Friday, December 30, 2022

New fish passage planned under Piney Branch Road in Long Branch

Purple Line contractors will begin work on the Long Branch stream where it passes under Piney Branch Road in Silver Spring on or about January 9, 2023. Workers will set up new erosion and sediment control measures, and install stormwater drainage structures. A new fish passage will be constructed. The project is expected to take six months to complete. Pedestrian access to the Long Branch Community Center will remain open throughout the work, which will take place between 7:00 AM and 7:00 PM on weekdays and weekends as needed.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Takoma Park police investigate sound of gunfire

911 callers in the vicinity of the 8300 block of Roanoke Avenue in Takoma Park reported hearing a gunshot around 10:30 PM last night. Takoma Park police responded to the scene. After a thorough canvassing of the area, officers said they could find no shell casing or other evidence a gun had been fired there. Anyone with further information about the incident is asked to please call police at 301-270-1100.

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Car stolen in Takoma Park

Takoma Park police are investigating the theft of a vehicle on December 26, 2022. A 1995 black Honda Civic, MD Tag #926Z72, was reported stolen from Grant Avenue at 1:00 PM Monday afternoon. Anyone with information about this crime is asked to please call Takoma Park police at 301-270-1100. Refer to case number 220057289.

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Signage installed, lit at Black Lion Cafe in Silver Spring (Photos)

Signage has been installed at Black Lion Cafe at 8240-A Fenton Street in downtown Silver Spring, ahead of next week's opening. This was one of the final finishing touches on the construction of the coffee shop, which is in the ground floor of the Fenton Silver Spring apartments. As you can see, the signs are already lit up. Black Lion Cafe opens January 2, 2023.

Monday, December 26, 2022

The Breakfast Club opens in Silver Spring

The Breakfast Club
has opened at 8240 Fenton Street in downtown Silver Spring. An all-day breakfast and brunch restaurant concept, The Breakfast Club draws on an art deco, 1920s aesthetic. Dinner is also served, with entree selections including Lamb Chops & Eggs, Island Branzino over fried rice, and a Cajun lobster roll on a brioche bun. The menu features cocktails inspired by the 1920s such as The Great Gatsby, but also includes one named for the owners' inspiration for The Breakfast Club, Papa Sherman.

Friday, December 23, 2022

Frosty Siberian winds lead to falling trees, power outages across Montgomery County and D.C. area

Darkened apartments along
Georgia Avenue near Wheaton Friday night

It's been a "wild and wooly" day across the Washington, D.C. region and much of the nation, to use the words of the telephone meteorologist of old. Gusty winds that have blown from Siberia and down through Canada joined with a bomb cyclone winter weather event to start Friday with a blast of ice. The winds have stuck around through the evening, leading to many falling limbs and trees, and the resulting power outages.

There are currently 8,459 Pepco customers without power in the D.C. Metro area. Outages are widespread over the entire map of Montgomery County. The most concentrated outages are in the Silver Spring, Wheaton, Calverton, Gaithersburg and Germantown areas. In Rockville, there are significant outages in the King Farm, Twinbrook, West End and College Gardens neighborhoods. Bethesda residents are in the dark in a couple of spots along the Bradley Boulevard corridor, and in Westgate near the D.C. line. Over the border, there are outages in the Palisades and Wesley Heights in Northwest Washington.

The current temperature is 11 degrees. Winds are gusting at 18 MPH, and a wind chill advisory is in effect until 10:00 AM Saturday morning. Be sure to fully cover up if you have to go outside to avoid frostbite. Remember that dark intersections during power outages are to be treated as a four-way stop - but proceed with caution, as many drivers ignore this and will steam through the intersection anyway, or rear-end you if you conscientiously try to stop as the law requires. The best advice is to stay off the roads if you can.

Van Hollen secures funding for NIST, NIH in U.S. Senate omnibus spending package

A massive $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill for FY-2023 passed by the United States Senate yesterday will include substantial funding for two major federal employers in Montgomery County, the National Institutes of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg and the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda. Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen pressed for those and other Maryland priorities in the controversial and complicated negotiations and agreement. The deal found some Republican senators joining with the Democratic majority in an attempt to lock in spending before the GOP gains control of the House of Representatives in January.

The Senate deal includes $48 billion for NIH, and $1.7 billion for NIST. It also includes renovation funds for a failing bridge over the Baltimore-Washington Parkway to Goddard Flight Center. Van Hollen and other Democrats lamented they could not get other priorities filled in the agreement, but considered the end run around potential GOP cuts in next year's session to be a success worth compromising for. "While I was deeply disappointed that Republicans refused to support a number of key priorities, it was vital that we pass a new government funding bill instead of kicking the can down the road," Van Hollen said in a statement late yesterday afternoon. "On balance, this package will meaningfully invest in the critical priorities of our state and nation.”

Senate Republicans who voted for the bill were Roy Blunt (Missouri), John Boozman (Arkansas), Shelley Capito (West Virginia), Susan Collins (Maine), John Cornyn (Texas), Tom Cotton (Arkansas), Lindsey Graham (South Carolina), Jim Inhofe (Oklahoma), Mitch McConnell (Kentucky), Jerry Moran (Kansas), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Rob Portman (Ohio), Mitt Romney (Utah), Mike Rounds (South Dakota), Richard Shelby (Alabama), John Thune (South Dakota), Roger Wicker (Mississippi) and Todd Young (Indiana). The majority of them have already publicly distanced themselves from President Donald Trump in varying degrees.

Silver Spring man out for family dinner becomes homicide victim in Wayne Avenue garage

A Silver Spring man was found suffering from a gunshot wound in the stairwell of the Wayne Avenue public parking garage Wednesday night, December 21, 2022, at 8:59 PM. Despite efforts to save him by first responders, Charles Joseph Reynolds, 62, was pronounced dead at the scene. Police said he was taking leftovers from a family dinner at a restaurant back to his car, and had been expected to meet up again with the family at Ben & Jerry's for dessert. He never made it.

No suspect or motive has been identified in the incident so far. The nature of the case - a man killed while simply trying to dine out with family in the early evening - has horrified Montgomery County residents at a time when violent crime has been surging in the jurisdiction.

Anyone with information about this homicide is asked to call the Major Crimes Division at 240-773-5070 or contact Crime Solvers of Montgomery County toll-free at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477). A reward of up to $10,000 is being offered for information that leads to the arrest of the homicide suspect. Callers may remain anonymous.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Java Nation "opening soon" at Station Square in Silver Spring

Java Nation
has posted a bunch of "coming soon" signage and window screens at its future Silver Spring location at Station Square at 1010 Wayne Avenue. It features some renderings of the interior of the cafe, which it promises will be "opening soon," and the renderings on the window screens are made to look as if you were seeing the actual restaurant through the big windows. The storefront is on the Dixon Avenue side of the property. This will be the fourth Java Nation to open in the area.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Commas Food Hall update in Silver Spring (Photos)

Here's a look at the latest progress on the construction of the Commas Food Hall, opening next year at Ellsworth Place mall in downtown Silver Spring. As you can see, they are still creating the walls with metal frames. Some signage has been put up inside the mall promoting the food hall.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

UPDATED: Black Lion Cafe opening January 2 in Silver Spring (Photos)

UPDATE - 3:39 PM: Black Lion Cafe just announced on Twitter that the Silver Spring location will open on January 2, 2023

Here's a sneak peek at the impressive interior of Black Lion Cafe, opening soon at 8240-A Fenton Street, in the ground floor of the Fenton Silver Spring apartment building. The aesthetic manages to look both organic and sleek at the same time, with a strong emphasis on wood tones. This is a fantastic addition to the neighborhood, and even more so for those who happen to live right upstairs.

Black Lion, which sources its coffee directly from the three regions of Ethiopia renowned for superior beans, has an existing location in Rockville. This location has been expected to open this month after some delays. Stay tuned for an opening date.

Monday, December 19, 2022

Nike Swoosh lights up in downtown Silver Spring (Photos)

The giant Nike Swoosh logo outside the future Nike Unite store at 910 Ellsworth Drive in downtown Silver Spring was lit last night. Inside, the interior fit-out of the store is nearing completion. The design has a sharp look. Nike Unite is currently expected to open on February 2, 2023.

Friday, December 16, 2022

Part of Talbot Avenue to close in Lyttonsville next week

A noisy few months are ahead for some residents of Lyttonsville. Starting on or about December 19, 2022, Talbot Avenue will be closed between Michigan Avenue and Lanier Drive. The closure is expected to last for four months, as a crew restores the roadway from Purple Line-related work. Local residents will still be allowed to access the street, but there will be some street parking restrictions. Work will be performed between 7:00 AM and 7:00 PM weekdays and weekends as needed, and weather permitting. The roadway reconstruction will include installation of new curbs, sidewalks, and residential driveway aprons.

Thursday, December 15, 2022

New Hampshire Avenue BRT virtual meeting tonight, December 15 at 7 PM

Silver Spring and Takoma Park residents, commuters, and business owners with an interest in the potential Flash bus rapid transit line being proposed for New Hampshire Avenue will want to "attend" a virtual meeting on the proposal tonight, December 15, 2022 at 7:00 PM. The Montgomery County Department of Transportation says you will be able to give input during the meeting. Register for the Zoom meeting here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Porch pirate strikes in Takoma Park

Holiday package arrival season is the most wonderful time of the year for porch pirates. One struck on Monday morning, December 12, 2022 in Takoma Park. According to Takoma Park police, a package was stolen from the front porch of a home in the 400 block of Circle Avenue. It was reported stolen at 9:44 AM Monday. While this was hardly an unusual or rare crime, it's useful to know someone is currently prowling for packages there, if you live in that immediate area of the city.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Montgomery County Council has forfeited its privilege to "power" over land-use and zoning authority structure

Montgomery County Councilmembers who call the attempt to examine the county's current structure of land-use authority "a power grab" are implicitly acknowledging they have been wielding that power through the current Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission structure. The disastrous results of the Council's exercise of that power speak for themselves. Their hand-picked five members of the Montgomery County Planning Board were forced to resign this fall, under accusations of consuming alcohol in their County office building and pressuring others to do so, creating a "toxic misogynistic and hostile workplace," repeated violations of the Open Meetings act, letting individual commissioners' grievances implode the board, and engaging in staff firings as retribution. Those five people, in the Council's judgement, were the five best who had applied. That says as much about the Council as about the disgraced commissioners themselves.

Those issues that led to a regional embarrassment for the County this fall were hardly the only ones to stain the Planning Board and County Council. The Board and Council have routinely passed master and sector plans over the outspoken objections of the communities the plans will guide growth policy and zoning in.

Thrive 2050 was only the most recent example, a "blow-up-single-family-home neighborhoods" plan and developer fever dream the Council rubber-stamped into law mere days after declaring that it had "no confidence" in the five commissioners who drafted and approved every word of it. Virtually all of the support for Thrive 2050 came from people who do not actually live in the single-family home neighborhoods the plan would bulldoze, developers, and Astro-turf "YIMBY" activists. The plan itself was neither novel nor innovative, but a hodgepodge document plagiarized from the few other jurisdictions around the country corrupt and crazy enough to end the single-family home zoning most consider to be the American Dream. Other than generating more developer profits, those earlier Thrive-style efforts elsewhere have failed to realize any of the false promises their advocates had touted.

M-NCPPC, the Planning Department and Planning Board have a horrific record on racial bias, particularly with the African-American community. The most prominent examples of this have been the Farm Road scandal, the desecration and attempted cover-up of the Moses African Cemetery in Bethesda, and the repeated calling of multiple armed police officers to silence or remove African-American protesters at Planning Board meetings. The Council had full knowledge of those events, and never exercised their self-proclaimed "power" to criticize, investigate or remove any employee, commissioner or chair involved in those well-documented racist actions. Not even after the summer of Black Lives Matter in 2020 did the Council revisit these transgressions.

Now that County Executive Marc Elrich and State Senator Ben Kramer are attempting to formulate a process to examine a reform or replacement of the current land-use authority structure, the Council is attempting to end the discussion before it starts. It's too late for that, because residents affected by the land-use decisions made over the last two decades have already been discussing it. That discussion has led to increasing calls to rein in M-NCPPC and the Montgomery County Housing Opportunities Commission. It's time to have this conversation, and explore the options.

Much like the County's outdated government monopoly on the sale of alcohol, the M-NCPPC is a highly-unusual arrangement for a land-use authority. It includes Montgomery and Prince George's County, two jurisdictions that just happen to have had many development-related scandals and outsized developer influence over the years. Those scandals - topped off last week by new questions about the ousted Planning Board's 2021 purchase of parcels in downtown Bethesda for $9.6 million for a park that now won't be built - have led us to the point that we need to look at how to make land-use decisions more accountable to all stakeholders, not just to those with the most money and power. 

The proposed commission, representing cooperation between county and state leaders, is a good starting point for this discussion. It's clear that those who have wielded the "power" in land-use and zoning decisions have abused that power, shown major errors in judgement, and failed to exercise their oversight role responsibly. They've lost their unearned privilege to continue to hold that power. 

Reforming the land-use authority structure could well mean transferring that power to others. It could also mean pulling Montgomery County out of the M-NCPPC. It should also mean restoring the Office of the People's Council and sector plan committees, and the creation of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions as Washington, D.C. has, to strengthen accountability to residents. We can't achieve reform until we take a hard look at the situation, through efforts such as the proposed commission.

A first step in being stripped of power is admitting you hold that power through a corrupt, antiquated and - on many occasions - racist structure of authority. The Council has made that admission loud and clear. Now is the time for adults in the room to chart a new way forward. If you openly state you have had the "power," you must also accept full responsibility for the wreckage that power is on the record as having caused, and not block the path to fixing it.

Monday, December 12, 2022

The past speaks at Best Buy in Wheaton (Photos)

A message from the past has been spotted at Best Buy at 10901 Georgia Avenue in Wheaton. It is etched in the cinderblock wall behind the checkout/pick-up area at the electronics store. "Keep Selling Chevrolets. Best Wishes Bud," it reads.

Message etched in wall around the
orange line at center

The message is truly from the golden age of Wheaton. Many decades ago, this property used to be Tom's Chevrolet  Later, Montgomery Blair High School graduate Jack Amatucci purchased the dealership, and it became Jack Amatucci Chevrolet. Amatucci served a time as president of the Wheaton Chamber of Commerce, and was the head of John F. Kennedy's Montgomery County campaign operation in 1960. 

Next up was Dick Stevens Chevrolet, which operated until going out of business in 1992 due to the recession. It then became a Toys R Us store. Incredibly, no successive tenant has ever removed the message, and we are now receiving it today. Best wishes, Bud!