Wednesday, April 26, 2017

More boardrooms to be replaced by bedrooms in Silver Spring

The "jobs" leg of the smart growth stool continues to grow shorter by the week in Montgomery County. A major site set aside for research and development in Rockville is now likely to become yet another residential development. So it goes in downtown Silver Spring.

At 8605 Cameron Street, Guardian Building Associates, LLC is proposing to transform the Guardian office building into 177 apartments, and 7496 SF of retail and restaurant space. The applicant claims the building is mostly vacant, not surprising given the County's moribund private sector economy, and the anti-business climate our elected officials have fostered. It doesn't help that every economic development trip the County Council has taken has been to a Communist country.

The Guardian project sketch plan will go before the County's Development Review Committee on May 2. There's certainly a cosmetic improvement in this from what is there today, but Montgomery County needs more boardrooms right now, not more bedrooms.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Ellsworth Place puts prime street frontage space up for lease in Silver Spring (Photos)

Ellsworth Place has added several major tenants, and a host of smaller businesses, to its completely-renovated indoor mall in downtown Silver Spring over the last year. Now owner Petrie-Richardson is offering up a prime, street-level space on Colesville Road. It will offer 30' of frontage along Colesville, the very-busy U.S. Highway 29 commuter route.

Monday, April 24, 2017

BIBIBOP Asian Grill taking over former ShopHouse in Silver Spring (Photos)

BIBIBOP Asian Grill, the fast casual chain taking over the shuttered ShopHouse restaurant at 935 Ellsworth Drive in Silver Spring, is now hiring staff. The brand is the latest venture by Charley Shin, who was also the man behind Charleys Philly Steaks (don't ask me where the apostrophe is in the name, though).

Each meal is a variation on the Korean dish of bibimbap, mixed rice with your choice of proteins, vegetables and sauce. A lot like the restaurant it replaces, but with the added benefit of coming to us from the great city of Columbus, Ohio.

Columbus was recently named the most high-tech city in America by Forbes magazine (the city actually has a long history of high-tech innovation, for those familiar with it). This likely befuddled our Montgomery County Council. When not struggling to find the doorknob to get out of the room, our Council has bumbled through one tech gaffe after another this decade. Gaffes ranged from the revelation that the County government was still using Windows 2014, to a humiliating state audit of cybersecurity failures at MCPS, and even Councilmember Hans Riemer breaking his own failed open-data law.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Watch the demolition of the Wheaton Library (Video)

Hot off the presses - new video of the demolition of the venerable Wheaton Library. Two hours, thirty-nine minutes, and forty-seven seconds of destruction, for your viewing pleasure. Sad to see this one go, but the demolished Wheaton Youth Center next door was architecture and history truly worth saving. Led Zeppelin did play there!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Wheaton redevelopment construction to start in June

Parking Lot 34 has been modified
in preparation for the start of
the Wheaton redevelopment project
The Wheaton redevelopment project is probably the topic I get the most questions about from readers. I'm pleased to report that there is finally some news on that front. Construction on the Montgomery County office building portion of the project is now scheduled to begin in June.

Montgomery County is citing the addition of two floors to the office building, and of a geothermal feature designed to help the structure achieve a Platinum LEED certification, as the two reasons for the delay in groundbreaking. In addition, some adjacent property owners were uncooperative regarding the use of tie-backs in excavation retaining walls. Those negotiations also added to the delays, according to Mid-County Regional Services Center Director Luisa Montero.

In preparation for the partial closure of Lot 13 in the Wheaton Triangle, Montgomery County has converted the Ennalls Public Parking Lot (Lot 34 at Ennalls and Grandview) into 2 hour spaces. They have also added more handicapped parking spaces in that lot. Taste of Wheaton will still be held in Lot 13 on the first Sunday in June.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

La Madeleine closes in Silver Spring (Photos)

La Madeleine has said au revoir to downtown Silver Spring. The country French cafe has closed its doors permanently at 8435 Georgia Avenue. They still have locations in downtown Bethesda, and in North Bethesda at Pike & Rose, but this leaves a major hole for Francophiles like myself in downtown Silver Spring. Your best and closest bets at this point are Fenton Cafe, and La Ferme on Brookville Road.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Montgomery County wants to increase your Rain Tax by 9.7%

Your rain tax may be about to increase. Bigly. Montgomery County continues to have an annual Water Quality Protection Charge, determined by the "total impervious area for each property." After the County's original, illegal rain tax was struck down by the courts in 2015, the Montgomery County political cartel simply figured out a legal workaround, and brought it back again.

County Executive Ike Leggett is recommending a whopping 9.7% increase in the Rain Tax, er, "Water Quality Protection Charge," for FY-2018. The County has already determined the amount of impervious surface on your property to determine your charge, by looking at an aerial photo. Very scientific.

You'll also pay higher property taxes this year, as rising assessments create an automatic tax increase even when the tax rate doesn't change. And the County Council gets another salary increase, just like Bell, California. The difference is, Bell's Council is in prison, and ours is still free and on-the-take.

Throw the bums out. Or #LockThemUp.

MoCo's number of registered voters exceeds its voting-age population, foundation threatens to sue

Judicial Watch, a non-partisan foundation promoting integrity and transparency in government, is threatening to sue Maryland in federal court over what it calls Montgomery County's "dirty election rolls." The foundation's analysis revealed that there are more people registered to vote in Montgomery County than there are citizens of legal voting age, based upon the latest U.S. Census data. Judicial Watch says the excess voter names are of those who have died or moved, or of non-citizens who have illegally-registered to vote.

Voter fraud can often involve people impersonating voters known to be deceased, or to have moved away, at polling places. In Montgomery County, only the most basic personal information (name, address, date of birth) about a deceased or absent voter would need to be known to vote using their name at the polls. Maryland U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D) warned last year that "We've seen fraud committed in our state in prior elections." Cardin and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh (D) implored voters to "let us know" if they "encounter fraud or misconduct" at polling places.

Maintaining up-to-date voter rolls is required of states under federal law. Judicial Watch is demanding Maryland force Montgomery County to remove all ineligible voters from its rolls in 90 days, or they will sue the state - and ten others - for violating Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act.

“Dirty election rolls can mean dirty elections,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement. “These 11 states face possible Judicial Watch lawsuits, unless they follow the law and take reasonable steps to clean up their voting rolls of dead, moved, and non-citizen voters.”

Wheaton Metro robbery suspects still at large (Photos)

WMATA is downplaying a violent robbery aboard a Metro Red Line train nearing the Wheaton station Sunday afternoon, referring to it merely as a "strong-arm robbery." But these robbery suspects allegedly did more than twist arms.

In reality, around 5:40 PM Sunday, the alleged robbers didn't simply threaten violence or twist the victim's arm. Instead, the four suspects approached a man, and one sat down next to him and demanded the victim's phone. When the victim declined to cooperate, he was savagely beaten with fists.

"Give me that damn phone!!" one said as they beat the man, and also picked his pockets. The four assailants ran off the train at the Wheaton station, and remain at large. Their victim was hospitalized. These attacks happen frequently in the District, but not very often in Montgomery County, making this something that needs to be nipped in the bud. 

Don't expect our low-energy County Council to do anything about it; they have yet to comment on any of the gang-related shootings in Wheaton over the last three years.

If you can identify any of these four suspects, Metro Transit Police would like to talk to you. Call them at 301-955-5000, or text MyMTPD, and reference case number #2017-07929.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Pollo Campero coming to downtown Silver Spring (Photos)

The sign is up at the future Pollo Campero in downtown Silver Spring. Talk about "location, location, location:" Pollo Campero will be right next to The Fillmore on Colesville Road. A peek inside says there is still a long way to go on the interior build-out here.

Dallas-based Pollo Campero was founded in Guatemala in 1971, and boasts that it offers "authentic Latin chicken." The chain currently has a Wheaton location, as well. If they stay open late enough, they could make a killing on folks leaving concerts next door.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Police investigate hate crime in Wheaton

A Wheaton resident returned to her home in the 2300 block of McMahon Road around 3:20 PM Thursday, to find hate-based graffiti scrawled on her front door. Montgomery County police say a "derogatory word" was written in marker on the door. The resident believes she was targeted because of her race.

Anyone with information about this hate-based vandalism is asked to contact the 4th District Investigative Section at 240-773-5530.  For those who wish to remain anonymous, Crime Solvers of Montgomery County is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for any information that leads to the arrest of the suspect(s). Tipsters can call Crime Solvers of Montgomery County toll-free at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

Wheaton woman missing (Photo)

Sandra Yaritza Diaz
Montgomery County police detectives are asking for the public's help in locating a Wheaton woman who disappeared Thursday afternoon. Sandra Yaritza Diaz, 25, of the 11800 block of Selfridge Road, was last seen when she left her residence on foot that day. Diaz left her car parked outside of her residence when she left. It remains parked in front of the home, and family and friends have not heard from her.

Diaz is described as a Latina, 5’7” tall, and weighing 150 pounds.  She has black hair and brown eyes.

Police and family members are concerned for Ms. Diaz’s physical and emotional well-being.

Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of Sandra Yaritza Diaz is asked to call the Montgomery County Police non-emergency number at 301-279-8000 (available 24 hours).  Callers may remain anonymous.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Despite fake news headlines, you won't be buying liquor at grocery, drug or convenience stores in MoCo

You may have seen fake news headlines over the last few days trumpeting that "liquor" will soon be sold at "privately-owned stores" in Montgomery County. The careful wording was designed by the Montgomery County political cartel, to give casual readers the false impression that beer, wine and spirits would be coming to the shelves at Giant, CVS, 7-Eleven, etc. Nothing could be further from the truth, and it was surprising that many in the local media enabled the deception with false headlines. This is one of the more audacious public misinformation campaigns I've ever witnessed from the MoCo cartel.

Here are the facts:

The Maryland General Assembly just passed a bill which will only allow privately-owned beer and wine stores to sell liquor. Clever language in the bill specifically excludes grocery stores, drug stores, and convenience stores. Even popular convenience stores that currently sell beer and wine, like Talbert's in Bethesda, will be ineligible to sell liquor.

Even those beer and wine stores that qualify to sell liquor under the bill will still have to buy that liquor from the Montgomery County Department of Liquor Control - the government monopoly. That means they will be competing on retail price directly with the Montgomery County government liquor stores. Merchants like Bradley Food and Beverage have pointed out in the past that such competition is unfair to the small private businesses being forced to compete with the same government-monopoly seller, who sets the prices they have to pay for stock.

The new law allows the DLC to decide the criteria for the granting of contracts with private beer and wine stores by itself, with no public input or transparency. DLC, in other words, can decide the terms of competition itself. Profits for whichever few retailers DLC decides to "compete" with will likely be limited by the monopoly control over price, and that means no savings for you, the customer.

It's also unlikely that private beer and wine stores could be competitive with County-owned liquor stores on inventory, because the County stores are physically larger than stores which have been only allowed to sell beer and wine. And they'll still have to deal with the same DLC inventory and delivery problems that have hampered their existing beer and wine sales.

Once again, County politicians have tried to "look busy," even as they bolster and preserve the government liquor monopoly. Real change would be full privatization of beer, wine and spirit sales in Montgomery County, and being able to buy Bud Light or a bottle of wine at Safeway or Rite Aid. That did not happen with this new law.

Fact check score for fake news "liquor to be sold at privately-owned stores" headlines, designed to fool people who don't read the articles for the details?

Four Pinocchios/Pants on Fire

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Silver Spring construction update: Core (Photos)

Core has a much more finished-looking facade than in my last update about a month ago. Some interesting design touches have been added on the lower parking deck levels. Core will contain 292 apartments, and about 1500 SF of retail space. The Foulger-Pratt/Willco project is scheduled to deliver this summer, and appears to be on-schedule. Core is located at 8621 Georgia Avenue in downtown Silver Spring.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Silver Spring black history tour set for May 6

Silver Spring wasn't always the multicultural urban center it is today. Learn more about how it evolved from a segregated past in the Jim Crow era into the diversity we take for granted today, on a Silver Spring Black History Tour on Saturday, May 6, 2017, at 11:00 AM.

Meet in front of the Cameron Street Garage (Public Parking Garage 7) at 8530 Cameron Street at 11:00 AM. Dr. David Rotenstein will lead you on a two-hour, two-mile history walk around downtown Silver Spring.

Along the route, you will stop and learn about a variety of sites associated with black history and the civil rights struggle. 

Police seek suspect who exposed himself, touched teen girl on bus in Wheaton (Photo)

Montgomery County police detectives are asking for the public's assistance in catching a suspect who exposed himself and touched a teenage girl on a Ride On bus in Wheaton on March 30. They have now identified the man on footage from the bus surveillance camera, and released the above photo.

Police say a 17-year-old girl boarded a Ride On bus at the Twinbrook Metro station that evening, and sat down at the back of the bus. She told detectives that the man above, who was already aboard the bus, moved back to sit next to her. After a brief "conversation," he then exposed himself to her, and touched her "inappropriately."

As the bus stopped near the intersection of Randolph Road and Dalewood Drive around 7:30 PM, the girl went forward and told the bus driver what had happened. The bus driver called the police, at which point the suspect was allowed to exit the bus. He apparently was nonchalant enough to take time to collect his bicycle from the mounted rack on the bus, which he then pedaled south on Dalewood Drive, in a successful getaway attempt.

Detectives ask that anyone who recognizes the suspect or who has information about this incident please contact the 4th District Investigative Section at 240-773-5530.  For those who wish to remain anonymous, Crime Solvers of Montgomery County is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for any information that leads to the arrest of the suspect. Tipsters can call Crime Solvers of Montgomery County toll-free at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Nighttime road work this month in downtown Silver Spring

Montgomery County will be performing road work in the 900-1400 blocks of Spring Street, and the 8500-8600 blocks of Cedar Street, during nighttime hours all month starting this week. Work hours will be between 7:00 PM and 7:00 AM. The work will include road surface milling, patching and resurfacing, and modifications to curbs, gutters, sidewalks, curb ramps, medians, and storm drain inlets.

This project is unrelated to the Pepco work that was going on Sunday evening on Georgia Avenue and Fenton Street, shown in the pictures here. That involved equipment located below street level.

Whipped by Fairfax, MoCo needs boardrooms, not bedrooms

A drive around the Capital Beltway tells you all you need to know about where the economic development action is in our region. Winding your way around the curves through Tysons, you marvel at the area's most impressive skyline. The region's tallest building - the Capital One headquarters - is under construction, towering over the freeway. Corporate logos are around every bend, including many that recently chose Tysons over Montgomery County, like Intelsat and Hilton Hotels. Snaking through the job-rich territory are major new transportation investments - Express Lanes and the Metro Silver Line; serious infrastructure compared to MoCo's laughably-lame future plans, which entirely consist of 12-miles-in-50-minutes Bus "Rapid" Transit, and bike lanes.

Driving the Beltway through Montgomery County, you'll see...trees. And more trees. Holy Cross Hospital. The Mormon Temple. A Marriott hotel. Extremely appropriately, the last thing you'll see before you cross the congested American Legion Bridge are two retirement communities on either side of the highway. Sad, but reflective of the message moribund Montgomery County would send to any international businessperson whose corporate limo happened to be traveling along the Beltway. An unlikely scenario, given that said businessperson will have already taken the Silver Line or direct highway access from Dulles International Airport into Tysons, signed the deal, and flown out of town again while you're still stuck in traffic going around the Beltway, thanks to our unfinished master plan highway system.

Realizing this, you probably wouldn't be surprised to learn that Fairfax County is still handing our impotent Montgomery County Council their briefcases when it comes to economic development. You wouldn't be surprised that the latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that the average weekly wage paid in Montgomery County is $200 less than what you'd earn if you worked in Fairfax County. And you might not be surprised to learn that there are 588,000 jobs in Fairfax, and only 471,000 here in Montgomery.

But knowing all of that, what probably would surprise you, is that the Montgomery County Council and Planning Board believe we need more bedrooms, not more jobs. Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson recently went to bat on behalf of the developers he represents, adding even more last-minute luxury apartment height and density to the Westfield Montgomery Mall property, which sits alongside the I-270 spur in Bethesda. Not more office space, but more bedrooms. In one of the most overcrowded school clusters in the county, to boot.

This, despite the inescapable fact that adding thousands of new residential units countywide over the last two decades has proven the tax revenue generated by those bedrooms absolutely does not cover the costs in services, education and infrastructure they create.

This, despite County Executive Ike Leggett warning that we are becoming a bedroom community for the booming job centers elsewhere in the region.

And this, despite the fact that the only highway corridor in the county that has historically shown any sort of business development to interstate travelers - I-270 - is slowly being converted from corporate and business uses to residential and...self-storage. Yikes.

Office parks along I-270 and in Rock Spring near the mall are exactly the kind of places the most significant companies of our time are seeking for their headquarters - Apple and Google, for example, both have sprawling. low-rise, suburban campuses. High-wage aerospace and defense firms are seeking simiilar secure sites. Yet, companies like these aren't coming to Montgomery County. It's not because office parks went out of style, as Tim Cook and Sundar Pichai can tell you. It's because MoCo's taxes are too high, its regulation is extreme, the business climate is horrendously unfriendly, and the transportation system simply doesn't function - and doesn't go directly to Dulles Airport.

The last thing we need are more bedrooms around Montgomery Mall. Thanks to poor planning, and elected officials who are clueless about the world of international business circa 2017 (their few business trips have been taken exclusively to Communist countries, which probably explains a lot), we remain stuck significantly behind competing jurisdictions in economic development. Montgomery County is the only jurisdiction in the region to experience a net loss in jobs since 2000; all others around us gained jobs - even Culpeper County, for Pete's sake.

Government incompetence is costing you - in your paycheck if you work in MoCo, on your tax returns, and at the fuel pump and on your internet shipping charges, as traffic idles on the unfinished highway network of Montgomery County. Only by adding more boardrooms - not bedrooms - can we turn this around. Throw the bums out.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Lina's Diner & Bar coming to Silver Spring

Lina's Diner & Bar is coming to downtown Silver Spring. It will be in the former Piratz Tavern space at 8402 Georgia Avenue.

Most recently, this was home to the temporary Quarry House as well, and there are still remnants of the previous tenants on the back patio.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Silver Strings restaurant coming to downtown Silver Spring

A new restaurant called Silver Strings is coming to downtown Silver Spring. It will take over the old 2550 SF beauty supply space at 8630 Colesville Road. Stay tuned for more information about the menu and an opening date.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

MCPS does background check on security team leader...AFTER he is arrested for alleged sex with Richard Montgomery student

Michael Christopher Yantsos
was hired by MCPS without a
background check
How safe are your kids in Montgomery County Public Schools? Parents have been pondering that question in recent weeks, after a 14-year-old girl was allegedly gang-raped by two illegal immigrants in a bathroom at Rockville High School, and two other girls were violently assaulted there in the weeks prior to that incident. MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith, who has shown more rage toward his critics than toward the alleged rapists, assured us last week that every MCPS school was safe. But today, Montgomery County police announced they have arrested an MCPS security team leader, Mark Christopher Yantsos, 57,  for allegedly having sexual contact with a 17-year-old student at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville.


Smith then compounded that news by announcing later this morning that "it has come to our attention that in 1994, Mr. Yantsos was accused of using his revolver to menace a female while working for the New York Police Department." According to a 1994 New York Times report on that incident, Yantsos was attempting to "pick up" the 30-year-old woman after drinking "10 to 15 shots of tequila" at the Happy Go Lucky "topless bar."

What we've just learned, is that MCPS didn't do a background check on a security team leader before hiring him. You can't make this stuff up, folks.

Smith - or more accurately, whoever found the 1994 report and forwarded it to him - then proudly declares he's just done a background check on an employee...after the employee has allegedly had sex with an MCPS student. The same Smith, who with his friends on the County Council, spent more time raging at their constituents and playing national partisan politics than addressing the rape victim or student safety since the gang rape was reported.

This is the sort of amateur hour condoned by both the Board of Education, and the County Council. Unreal. If there was any question Jack Smith needed to step down, that question was answered today.

* * *
Detectives are requesting that parents of students who attend Richard Montgomery High School talk to their children about their interactions with Mark Christopher Yantsos, and contact SVID detectives at 240-773-5400 if they believe their child was victimized.

Bombay Gaylord restaurant renovations underway in Silver Spring (Photos)

Just over two years since the Bombay Gaylord Indian restaurant was closed due to extensive fire damage, renovations have begun at the space at 8401 Georgia Avenue in downtown Silver Spring. New windows and doors have been installed so far. Damage was so severe, the owners had said it would take a long time to rebuild and reopen the restaurant due to the cost.