Friday, March 23, 2018

MoCo Council again tries to sabotage Montrose Parkway East

This week's so-called "compromise" on the Montrose Parkway East project is actually another attempt by the Montgomery County Council to either sabotage, or altogether cancel, the long-delayed highway. Amidst the political pablum of County Executive Ike Leggett's press release, clearly written under duress, was a sentence that did not receive sufficient analysis.

Leggett, who correctly did not want to delay construction of the road at all initially, stated that the one-year delay of the highway would be used to make design changes related to bicycles and pedestrians. He did not specify what those were, or who would approve those changes, and under what public oversight.

What we do know is that developers have wanted to kill the road outright, because it only benefits residents and commuters. It does not help developers, because it is a relief valve, rather than a road that lets developers build more "stuff." Developers want the money from the Montrose Parkway East to go to projects across the County that will allow them to build more stuff, the taxpayers who forked over the highway money be damned.

What we also know, is that several developer tools on the Planning Board have long dreamed of canceling the elevated portion of the parkway over Parklawn, in order to allow developers to build up to the edges of what would be an ordinary urban street. I was able to stop this attempt singlehandedly in 2013, when my testimony changed the votes of several commissioners, who were poised to cancel the grade-separated design for Parklawn at the behest of now-chair Casey Anderson. They also want other sabotage design changes that would similarly increase traffic congestion and lengthen travel time for commuters using the parkway. Such changes would ensure drivers in Rockville, Aspen Hill and other points east of a much-longer trip to and from I-270. Day after day after day.
CLICK HERE to take the first step in
shortening your commute
"Design changes" are right out of the Council playbook, and were previously used by Councilmember Roger Berliner to yet again delay the M-83 Highway. M-83 on the master plan alignment was ready to start construction on an up-or-down vote by the Council, after being recommended by both upcounty residents and MCDOT. Berliner, at the behest of developers, threw the project into an unrequired new approval process that included yet another public hearing. M-83, like MPE, is an old road needed decades ago, and won't by itself allow any development that couldn't go forward today.

It's critical we elect a Council that will cancel any sabotage design changes to the Montrose Parkway East, and will begin construction on that project and M-83 immediately.

Glenmont woman missing

There's a troubling trend of young women going missing in Montgomery County over the last week. The latest to disappear is Morgan Bready, 20, of Epping Court in Glenmont. Bready was last seen on Tuesday, when she was discharged from Adventist HealthCare Behavioral Health & Wellness Services at 14901 Broschart Road in Rockville. Her family has not heard from her since, and they have told detectives Bready functions at a middle-school level.

Bready is described by police as a white female, about 5’6″ tall, and weighing 140 pounds. She has red hair and green eyes. Police and family are concerned for Bready’s physical and emotional welfare.

Detectives are asking anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of Morgan Bready to call the Montgomery County Police Department’s non-emergency number at 301-279-8000.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Failed armed robbery in Long Branch has police searching for gun-wielding suspect

A botched armed robbery at the Exxon station at 701 University Boulevard East in Silver Spring last month won't get the gun-wielding suspect off the hook. Police have released a surveillance camera image of the would-be robber. Despite threatening the gas station's cashier at gunpoint at 4:38 AM on Valentine's Day this year, the gunman ultimately fled on foot with no money toward Gilbert Street.

Anyone with information regarding this suspect or this armed robbery is asked to call the Major Crimes Division at 240-773-5100.  Those who wish to remain anonymous may call Crime Solvers of Montgomery County toll-free at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).  Crime Solvers will pay a cash reward of up to $10,000 for information provided to them that leads to an arrest in this case.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Olney IHOP looks close to opening (Photos)

The new IHOP in Olney Village Center looks like it is in the final countdown to opening. Build-out and decoration of the interior are completely finished, and the tables and chairs are in place. Can't wait to review this new IHOP. The chain is currently featuring a new line of omelettes, and three limited-time varieties of international dessert pancakes.
Host(ess) stand
Click here to learn more about change
Olney can believe in!


Hogan warns of "treacherous" conditions in springtime snowstorm

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan issued an urgent bulletin from Reisterstown warning Marylanders of "treacherous" conditions on roadways during today's springtime snowstorm. The snow is capping off an unusually-chilly March.

“Snow, sleet, and freezing rain falling this evening and overnight could make road conditions treacherous throughout the state. I strongly urge all Marylanders to use common sense, take extreme caution, and avoid travel if possible,” Hogan said. “Keep a close eye on your local weather forecast, and check on family, friends, and neighbors and make sure they are safe throughout this late-season storm.”

Hogan recommended that those who must travel contact friends and family, and let them know where you are going, and when you expect to arrive there. He suggested being cautious when shoveling this heavy, wet snow, and to take frequent breaks to avoid overexertion. Hogan added that it is important to stay hydrated when shoveling outdoors.

The governor suggested stocking your vehicle with "car chargers," and kitty litter or sand, which he said would supply traction to spinning wheels. Hogan also advised residents to keep gadgets charged, and warned residents to never use generators indoors. He cautioned everyone to be prepared for power outages.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Gulf gas station reopens in downtown Silver Spring

The Gulf gas station at 8600 Georgia Avenue has reopened. It closed over a month ago, and the site is supposed to be redeveloped into a hotel. Apparently groundbreaking for that has been delayed, and the service station is back in business for the time being.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Cloverly ES substitute teacher arrested for inappropriate touching of student

Steven Katz
Montgomery County police have charged a substitute teacher at Cloverly Elementary School with Sexual Abuse of a Minor and 4th Degree Sexual Offense. Detectives say Steven Katz, 59, admitted inappropriately touching a male student at the school during their questioning of him. The student told his parent about the incident after school on that day, March 8. His parent notified the school, and the school called the police, Special Victims Investigation Unit detectives say.

Detectives are concerned that there may be more victims at the school, or elsewhere. They are requesting that parents of juveniles who may have had contact with Steven Katz talk to their children about any interaction with Katz, and contact SVID detectives at 240-773-5400 if they believe their child was victimized.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Mismanaged Montgomery County finances end up in the red again with $200,000,000 budget shortfall

Regular readers of this website know that Montgomery County government is stuck in a structural budget deficit as far out as the projections go. So those folks won't be surprised at all to find out that their incompetent and spendthrift County Council managed to yet again spend more than they took in - way more. The budget shortfall heading into the FY-2019 budget process is a whopping $200,000,000.

County Executive Ike Leggett released his proposed budget yesterday, and it includes not a dime of tax relief for residents now paying the highest taxes in County history. No property tax cut, no energy tax cut - not even a rain tax cut! Property taxes will increase automatically; unless the County Council changes Leggett's proposed tax rate, you will be guaranteed to have a higher property tax bill.

Happy Tax Paying from Montgomery County!


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Purple Line work scheduled in Lyttonsville this weekend

Just some of the mature forest that
will be felled along the trail
Purple Line Transit Partners says their contractors will be out this Saturday, March 17, 2018 on the Georgetown Branch Trail from 7:00 AM to 4:00 PM. They'll be engaged in "tree chipping and grinding," a.k.a. clear-cutting mature forest, between Jones Mill Road and Lyttonsville Place. They'll also be violating the Montgomery County noise ordinance in doing so. Such work cannot legally be done before 9:00 AM on weekends, unless they have a noise waiver.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

AT&T proposes 3 new cell towers for The Chateau in Silver Spring

AT&T Mobility, LLC has filed a request to attach three new cell towers atop The Chateau apartments, located at 9727 Mount Pisgah Road in Silver Spring. Anyone concerned about the impact of the new towers on nearby historic properties is asked to call 1-717-472-3070. The Chateau is one of my personal favorite apartment buildings in Montgomery County. Beautiful landscaping, fabulous views, and you are right on a ramp to the Capital Beltway.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Montgomery College selects design firm for new Takoma Park Math-Science building

Public process to
begin in spring

Takoma Park residents living near the Montgomery College Takoma Park campus should get ready to weigh in on the design of a new Math-Science building. Montgomery College has announced it has chosen a firm to design it. The new combined-use building will be located at the corner of Fenton Street/Albany Avenue and Takoma Avenue.

SmithGroupJJR previously designed the Cultural Arts Center on the Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus, and the Holy Cross Germantown Hospital located on the College’s Germantown Campus. They also have experience with projects that are adjacent to residential neighborhoods. That was a key factor in their selection, Montgomery College VP of Facilities and Public Safety Marvin Mills said.

Nearby residents have bristled at some of the college's past construction plans. A public charrette process led by DC-based LINK Strategic Partners this spring will give residents a chance to comment or suggest changes. The designs show here are preliminary massing renderings from the campus master plan.

Once a final design is chosen, Mills said, the college anticipates construction to start in December 2019. The building would then be expected to open for classes in the fall semester of 2022. Hopefully they can come up with a design that fits with the fantastic architecture of the 1960s-1970s-era buildings on the campus. Like the City of Takoma Park itself, it is a beautiful campus, and those designs were so very appropriate for the suburban residential environment it is located in.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Furniture Place opens at Wheaton Plaza (Photos)

Furniture Place has opened at Wheaton Plaza. The store is located next to Crazy 8, and across from Foot Locker, on the upper level.

The showroom is well-lit and modern, with a large selection of home furnishings. There is another store called Furniture Place at Iverson Mall, er, "The Shops at Iverson," in Hillcrest Heights, but the logo is completely different from the new Wheaton Plaza store's. It is a vintage-style logo - does anyone know how many years that Hillcrest Heights Furniture Place store has been there? I'm curious if the logo is meant to be a retro throwback, or if the store has been there for decades.

Friday, March 9, 2018

MetroPCS to host grand opening at Ellsworth Place this weekend

Prepaid phone retailer MetroPCS will celebrate the grand opening of their newest Montgomery County location this weekend at Ellsworth Place mall in downtown Silver Spring. There will be prize giveaways, face painting for kids, and more. MetroPCS is located on Level 3 of the mall, which is located at 8661 Colesville Road.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Police looking for suspected MS-13 member in Aspen Hill

Suspect accused of 
involvement in 
armed robberies,
MoCo sex trafficking

Montgomery County police are searching for a suspected MS-13 gang member who has been known to hang out at the Home Depot in Aspen Hill as a day laborer. According to ABC7 News, detectives believe 24-year-old Jose Molina Arevalo (alias "Malandro") was involved in a slew of violent crimes in Wheaton, Kensington, and elsewhere in the D.C. region.

Arevalo is 5'4", weighs 140 pounds and in the past has worn an eyebrow ring and earrings in both ears. If you see Arevalo, or know where he is, police warn he is considered armed and dangerous. They recommend you immediately call Detective Dan Krill, of the Montgomery County Police Robbery Section, at (240) 876-0418.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Gussini Fashion & Shoes to open at Wheaton Plaza

Gussini Fashion & Shoes will open soon at Wheaton Plaza. The store will be located near JC Penney. Based in Bladensburg, the local chain has 10 stores. They offer a wide selection of women's apparel and shoes for juniors and plus sizes.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Quarry House Tavern to reopen Sunday, March 11 in Silver Spring

It's official - Quarry House Tavern is reopening in its original spot, 8401 Georgia Avenue in downtown Silver Spring, this Sunday, March 11, at 4:00 PM. One of Montgomery County's favorite dive bars returns after restoring its space that was heavily damaged by a 2015 fire.

In a statement Monday announcing the opening date, Quarry House thanked their landlords, without whose support they would not have been able to reopen, they said.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Palisades Lounge, Quarry House Tavern post new signs as countdown to opening continues in Silver Spring (Photos)

Palisades Lounge has posted "coming soon" signage. The lounge is replacing a closed paint store at 8211 Georgia Avenue.

Meanwhile, Quarry House Tavern still doesn't have a confirmed opening date, but deliveries are picking up. A new sign posted tries to clear up the confusion - Amazon deliveries are going in, but not customers yet. However, they say, stand by for an announcement "soon."

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Power outages persist in Wheaton (Photos)

Wheaton business owners were delivering the same message in multiple languages Saturday, after continued power outages forced them to remain closed. On Saturday evening, only one Pepco truck could be found in "downtown" Wheaton, on Veirs Mill Road in front of Lindsay Ford. The power utility failed to summon enough additional crews from other states, despite having 72 hours notice from the National Weather Service. About 100 customers remain without power in the commercial area of the Wheaton Triangle. Thousands more are still without power in residential homes and businesses across the East County at this hour. Heckuva job, Brownie!

Friday, March 2, 2018

Hogan warns residents of extreme winds today, 28 outages already reported across MoCo

“I urge all Marylanders to 
take this severe weather
 very seriously and 
prepare now” 

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has issued a statement warning residents to be prepared for extreme wind gusts up to 70 MPH today. “I urge all Marylanders to take this severe weather very seriously and prepare now,” Hogan said in an urgent message from Reisterstown. “These wind speeds have the potential of causing power outages and creating hazardous conditions for travel and being outdoors starting Friday morning. Be sure to check on your family, friends, and neighbors so that we all are prepared for this rare and potentially very dangerous weather event.”

Hogan advised residents to avoid traveling this morning, never to run a generator indoors, and to not leave pets outdoors today. High winds are expected to fell many trees and cause major power outages across the state. There have already been 28 reports of power outages across Montgomery County as of early this morning.

Tree falls on Burtonsville house

Tree crashed into 100-year-old resident's
bedroom on E. Bexhill Drive
High winds got a quick start felling trees across Montgomery County overnight. Among the first to fall landed on a house in the 4200 block of Red Maple Court near Cedar Tree Drive in Burtonsville. No one was injured in that incident, according to Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services spokesperson Pete Piringer.

One of the other early collapses was a tree at Baltimore Road and Gladstone Drive in Rockville. That one took out a Pepco transformer and power lines, causing a temporary road closure.

The very first tree to fall in the County was in Kensington, which landed on a house at 9912 E. Bexhill Drive. Tragically, there was not only significant damage to the home, but a 100-year-old resident was rushed to the hospital as a Priority 2 trauma patient. The victim was trapped in her crushed bedroom before being extricated by firefighters.

Photo by Pete Piringer

Thursday, March 1, 2018

MoCo drops ball again, loses out on Fannie Mae, Wilcoxon jobs

Montgomery County took it on the chin again Wednesday, as our elected officials continue to fumble the ball on economic development. High-tech manufacturer Wilcoxon announced it is moving its Germantown facility - and its 100 jobs - to Frederick. In a statement, Wilcoxon President Dr. Christopher McLean cited Frederick and Frederick County's "manufacturing-friendly taxes and [the] simplified permitting process that exists in both jurisdictions" as major factors in the move.

McLean also noted the quick access to three major highways, key to a manufacturer, and that "8435 Progress Drive provides a lower cost of ownership than our previous [Montgomery County] facility, and we can remain close to Washington, D.C. and three major airports." "Whenever you can attract 100 tech jobs, especially filling 45,000 square feet of space, it’s a great opportunity for the city," Frederick's Director of Economic Development Richard Griffin said, according to the Frederick News Post.

This was yet another clear example of our draconian taxes, red tape regulations and poor business climate costing us jobs and tax revenue.

But it got worse: Fannie Mae announced it has leased a whopping 850000 SF at Boston Properties' Reston Gateway, and will be the anchor tenant there. Tons of jobs will move into the site in 2022, Boston Properties said in a press release, bringing more revenue and business foot traffic for Virginia.

How did this happen? We have a County Council clueless about how the world of international business works in 2018. They are ideologically-opposed to making the common sense changes in taxes and regulations, and building the necessary transportation infrastructure, needed to make Montgomery County competitive in the region again.

Look no further than the Council's brainless decision to loudly broadcast they intend to cancel funding for the Montrose Parkway East. The Council, at least in public, claims they want Amazon to choose the Pike District for its HQ 2.

What better way to impress a logistics company like Amazon, than to announce you are canceling the main infrastructure project near their potential headquarters, right?

It's amateur hour at 100 Maryland Avenue again, folks!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Aspen Hill residential street concrete replacement to begin this spring

The Montgomery County Department of Transportation has announced a contractor will begin concrete replacement operations on a number of residential streets in the Wheaton Woods subdivision of Aspen Hill, starting this spring. See the above map for the included streets in this phase of the project.

Crews will conduct advance inspections to determine which curbs and sidewalks need replacement. They will install ADA-compliant curb ramps at intersections, and replaced damaged curb and gutter sections. Finally, they will offer residents an opportunity to have the contractor replace their driveway aprons, should they wish.

The work will take 8-9 weeks to complete, and the contractor is supposed to restore disturbed soil with new soil, grass seed, and mulch. Traffic will be reduced to one lane on affected streets at times, and temporary parking restrictions will be announced via signs. All work will be performed between 7:00 AM and 6:00 PM.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

MoCo residents give thumbs down to County's transportation system, MCPS class sizes, high taxes

The results of Montgomery County's annual Community Livability Survey for 2017 show a deep dissatisfaction with the County's current transportation system, liquor sales monopoly, high cost of living, crowded schools and what little value residents say they get in return for the high taxes they pay.

74% of residents surveyed said they are dissatisfied with the traffic flow on major routes. That's especially notable, given that the County Council has recently canceled many of the projects designed to reduce congestion, including the M-83 Highway, and Montrose Parkway East. 56% are dissatisfied with the ease of finding and using public parking facilities. A majority, 53%, gave a thumbs down on the ease of travel by car in the County. Public transportation fared even worse, with 55% expressing dissatisfaction.

Other points of dissatisfaction with Montgomery County included the high cost of living and housing, and the perception that it is a poor place to retire. A majority, 51%, said they are not getting their money's worth from Montgomery County government compared to the high amount of taxes they pay.

75% of residents said they neither attend government meetings nor watch County government meetings and programming on cable television. 50% are dissatisfied with the County's government liquor sales monopoly.

A solid majority of East County and Bethesda-Chevy Chase residents give the County poor marks for MCPS class size, two years after the County Council hiked taxes 9%, with the promise of reducing class size. Both areas also disapprove of the current teacher-to-student ratio in MCPS. Countywide, residents are dissatisfied with the food served in MCPS cafeterias. Only 52% of East County residents believe their children are safe in MCPS schools.

Also very notable after the County Council has claimed we are a healthy jurisdiction: As with so many aspects of infrastructure, schools and public facilities, East County lags behind in health. Only 50% of East County residents reported they are in "excellent" health.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Wheaton Town Square could be built by Summer 2019

Lot 13 building foundation now
under construction in Wheaton
The long-awaited Town Square public event space by the Wheaton Metro station is expected to be constructed by the end of next summer, according to a new Lot 13 project timeline from Montgomery County. While the main part of the Lot 13 project is a County office building expect to deliver in 2020, the new gathering space is what the community is most looking forward to after the dust settles.

Speaking of dust, the foundation of the office building is now under construction. However, placement of the bottom hydrostatic slab will have to wait until the 150 geothermal wells buried earlier under the project site are connected by piping, so they can connect into the building's energy system. Reedie Drive will close again this Saturday, March 3, 5:00 AM to 12:00 PM, so they can airlift heavy equipment out of the excavated pit.
Boom. The Mid-County Services Center
gets the business end of a demolition arm
Finally, demolition of the Mid-County Services Center has begun. County officials estimate that the building will be fully-razed by the end of March, if not sooner.