Friday, September 30, 2016

Humiliation: No MCPS school makes 2016 National Blue Ribbon School list

Just months after the Montgomery County Council hiked property and recordation taxes to record highs, and falsely claimed it was to benefit schools (but without any major change in education strategy, meaning we're going to keep going the way we've been going - a.k.a. the definition of insanity), there is more alarming evidence that your tax pain is in vain. The U.S. Department of Education has just released its list of 2016 National Blue Ribbon Schools - and not a single Montgomery County Public School is on the list.


We've been told by the Montgomery County political cartel that, while we don't enjoy the booming private sector economic growth of states like Texas, we should still feel superior because we "invest in our schools." Fact check: Montgomery County suffered a humiliating shut-out on the list, while red states like Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Virginia and Louisiana cleaned our clock, with multiple public schools making the cut. In fact, 26 Texas schools in all made the 2016 list. Even a red county in Maryland like Anne Arundel has public school representation on the new list.

It turns out that the excess money spent on MCPS without a plan has been money down the toilet. Ironically, you can be almost certain that grades will rise in MCPS schools in the future - but only because the school system recently adopted an easier grading system for that very reason. Elected officials impotent to solve MoCo's education decline? No problem! Just get rid of final exams and inflate everybody's grades. God help us.


P.S. Congratulations to Montgomery County's St. Patrick's parochial school, which made the 2016 list as a non-public school.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Dave & Buster's sets November opening date at Ellsworth Place in Silver Spring

Dave & Buster's has announced its new downtown Silver Spring location will open at Ellsworth Place this November. They are now hiring for all positions at the dining and entertainment center, more than 260 jobs in all.

Since closing at White Flint Mall after the landowner pulled the plug on its successful, fully-leased retail center, Dave & Buster's has upped its culinary game. Diners at the new Silver Spring restaurant will enjoy dishes like Angry Orchard BBQ Chicken, and Bacon-Wrapped Shrimp with Lobster Sauce and Fire-Grilled Sirloin.

Cocktail connoisseurs can choose from tiki drinks, the Original CoronaRita, adult snow cones, the Strawberry Watermelon Margarita poured over strawberry ice cubes, Glow Kones featuring a multicolored, flashing cube, and the all-new Luxe L.I.T.’s.

The Ellsworth Place location's Million Dollar Midway will feature games like Star Trek and Star Wars Battle Pod, plus D&B exclusives like Ghostbusters. Tickets won won't be redeemed for junk prizes, but rather, Apple products, Xbox games, sports memorabilia and more.

Dave & Buster's also promises "better than the stadium seating" for Redskins, Nationals, and D.C. United games, with the massive HD TVs in their Sports Bar area.

An in-person job application site will open October 19 at the Hampton Inn at 8728 Colesville Road. Interviews will be held Monday through Saturday from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Kemp Mill Beer Wine & Deli seeks approval of U-Haul rentals from County

Have you noticed the U-Haul sign in the window of Kemp Mill Beer Wine & Deli, and the U-Haul vehicles parked around the shopping center? So did Montgomery County, which issued the store a code violation notice in February.

Kemp Mill Beer and Wine wants to rent 21 U-Haul vehicles, including four cargo vans, one pick-up truck, eight 10-foot trucks, and eight trailers. But the 10-foot trucks apparently qualify as "heavy commercial vehicles" under the County code.

So a special exception must be granted to allow the rentals. The store has community support, with 100 nearby residents and business owners signing a petition to allow the U-Haul use. Now the Planning Board will take up the matter at its meeting tomorrow, September 29.

Planning staff is recommending approval of the use. A County Hearing Examiner will review the matter at a public hearing on October 17.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Demolition update: Spring-Colesville Garage 21 (Photos)

The former public parking garage at Spring Street and Colesville Road in downtown Silver Spring is pretty much gone at this point. It has been demolished to make way for 120,000 SF expansion of the United Therapeutics campus, including a 6-story building, retail and a replacement parking garage.

Monday, September 26, 2016

More AMC Wheaton 9 theater signage installed at Wheaton Plaza (Photos)

More signs of the soon-to-open AMC Wheaton 9 Theater at Wheaton Plaza. A slick AMC logo has been added to the art deco-inspired pedestrian gateway near Bar Louie at Wheaton. Another large sign is placed near a roadway.

In contrast to the main theater facade AMC logo installed early this month, these are more wayfinding in nature, to help theatergoers find the cineplex on the large mall property. I do like how the outdoor plaza along Bar Louie is slightly reminiscent of the outdoor mall-era of Wheaton Plaza, if you've seen photos from the old days.

Friday, September 23, 2016

One more sign of Montgomery County's anti-business climate

No major corporation has relocated its headquarters to Montgomery County in nearly twenty years. Thanks to the County's moribund private sector economy, office property owners have had to scale back their expectations, and try to lure smaller tenants. Whole-floor suites built with corporate headquarters in mind get hacked up into smaller office units, as firms like Intelsat and Northrop consider MoCo, and then pick Virginia instead.

So, while they didn't break the County Council's humiliating two-decade streak of no Fortune 500-size firms moving here, Brandywine Realty Trust had to be delighted when The Donohoe Companies - a major regional player in real estate development and construction - leased two floors at its newly-renovated 7101 Wisconsin Avenue office building.

But it almost didn't happen.

"Had we known then what we do now," Donohoe President and COO Chris Bruch told the Montgomery County Council at a public hearing Tuesday, the company might have chosen another jurisdiction. Was it the typical reasons that companies who choose Virginia or the District have cited, like the lack of direct access to Dulles Airport? The severe traffic congestion? Montgomery County's notoriously business-unfriendly climate and record high taxes?

No. It was the sign ordinance.

The high visibility of the office building at 7101 Wisconsin Avenue, along with $600,000 in incentives and loans from MoCo and Maryland, helped seal the deal for Donohoe. As the largest tenant in the building, Donohoe expected to be able to install signage on its facades, which loom over a major commuter route.

Instead, Bruch recounted, the company was "quite surprised" to learn that their signage plan would not meet the outdated restrictions of Montgomery County's sign ordinance. While that "may not seem like a big deal," Bruch said, "It is." Large tenant signs are currently restricted to a facade where a customer entrance is located.

Jennifer Russel of the Greater Bethesda Chamber of Commerce testified that the current sign rules are "detrimental to the economic vitality of Chamber members." She said the importance of anchor office tenant signage was stressed recently by an official with the Maryland Department of Commerce. Major tenant name visibility is a barometer for visitors of "how thriving the economic center is" in an area like Bethesda, she said.

Brandywine Realty Trust's Deb Santano said that the zoning text amendment (that would allow Donohoe's signage) currently before the Council would help "foster a positive economic development climate in the County." With office property owners having to scale back expectations to smaller tenants, she said, the inability to allow additional tenant signage is "out of step with today's market."

It was telling that the only opposition testimony to the ZTA was from two members of the County's Sign Review Board; both stressed they were only speaking for themselves, not the board.

If you drive down Massachusetts Avenue into the District, you will eventually pass by the headquarters of one of Donohoe's competitors, Douglas Development. You can't miss it, because the building features gigantic, lit signage for the company visible from every direction. Montgomery County companies need the same advantage.

The sign ordinance. Who knew?

One more thing I hadn't even thought of to add to the list of reasons why, as of this writing, MoCo hasn't scored a single major corporate headquarters in two decades. And one more thing that needs to change.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

MoCo Council embroiled in new scandal after White Oak vote

The Montgomery County Council's vote Tuesday to approve the hiring of attorneys Francoise Carrier and Douglas Bregman - to represent taxpayer interests in negotiations over a White Oak development - was an unforced political error. An astonishing breach of ethics, the 8-1 Council vote plunges the body into yet another scandal, even as a November 8 ballot question will ask voters if councilmembers should be limited to 3 terms.

Carrier and Bregman would represent the County in negotiations with developer Percontee, which is purchasing 115 acres of land from the County at White Oak, a deal already steeped in conflicts of interest for County Executive Ike Leggett.

Why is this a problem?

Herman, set the Wayback Machine for the late 1980s.

Leggett at that time began a close relationship with the developer that Carrier and Bregman will be negotiating with at White Oak. Contributors affiliated with the developer have donated thousands of dollars to Leggett's campaign accounts since that time. Negotiations between the developer and County Attorney Marc Hansen have been contentious and lengthy - in other words, Hansen appeared to actually be doing his job.

Now, mysteriously, Hansen is calling for outside legal counsel to take over the negotiations, citing a lack of resources in his office.

Hansen has 26 years of professional experience in the County Attorney's office. He serves at the pleasure of Leggett, who appointed him County Attorney in 2011, and of the Council, who unanimously approved his appointment. The sudden move to hire Carrier and Bregman creates - true or not - the public perception that Hansen is obeying a directive from Leggett and the Council to do so, or it might no longer be "their pleasure" for Hansen to continue in the position. That's just a fact.

Why is the selection of Carrier and Bregman a problem?

"I'm now on the
developers' side"

That Carrier was Chair of the Planning Board when the White Oak sector plan was passed is just the beginning of the conflicts of interest in this case. After leaving the Board in 2014, Carrier was appointed to the board of directors of a developer-backed non-profit, Communities for Transit. An instrumental figure on that board of directors? Jonathan Genn, Executive Vice-President at...Percontee. Yes, the White Oak developer Carrier will now "negotiate" with.
Look who teamed up
to deliver a presentation
at a development conference
this year
Earlier this year, Carrier and Genn teamed up at a Montgomery County conference to present a developer-friendly PowerPoint presentation on the so-unfair costs to developers (and the uninformed NIMBYs) that make "smart growth" urban development difficult in MoCo. "I'm now on the developers' side of the table," Carrier declared late in the presentation.

Carrier is also close to her now-partner in the Percontee negotiations, Douglas Bregman. Together, they helped stifle an objective, truly-independent investigation into the Farm Road scandal in 2013. As Chair of the Planning Board at that time, Carrier appointed Bregman to "investigate" Farm Road.

The Farm Road debacle began when African-American landowners were cheated out of their property rights in Sandy Spring. A road that served their properties mysteriously disappeared from documents and records, a move that benefited a developer building homes there, but preventing the black landowners from developing their properties.

How did this happen? There was enough evidence of foul play to spur the County Inspector General to call for an investigation of the Planning Department. Activists and Councilmember Marc Elrich were among those who called on Attorney General Doug Gansler to launch a state investigation (Elrich was the only councilmember to vote against hiring Carrier and Bregman Tuesday).

What could possibly go wrong?

It turned out that Gansler would decide whether an investigation was warranted based on the conclusions of Bregman's "investigation." Problem: Bregman had donated $4,000 to Gansler's campaign account. Bregman also contributed to current Attorney General Brian Frosh, and wrote a $1250 check to Leggett's campaign.

When Bregman's report - shocker! - cleared the Planning Department of wrongdoing, Gansler declined to investigate. The local press ceased covering Farm Road, and no true, independent investigation of the Planning Department ever took place.

When Carrier left the Planning Board, she joined the law firm of...Douglas Bregman. I am shocked. Shocked. You can't make this stuff up, folks. This is the proverbial revolving door, now coming around yet again.

Keep all of this in mind when you consider Carrier and Bregman will now represent your interests in this sweetheart deal to sell County land (a.k.a. taxpayer-owned land) to Percontee, "at below market value." God help us. This is happening at a time when developer-beholden County elected officials are telling us there is no money, and no land for new schools or bus depots.

According to a report by Bill Turque of the Washington Post, Carrier and Bregman will be paid $425-$525 per hour, to do the work we are already paying $190,000 a year for Mr. Hansen to do.

How, knowing all of this full well, could eight councilmembers have voted to hire Carrier and Bregman? Couldn't they have simply declined the nominations, and held out for truly-independent outside counsel? And why wouldn't they? Well, for starters, it suggests that they are, along with Leggett, behind the move to hire the pair.

And, let's be honest, this is the same "progressive" County Council that created a federal tax shelter worth $360,000,000 for one of their biggest campaign contributors. The same County Council that - minus Elrich - receives 82% of its campaign funds from developers. And the same Council that, after defeating the once-powerful Columbia Country Club and Town of Chevy Chase in the Purple Line battle, believes they are now invincible and entitled to do anything. In other words, they will intentionally engage in a massive breach of ethics simply because they can. It's just that attitude and chutzpah which have created the wide support among tax-stomped voters for term limits this year.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Suspect description released in Sandy Spring rape

Montgomery County Police have released more details about the September 15 rape of a teenage girl in Sandy Spring, including a suspect description. That alleged rapist remains at large.

Detectives say they are withholding the exact age of the teen who was raped, to protect her identity. They now report the victim was actually in the 17800 block of Auburn Village Drive when the assault occurred. As she walked to an unidentified school between 7:00 and 8:00 AM, police say she was accosted and directed to a nearby grassy area, where she was raped by the suspect.

That suspect is now described as a non-white male, possibly Hispanic, 5’05” to 5’07” tall, with an average build and black hair. He was wearing a black t-shirt and unknown color jeans. It will be interesting to find out if this crime is gang and/or illegal immigrant-related in nature. Gangs like MS-13 that are gaining strength and numbers in Montgomery County often require members to assault, rape or kill as initiation rites.

Anyone with information about this sexual assault is asked to call the Special Victims Investigations Division at 240-773-5400 or 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 their line that leads to an arrest in this case. Residents are reminded to immediately call 911 if they observe suspicious activity.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Tilted Kilt Wheaton opening delayed

The Tilted Kilt at Wheaton Plaza had been scheduled to open yesterday, but the debut was postponed. A mechanical problem related to the HVAC system is being blamed for the delay. The problem is serious enough that the restaurant has not been able to immediately reschedule a new opening date. Stay tuned for further updates.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Sandy Spring rapist at large

A teenager was raped in Sandy Spring last Thursday, September 15, and Montgomery County Police are searching for the culprit.

Sometime between 7:00-8:00 AM that morning, a teenage girl was walking in the area of Olney-Sandy Spring Road. She was approached by a lone male, who directed her non-verbally to a grassy area off of the road. He then proceeded to rape her. The victim went to her home and told her parents she had just been raped. Detectives arrived at the hospital where she was then taken for treatment.

No description of the suspect has been released, but police say they will have more details for the public once additional information has been confirmed.

Anyone with information about this sexual assault is asked to call the Special Victims Investigations Division at 240-773-5400 or 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 their line that leads to an arrest in this case. Residents are reminded to immediately call 911 if they observe suspicious activity.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Public hearing on Purple Line environmental impacts October 17

Want to comment on the environmental impacts of the proposed Purple Line light rail project, which would run from downtown Bethesda to Silver Spring and New Carrollton? The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Maryland Department of the Environment are giving you the chance on Monday, October 17, 2016, at 7:00 PM, in the Silver Spring Civic Building auditorium, located at 1 Veterans Place in downtown Silver Spring.

A walk-through informational display will be available for review from 6:00 PM until 7:00 PM, when the public hearing will begin. A time limit of 3 minutes per speaker will be imposed if the number of attendees warrants one.

The 16.2 mile project will impact many small streams, as well as five major ones: Rock Creek, Sligo Creek, Long Branch, the Northwest Branch, and the Northeast Branch. It will affect three watersheds: Rock Creek, and the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers. The Purple Line would discharge fill material into these watersheds.

There would be additional environmental impacts on 11937 SF of forested nontidal wetlands, 9552 SF of emergent nontidal wetlands, 71,328 SF of 25-foot nontidal wetland buffers, 5598 SF of palustrine open water, 15346 SF of perennial stream, 19851 SF of intermittent stream, and 1461 SF of ephemeral stream. The Purple Line would also disturb 250144 SF of the 100-year floodplain.

Finally, the project would impact a total of 367 acres of forest. A mitigation and restoration plan to address these impacts has been submitted by the Maryland Transit Administration.

This is another point at which Purple Line opponents could stall the project, as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and MDE will decide whether to issue a joint permit. No permit, no Purple Line. With environmental impacts having been a key factor in delays thus far to the project, this hearing will be dealing with issues that are very much still on the table.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Smoothie King gets makeover, new owner in Silver Spring

Smoothie King is under new ownership at 8563 Fenton Street in downtown Silver Spring. That new ownership is now renovating the shop. Not to worry, the store will be open throughout the renovations.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

European Wax Center coming to Silver Spring (Photos)

European Wax Center, a waxing salon chain moving into the area at an ambitious rate, will soon open a location in downtown Silver Spring. The space overlooks Veterans Plaza, at 811 Wayne Avenue. You can sign up on their website to be on the guest list for their grand opening; search for Silver Spring under "Locations."

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Veirs Mill BRT would seize property, cripple traffic in Rockville and Wheaton (Photos)

Don't tell BRT proponents, but
parts of Veirs Mill Road actually
do have 3 lanes; in those
spots, one lane would be
seized for BRT and closed
to automobiles except at right
Rockville's Mayor and Council were briefed on the Maryland State Highway Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Study study for the Veirs Mill Road corridor last night. All of the options most likely to be considered for final selection by the SHA will have impacts on private property, and could end up worsening traffic congestion rather than easing it.

The driving force behind the BRT push? Certain (not all) commercial property owners along Veirs Mill, who would be able to redevelop their land into mixed-use town centers with transit-oriented height and density. Ironically, most of the future "growth" cited as justification for BRT will only be possible with the addition of BRT. And, like the placeholder schools that never get built, BRT will be counted under ever-more-laughable MoCo traffic studies as phantom capacity to reduce fees and restrictions on developers. In fact, the County Council is on the verge of weakening traffic standards yet again. Under a system that allows an empty bus to count as though there is now capacity for 50 additional cars, God help us.

While the main route is between the Rockville and Wheaton Metro stations, consideration is also being given to extending the BRT to Montgomery College. The SHA will hold a public meeting on the study on September 28, at 6:30 PM, in the Montgomery County Executive Office Building cafeteria at 101 Monroe Street in Rockville. Feedback from residents at that meeting will factor into the final SHA recommendations, which will be presented to the Mayor and Council at their October 10 meeting.

Beyond the no-build Alternative 1, the first option is Alternative 2, which would not provide dedicated lanes for BRT, but would give the buses signal and position priority at certain intersections.

Dedicated queue jump lanes that would be added at some intersections "may require additional right of way with impacts to property in Rockville," according to the report. With queue lanes, Metrobus Route Q9 would get signal priority at those intersections, but otherwise operate in mixed-traffic along the entire route. The report does not give a detailed explanation of how lights can be properly synchronized (already a weakness in Montgomery County) if buses are forcing the lights to change at random intervals.

For Alternative 3, the third through or turning lane of each side of Veirs Mill (where they currently exist) would be seized from automobiles, and turned into a dedicated lane for buses only. The report is deceptive about this fact. It shows Veirs Mill as a two-lane-per-side road only, and purports that "a lane is added" for BRT use. That is simply not true for the entirety of Veirs Mill Road. Yes, they will add a BRT lane where there are only two lanes. But on parts of Veirs Mill, they will be seizing a lane. Eastbound, a through or turning lane would be seized "in the vicinity of Atlantic Drive and the Twinbrook Shopping Center and continue...all the way to Wheaton." A significant portion of the last stretch between Connecticut Avenue and Wheaton currently has three through lanes open to cars in one or both directions today.

Traffic congestion caused by reduced capacity in those spots would have a referred impact up and down the road, as any traffic jam does, worsening congestion in the corridor. Add in the new high-density development BRT would permit, and the thousands of new cars that would bring, and you have a recipe for disaster.

It is also unclear how a third lane - and a bike lane, and a multi-use path, based on the diagrams shown here - could be added on the outside of two-lane stretches where access roads today exist for residential homes on Veirs Mill. The report doesn't detail what will happen in those cases, which are numerous along the road.

Loss of a third lane will reduce vehicular capacity on the affected parts of Veirs Mill by 33%. The highest, rosiest claim for how many drivers would "get out of their cars" and switch to BRT was 16%. When you simply do the math, you find that BRT will not only not improve traffic flow (other than getting oft-stopping buses out of the second lane where Veirs Mill is only two lanes), but will actually leave drivers with a net loss in total road capacity.

A Cadillac option, Alternative 5b, would mostly solve the problem of reduced capacity by creating new, separate lanes for BRT in the center of Veirs Mill, rather than taking existing traffic lanes. The dedicated center lanes would have to drop to a single lane between First Street and Atlantic Avenue. Not solved with this option is the eminent domain threat to private property. Rebuilding the entire length of Veirs Mill Road and adding bus lanes would require condemnation of property along the corridor. The report also ignores the potential need to relocate utility poles along Veirs Mill, a very costly proposition.

At the high price and low ridership forecasts for BRT, there appears to be no sensible argument in favor of it.

Monday, September 12, 2016

WholeBody opening in downtown Silver Spring

WholeBody, a beauty and nutritional wellness store, is coming to downtown Silver Spring. It is expected to open next month at 8646 Colesville Road.

The retailer will carry hair, facial and body products; makeup, soaps and scrubs; vitamins and supplements; and even some apparel. Brands will include Zuzu, Mineral Fusion, Burt's Bees and Herban Cowboy. Most products carried will be natural and organic.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Overflow crowd says no to bus depot at Blair Ewing site on Avery Road (Photos)

Montgomery County Councilmember
Sid Katz makes a point that he opposes
the Blair Ewing Center site being
considered for a bus depot
It was standing-room-only last night at the Bauer Drive Community Recreation Center, as residents from Rockville, Aspen Hill, and other neighborhoods near the Blair Ewing Center turned out to oppose a potential school bus depot at that school site on Avery Road. Citizen association leaders, activists, and a handful of elected officials were in attendance, and unified in one message to Montgomery County officials - no bus depot at Ewing, which also has a public park, and is adjacent to the environmentally-sensitive Rock Creek watershed.

The meeting was moderated by Aspen Hill Civic Association President Jamison Adcock, who fought this battle to save Blair Ewing from demolition along with a citizen coalition once before, just a couple of years ago.

"This whole issue
is a mess"

Last night's meeting was a success in terms of the objective for holding it - to clearly demonstrate the strength of the community opposition to a depot at the Ewing site. But citizens are still very much in the dark as to what the County's next move will be on the depot site selection, as well as the specifics on the secretive deal the County worked out with a developer to redevelop the existing bus depot in Shady Grove.

"We're trying to figure out how much money is changing hands," Adcock said, adding that residents can only estimate the County will receive about $30 million for the site from the developer. A memo dug up from 2009, written by then-Montgomery County Public Schools superintendent Jerry Weast, had called for the County to build a new depot and estimated the cost at $100 million - not including the expensive proposition of acquiring land. "I'm going to venture to guess it will cost even more," Adcock predicted, noting the size of the loss taxpayers would take if those numbers prove correct.

One resident pointed out that the $100 million figure was in 2009 dollars, and would be substantially higher with post-recession construction costs.

Adcock said MCPS had stated a depot would require 35 acres. The Ewing site is only about 22.5 acres in size. Only 16 of those are buildable, as 7 acres are in a forest preservation easement. Of the dangers to Rock Creek, Adcock said the stream valley park is "one of the things that makes the quality of life in Montgomery County special."

"It's a disgrace.
It's a disgrace"

While Aspen Hill would not be as directly effected by the noise and immediate fumes of buses at Blair Ewing, it is widely suspected that the County would try to move the special programs at Ewing to English Manor in Aspen Hill. That would prevent what the community wants, which is to reopen English Manor as a public school, to alleviate overcrowding at Aspen Hill-area schools. Aspen Hill would likely also feel the traffic backups that would result.

Another resident noted a recent traffic study, which showed that Norbeck Road cannot handle any additional traffic. When one attendee described her nightmare commute to Fairfax County, which begins on Norbeck Road, another commuter concurred. "I, too, drive to Fairfax County, where I'm considering moving because of this." Recalling a bus crash that blocked 2-lane, rural-esque Avery Road for hours during icy conditions, he added, "God forbid it should snow." Of the whole bus depot at Ewing idea, he concluded: "It's a disgrace. It's a disgrace."

Adcock agreed with the assessment of Avery, saying it is "the closest thing we have to a twisty country road."

"A tragedy
waiting to

Also complicating matters for the community, is that they won't really know exactly what they are fighting until the County releases its new assessment of potential sites in the next month or so. The only ones publicly known are Ewing and a former landfill in Olney; the latter is across the street from single-family homes.

Adcock and other civic leaders said that, for now, all they can concentrate on is continuing to demonstrate their opposition at public forums like the County Council Town Hall next Wednesday at Rosa Parks Middle School in Olney.

"I drive to
Fairfax County,
where I'm
moving because
of this"

In the meantime, residents and politicians alike lambasted the County for what all agree was a terribly-executed idea to redevelop the industrial area around the Shady Grove Metro station.

"I have, as you know, been opposed to this from the very beginning," said County Councilmember Sid Katz, the only councilmember to show up at the meeting. "This whole issue is a mess. [The bus depot] shouldn't be on Avery Road. I don't know where it should be, but I know where it shouldn't be."

Katz, who was not on the Council when the bulk of the so-called "Smart Growth Initiative" related to Shady Grove was approved by the body, is also one of the few who candidly acknowledges he voted for the bills that approved funding for two highly-unpopular depots in Rockville. Both sites ended up being taken off the table after residents organized and fought back, but funding for depots at Carver and Westmore were indeed unanimously approved by the County Council in the last two years.

"I voted for that, and I was very sorry I did," Katz said of the budget bill approved for construction of a depot at Carver. In contrast, Councilmember George Leventhal stated publicly that he did not read the Carver bill before voting in favor of it, a stunning admission of reckless irresponsibility by a legislative official. How many other bills has Leventhal voted for without reading, one has to wonder?

"Who is going
to profit from
this, so we know
who to go after?"

"Illogical, ill-conceived, irresponsible." That was how Delegate Ben Kramer described the prospect of a bus depot at Blair Ewing. Kramer, who has virtually no authority to step into a County matter like the depot, can be expected to get called up from the minor leagues by the County political machine if term limits pass and five councilmembers are ousted. He said buses on a road like Avery would be "a tragedy waiting to happen."

Chiming in on the earlier concerns about the already-bad congestion on Norbeck Road, Kramer said, "You know the traffic nightmare that is Norbeck Road." Ironically, some of that congestion can be blamed on the delegate's father, Sid Kramer, who canceled the Rockville Freeway despite admitting the road would indeed reduce congestion.

Referring to the lack of information that was foremost on the minds of many, Carver Coalition volunteer Theresa Defino said, "We need to stop guessing what is going on." She advised the crowd to press the County Council and Executive to have an open process on the depot site selection this time around. Defino said public hearings should be signed before a site is chosen or purchased, not after, as happened when the County secretly purchased the Westmore/WINX property for $12 million prior to a public hearing.

Representatives of the organization Preserve Rock Creek were also in attendance.

"We're not
going to
roll over"

But leave it to residents to put things in the clearest terms.

"Who is going to profit from this, so we know who to go after," one asked, delivering the quote of the night, during a question-and-answer session. (Hint: the developers, and the politicians who get checks from them - 82% of the campaign funds received by the Council comes from developers. Councilmember Marc Elrich does not accept contributions from developers, it should be noted)

"We're nice people," Adcock said, "but we're not going to roll over. My answer is, "No."

+ + +
Here is a series of photos panning around the room to show how packed it was. The crowd overflowed out into the hallway, which can't be seen in these photos.

Aspen Hill Civic Association
President Jamison Adcock
addresses the crowd

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Photos released of Wheaton bank robbery suspect

Montgomery County Police are seeking the public's help in finding the suspect in Tuesday morning's robbery of a bank in the Kemp Mill area of Wheaton. Around 9:34 AM on September 6, police responded to the report of a robbery at the SunTrust Bank at 1371 Lamberton Drive.

The suspect pictured here allegedly entered the bank, and handed a teller a note that demanded money. He was given an unspecified amount of cash by the teller, and then fled the scene. All I can say is, you've got to be supremely confident to rob a bank without a mask, and believe you won't get caught.

Anyone with information about the suspect or the bank robbery is asked to contact the Montgomery County Police Department – Major Crimes Division at 240-773-5070.  To be eligible for a reward, tipsters 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 the arrest and/or indictment of this suspect.  Tipsters will remain anonymous.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Silver Spring-Takoma Park restaurant week 2016 is underway

Montgomery County Councilmember Tom Hucker launched the 2nd annual Silver Spring-Takoma Park Restaurant Week last night at the newly-opened Not Your Average Joe's in downtown Silver Spring. Hucker was the driving force in founding the 6-day event last year, and is once again hosting it this year.

Participating restaurants include All Set Restaurant and Bar, Cubano's, El Gavilan, El Golfo, Not Your Average Joe's, and Republic. For a full list, visit the official website. All 32 participating restaurants will offer at least one of the following deals through September 11, 2016:

$12 two-course lunch menu

$17 three-course lunch menu

$17 two-course dinner menu

$27 three course dinner menu

Taxes, tip, and in most cases, drinks, are not included in the fixed price.

If you live in the immediate area, this is the time to save money on the restaurants you know and love. And if you live outside of Silver Spring and Takoma Park, now is the ideal time to get acquainted discover the many outstanding dining options available in these two communities.

Silver Spring construction update: Central (Photos)

Central, the mixed-use project from Grosvenor Americas at 8455 Fenton Street in downtown Silver Spring, was only one story above street level in my last report. Work is now underway on the fourth floor of the building as of today.

The project includes 243 residential units, and 17,000 SF of retail/restaurant space. Located in a prime spot near the Silver Spring Library and future Purple Line station, Central is expected to deliver about a year from now.