Thursday, December 31, 2015

Wheaton residential lots at Georgia and Parker could be joined (Photos)

Montgomery County Planning staff are recommending approval of an application to join two residential lots in the Arcola subdivision of Wheaton. The adjoining properties are located at the northeast corner of Georgia Avenue and Parker Avenue. They are directly across Parker from the historic Wheaton Youth Center/Recreation Center, scheduled for demolition as early as next year.

This request is currently scheduled to be taken up by the Planning Board at its next meeting, on Thursday, January 7.

Recognize this Burtonsville bank robber? (Photos)

A man of mystery. A master of decidedly low-budget disguise. That's who Montgomery County Police are seeking in connection with an attempted bank robbery two days ago in Burtonsville.

Police say that on December 29 at approximately 11:30 AM, the suspect shown here attempted to rob the Suntrust bank located at 3901 National Drive in Burtonsville. He entered the bank wearing a green or teal hat, dark Nike sweatshirt, and a black and white scarf wrapped around his neck and chin. The suspect also wore a bandage covering his nose.

In his not-so-natty attire, he approached a teller and handed over a note demanding money. The bank did not comply, and the suspect then fled from the bank.

Anyone with information regarding the identity of the suspect involved in this bank robbery is asked to contact 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 the arrest and/or indictment of this suspect. Tipsters will remain anonymous.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Montgomery County Council helping their billionaire sugar daddy evade taxes

Councilmember Hans Riemer, a
leading recipient of campaign
donations from billionaire
under investigation for tax evasion
Senate Finance Committee
investigating museum scheme

Most of the controversy surrounding Potomac billionaire Mitch Rales' Glenstone museum has related to its private operation, its addition of a sewer line, and his sugar daddy status to members of the Montgomery County Council, to whom he has donated tens of thousands of dollars. Now a U.S. Senate Finance Committee investigation is looking into another question - is Glenstone actually an art museum, or simply an easy way to avoid personal, capital gains and estate taxes through its Glenstone Foundation?

Councilmember Roger Berliner has received at least $27,000 from Rales, according to blogger Eric Hensal. The second-biggest recipient of money from Rales, a pioneer in outsourcing American jobs to China, has been Councilmember Hans Riemer. 

Riemer has used a mysterious out-of-state bounty of cash from a rogue's gallery of Wall Street scoundrels, banks, mortgage sharks, and lobbyists - who together caused the "Great Recession" - to win two council elections. Yet, he has faced no media scrutiny of his unusual campaign finances. 

Rales' Danaher Corporation wrested 140 jobs away from Hanover, Maryland alone, in a four-state liquidation of factories, as the linked video demonstrates. Is it surprising that Riemer would support a Wall Street outsourcer in evading taxes right here in Montgomery County? After all, Riemer also took a fat campaign check from Mitt Romney's Bain Capital, another pioneer in closing factories, and outsourcing jobs to overseas countries. And, while receiving funds from anti-Obamacare lobbyists, Riemer endorsed dropping the public option from the Affordable Care Act in 2009, creating a huge payday for the insurance companies.

Both councilmen, and several other colleagues who received Rales booty, delivered a series of votes that enabled the expansion of Glenstone in recent years.

While they spoke of Glenstone as a public amenity, it is actually private, not open to just anyone to visit during set hours, and located on Rales' Potomac estate, nowhere near public transit infrastructure. Glenstone has already denied access to visitors, including reporters who have dared to criticize it.

The Senate Finance Committee has heard enough, and is now investigating whether Glenstone - enabled by the County Council - is violating IRS rules and evading taxes. While the New York Times accepted Glenstone's visitor numbers at face value, fortunately, the City Paper actually did the research and found just how few visitors there have been over the years in relation to similar facilities elsewhere - and that no visitor records are publicly available for the past two years.

Meanwhile, the City Paper found that Rales is stashing away more than $360,000,000 in Danaher stock in Glenstone, and another $26 million from his Janalia Corporation. Can you get into Glenstone? City Paper reporter Kriston Capps has been rejected from visiting twice. That's not a public museum.

Aside from determining whether tax evasion has occurred (gee, you think?) with the aid and abettance of the County Council, there is another possible benefit to the Senate-level investigation. Investigations tend to turn up more than what they start out looking for. Montgomery County has a false reputation as an ethical jurisdiction primarily because there have not been federal investigations here. In a federal probe, a lesser member of a political machine can be threatened with jail time - until he or she starts talking about the bigger scandal going on higher up, in exchange for leniency or immunity. 

Farm Road, the Silver Spring Transit Center, the Council-connected nonprofit that "lost" $900,000 in taxpayer money? In every case the politicians themselves were able to control what passed for an "investigation", and declare the case closed. While the feds seem to be in constant pursuit of African-American officials in the District and Prince George's County, our white Montgomery County and Maryland politicians continue to evade scrutiny.

That has to change.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Rockville bicyclist killed in Aspen Hill collision

A 19-year-old Rockville resident died from injuries he sustained when his bicycle was struck by a truck in Aspen Hill last night. Frank Lawrence Towers, of the 13100 block of Beaver Terrace in Rockville, was crossing westbound Veirs Mill Road at Turkey Branch Parkway around 7:25 PM Monday night when he was struck by a silver 2000 Toyota 4Runner.

Towers was transported to a local hospital, but later died from his injuries. Juan Francisco Orellana, 39, of the 12100 block of nearby Selfridge Road in Silver Spring, was the driver of the 4Runner.

The cause of the accident is now under investigation. Investigators are asking anyone who witnessed this fatal collision to contact the Collision Reconstruction Unit at 240-773- 6620. Callers may remain anonymous.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Aspen Hill residents sought for MIdcounty Citizens Advisory Board

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett is seeking new candidates for the Midcounty Citizens Advisory Board, which meets monthly in Wheaton. Residents and business representatives identify community concerns for Leggett and work to address solutions. Leggett is particularly interested in having representatives of the Aspen Hill area on the Board.

You can apply online. Members serve 3 years without compensation.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Stabbing in Long Branch area of Silver Spring

A man was stabbed in the 8500 block of Piney Branch Road in Long Branch around 7:00 PM tonight. He was transported to a local hospital with serious but not life-threatening injuries, according to Montgomery County Fire and Rescue spokesperson Pete Piringer. Montgomery County Police are investigating and seeking suspects in the case. The motive for the stabbing is not yet known.

If you have any information that could help detectives, please call 301-278-9000.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Police investigating suspicious death in Silver Spring

Montgomery County Police detectives are investigating a suspicious death in Silver Spring, after finding a body late last night.

At approximately 11:10 PM Tuesday,  detectives from the Major Crimes Division were in the area of the Northwest Branch Trail near the inner-loop of I-495 in Silver Spring. There, they located a deceased individual in the creek along the trail. They did not say why detectives were there to begin with.

An autopsy will be conducted by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore.

Detectives are urging anyone who may have information regarding this death to contact the Major Crimes Division at 240.773.5070, or contact Crime Solvers of Montgomery County toll-free at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477). Callers may remain anonymous.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Public hearing on Hermitage Road closure in Wheaton

Green space at center will
replace a portion of
Hermitage Avenue in
A public hearing will be held regarding the proposed closure of a portion of Hermitage Avenue in Wheaton, on January 27, 2016 at 7:30 PM, in the lobby Auditorium of the Executive Office Building at 101 Monroe Street in Rockville. The portion to be closed will be right off of its intersection with Georgia Avenue (MD 97).

A new "right-of-way" will be created for automobile traffic to reach Hermitage, but the section immediately off Georgia will be closed, and become part of the co-located Wheaton Library and Recreation Center project.

Direct access from Georgia to Hermitage will be permanently cut off. There will still be pedestrian access from Georgia to the rest of Hermitage. At public meetings on the library project, some residents have expressed concerns about the traffic impacts on their neighborhood, if the top of Hermitage is cut off.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Montgomery Blair students rushed to hospital after eating pot-laced brownies at school

Eighteen months after Montgomery County leaders weakened marijuana laws, the drug is finding itself frequently in crime headlines in Bethesda, Rockville, and now Silver Spring. A Montgomery Blair High School student is under arrest, and two of his classmates were rushed to the hospital, after they consumed pot-laced brownies he sold them, police allege.

Montgomery County Police say William Conrad Keysar, 18, of the 2000 block of Queensguard Road in Silver Spring, has been charged with distribution of a controlled dangerous substance on school property. The police were contacted after a school resource police officer was alerted to the two girls' condition, which included an elevated heart rate.

In total, Keysar was charged with two counts of distribution of a controlled dangerous substance, and two counts of distribution of a controlled dangerous substance on school property.

The girls were released from the hospital the same day.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Lyttonsville sector plan public hearing draft approved by Planning Board

The Montgomery County Planning Board yesterday approved the public hearing draft of the Lyttonsville sector plan. Commissioners voted unanimously to add additional staff material to the draft. A public hearing will be held before the Board at its February 11, 2016 meeting.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Head of MoCo Economic Development Corp. backs new Potomac River crossing

Buchanan says MoCo
businesses are "solidly
behind" a new bridge

The newly-formed Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation may have a chance of actually accomplishing something after all. Its chair, Bob Buchanan, has already bucked the County's political machine, which has failed to attract a single major corporation to Montgomery in over a decade. Speaking to the Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board on December 9, Buchanan strongly urged them to open dialogue with Maryland on a new Potomac River crossing west of the congested American Legion Bridge.

Buchanan, a Montgomery County resident, has long been an advocate for completing this missing piece of our region's transportation infrastructure. But he told the CTB that Montgomery's business community is squarely behind a new bridge, as well. It is refreshing that Buchanan was willing to openly divert from the party line of the County Council, which has strongly condemned even talking about the needed bridge, much less building it. A truly independent MCEDC, able to talk sense as Buchanan did, will be in a position to address the factors which have crippled our County's economic growth since the turn of the century. (County Council term limits wouldn't hurt, either)

Calling for greater regional cooperation, a theme stressed at recent business events in Tysons and in MoCo's newly-branded Pike District, Buchanan asked the CTB to "open negotiations with Maryland regarding another river crossing." A new river crossing "will be a game changer," Buchanan predicted, citing our current "broken transportation system." 

Our congested roads have not only scared away businesses, but raised costs for those already here. They even made your online holiday shopping more expensive, with shipping rates calculated using congestion and travel delay data. Equally troubling: the lack of a direct highway connection between Montgomery County and Dulles Airport has been a deal breaker for international firms considering moving here. All of this, along with MoCo's tax and regulation scheme, have led to a moribund County economy.

"The business community - I speak for Montgomery - is solidly behind another river crossing to alleviate the congestion," Buchanan told the CTB. He recalled that a survey of local businesses found the number one project universally responded to was a new bridge connecting Montgomery with Northern Virginia. Buchanan said businesspeople told him that they are afraid to be too vocal about their support for the bridge because "the politics are so great" on the issue. "Let's not let politics stop what we know needs to be done," Buchanan said.

This is truly a sea change from the usual boilerplate of our County government. It's clear the tide is slowly beginning to turn. No councilmember has stated support for a new bridge, and the long-delayed M-83 Highway has been tabled again. But councilmembers who were claiming Bus Rapid Transit was the solution for the American Legion Bridge just a few years ago, are now advocating extending Virginia's Express Lanes into Maryland. Instead of the bus-and-carpool-only lanes they promoted in 2012, they're now endorsing toll lanes that solo drivers could use.

That change comes at a time when Virginia's transportation secretary has thrown out a 2012 Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments study which showed around 25% of traffic on the Legion Bridge to be headed to, or from, the Dulles area. Replacing it, is a fake study with totally different numbers, that claims a fake average speed on the Inner Loop crossing the bridge during evening rush, and cooks the books to make it seem no one is going to or from Dulles. 

Fortunately, heavier political weights like Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Sen. Mark Warner are solidly behind a new Potomac crossing. Now is the time to address this critical transportation project, while Maryland also has a governor who wants to improve highway capacity, and now has a bridge advocate such as Buchanan in a position of power in the County.

As Buchanan advised the CTB, "We should never be afraid of talking." 

The CTB later approved a resolution directing Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne to initiate discussions with Maryland on existing and potential new river crossings, including a new bridge west of the Legion crossing, and a replacement Gov. Harry W. Nice Bridge in Southern Maryland.

Our phone is ringing. Will our leaders finally answer?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Kidnapping reported at Lotte Plaza in Aspen Hill

A kidnapping-in-progress was reported at the Lotte Plaza shopping center on Georgia Avenue in Aspen Hill early this morning, according to radio scanner reports. Montgomery County Police were called around 1:45 AM, and told that a man was forcing a woman into a white sedan outside of Rita's at Lotte Plaza.

Officers responding to the scene said they were finding no sign of the individuals or vehicle there, according to scanner reports. No further details are available as of press time.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Rockville teen charged in Aspen Hill stabbing

Montgomery County Police say a teenager has been charged as an adult in last week's fatal stabbing at an Aspen Hill gas station on Georgia Avenue. Elmer A. Galindo of Rockville has been charged in the as an adult in the homicide of Jose Santos Fuentes of Aspen Hill, also 17.

An officer saw Galindo fleeing the vicinity of the double stabbing, and caught him in the 14000 block of Grand Pre Road. The officer noticed Galindo’s pants were bloody, and found a knife on Galindo's person.

Galindo was charged with one count of first-degree murder, one count of attempted first-degree murder, one count of armed robbery, and one count of robbery. He is being held without bond.

Police say their initial investigation suggests the altercation stemmed from a dispute over an earlier drug transaction. They have not yet announced any gang involvement in the incident. Previously, police had stated they were looking for as many as four suspects in the case.

Galindo's other alleged victim remains hospitalized in serious condition, according to police.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Aspen Hill stabbing now a homicide; manhunt underway for suspects still at-large

Is gang violence worsening in Montgomery County? There is no official word yet of gang involvement in a violent assault last night in Aspen Hill, but many residents have expressed concern about gangs in the area. This time the weapon of choice was a knife, rather than a gun. Wednesday night at 8:24 PM, Montgomery County Police responded to a report of an assault at the Sunoco gas station in Aspen Hill, at 14031 Georgia Avenue.

Upon arriving, officers found two Latino males who had been stabbed. One was suffering from life-threatening injuries, and later died at a local hospital. The other is still hospitalized.

Police say the motive for the savage assault is unclear, and that the suspects simply fled after the assault.

Detectives urge anyone who may have information regarding the suspect(s) in this homicide to contact the Major Crimes Division at 240.773.5070. 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).

There are reportedly as many as four suspects at large in this case.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Cloverly mulch fire burns through night in Silver Spring

A large mulch pile ignited yesterday at a landscaping company in the 15700 block of New Hampshire Avenue, in the Cloverly area of Silver Spring. Montgomery County Fire and Rescue personnel battled the blaze into the evening, finally containing it sufficiently to halt operations until sunrise.

Firefighters would continue to monitor the situation overnight, MCFRS spokesperson Pete Piringer said. They had to bring in extra tools, as well. Heavy equipment was needed to move mulch, and foam and large diameter hoses were deployed.

No injuries were reported, and the cause of the fire has not yet been announced.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

New signage outside Ellsworth Place in Silver Spring (Photos)

A number of retail and restaurant tenants at Ellsworth Place mall in downtown Silver Spring have gotten sharper, more visible signage along streetscapes outside the building. The mall is currently undergoing a total renovation expected to be completed by Spring 2016.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Next phases of Glenmont Metrocentre headed to Planning Board (Photos)

The phased demolition and redevelopment of the venerable Privacy World garden apartments will take another step forward on December 10. That's when the Montgomery County Planning Board is scheduled to vote on a plan that would add 260 residential units, and up to 4000 square feet of retail, to the site, which is now known as Glenmont Metrocentre. A new road would be added that would also take remaining Privacy World residents back to 3 garden apartment buildings that will still stand a while longer.

Planning staff are recommending approval of the plan, which includes 33 affordable housing units, and as many as 46 townhouses. The four buildings and parking areas that will be demolished to make room for all of this will have to be gone by September 26, 2020 in order for building permits to be issued.
Buildings within the red
lines will come down in
two phases, along with
their parking lots
A new street, Auden Drive, will provide access to the townhome community, and residents will access parking via Klee Alley. Macaulay Street is a second new street, between Auden and the existing Glenallen Drive, that will give apartment residents access to the new multifamily residential building. There will also be open recreational space.

The apartment building will be 85' tall.
Detail of stream at northwest
corner of Privacy World site;
the development was known for
its ample green space and
well-manicured grounds
Privacy World contained 582 linear feet of stream, .13 acres of wetlands and 2.9 acres of High Priority Forest.

Interestingly, regarding the garden apartments that will remain through these next 2 phases of construction, the planners' report notes that " the current tenants in these buildings...have not been notified of the pending development plans due to the Applicant’s contract with the current property owner."

The County Department of Transportation is recommending restricted turns and a center refuge island for the intersection of the new entrance road at Glenallen Avenue. MCDOT also notes that the on-street parking planners recommended for Glenallen is not feasible, as Glenallen is classified as an arterial road. Limited hours street parking, or recessed street spaces requiring the developer to dedicate another 8' along Glenallen are proposed as compromises by MCDOT, with the former requiring a traffic study.

Glenmont Metrocentre, as the name suggests, is directly adjacent to the Glenmont Metro station.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Unique Christmas tree lights up downtown Silver Spring (Photos)

While every town center around seems to have a Christmas tree, the one in downtown Silver Spring brings its own unique brand of holiday decor. It celebrates the role that food plays during the holidays.

Look closely, and you'll notice those aren't ordinary ornaments decorating the tree. First of all, the ornaments are inside the tree, not hanging on the outer limbs like usual. Artists Karl Unnasch and Jon Taylor say that is to represent "a full pantry."

Snowflakes and stars are made from silver utensils, classic takeout containers become lanterns, and bowls, platters and cups become holiday designs.

You can make a donation to Manna Food Center at the tree, and find out more about deals at local downtown Silver Spring restaurants and businesses, in a celebration they're calling Foodie Festivus.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Bar Louie coming to Wheaton Plaza

Westfield is continuing to reposition Wheaton Plaza in the local retail market, now bringing Bar Louie on board. Along with a recent signing of Tilted Kilt as a bar tenant, the retail center appears to be aiming for a younger audience seeking nightlife.

Bar Louie will be on Level 2 of the mall, in a 7846 SF space. There is an existing Bar Louie location in Montgomery County, at Rockville Town Square. Westfield has a Bar Louie at its Countryside mall in Florida.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

T.J. Maxx opens at Ellsworth Place (Photos)

T.J. Maxx is now open at Ellsworth Place mall in downtown Silver Spring, just in time for Black Friday. One interesting addition for families shopping, is a children's play area that's been set up outside the store.
Children's play area
outside the store

Monday, November 23, 2015

Gusto Italian Grill opens in Silver Spring (Photos)

Gusto Italian Grill has opened its second area location, at 8512 Fenton Street in downtown Silver Spring. Their first restaurant opened recently in downtown Bethesda.

Unlike the Bethesda location, this Gusto's outdoor patio has a roof over it, allowing more flexible use of the space when the weather isn't so great.

Absolut Smackdown tonight at All Set Restaurant and Bar in Silver Spring

The public, and a set of judges, will each decide tonight who in the DMV mixes the best Absolut cocktail, at All Set Restaurant and Bar in Silver Spring. Your $15 ticket will get you samples of not only each cocktail entry, but also small plates from All Set.

Tickets are available online. Final ticket proceeds will be donated to local charities.

All Set Restaurant and Bar
8630 Fenton Street

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Postcards from old El Salvador in Silver Spring on December 9

A treasure trove of postcards from El Salvador during the period from 1900-1950 will be the topic of a lecture on Wednesday, December 9, from 6-9 PM, at the Silver Spring Civic Center. Author Stephen Grant will share scenes of people, buildings, ports, public squares and other existing and lost landmarks of the country's war-torn past.

The event will be followed by a Winter Potluck Dinner. RSVP by email to attend the evening free, and let them know what dish you'll be bringing to the potluck.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Takoma Park pays tribute to Bruce Williams as new Mayor, Council are sworn in

Takoma Park residents - and even some neighbors from Montgomery County and across the District line - crowded into last night's Mayor and Council meeting to pay tribute to retiring Mayor Bruce Williams. A fixture in City elected office since the early 1990s, Williams received several awards, a proclamation from the new Mayor and Council, and many an emotional speech from speaker after speaker.

City Manager Suzanne Ludlow declared the evening "the end of an era for Takoma Park." Williams, who was first elected as the Ward 3 councilmember in 1993, was the first openly-gay elected official in the region including Maryland, the District and Virginia.

If it was the end of one era, last night was the beginning of another for new Mayor Kate Stewart and two new councilmembers, Peter Kovar (Ward 1) and Rizzy Qureshi (Ward 3). Qureshi, a first-generation American citizen, described his swearing-in as a "surreal moment" he and his family could not have imagined.

His colleague, Fred Schultz (Ward 6), welcomed the new blood on the Council. "It's also not a bad idea to keep some old guys around, just in case," the longtime councilmember added to laughter.

Stewart named Ward 4 Councilmember Terry Seamens as Mayor Pro Tempore.

The new Mayor herself opened her remarks by thanking the many "strong women" in her life, including her mother, sister, mother-in-law, and Rep. Ellen Story of Massachusetts. "I'm very fortunate to be elected Mayor at this time in history," she said. "We have a lot of work to do."

That work, she said, would include continuing to make the City welcoming to a diverse community, increasing energy efficiency, and providing affordable housing.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Meth lab in Kemp Mill?

Firefighters responded to a home in the 600 block of Winona Court in Kemp Mill last night. A HazMat team was among the responders, as the issue was related to chemicals. Via radio, a firefighter reported back to the dispatcher that he had determined the matter required the involvement of "law enforcement."

Police responded to the scene, and found chemicals "similar to those associated with [a] possible drug lab," according to Montgomery County Fire and Rescue spokesperson Pete Piringer.

No injuries were reported, and police have not yet released further details on the case as of this writing.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Forever 21 Red, Foot Locker officially on-board at Ellsworth Place in Silver Spring (Photos)

Forever 21 Red and Foot Locker had reached initial agreement with Petrie-Richardson Ventures to join the retailers at the development firm's Ellsworth Place mall in downtown Silver Spring. On Wednesday, they made it official, signing long-term leases with the mall.

Another highly-anticipated tenant, Dave & Buster's, has also signed a long-term lease.

Red, a new concept for Forever 21, sells the styles the brand is known for carrying at a lower price than its regular stores. It will occupy a 13,508 SF space in the mall, which is currently undergoing a complete renovation.

Forever 21 Red is expected to open in mid-2016. New casual restaurant tenant Not Your Average Joe's is expected to open in the spring of 2016.

“Our long-term goal for Ellsworth Place has always been to reinvigorate the retail offerings in downtown Silver Spring with more modern, trendy options that are in line with the rapidly changing demographic of the surrounding area,” Terry Richardson, president and COO of PRV, said yesterday. “With Dave and Buster’s and Forever 21 Red officially coming to our newly renovated Ellsworth Place upon its completion mid-2016, as well as the signing of Foot Locker and restaurants MOD Pizza and Not Your Average Joe’s, we are full speed ahead on creating an almost unrecognizable retail center.”