents in the neighborhood who greatly rely on the library's computers and internet service.

In a dramatic finish, Leggett literally closed the library for the last time. Picking a young volunteer from the crowd to help him turn the key, Leggett activated the security gate leading to the main library area upstairs. As the crowd cheered, the metal barrier lowered slowly for the final time. In my decades here, I believe this is the first time I've ever seen this gate closed. Outside, the dreary weather was appropriately dark and gray, as this much-loved building was given a final goodbye.
Security key in hand, Leggett
chooses a volunteer from the
crowd to help close the library
The two are pointed in the
right direction
Inserting the key into
the security system

Leggett motions for those in
the way of the gate to step back
Leggett's assistant turns
the key
The security gate slowly
begins to descend...
...until it seals off the main
library areas
The end of an era
Leggett hands back the
security key
Iconic mobile hanging
in the atrium
Don't worry, the piece is moving
with the books to the new library
The Gilchrist Center is
relocating to the Wheaton
business district
Water fountain on the
lower level