Friday, June 29, 2018

2nd concrete pour completed at Wheaton Lot 13 office project

The second concrete pour for Level P4, the lowest garage level at the future Montgomery County government office building under construction at Lot 13 in Wheaton, is now complete. It required 65 concrete mixers to deliver 650 cubic yards of concrete in eleven hours, according to County officials. They say the office project is now on course for an April 2020 delivery.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Teen girl missing from Aspen Hill

Montgomery County police are asking for the public's help in locating a missing teenager who lives in Aspen Hill. Alyssa Faith Oxendine, 14, of the 14100 block of Grand Pre Road, disappeared on an undisclosed date. She has been in touch with her family via social media, but will not tell them where she is.

Oxendine is described by police as a white female, 5’03” tall, and weighing 160 pounds. She has light brown hair and hazel eyes. Oxendine was wearing a white shirt, gray sweatpants, and black Van shoes when she was last seen.

Anyone who has information regarding the whereabouts of Alyssa Faith Oxendine 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).

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Montgomery County election results capped by County Executive cliffhanger

A majority of Democratic primary voters sent a clear message in Tuesday's election - big money can now mean big wins at the polls in Montgomery County. Josh Rales may want to think about trying again after massive war chests, public and private, brought candidates to victory. Self-funding businessman David Blair rode millions of dollars, and a double-barrel endorsement from the Washington Post, to a neck-and-neck finish with County Councilman Marc Elrich. The race was too close to call when Board of Elections officials paused counting at 12:45 AM this morning, and might not be decided until the counting of provisional ballots is completed - which could take until next week.

Other flush-with-cash Democratic candidates who won included David Trone in the 6th Congressional District, Andrew Friedson (County Council - District 1), and Hans Riemer, Will Jawando, Evan Glass and Gabe Albornoz (County Council - At-Large).

As most winners celebrated at local bars with supporters, Blair threw a spectacle of an election night party that looked more Mar-a-Lago than Montgomery. But his remarks were far more humble than Trumpian, as he marveled at a close finish few insiders expected, and expressed pride in conducting a positive campaign when others went negative. Yet, Elrich is temporarily ahead by almost 500 votes, and bested Blair in early voting, which has already been counted.

Former Rockville mayor and County Planning Department Deputy Director Rose Krasnow made a respectable showing, as did District 1 Councilmember Roger Berliner, but both had barely half the votes that Blair and Elrich each accrued. Both were clearly done in by their strong association with development decisions that enraged multiple communities, from Westbard to Damascus. Ultimately, both found that assuming those communities' votes weren't enough to sink their future campaigns to be a fatal miscalculation. And Blair effectively blocked their developer lane to victory.

Other winners in contested primaries last night included Craig Rice (D) and Ed Amatetti (R) [Council District 2], Sid Katz (Council District 3) who faced a strong challenge from Ben Shnider, Nancy Navarro (Council District 4) and Tom Hucker (Council District 5). Katz survived because he is well-liked, stepped in authoritatively in the MCPS school bus depot debacle, and has one of the sharpest political minds and memories. After I met Katz at an event in Gaithersburg years ago, for only a few seconds, he greeted me by name from then on.
A majority of Democratic voters ignored the
advice of the "Vote for More Women" sign at
top left in yesterday's election
Big losers last night included Councilmember George Leventhal, who didn't even reach the middle tier of finishers, despite two decades in office and plenty of cash on hand. And 2018 is most definitely not the Year of the Woman in Montgomery County, as Democrats went big for male candidates, potentially leaving Councilmember Nancy Navarro as the only woman on the Council. Ana Sol Gutierrez made a surprisingly competitive second-place finish in Council District 1, in a race where Reggie Oldak and Meredith Wellington were also thought to have a chance. Upcounty voters had to be disappointed to see Germantown's Marilyn Balcombe in fifth place for the four at-large seats. Balcombe had the Washington Post endorsement, but didn't enjoy the same magical boost it gave others.

The Post played such a large and heavy-handed role in the Democratic primary, that some progressives began referring to it as the Amazon Post, a nickname more often used by Republicans like Trump. One entertaining conspiracy theory making the rounds on social media was that Jeff Bezos was seeking to install Blair, who would be a pushover for Amazon in return.

Republican Robin Ficker will take on the winner of the Blair-Elrich matchup in November. He would have a better path to victory against Elrich, if the "business community" (a.k.a. developers) were to "get dangerous," as Bob Ehrlich put it, and get behind Ficker. Ficker is also fond of noting that Elrich voted to pass the highly-controversial Westbard sector plan, which was overwhelmingly opposed by residents, a decision that left even some of Elrich's strongest supporters scratching their heads.
More than Elrich, Riemer will face the full wrath of neighborhoods that were bulldozed over the last four years by the County Council and Planning Board. Democratic voters, who made up a majority of term-limits votes and of the opposition to multiple sector plans like Westbard, will have an easy choice to switch their fourth Council At-Large vote from developer-backed Riemer to yours truly, Robert Dyer. Progressive voters will be aghast to learn that Riemer has accepted money from Mitt Romney's Bain Capital and Danaher's Mitch Rales, two pioneers in outsourcing American jobs to China.

Riemer also opposes the recommendations of County Executive Ike Leggett's Tenant Work Group, tanked the "nighttime economy" with his Nighttime Economy Task Force debacle, caused County residents who had signed up for County government mailing lists' personal information to be posted online through a loophole in his vaunted "Open Data" law, essentially banned airbnb as an easy source of income for residents (effective July 1), and singlehandedly destroyed the food truck business in Montgomery County. Then there was Beerghazi, the scandal in which Riemer withheld information about illegal activity in the Department of Liquor Control until after he was safely reelected in 2014. And that's just the beginning.

And my years-long message about the County's moribund economy and poor business climate is the same message that has Blair neck-and-neck with Montgomery County's most popular Democrat. It's going to be a fun four-and-a-half months, folks.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Deadly Sandy Spring auto fire was no accident, MCFRS investigators say

A suspicious death in Sandy Spring is becoming more suspicious by the hour. Montgomery County police say that Maryland's chief medical examiner has declared Andrea Mion Hawvermale, 56, of the 1300 block of Excaliber Lane, died of injuries caused by a vehicle fire on that block on June 17.

However, Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services investigators have determined that the vehicle fire was deliberately set. No suspect names have been announced publicly yet, and detectives continue to investigate.

Anyone with information in reference to this investigation is asked to call the Major Crimes Division at 240-773-5070. 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, June 25, 2018

Wheaton bank to become Enterprise Rent-a-Car (Photos)

You may have noticed some construction work going on at the former Suntrust Bank branch located at 11201 Veirs Mill Road in Wheaton. A source tells me this property has been leased by Enterprise Rent-a-Car. Enterprise has been expanding recently in Montgomery County, to more-prominent locations like this and Rockville Pike.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Silver Spring construction update: United Therapeutics' Unisphere (Photos)

United Therapeutics' Unisphere is in the home stretch of construction. Though far from the tallest building in downtown Silver Spring, it is going to be among the most striking architecturally.

A 120000 SF expansion of the firm's downtown Silver Spring campus, the Unisphere will be completed this year. It will include the six-story office building, retail space, and a parking garage.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

First concrete pour completed at Wheaton Lot 13 project

The first concrete pour for the lowest underground garage level of a new Montgomery County government office building at Lot 13 has been completed. County officials says further pours for that level will continue over the next four weeks. 650 cubic yards of concrete were poured in the first pour. The building is expected to reach street level by the end of September.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Trump administration declares downtown Wheaton, parts of Silver Spring, White Oak opportunity zones

President Donald Trump speaks with a
business owner during a press briefing on
the Opportunity Zones initiative
The Trump administration has declared downtown Wheaton, two parts of downtown Silver Spring, parts of Long Branch and White Oak, four parts of Gaithersburg - including Montgomery Village, Montgomery College's Germantown campus, and Rockville Pike (between Rockville Town Center and Twinbrook) as Opportunity Zones. Created under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed into law by President Donald Trump, the zones encourage capital investment in underserved communities through federal tax incentives. The designation comes as media and business leaders express increasingly agree that Montgomery County's economy has become moribund.
Wheaton opportunity zone
Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett said the County will launch an outreach program to notify investors of the new investment opportunities. "Creating the incentive to bring capital into communities that are currently being overlooked is just a tremendous opportunity," Ivanka Trump said at a press conference on the initiative. "And the fact that this was integrated into the tax bill, which is already proving to be so beneficial for people all over this country, is just another element as we start to rebuild those distressed communities." The tax act reduced taxes for 72% of Maryland residents.
Opportunity zones in Montgomery Village
and Gaithersburg

Rockville Pike opportunity zone

Opportunity zones in downtown Silver Spring,
Long Branch and New Hampshire Estates areas

White Oak has two of the
Trump opportunity zones

Photo courtesy

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

MoCo teachers union to protest "bullying and ineffective" Kemp Mill ES principal June 20 at 6:30 PM

UPDATE: The teacher's union has postponed tonight's rally after MCPS agreed to discuss the Kemp Mill ES situation with stakeholders.

Montgomery County's teachers union is leading a protest against Kemp Mill Elementary School Principal Dr. Bernard James, which will be attended by teachers, Kemp Mill parents, and community members, this Wednesday, June 20, 2018 at 6:30 PM at the Montgomery County Public Schools central office at 850 Hungerford Drive in Rockville. The Montgomery County Education Association calls James "bullying and ineffective."
The MCEA says Kemp Mill parents and staff have brought their concerns to MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith repeatedly, but have not received an adequate response. They say James has created "one of the worst school climates in the county," at a school with one of the highest percentages of low-income students in the county.

Kemp Mill ES has had a turbulent relationship between staff and leadership for years. Five Kemp Mill teachers and a secretary sued previous principal Floyd D. Starnes in 2012 for millions of dollars, but the harassment suit was settled out of court a year later.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Olney construction update: Brew Belly; Shoppers closes

Brew Belly Kitchen & Sudhaus has begun construction inside its future space at 18065 Georgia Avenue in Olney. It took four months for Montgomery County to issue their construction permits. The team now hopes to have Brew Belly open for business by the end of the summer.

In other Olney news, Shoppers Food Warehouse has closed at 18140 Village Drive.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Noise wavers requested for Lyttonsville Place Bridge demolition, bridge could close Monday

Noisy days and nights are ahead for those in earshot of the Lyttonsville Place Bridge. Purple Line Transit Constructors has requested temporary noise waivers from Montgomery County related to the highly-controversial destruction of this historic bridge.

The first permit covers demolition noise and the installation of pilings at the bridge location. This work will begin in mid-June, and last for up to six months (yikes). Work hours will be 7:00 AM to 6:00 PM Monday-Friday, and "if necessary," from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM on Saturdays.

A second permit is related to the forming and construction of retaining walls. This work will commence in early July, and continue through the end of September. The hours of work for this aspect of the project will be Monday-Saturday, 6:00 AM to 11:00 PM, a clear expansion beyond the legal hours for such work.

Purple Line Transit Partners says the bridge could close on, or about, Monday, June 18, 2018.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Briggs Chaney-area woman missing

Montgomery County police are seeking the public's help in locating a woman missing from the Briggs Chaney area. Estela Maria De Los Fairbanks, 45, of Colgate Way was reported missing by her family. The circumstances surrounding her disappearance, such as when she was last seen, have not been released by detectives.

However, police say she is likely driving her silver, Hyundai Accent with Maryland tags: 3CZ5322. De Los Fairbanks is described as a Latina, 5′ 3″ and weighing about 180 pounds.  She has black hair and brown eyes.

Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of Estela Maria De Los Fairbanks or her vehicle is asked to call the Montgomery County Police non-emergency number at 301-279-8000 (available 24 hours). Callers may remain anonymous.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Teen charged as adult after bringing stolen gun to Paint Branch HS

Paint Branch High School suffered its second legitimate weapons scare in six days yesterday, when a 17-year-old illegally entered the school with a stolen .38 revolver. The teen was not a Paint Branch student, and the gun was loaded. Paint Branch's school resource officer was informed by school security that the stranger had just given them a false name and false student ID number. After providing the false information, the suspect then turned and fled the school building.

The SRO located a subject fitting the suspect's description walking on Briggs Chaney Road near the school. He attempted to flee from the officer when approached, but was successfully apprehended by the SRO. School security then confirmed the suspect was the person who had illegally entered the school.

Within the suspect's shoulder bag, the officer located the loaded .38, which detectives have since determined was stolen in Pennsylvania. 17-year-old Elijah C. Nyamekye of the 100 block of Wilton Oaks Drive in Silver Spring charged as an adult with possession of a handgun, possession of a firearm by a person under 21 years old, possession of a stolen handgun, trespassing on school property, and disrupting school activities.

Last Thursday, a Paint Branch student was arrested after bringing a pocket knife and handgun ammo to the school.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Car Wash Coffee targeting June opening in Kensington (Photos)

Car Wash Coffee has been in the works for a while at 10700 Connecticut Avenue in Kensington. Now, after more than a year, there is light at the end of the tunnel. A sign posted in the window is promising a June 2018 opening, and there's a lot of work going on inside.

I have a lot of nostalgia for this building as a Roy Rogers in decades past. I've always been perplexed as to why various fast food chains were never able to take the ball from Roy's, and run with it at this prime, "last gas" location. Thousands of people pass by here daily heading to or from the Beltway, and a drive-thru could have really cleaned up with megacash.
The establishment is owned by the owner of the adjacent Mr. Wash car wash, hence the name, and why you see the familiar and trusted Mr. Wash character cheerily raising a piping hot cup of coffee on one of the shop's Coming Soon banners. Prepare for a cup of coffee like you've never had before at Car Wash Coffee: they will be serving Vigilante Coffee. But wait, there's some breaking news, as well: they'll also be selling Gaithersburg's famous Neal's Bagels, authentic New York-style bagels.