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.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Meet the MoCo Executive candidates in Olney March 5

Montgomery County Executive candidate
Robin Ficker mobbed by fans at a 2017 rally
Voters will have the chance to meet and hear from the 2018 candidates for Montgomery County Executive at a debate sponsored by the Greater Olney Civic Association. Unlike most debates so far, they've even invited the Republican candidate, Robin Ficker.
David Blair HQ in Rockville

Ficker will square off against Democrats Roger Berliner, David Blair, Marc Elrich, Bill Frick, Rose Krasnow, and George Leventhal on the Olney Theatre Center's Historic Stage at 2001 Olney-Sandy Spring Road in Olney on Monday, March 5, 2018 at 6:30-9:00 PM.
George Leventhal

You will have the chance to speak directly to the candidates at a reception in the lobby from 6:30-7:00 PM.
Bill Frick

Roger Berliner

Marc Elrich (2nd from left)

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Wheaton services find new permanent home as Midcounty Services Center meets wrecking ball

The Midcounty Services Center is being demolished as part of the Lot 13 project in the Wheaton Triangle, Four programs from that building have now relocated permanently to the Westfield South Tower, located at 11002 Veirs Mill Road in Wheaton. They are Proyecto Salud Clinic, the Gilchrist Immigration Resource Center, the Adult Behavioral Health Program, and Mid County United Ministries. All four are now open and operating at the new location.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Permit parking could come to residential neighborhoods near Purple Line stations

One of the long-term plans of the Montgomery County political cartel is to eventually charge all County residents for street parking in their neighborhoods. This will be implemented over time by establishing new urban "town centers" in each suburban neighborhood, typically on sites that are currently strip malls or shopping centers with surface parking. But Purple Line and Bus Rapid Transit stations that, conveniently, provide no parking for riders will also serve the same purpose.

The latest development on this front is a public hearing being held on Wednesday, February 28, 2018 in the Great Hall of the Silver Spring Civic Building at 1 Veterans Place at 7:00 PM. The County will propose multiple "Residential Permit Parking Areas" in existing residential neighborhoods north of Takoma Park, west of the Prince George's County line, south of Indian Spring Drive, and east of the existing East Silver Spring and Seven Oaks permit parking areas.

Not only will the overall parking scheme generate more play money for our spendthrift County Council, but it will also serve their needs in their ongoing War on Cars. They will ultimately charge a higher, exorbitant annual fee for each additional vehicle you own beyond the first. Eventually, they believe, the price point will surpass the amount you can afford to pay, and you will reduce your family "fleet" to one vehicle shared by all.

Theoretically, developers profiting from the Purple Line and BRT ought to pay for and provide parking, or cover the cost of residential parking permits, if the latter is deemed necessary. Our County Council, which receives more than 80% of its campaign donations from developers, thinks otherwise.

According to the hearing announcement, public comment and the Hearing Officer's report and recommendation will provide the basis for County Executive Ike Leggett's final decision on the matter.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Ranked voting for Montgomery County elections advances in Annapolis

A bill that would drastically change Montgomery County's election process could be voted on in Annapolis as early as this week. MC 19-18/HB 173 would allow the Montgomery County Council to implement Ranked Choice Voting for County elected offices. It leaves all of the decisionmaking on how to implement instant runoff voting in the hands of the Council, ranging from how the ballots would be designed, to where they would be counted (in each precinct, or at a central location).

Ranked Choice Voting allows voters to rank a first choice, second choice, for each elected office on the ballot. Proponents say it allows the majority to prevail. A winning candidate who doesn't have an actual majority of votes can be bumped in favor of a second-place finisher, who has received more second and third place votes than the winner.

Is this good or bad? There seems to be no definitive study or consensus opinion. Some say it gives a boost to third party candidates. The Cato Institute says it "actually neuters third parties." Republicans have fought it in Maine; College Republicans in Virginia just endorsed it this month. The lack of cohesive response might suggest that ranked voting is indeed fair to all, and being focused on dozens of major local issues, I'm not prepared to condemn something I haven't had time to study in great detail.

But, the skeptic - which any good journalist should be - would naturally have to ask, "Why is the Council pushing for this?" What problem is it addressing? There have been no disputed elections in Montgomery County. There have been no spoiler victories, no GOP victories, and no third-party victories.

Ranked voting might have stopped Donald Trump from gaining primary and general election victories, but Trump was crushed by Hillary Clinton in Montgomery County, and this bill only applies to County offices. We know that Montgomery County Democratic turnout was low in June 2014, but the low turnout was mainly the result of incumbents' desire to hold the Democratic primary while many voters were at the beach.

At this point, I would just like to hear ranked voting proponents answer what specific problem in Montgomery County elections this bill is solving. For example, how the outcome of County races in 2014 would have changed with ranked voting, and what benefit that change would have had. If these types of Montgomery County-specific questions cannot be answered, it would not speak well for the bill, or garner public support for Council action if it passes.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Public meeting on proposed rooftop deck at 8407 Ramsey Ave. in Silver Spring

East MoCo readers were the first to know about the proposed rooftop deck and outdoor patio for the new TTT: Tacos, Tortas & Tequila restaurant at 8407 Ramsey Avenue in Silver Spring. Now you'll have a chance to weigh in on the proposal, at a public meeting scheduled for Monday, February 26, 2018, at 7:00 PM at the Silver Spring Civic Building in the Fenton Room, located at 1 Veterans Place in downtown Silver Spring.

I doubt many residents will be opposed to these amenities, at what sounds like a great restaurant from notable chef Ivan Iricanin. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Major traffic shift at Georgia-Randolph intersection in Glenmont this weekend

The Maryland State Highway Administration says it plans to route traffic on Randolph Road onto the new lanes that pass underneath Georgia Avenue this weekend for the first time. Drivers on Randolph who wish to turn onto Georgia, or reach the Glenmont Shopping Center, will use the left and right turning lanes on either side of the new Randolph Road through-lanes. The switchover will begin around 6:00 AM Saturday, February 17, 2018, and is expected to be complete by 7:00 PM.

Because traffic signal changes and new paint are among the many tasks that are to be completed, police will be guiding traffic throughout the day Saturday. Best advice for drivers - if you can - is to take an alternative route like Connecticut Avenue (north-to-south) or a creative workaround going west-east (the unbuilt Rockville Freeway would have come in handy Saturday...).

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Shooting in Long Branch

A man was shot in the Long Branch area of Silver Spring yesterday morning. Montgomery County police say they found a 40-year-old man with a gunshot wound to his lower body outside the W Express gas station at 8550 Piney Branch Road, around 6:17 AM on Wednesday.

The victim told detectives that he was standing outside of his vehicle when the shooter approached him from behind, and pressed the muzzle of a handgun against his side. He said the gun then discharged, wounding him. The alleged shooter then fled the scene on foot. Police did not indicate what direction the suspect was headed from the gas station.

Detectives are attempting to develop a description of the suspect. Anyone with information regarding this shooting is urged to call the 3rd District Investigative Section at 240-773-6870.  For those who wish to remain anonymous, 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, February 14, 2018

Patricia Fenati launches campaign for District 14 delegate

Patricia Fenati, a resident of Damascus, launched her campaign for the Maryland House of Delegates from District 14 last night at Argyle Country Club. District 14 covers the northeastern area of Montgomery County from Damascus to Burtonsville, and includes Calverton, Colesville, Cloverly, Fairland, Olney, Ashton, Sandy Spring, Brookeville and Laytonsville.

Fenati pledged to focus on ending gerrymandering of voting districts in the state and county, job creation, education, and the environment. She noted that the current district boundaries give some communities in District 14 very little say in the outcome of elections for County Council and the General Assembly. Fenati also supports the transportation plan proposed by Gov. Larry Hogan, which would greatly rely on private, rather than taxpayer, funds to accomplish.

No other Republicans have filed for the District 14 delegate race as of this morning. On the Democratic side, only three candidates have filed - Anne Kaiser, Eric Luedtke, and Pamela Queen.

Photo courtesy Patricia Fenati

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Sneak peek: MetroPCS at Ellsworth Place mall in Silver Spring (Photos)

MetroPCS, the pre-paid wireless retail store owned by parent company T-Mobile, will be opening soon at Ellsworth Place mall in downtown Silver Spring. Here's a sneak peek inside the new store.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Gulf gas station closes in downtown Silver Spring (Video+Photos)

The Gulf gas station at 8600 Georgia Avenue has closed. It will be replaced by a 173-room, extended stay Residence Inn by Marriott hotel. It would have been nicer to see housing placed here closer to Metro, but a hotel does put less strain on County taxpayers, schools and services than housing.

Friday, February 9, 2018

White Oak Library reopening April 2, 2018

The White Oak Library, currently undergoing Montgomery County's "refresh" renovations, has a reopening date. County officials say the library is scheduled to reopen on April 2, 2018 at 10:00 AM. They're working on the restrooms, lighting and electrical system during this phase of the renovations. The White Oak Library is located at 11701 New Hampshire Avenue in Silver Spring.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Reedie Drive to close this Saturday morning in Wheaton

WSSC water vault under construction
at Lot 13 project site in Wheaton
Reedie Drive will close temporarily this Saturday, February 10, 2018, from 5:00 AM to 12:00 PM. The closure is related to the Lot 13 Montgomery County government office building construction project.

Because several heavy pieces of construction equipment are needed to work in the excavated hole after the ramps are removed, a crane has to be brought in to lift them back up to the surface this weekend. Excavation on the project is now complete, County officials report, and the final dump truck load has been hauled away.

Workers are currently constructing a WSSC water vault, that is designed to capture runoff from the underground parking garage, including the oil and other toxic chemicals that tend to be found on garage floors. The vault skims out the oil, and then sends the water into the sewer system.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

TTT: Tacos, Tortas & Tequila in Silver Spring to have rooftop deck

Another rooftop is coming to downtown Silver Spring. Chef-owner Ivan Iricanin had earlier applied for a liquor license for TTT: Tacos, Tortas & Tequila, a new venture he plans to open at 8407 Ramsey Avenue. Now more details about the project are coming to light.

Iricanin plans to construct a rooftop deck for the new restaurant, as well as an outdoor patio. TTT will be open Monday-Thursday from 9:00 AM-2:00 AM, Fridays from 9:00 AM-3:00 AM, Saturdays from 7:00 AM-3:00 AM, and Sundays from 7:00 AM-2:00 AM.

New beer and wine store coming to Norbeck Road

Beer, Wine & More is coming soon to 4007-BB Norbeck Road. The 1100 SF store will sell beer, wine, tobacco products, general merchandise, and have a deli section. It will be open daily from 9:00 AM to midnight, and the owner expects to open in March.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Don Berto's Port-au-Prince Haitian Cuisine soft opening starts Saturday in Silver Spring

UPDATE: 9:30 AM - Minutes ago, the soft-opening date was changed to this Saturday, February 10. The article has been updated to reflect the change. I recommend calling (301) 565-2006 before going Saturday, in case there are any further schedule changes.

Don Berto's Kitchen is back in downtown Silver Spring starting Saturday. Don Berto's new Port-au-Prince Haitian Cuisine restaurant at 7912 Georgia Avenue will open this Saturday, February 10, 2018, for a soft-opening from 6:00 PM-12:00 AM. Only bar menu items will be available during the soft opening.

Starting Sunday, February 11, 2018, Port-au-Prince will be open regular hours 12:00-9:00 PM, Monday-Thursday 5:00-10:00 PM, closed Fridays, and 6:00 PM to 3:00 AM Saturday nights. An official grand opening celebration will be postponed until the weather turns warmer in spring.

Street parking is available, as well as a metered lot at King Street and Georgia Avenue.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Cell tower proposed for roof of Waterford Tower apartments in Silver Spring

The FCC has announced that an applicant has proposed erecting a cell tower atop the Waterford Tower apartments, located at 14000 Castle Boulevard in Silver Spring. A 30.9' tower would be placed on the roof of the 106' building, for a total height of 136.9'.

You can see the application for the tower on the FCC website, and strangely enough, it states that Montgomery County is the owner.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Silver Spring construction update: Thayer & Spring (Photos)

It's been more than a year since my first construction update on the Thayer & Spring development, which at the time was called Studio Plaza. Now six stories above street level, its Summer 2018 delivery date sounds a bit optimistic. The Fairfield Residential project will feature 415 units, 15% of which will be affordable. It will also boast 10,500 SF of retail, and 35100 SF of public space, including a green plaza, a through-block walkway, and public art displays.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Briggs Chaney sniper suspect arrested

Montgomery County police have their man in custody in the pellet gun-wielding Briggs Chaney sniper case. Police say they have also obtained the gun itself. The suspect, whose name police have not yet made public, allegedly shot four people in the last two weeks. Those victims were all in the Briggs Chaney area of Silver Spring, when they were struck by projectiles police say were fired from a pellet gun.