Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Woman assaulted in armed robbery in Wheaton garage stairwell (Photo)

Pistol-packing backpackers
remain at large

A woman was assaulted and robbed at gunpoint in the stairwell of a garage at Wheaton Plaza on October 11, according to Montgomery County police. Around 9:00 PM, the victim walked from the mall's food court to a parking garage on the property. Police say she was followed by three masked men, and then confronted in the stairwell of the garage.

One suspect assaulted and threatened her at gunpoint, as a second suspect reached into her pants and snatched her wallet, detectives allege. The third suspect acted as a lookout, they say. All three then fled the scene on foot.

The suspect who was armed with a handgun is described by police as a Latino male in his late teens, 5’ 5”, and weighing approximately 150 pounds. He was wearing a black hoodie, black pants, black and white Adidas tennis shoes, and a black backpack.

The second suspect is described as an African-American male, 5’ 8”, and weighing approximately 165 pounds. He has black eyes and brown hair. He was wearing a black hoodie, dark blue pants, orange shoes, and a black backpack.

The third suspect is described as an African-American male. He was wearing a black hoodie, black pants, black shoes, and had a black backpack. Suspect #3 is seen at left in the photo above; to his right is Suspect #2. If you can identify either or both, detectives would appreciate your help.

Anyone with information regarding the suspects or this armed robbery is asked to call the 4th District Investigative Section at 240-773-5530. 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.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Pollo Campero opens in downtown Silver Spring

Pollo Campero has opened at 8666 Colesville Road in downtown Silver Spring, in its prime spot next to the Fillmore concert venue. The Latin chicken chain has been in business since 1971.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Wheaton redevelopment excavation hits 25', nearby businesses feel vibrations

At last count, the massive excavation underway at the future Montgomery County office building and Town Square near the Wheaton Metro station has reached 25' below street level. People in buildings along Triangle Lane report feeling vibrations during the installation of tie-back anchors 20' below their properties. County officials say they think the problem was the drill bit striking a boulder underground. They have inspected the buildings along Triangle Lane, and say they have found no structural issues resulting from the vibrations so far.

Excavation and the ongoing installation of those tie-backs will continue to be the main activity at the site for now.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Olney chosen by Hogan as test site for "smart" traffic signals

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced a new Smart Signal Corridor program on Wednesday, designed to improve traffic flow. The signals will adjust to congestion and other factors in real time. One location was chosen in each county (although some counties - such as Charles - got more than one, where this could really help move traffic along Route 301), and Olney - where traffic congestion is a plague upon residents - was designated as the winner in Montgomery County.

The signals will be placed along MD 108 between MD 182 and Volunteer Drive. A pilot study in Harford County showed a travel time improvement of 13 minutes after installation of the Smart Signal technology.

“Last month, our administration introduced a bold Traffic Relief Plan beginning with three massive, unprecedented projects to widen the Capital Beltway, I-270, and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway,” Governor Hogan said yesterday. “This next phase will employ the newest technology to further ease congestion in Maryland. By replacing 20-year-old existing controls with Smart Traffic Signals, we will have the ability to respond to changes in traffic flow, as well as traffic conditions immediately – benefiting nearly 700,000 Maryland citizens across the state.”

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Astro Lab Brewing changes name, gets set to begin construction in Silver Spring

Downtown Silver Spring's newest brewery is gearing up to begin construction at 8216 Georgia Avenue. If something seems different, it is: Astro Lab Brewing has dropped an "e" from their name. The owners say people were having too much difficulty pronouncing the original "Astrolabe" moniker.

With pronunciation of the name squared away, they expect to start work in early November. In the meantime, the owners have been touring craft breweries for inspiration, as close as Howard County and as far away as Ontario, Canada. When it opens, the brewery will also serve artisan food to pair with their beers.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Veirs Mill corridor master plan meeting tonight

The next public meeting in the Veirs Mill corridor master plan process will be held tonight, Tuesday, October 24, 2017 at 7:00 PM at Newport Mill Middle School, at 11311 Newport Mill Road in Kensington. At the last meeting, planners and residents identified and discussed community needs and challenges along the corridor.

Tonight, a consulting firm hired by the Montgomery County Planning Department will present their own list compiled after they conducted a study themselves. Residents and other stakeholders will be able to offer feedback on the consultant's report.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Community does what Montgomery County government won't in Edgewood Park

You would think that with the taxes you pay, Montgomery County would regularly clean up and maintain Edgewood Neighborhood Park in the Briggs Chaney area of Silver Spring. Wrong! Edgewood Park, and other neaby County-owned properties have fallen victim to litterbugs and neglect.

This past Saturday, as it has done before, Impact Silver Spring and its East County Collective organized a civilian clean-up crew of volunteers to do what the County won't: clean up and tear out weeds in Edgewood Park. Impact has held similar clean-ups in the past, once collecting almost 450 pounds of garbage in the same park and a nearby school in a single day, according to The Washington Post.

What a sad statement about the Montgomery County Council, Montgomery County Parks Department, and the County government, that they cannot execute the most basic functions of government. Whether it's the 911 service failing and two County residents dying as a result, trash uncollected for three weeks in Silver Spring and Bethesda, or simply failing to perform the most basic landscaping and trash collection duties in your neighborhood park, Montgomery County has proven impotent on all fronts.

Shouldn't our charitable organizations and watershed groups be able to pursue other important priorities, rather than have to spend their Saturdays cleaning our parks and streams, doing the job of government themselves? Imagine paying taxes, and then having to provide the services yourself with no pay. In Montgomery County, we don't have to imagine; it's all horribly real. As the County infamously said during the trash (un)collection scandal: "Don't call us, just wait for them to pick it up."

Friday, October 20, 2017

MetroPCS to open store at Ellsworth Place

MetroPCS is the latest retailer to sign on at the revitalized Ellsworth Place in downtown Silver Spring. The prepaid phone brand of T-Mobile has leased 3300 SF on Level 3 of the mall. MetroPCS will open the store in early 2018.

“MetroPCS will provide our shoppers incredible options for cell phones, data plans and more,” Terry Richardson, president and COO of mall owner Petrie Richardson Ventures said in a statement on Thursday. “In combination with each of the restaurants, stores and services provided at Ellsworth Place, the addition of MetroPCS adds just another component to the mall as a one-stop destination for all of your needs.”

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Einstein guidance counselor arrested for sex offenses, police seek additional victims

Colin Sime Black
The hits just keep on coming for Montgomery County Public Schools. Now a guidance counselor at Albert Einstein High School has been arrested and charged for sex offenses against two women.

Colin Sime Black, 33, of Clemson Court in Rockville, was taken into custody by the Special Victims Investigations Division of the Montgomery County police today. Two women reported connecting with Black on Tinder in the past year. In each case, they went to Black's home and engaged in consensual sex. But following that, the victims say, Black then committed additional sexual acts without their consent.

Black has been charged with two counts of second-degree sexual offense and one count of second-degree assault.  He was transported to the Central Processing Unit.  Bond information is not available at this time.

Police believe there may be additional victims in this case. Anyone who believes he/she was victimized by Black is asked to call the Special Victims Investigations Division at 240-773-5400.

In any organization, leadership sets the tone. County residents have continued to see the lax policies of MCPS leadership regarding rape, sexual offenses and misconduct trickle down to rank and file employees.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Wheaton redevelopment update (Photos)

Some sad news to report from the Wheaton redevelopment site in the Wheaton Triangle: A reader had asked about the fate of the mural that has been on display at the Midcounty Regional Services Center. Unfortunately, I've learned the mural will be demolished along with the building. Demolition of the center itself has been pushed back to November.

Midcounty Regional Services Center Director Luisa Montero said that photographs of the mural will be taken to document it, and that the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County was alerted when the County vacated the building. The Council has a process by which they will document the work, and contact the original artist, under the stipulations of the Public Arts Trust Program.

The mural depicted the buildings that were originally on the land that was acquired by WMATA for construction of the Wheaton Metro station back in the 1980s, including private homes. It could not be moved, Montero said, because it was painted directly onto the bricks of the building.

All utilities to the services center are now disconnected, and security fencing is up around it, as you can see here.
Installation of tiebacks
In other news from the project site, the main excavation has reached 20' - the target depth for the new County office building garage and foundation is 55'. Forty dump trucks are hauling the dirt away daily. Dewatering of the soil for excavation purposes continues, and tiebacks are being installed for the excavation.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Solar panel farm proposed for Oaks Landfill near Olney

Montgomery County is proposing to erect photovoltaic solar panels on top of the Oaks Landfill at 6001 Olney-Laytonsville road near Olney. The project would be funded and constructed by Elon Musk's Tesla, Inc.

If the plan goes forward (and the County announcement makes it sound like it will no matter what), construction would begin as early as next spring, with completion expected in October 2019.

A public meeting on the proposal will be held on Monday, October 23, 2017 at 6:30 PM at Laytonsville Elementary School at 21401 Laytonsville Road.
View of Oaks Landfill site
from Riggs Road
County Councilmember Hans Riemer has also suggested this site be studied as the new Montgomery County Public Schools bus depot; it's unclear how much of the 170-acre former landfill would be taken up by the solar farm. What is certain, is that many trees and wildlife habitat would be lost to either project. Considering that the only real health danger from solar panels arises if they catch fire, one would hope the County is ensuring there are no volatile gas deposits remaining in the landfill below.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Montgomery County police cruiser involved in crash on Veirs Mill Road (Photos)

A Montgomery County police cruiser was involved in a multi-car crash on Veirs Mill Road at Gridley Road after 7:00 PM last night. Several people were injured, including a police officer. The location of the accident was close to the Burger King near Randolph Road.

Montgomery County officials have not released any information yet on the cause of the accident, nor an update on the condition of those injured, as of press time. This story will be updated as that information is made available.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Fix opens at Wheaton Plaza

The Fix is now open at Wheaton Plaza. In addition to device and computer repairs, the shop offers sales of new and refurbished unlocked phones and accessories. They also have staff who can assist you in integrating smart gadgets into your home.

Find The Fix next to Choice Wine & Beer near Costco.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

MCPS a top ten offender in spending money that doesn't go to the classroom


Montgomery County is ranked 8th in the nation in school spending that goes to administrators, rather than the classroom, according to Fox 45's Project Baltimore investigative unit. Baltimore City was the worst offender in the nation, their journalists found. Montgomery County Public Schools rank 8th out of all school systems in America in pumping cash to administrators, rather than to teachers and classroom costs. Six of the top ten are in Maryland.

This is once again proof that the record tax hike of 2016 did not go to hire teachers or improve academic performance (as recent PARCC test results proved - math scores declined, and English scores rose statewide, proving there was an obvious flaw in English portion of the test, rather than actual success by MCPS). In fact, a large chunk of the recordation tax money went to pay off the County's legal costs in the Silver Spring Transit Center debacle, in an outrageous and corrupt bait-and-switch by the County Council.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Downtown Silver Spring Giant to add UPS Access Point lockers

Amazon may be challenging UPS as a logistics company, but UPS is fighting back. The venerable shipping giant is taking Amazon head-on in the hyperlocal "locker" business. Like Amazon Locker, UPS Access Point lockers will allow you to receive deliveries at a location near your home. Downtown Silver Spring will be one of the first UPS Access Points in Montgomery County, with a location now planned for the Giant store at 1280 East-West Highway.

Customers will track their packages as they normally would online, or via the UPS app. When the package arrives, they can open their designated locker using their government-issued ID, or a code sent via their cellphone. Amazon took a similar approach, placing Amazon Locker in grocery stores, and other high-traffic neighborhood retail stores.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Rock Creek Kitchen opens today in Wheaton (Menu+photo)

Squire's Rock Creek Chophouse has taken a detour south - switching cuisines from steakhouse to Low Country, and reopening as Rock Creek Kitchen today, October 10, 2017, at 4:00 PM. The new menu features shrimp and grits, a salt-and-vinegar-crusted catfish, Country Ham Steak with Hoppin' John and red-eye gravy, and chicken and dumplings. Rock Creek Kitchen is also one of the few places in Montgomery County that you'll be able to order Elvis Presley's favorite peanut-butter-and-banana sandwich, and a real banana split for dessert. Rock Creek Kitchen is located at 2405 Price Avenue in Wheaton.

Kemp Mill girl missing (Photo)

A Kemp Mill teenager is missing, and Montgomery County police are asking for the public's help in locating her. Frieda Allissa Tan, 16, who goes by her middle name Allissa, of the 1200 block of Caddington Avenue, has been reported missing by her family.  Allissa is described by police as an Asian female, 5’ 01”, and weighing 95 pounds.  She has black hair and black eyes.

Police did not disclose the date or time Allissa was last seen, but said they and her family are concerned for her welfare, even though they believe she is still in the immediate area - possibly with friends.

Anyone who has information regarding the whereabouts of Frieda Allissa Tan is asked to call the Montgomery County Police Special Victims Investigations Division at 240-773-5400 or the police non-emergency number at 301-279-8000 (24 hours).

Monday, October 9, 2017

Wounded man now charged with homicide in Burtonsville

A 51-year-old Silver Spring man who sought help for his gunshot wound at a Silver Spring police station has turned out to be the alleged murderer of another man in Burtonsville the same night. Detectives say Lloyd Patrick Walters of Bradbury Manor Court is responsible for the September 6, 2017 homicide of 63-year-old Todd McDonough Pruitt.  Walters has been charged with first-degree murder, and the use of a firearm in the commission of a violent crime.

Pruitt was found dead by police in an RV parked in the 14000 block of Old Columbia Pike; Walters had told police he had shot Pruitt, and would find him there. A medical examiner determined the cause of death was several gunshot wounds, and that it was a homicide.

Walters was arrested this past Friday, and is being held without bond. Police say their investigation is ongoing, and that no additional details about the case will be released at this time.  Anyone with information about this shooting and homicide is asked to call the Major Crimes Division at 240-773-5070.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Quarry House Tavern construction 3/4 finshed

An update on the rebuilding of Quarry House Tavern at 8401 Georgia Avenue, following the 2015 fire that heavily damaged the downtown Silver Spring restaurant. The owner says construction inside is now 3/4 complete, but that it is still too early to set a date for reopening. Quarry House briefly relocated to the former Piratz Tavern building across the street, but now fans are eagerly awaiting their return in the original space.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Planners ponder widening Veirs Mill Rd. right-of-way, increasing congestion, and lowering speed limits; mum on property seizures

Ready or not, here they come. Montgomery County planning officials say no decisions or firm proposals have been formulated yet in the development of a Veirs Mill Corridor master plan. But analysis of the most-emphasized talking points at last night's community meeting give us an early hint of what they have in mind. Pedestrian and bicycle improvements were stressed the most, but achieving those may be a source of stress for home and business owners - and commuters - along the busy state highway.
Planners showed an existing Veirs Mill right-of-way that is constrained to as narrow as 100' along stretches near Wheaton. They said a new 120' width would be needed to accommodate all of the pedestrian and cycling amenities they hope to add to the road. That would require taking of property in at least some places. For that reason, planners said they are looking at ways to shrink lanes and the center median instead. Asked if business owners in the commercial areas along Veirs Mill would be threatened by any specific project, planners said it was too early to answer. But, they added, that they would try to use the same alternative methods of creating more space within the existing curbs as they will in residential areas.
Haven't seen many front lawns
this long along Veirs Mill
One problem last night was the graphics which show homes tremendously set back from the road, as you might see in a rural area with front yard septic tanks. In reality, the proposed widening idea would have bicycles whizzing past living room windows in spots where homes are already perilously close to traffic. There would also be a massive loss of mature trees that currently process the exhaust emitted along the road. Utility poles would be another significant challenge. A future 120' right-of-way was first proposed by the latest Kensington-Wheaton master plan.
Among the projects planners want to shoehorn in on Veirs Mill are Bus Rapid Transit lanes, separated bike lanes, and shared-use paths. They also want to install sidewalks where there are none, shown in the red lines in the photo at the top of this article. And like BRT proponents in County government, they're also entertaining the possibility of seizing one traffic lane in each direction for use as BRT lanes.
Losing 33% of vehicle capacity along often-slow-moving Veirs Mill was strongly opposed by attendees at last night's meeting.  "Taking out a lane on Veirs Mill, you're just causing a problem," one resident said. Likewise, homeowners right on the road were displeased to hear about big plans for their already-short front lawns. "That's my house!" declared one 60-year resident of Veirs Mill Road upon seeing her home in a photo planners probably now regret including in the Powerpoint. "How do you get that? That's my property! You're taking my property and reducing the value of my house by a pile!"

While new sidewalks, paths and bike lanes are being sold as needed safety features, the plan remains one actually driven by development interests more than safety interests. As urban planner Jessica McVary acknowledged at the outset of the meeting, this is the first master plan to be a roadway corridor plan. To be realistic, the main reason this plan exists now and the process is underway, is to benefit property owners such as Halpine View.

The fact is that the more paths and bike lanes there are, the larger scale the redevelopment of shopping centers and garden apartments along the corridor can be. That's because the latest way County officials have cooked the books for developers is to count all forms of transportation as capacity, instead of just vehicular capacity. So bike and transit facilities, even if they are lightly used, count fully the same as road capacity. This would allow developers projects of greater density than would be possible if roadways actually received the failing grade they otherwise would.

Impacts on automobile commuters already enraged by traffic congestion appear to be low on planners' priorities. McVary said they will actually make "a decision whether more congestion could be handled" by drivers on Veirs Mill, suggesting that making traffic jams even worse would improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians. A County transportation official in attendance promised the plan would also contain recommendations for lower speed limits, and new speed and red light cameras, cash cows for the corrupt County Council.

The only hope drivers and those who could be impacted by property takings have are that a different County Council will have been elected by the time this plan would be implemented, and that the capital budget costs of installing these improvements will be especially high. Most of Veirs Mill is single-family homes, cutting out the possibility of developers picking up the tab as they would in a totally-redeveloping urban area. And the County Council, facing massive debt loads they've created (debt service would be the third-largest government department in the County if it was a department - yikes!), just moved to slightly reduce how much additional debt the County can take on in the future. That will be a major drain on many capital projects.

"We need a constituency" to get these sidewalks and lanes for bikes and buses, Master Planner Supervisor for Area 2 Nancy Sturgeon said, and residents will have to lobby their elected officials to get it done if they want them. "This is going to end up being a large public-sector project," she predicted.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

City Taste now open in Silver Spring (Menu + Photos)

City Taste is now open at 930 Wayne Avenue in downtown Silver Spring. The Asian fusion restaurant features a large list of sushi options, alongside Japanese, Chinese and Thai selections. Looking for the City Taste menu? I have it for you right here: