Monday, October 31, 2022

Bullet fired into Takoma Park home

Takoma Park City police responded to a report of shots fired on October 29, 2022 at 11:52 PM in the 6400 block of 4th Avenue. Officers searching the scene found several shell casings, indicating a weapons discharge. One resident told police that at least one bullet was fired into their home. A previous incident on the same street in mid-October centered around a vacant home, where shell casings were also found on the property.

Anyone who has any video surveillance for any of these incidents is asked to call Takoma Park police with contact information. If you hear what sounds like shots fired please call 911 if you have an emergency or the non-emergency number of 301-270-1100. This investigation is ongoing.  If you have any information, please contact police at 301-270-1100.

Friday, October 28, 2022

Five Below opening store at Wheaton Plaza

Five Below
is opening a store at Westfield's Wheaton Plaza mall. The chain is in a better position than dollar stores to weather the staggering inflation wracking the country, so it is understandably in an expansion mode. When it opens, Five Below will be next to Verified Sneaker Store.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Montgomery County police investigate burglary and theft at Silver Spring home (Video + Photo)

Montgomery County police are investigating a burglary at a home in Silver Spring, and the theft of items from the residence. Police say they responded to a call from a home in the 600 block of Deerfield Avenue at 5:00 PM on September 15, 2022. Officers found that a suspect had gained entry to the house, and had gotten away with multiple items, including cash and credit cards.

An individual was later caught on surveillance video making unauthorized purchases with one of the stolen credit cards at a Walmart in Northwest Washington, D.C. They have released that video, and are asking for the public's help in identifying this person, and for any other information you can provide them about this incident.

Anyone with information regarding the suspect or this crime is asked to call the 3rd District Investigative Section at 240-773-6870. Callers may remain anonymous.  

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

New entrance opens at Wheaton Plaza Target (Photos)

The new exterior entrance is now open at Target at Wheaton Plaza. A reconfigured checkout area is also open. The new exterior doors are part of a major renovation at the store over the past year, and now allow customers to enter and exit Target without going into the mall itself.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Montgomery County Council unanimously passes controversial Thrive 2050 plan

The Montgomery County Council voted unanimously to pass the controversial Thrive 2050 growth master plan this morning. A carbon copy of a plan being pushed nationwide by developers, Thrive 2050 will allow multifamily housing to be built in neighborhoods that are currently zoned for single-family homes over most of the county. The Council voted to approve the plan despite just having announced it had no confidence in, and demanding the resignations of, the five Planning Board commissioners who formulated and edited the plan.

Zillow home values for Minneapolis 2013-2022;
"Minneapolis 2040" (sound familiar?) was passed by
the Minneapolis City Council in 2018, and you can
see that prices have only surged further upward

Many residents expressed opposition to the plan, which will change the character of existing neighborhoods drastically. Among the concerns raised by residents were increased noise, loss of green space and tree canopy, insufficent street parking, school overcrowding, and gentrification that will force retired and lower-income homeowners out of their neighborhoods. The new housing allowed by Thrive 2050 will be luxury housing, not affordable housing. Rents and home values have only continued to rise in the few jurisdictions that have adopted the radical Thrive model, such as Minneapolis.

The Council was criticized for not only failing to reach out to people of color, but for ignoring their own diversity consulting firm, who had urged the Council not to rush to approve Thrive 2050 at the cost of equity for all residents. It was equally criticized in recent days for ramming the plan through before having an independent investigation of the many scandals surfacing in the planning apparatus that birthed it. On that front, the Council has so far received a free pass from local media, with The Washington Post editorial board going so far as to endorse the rushed passage of Thrive 2050. Surely, the money the Post receives from developers for real estate advertising played no role in that endorsement.

Some on the Council are term-limited. For those seeking office in the future, their vote for Thrive 2050 may come back to haunt them, once the impacts of the plan begin to be felt. A majority of residents are unaware of the plan, and have no idea what is happening. Thrive 2050 was largely rushed through during an international pandemic emergency that has tried the patience and mental health of people around the world. Virtually no one besides the Planning Board, the County Planning Department, the County Council, and their sugar daddies in the development community, was paying attention to land use and zoning issues at a time like this.

Today's vote will likely be looked back upon with regret. But it will also be remembered as the greatest victory of the Montgomery County cartel to date. The machine recognized that once they could beat the Columbia Country Club on the Purple Line, they could beat anybody, and they've certainly taken that realization to heart. They now control every elected office in the County, with the exception of County Executive. They control the local media. All opposition was utterly steamrolled by the Planning Board and County Council. That steamroller is now going to roll into neighborhoods across Montgomery County, demolishing homes, along with the suburban lifestyle our radical elected officials despise so much.

Monday, October 24, 2022

New mural in Kensington (Photos)

A large mural is being painted on the facade of a landmark office building at the crossroads in Kensington. The giraffe image is being completed where Connecticut Avenue splits to go on to Wheaton and Aspen Hill, or as University Boulevard to College Park. A skateboarder riding down the neck of the animal is in the process of emerging from the gray brick, via the painter's brush. 

The building, 3720 Farragut Avenue, was constructed in 1963. It was renovated in 2019, and the mural is being touted as a selling point in the property's leasing materials, for making the structure easily identifiable by drivers. What do you think about this public art piece?

Friday, October 21, 2022

Montgomery County Council to defy state law in Planning appointments, as Elrich warns Thrive 2050 is tainted by scandal

Thursday was another explosive day in the Montgomery County Planning Board scandal, as the County Council is poised to defy Maryland state law by illegally appointing 5 temporary board commissioners, without waiting the required three weeks after disclosing the list of candidates. The law is very clear, and is the only codified framework for appointing any individual to the Planning Board, resident Janis Sartucci told ABC 7 News. The list of candidates was made public on Wednesday, October 19, meaning that the appointments cannot legally be made until the next Council takes office after the November 8 election.

Sartucci said she would contact the office of Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh if the Council were to appoint any commissioners before November 9. "We do have an attorney general's opinion that says when there's a vacancy in a public office, the law that's on the books is what controls the replacement process," Sartucci told ABC 7's Kevin Lewis. Several of the applicants for the interim positions are former Planning Board commissioners, meaning they could be under scrutiny themselves if a full investigation into planning scandals were carried out.

Meanwhile, County Executive Marc Elrich warned the Council about another rush job it is undertaking, to pass the controversial Thrive 2050 plan before the Council's term ends in the coming weeks. In a memo, Elrich said the Council cannot separate the Thrive plan from the scandals surrounding the commissioners and employees who drafted, edited and approved it. In addition to the question of who might have participated in ex parte discussions of Thrive over cocktails in Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson's government office as the plan was being drafted, Elrich noted that during the same period, "the Board broke significant rules with respect to the Open Meetings Law, the registration of lobbyists, and the use of the consent calendar. These violations impugn the Board's work product, and raise concerns that the Board, in search of a certain result, might have been willing to bend the rules on other occasions."

In fact, the Board has repeatedly engaged in such rule-breaking over the last decade. And only a handful of lobbyists - primarily development attorneys - have actually registered as lobbyists so far. Many who currently, actively lobby on behalf of the development industry before the Board and Council have yet to register as lobbyists. 

Elrich also advised the Council to halt its current course of "sweeping everything under the rug." He called on the Council to halt the Thrive approval process until an investigation of the planning scandals is completed, so that residents can have confidence the plan wasn't tainted by unethical and illegal actions by those drafting it.

The County Executive listed four major errors the Council has made in its last-minute push to ram through Thrive 2050. 

Error number one, Elrich wrote, was the Council adding three hastily-written chapters to the plan that have never been the subject of a public hearing. While ignoring his own and the public's comments on the plan this fall, Elrich added, the Council only addressed the comments of two representatives of developer-funded organizations that are lobbying for Thrive 2050. Elrich said that, at a minimum, the Council must hold a public hearing on the new last-minute chapters it added. He argued it would be best if the plan were sent back to a new Planning Board after the election.

Error number two, Elrich wrote, was to use an old map in the plan that pretends the County never added the Suburban Communities and Residential Wedge designations to its growth policy. Elrich brought this error to the Planning Board's attention in 2020, but they ignored his communication. He said there needs to be a new public hearing on how those two recognized land uses added in 1993 will be impacted by Thrive 2050. Elrich suggested the public "has a right to know what effect, if any, this change will have on their individual properties and on future growth in their neighborhood."

Of course, Thrive 2050 as currently written, will have massive, tectonic effects on both. Noise, overcrowding, lack of street parking, reduced school capacity, forced eviction of many residents through gentrification, loss of green space and tree canopy, and a complete change in neigborhood character are all built in to the Thrive plan.

The Council's third major error, Elrich wrote, is repeatedly misleading the public by claiming that passing the Thrive 2050 plan will not make zoning changes to their neighborhood. But the text of Thrive 2050 itself clearly states that such zoning changes may be required in order to implement the plan, and this admission was only added this month. He accused the Planning Board and Council of "withholding the information that a massive rezoning to urbanize most of the County could only take place after Thrive was enacted." The public has a right to know this, as well, Elrich said.

Error number 4, Elrich wrote, was removing quotes from the consultant hired by the Council that chastised the Council for not allowing enough time for substantive outreach to the BIPOC community, and for conducting what little outreach there was during the summer vacation season when it was harder to contact people. Elrich wrote that there must be further outreach to residents of color before Thrive 2050 is passed.

The Elrich memo makes the larger argument that the Council cannot simply state it has lost confidence in the Board and appoint a new one; it must disclose to the public the specifics of why it lost confidence, and conduct a full investigation of the many charges, claims and allegations that were made by whistleblowers inside the Planning Department. A complete dismissal of the Board has not cleared the way for passage of Thrive as the Council seems to think, Elrich concluded, but has "cast a shadow over the entirety of the Planning Board's actions."

Elrich's memo is well-written and on-point in every respect. There is no time factor or urgent need to pass Thrive 2050 this month. It is not even a unique or innovative plan. It's a carbon copy of the same "missing middle" plan that developers are attempting to ram through nationwide, including in Arlington County, using the same sham arguments. 

Thrive 2050 is nothing more than a wild, developer profit grab through a policy that would allow high-density, luxury multifamily growth on every acre of land in Montgomery County outside of the agricultural reserve - and that's on the menu next. We've learned since 2002 that all residential growth generates more cost in services than it generates in tax revenue for the County. Imagine what an even-more-unhinged growth policy like Thrive will do to a County budget already in a structural deficit, and carrying a debt so large that, if it were a department, it would be the third-largest department in the County government.

Copper Canyon Grill reopens at Downtown Silver Spring

Copper Canyon Grill
has reopened at 928 Ellsworth Drive at Downtown Silver Spring. The restaurant has been closed since July, due to a fire in a kitchen exhaust shaft. It could have reopened sooner, but Copper Canyon Grill's Director of Operations Erick Cooper said “the future safety of our guests and employees was too important to hurry through this process.” Instead of doing the bare minimum, the restaurant updated all of the kitchen's related systems to the current code standards.

Renovations that were underway at the time of the fire were able to be completed faster while the restaurant was closed for the fire damage repairs. Still to come will be an updated bar, and the additions of a sushi station and a chef's table. Copper Canyon Grill will also be again offering its now-famous Thankgiving dinner on Thanksgiving Day, both in the restaurant, and for takeaway catering.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Police seek public's help in locating suspect in Silver Spring attempted armed carjacking

Montgomery County police detectives are investigating an attempted armed carjacking that took place October 11, 2022 at 8:41 PM in the 8000 block of 13th Street in Silver Spring. They are seeking the public's help in identifying and located the suspect in the case. He attempted to carjack a white 2022 Lexus RX350 from its female driver. When their struggle attracted the attention of passersby, the suspect grabbed the victim's car key and fled in a dark-colored Toyota.

Police describe the suspect as a black male armed with a black handgun, 5-feet, 7-inches tall, skinny build, approximately 25-years-old and wearing a black baseball hat and a green hooded sweatshirt. 

Anyone with information regarding this suspect or this crime is asked to call the Major Crimes Division at 240-773-5070 or 240-773-TIPS 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 suspect. Callers can remain anonymous.  

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Montgomery County community leaders ask U.S. Department of Justice to place M-NCPPC under receivership

The struggle between Montgomery County residents who are demanding an investigation of scandals within the County Planning Board and Planning Department, and a County Council who want to sweep those scandals under the rug and quickly install five new cronies on the Board, took another turn today with a protest at the Montgomery County Council Building in Rockville. Multiple community and organizational leaders have signed a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice asking federal law enforcement to place the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (the umbrella entity that houses the board and Planning Department) under receivership. They've asked that it remain under receivership until a full, independent investigation of the scandals is completed, and that County Executive Marc Elrich and the County Council be included as targets of the investigation.

"What is essential in this moment is not deliberate speed, but deliberation—with vigorous public input and oversight to ensure that any actor involved in the racism, sexism, corruption, and illegal activities is removed from Montgomery County office and is held responsible to the fullest extent of the law," the letter states. "In conclusion, Parks and Planning is broken. Expecting the County Council and Office of the Executive to solve a problem they had a hand in creating is not an effective solution. M-NCPPC needs fundamental change to address the systemic racism that has been baked into the commission since its inception. Those who are clamoring to fill Planning Board vacancies  must not be allowed to do so within the framework of a demonstratively racist, hostile, and opaque system—that they themselves have supported, condoned, and maintained."

The letter is signed by the Montgomery County Poor People’s Campaign, the USDA Coalition of Minority Employees, the Parents’ Coalition of Montgomery County, the United Front for Justice, the Reverend Segun Adebayo of Macedonia Baptist Church in Bethesda, Empower DC, the Montgomery County Green Party, the Anti-Racist Bethesda Coalition, the Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition, Bethesda resident Mr. James McGee, and Nancy Wallace, the gubernatorial candidate for the Green Party in Maryland. It has also been sent to members of the U.S. Congress, and the County Council.

Police arrest suspect in 8 armed robberies in Silver Spring and Bethesda

Montgomery County police detectives have arrested a suspect in connection with eight armed robberies in Bethesda and Silver Spring. Donnell Harris, 29, of Silver Spring has been charged with multiple counts of armed robbery, first-degree assault, theft, and illegal possession of a firearm, as well as ammunition-related charges.

The robberies began August 10, 2022, and took place in Rosemary Hills, Silver Spring and Bethesda. When Harris was arrested on Friday, October 14, 2022, police allege he was in possession of a black 9mm handgun equipped with a laser. Multiple victims had described the suspect as having a laser-equipped firearm, and gave a physical description matching that of Harris.

Harris is being held without bond.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Takoma Park temporary library location to open Wednesday

Hold on to your books! The temporary location of the Takoma Park Library is opening tomorrow, Wednesday, October 19, 2022. It will be in the Hampshire Place shopping center at 7505 New Hampshire Avenue, in storefronts #201-208. The temporary move is due to the renovation and expansion of the existing library and community center that is now underway.

Monday, October 17, 2022

Aspen Hill Library roof replacement begins today

Montgomery County is replacing the roof of the Aspen Hill Library. The library will remain open during the project, which begins today, October 17, 2022. A press release from the County says the work will take about eight weeks to complete, and that the "simplified lines" of the new roof will be more energy-efficient.

Considering that the library is regarded as a candidate for historic preservation, due to its outstanding architectural design by renowned architect John H. Sullivan, the phrase "simplified lines" jumped out in the press release. I contacted the County's Department of General Services to inquire about whether or not these "simplified lines" would change the building's appearance.

Mike Lowe, the project manager for Environmental, Stormwater and Paving Work for the County, said the new roof will have a standing seam metal finish. He said the existing roof is in poor condition, and the County is moving quickly to replace it before winter weather begins.

Friday, October 14, 2022

Montgomery County Council tries to avoid investigation of Planning scandals - will they be allowed to succeed?

Montgomery County is in the midst of one of its most-embarrassing, and potentially most-earth-shaking, political scandals ever. But you wouldn't know it listening to the County Council. The Council has heard a barrage of rumors, accusations, explicit allegations - and even some admissions - of improper or illegal activity within the County Planning Board and Planning Department over the last several weeks. After initially taking no significant action, when the matter reached the verge of going nuclear, imploding the County political machine, and threatening the passage of the controversial Thrive 2050 plan, the Council stepped in and demanded the resignations of all five planning commissioners. According to the Council, that's the end of the story.

"Not so fast," some are saying. In fact, that's an exact quote from just one critical voice opposing the Council's intention to sweep planning corruption under the rug, the Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition. Their press release calls for something we needed years ago: an independent investigation of the current and past Planning Boards, and of the Planning Department itself. It cites a number of ways planning in Montgomery County has impacted African-American residents over decades, including its chief policy concern, the ongoing desecration of Moses African Cemetery by real estate interests since the 1960s, and the Planning Department's documented attempts to cover it up during the Westbard sector plan process.

BACC's response is an interesting place to start discussing the planning scandal, because so many of the controversies at the department have been racial in nature. Farm Road. The white Planning Board chair repeatedly calling in as many as eight police officers on protesters from a black church at multiple meetings, even after the phenomenon of whites calling the police on blacks had become a national discussion. 

What little we know about the latest controversies only adds to the impetus for further investigation. Who were all the individuals drinking with Chair Casey Anderson in his office bar? Were unreported ex parte communications a part of these happy hours? How much input on Thrive 2050 was offered over cocktails?

Incredibly, The Washington Post - The Washington Post!! - could not confirm this week where just-resigned Board commissioner Partap Verma is currently employed. That is a critical point, as this must be disclosed by every commissioner when they apply, and in ongoing filings. This does not mean Verma is up to something nefarious, but that there is a breakdown of ethical and accountability protocols at the department. If current employment could be hidden by commissioners, they could be working for a developer with business before the Board, and the public would have no idea.

That matter was raised by the Post after Verma was allegedly accused of violating the Hatch Act, and doing so to assist active nominees for County political offices on the November ballot. This is another area to be fully investigated.

County Executive Marc Elrich released a statement Wednesday correctly saying that "[t]his cannot be the end of the conversation on the dysfunction and structural issues at Planning." He cited some of the past transgressions of the Board, including violations of the Open Meetings Act. A vote on Thrive 2050's passage should be delayed until racial, equity and community feedback matters have been fully addressed, Elrich added. He endorsed the Council's own equity consultant's argument that “compressed timeframes are the enemy of equity.”

While the Council will likely appoint new commissioners from the same political stew - if allowed to by the press and others in positions of power - Elrich called for a sea change in how the board is composed. "It is clear that new people and new voices are needed on the Planning Board," Elrich wrote. "Park and Planning has been run by a group of insiders for far too long. There needs to be a respectful balance of the views of developers and those of the community. I hope that the new Planning Board appointees reflect the demographics of this community and are committed to our residents, community input, and an efficient and transparent process."

Elrich's Republican opponent in November's election, Reardon Sullivan, released a statement citing Planning Board misbehavior, and the lack of accountability. "Our unchecked County government officials have been unaccountable for far too long," Sullivan said. "The shameful history of the Planning Board includes public infighting, questionable behavior, and multiple violations of the Open Meetings Act. Furthermore, their expedited actions to push through Thrive 2050, without proper review and input from the community, is characteristic of this body that was nominated and approved by the leadership in Montgomery County."

"Is there something you don’t want us to know?" tweeted EPIC of MoCo, an organization of residents who oppose Thrive 2050. "If you’ve lost confidence in the Board, we deserve to know why and why you have confidence with [Thrive 2050], created by a flawed process in a hostile environment?" 

Perhaps the most informative response to the scandal, for those seeking to determine whether the Council should be allowed to consider the planning debacle closed, is an article by local political commentator and blogger Adam Pagnucco, on his new Montgomery Perspective blog. It's a perspective residents should familiarize themselves with quickly. 

A former County Council staff member, Pagnucco is as close to an official voice as you can get for the most powerful faction of the Democratic Party in Montgomery County. If you want to capture the zeitgeist of the day within the County political machine, you turn to Pagnucco. If you're a fan of Marc Elrich, and part of the most-progressive wing of the Democratic party, you do not. 

What makes Pagnucco's piece so valuable is not his blow-by-blow recounting of the Planning Board fiasco. It's the list of grievances and fears within the Montgomery County political cartel that he candidly reveals. It's a list that only compounds the need for a full investigation.

The undercurrents within Pagnucco's report are gushing and undeserved praise for a County Council that waited to act until the situation became the latest regional embarrassment for the County, and a hint of relief that the resignations will negate the need for further investigation of the Planning Board and Department, and allow for quick Council approval of Thrive 2050 later this month.

From this insider viewpoint, we can conclude that, for the Council and their campaign contributors, nothing can stand in the way of approval of Thrive 2050. And that the Council feels their eviction of the Planning Board commissioners ends this chapter, without any investigation of past transgressions by the Board and Planning Department, much less the many accusations reported or hinted at during the last few weeks.

The reality is, the public knows very little about Thrive 2050, a plan that would allow existing single-family home neighborhoods to be bulldozed, for the construction of duplexes, triplexes and small apartment buildings. It would destroy the neighborhood character homeowners paid good money for, reduce green space and increase pollution and runoff amidst an environmental crisis, jam streets with more cars than there is space to park, and multiply school overcrowding by as much as 4 times. But it will greatly profit the developers who fund the campaigns of the County Council.

Yet the Council is now in the untenable position of having to approve a Thrive 2050 plan that was developed by five people they just declared they have no confidence in. If you have no confidence in the authors of a plan, how can you have confidence in the plan they wrote or edited every single word of?

Most intriguing of all, is Pagnucco's discussion of another fear within the Council and real estate development community that I've never heard discussed before. Namely, that Elrich was supposedly plotting to seize control over the Planning Board's functions, folding them into his office's portfolio. I have never heard Elrich express this desire publicly, but I actually hope he was planning (pun intended) to do this, and acts to do it soon.

As Pagnucco explains, Montgomery and Prince George's County are outliers in delegating this planning authority to ostensibly-independent authorities like the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission. Both counties just happen to have a long history of planning scandals, and ultra-cozy ties between real estate developers and elected officials. Much like our County government liquor monopoly, we should not be surprised that an unusual, self-serving, and corrupt method of governance is delivering such poor results for the taxpayer and public good.

Elrich should step up, and step in, now. Pagnucco writes that the Council's fear is exactly that, and that Elrich would use the current scandal to justify such intervention. Well, Elrich would indeed be justified, and has the moral high ground. Whatever criticism there is of his policies, he is one of the most honest politicians in the County.

Regardless of whether Elrich acts in that direction, this can't be the end of the scandal. Certainly, The Washington Post and local television stations need to keep the heat on the Council, to explain why they think the resignations are the end to a decades-long and very sordid story. But an FBI investigation is long overdue, as well.

One has to wonder what friends in high places in federal law enforcement the County's political cartel has, that we've avoided an FBI investigation all these years. The Bureau usually steps in after just one scandal breaks, believing correctly that such matters may be the mere tip of the corruption iceberg in a local government. But through a non-profit's inability to account for $900,000 in taxpayer money, the embezzlement of more than $6 million from the County government by at least one employee, Farm Road, the Department of Liquor Control scandals, and the cover-ups in the Westbard sector plan process, Burt Macklin and his colleagues have yet to show up on the doorsteps of County facilities. If only we had such friends in the Pentagon, maybe we wouldn't have been so royally steamrolled by BRAC in Bethesda.

Now isn't the time to sweep dirt under the rug. It's time to start turning rocks over. All of them.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Silver Spring Transit Center restrooms reopen

The public restrooms at the Paul Sarbanes Silver Spring Transit Center reopened yesterday. WMATA announced that they will be open Monday through Friday from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM, and on weekends from 7:00 AM to 4:00 PM. The restrooms had been closed for nearly two years.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Every member of the Montgomery County Planning Board has resigned

Montgomery County has no planning authority at this hour. A scandal that began with Montgomery County Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson has ended today with every commissioner, including Anderson, resigning. The County Council announced the resignations of Anderson, Partap Verma, Carol Rubin, Gerald Cichy, and Tina Patterson in a press release this afternoon.

Despite a series of scandals over the last decade, ranging from Farm Road to the Westbard sector plan, it was a full cocktail bar in Anderson's government office that ended up taking out the board. The County Council initially gave a light slap-on-the-wrist "reprimand" to Anderson and Commissioners Partap Verma and Carol Rubin, for their roles in BarGate. Planning Director Gwen Wright was then fired by the Board, after defending Anderson in press interviews. 

New rumors and leaks about additional bad behavior by commissioners, and an embarrassing article in The Washington Post this week, led the Council to belatedly reconsider its bizarrely-weak initial response. It then announced the resignations today. 

Anderson and the Board should have been removed years ago, over the issues I mentioned above, and for consistently operating under the thumb of developers. All commissioners serve at the pleasure of the Council. But the Council only acted today, after the County had been humiliated for several weeks by the clownish behavior of the commissioners. Only after the situation had become completely untenable, did the Council take action.

 “The Council has lost confidence in the Montgomery County Planning Board and accepted these resignations to reset operations," Council President Gabe Albornoz (D - At-Large) said in a statement. "We are acting with deliberate speed to appoint new commissioners to move Montgomery County forward. We thank the commissioners for their service to our County.”

The Council plans to appoint temporary commissioners by October 25. Montgomery County residents who are interested in filling these temporary acting positions should apply to the Council by October 18 at 5:00 PM. One can only hope that some of those impacted by the scandal will be inspired to share with law enforcement what they know of the inner workings of planning and zoning in Montgomery County.

Armed robbery in downtown Silver Spring

Montgomery County police responded to a report of an armed robbery in downtown Silver Spring early Sunday morning, October 9, 2022. The robbery was reported in a residential parking lot in the 8500 block of 16th Street at 12:59 AM. That is in the area of the Summit Hills apartment complex.

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Aspen Hill Kohl's to undergo remodeling as chain declares it will no longer be a department store

A corporate announcement earlier this year by department store chain Kohl's will become concrete reality by the first half of 2023 at its Aspen Hill location, at 3901 Aspen Hill Road. Kohl's declared last spring that it would soon cease to be a department store, a shocking announcement. Instead, the chain would convert its stores into "focused lifestyle concepts." The company now plans to begin those renovations at the Aspen Hill store in the coming months.

The makeover will expand the Sephora product area inside the store. It will also increase the amount of space dedicated to athleisure, and try to pump new energy into women's merchandise floor space. Self-checkout and self-return areas will be expanded, as well. Cosmetically, new ceilings, lighting, flooring, and some minor exterior paint and signage updates will round out the project.

Monday, October 10, 2022

Potomac Trading to close in Kensington

Potomac Trading
is closing in Kensington. The model train, antiques and military collectibles store is now holding a Going-Out-of-Business sale. This is one of the few closings we can't necessarily blame on the moribund Montgomery County economy. According to a resident, the owner of the store passed away earlier this year. Wasn't this building once home to a Ski Haus, or similarly-named ski shop, in the 1980s?

Saturday, October 8, 2022

Dunkin' Donuts new Cloverly location to hold Grand Opening event today

The new Dunkin' Donuts store at 15509 New Hampshire Avenue in Cloverly is holding a Grand Opening event this morning. At 10:00 AM, the first 100 guests in line will receive free coffee for a year. From 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM, you can take a selfie with Dunkin' mascot Sprinkles, or take a chance at winning with the Dunkin' Prize Wheel. Jesse Luis of the local franchisee Luis Group will host a ribbon cutting alongside members of the community at 11:00 AM this morning.

If you haven't been to one of the new Dunkin' next-generation stores in Montgomery County, today is your chance at the Cloverly location. The 2,200 square-foot store will be open Monday through Saturday from 4:30 AM to 9:00 PM, and on Sundays from 5:00 AM to 9:00 PM. It features Dunkin’s new restaurant design, including modern finishes, lighting and interior layout; the brand's new Premium Pours coffee tap system; a dedicated mobile pickup area, and environmental features that make it about 33% more energy-efficient than the standard Dunkin' restaurant model.

Best of all, there is a drive-thru! Indoor customers will enjoy free WiFi.

Friday, October 7, 2022

Smoke Out BBQ Festival this Saturday at Strosniders Hardware in Kensington

The annual Smoke Out BBQ Festival at Strosniders Hardware in Kensington is this Saturday, October 8, 2022 from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Attendees will enjoy live barbecue demonstrations - and free samples of the results, raffles and giveaways. The festival is also known for being the best time of the year to buy a grill at Strosniders.

Deals on grills will be the best of the year at Strosniders during this Saturday's event. And every qualifying grill purchase will earn you a free goodie bag. The Smoke Out is being held at all three Strosniders locations this Saturday - Bethesda in the Bradley Shopping Center at 6930 Arlington Road, Potomac at 10110 River Road, and Kensington at 10504 Connecticut Avenue.

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Ski-masked man attempts to abduct girl in Wheaton

Montgomery County police are investigating the attempted abduction of a child in Wheaton on Monday. Sometime between 4:15 and 4:30 PM on October 3, 2022, a girl was walking in the 2000 block of Georgian Woods Place. A black, 4-door sedan with tinted windows pulled up behind her. The driver, wearing a black ski mask, got out and instructed the girl in Spanish to get into his car.

When the driver grabbed the girl's arm, she was able to pull it free and ran. As she did, she noticed a second male suspect inside the car.

The driver is described by police as a Latino male, about 5'8" in height with a thin build. In addition to his ski mask, he was wearing black clothing and black gloves. The second male suspect was also wearing black, but did not emerge from the car at any point, the girl told police.

Detectives are asking for the public’s assistance in identifying the suspects or the vehicle involved.  Anyone with information on this incident is asked to contact the Special Victims Investigations Division at 240-773-5400. Callers can remain anonymous.   

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Westfield Wheaton mall to host Hispanic Heritage Month celebration October 8

Westfield's Wheaton Plaza mall will host a celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month this Saturday, October 8, 2022, from 1:00 - 5:00 PM in the Macy's Court on Level 1. Special guests will include video personality Tia Maria, influencer Stefani Gamboa, TV and radio personality Chele Gonzalez, and radio host Cesar "El Tra" Garcia. Attendees of all ages will enjoy live music, dance performances, activities, "surprises," and more.

Performers will include Capital 51, Jenny Osoria of Jenny O. Fitness, FSC Diablada Boliviana, and DJ Flako 502. Community non-profit Nueva Vida will have representatives and resources for Latinos impacted by cancer.

“At Westfield Wheaton, we take pride in celebrating the diverse and rich culture of our community,” Westfield Wheaton Senior General Manager Stuart Amos said in a statement. “We know this year’s event will be a joyous celebration of a vibrant culture. We have planned a day full of music, dance and creativity to honor a community that we deeply value and service with pride here at our center.” 

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Montgomery County Council "reprimands" Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson, 2 commissioners in alcohol controversy

The Montgomery County Council met in closed session yesterday, to discuss recent revelations in a Maryland-National Capital Park And Planning Commission's Office of the Inspector General report that Montgomery County Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson had kept a full bar in his government office. A whistleblower told the OIG that Anderson had pressured others to drink in his office after working hours, a charge Anderson strongly denied. The OIG investigation determined that some commissioners on the Planning Board had also consumed alcohol on the premises. This morning, the Council announced it would be taking a light touch in addressing the alleged behavior, which occurred in a department that has terminated rank-and-file employees in the past for alcohol policy offenses.

A Council press release states that it has chosen to reprimand Anderson, and Planning Board commissioners Carol Rubin and Partap Verma. The Council statement vaguely refers to the OIG report, but does not explicitly mention alcohol, or what the officials are being specifically penalized for. Anderson has previously issued an apology for his actions, stating that he has disposed of the alcohol in his office, and that he only drank after business hours.

This morning's press release states that "the Council has issued reprimands that will result in Chair Anderson losing four weeks of his salary and Vice Chair Verma and Commissioner Rubin each losing one day of their respective salaries. The three commissioners also must attend Employee Assistance Program counseling which is consistent with the Commission’s protocol.”

The press release goes on to say that the “Council is extremely disappointed in the violations of Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) policy by Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson, as detailed in an advisory memorandum from M-NCPPC’s inspector general. The memorandum also found violations of Commission policy by Vice Chair Partap Verma and Planning Board Commissioner Carol Rubin."

Anderson is one of the most powerful public figures in the county, and serves at the pleasure of the Council. Extraordinary legislative steps were taken to allow Anderson to serve an unprecedented third term as chair, at a record salary for the position. Planning Board commissioners also are appointed by, and serve at the pleasure of, the County Council. 

The Council has stated that it will not say anything publicly about the case because it is a personnel matter. That assertion is patently false, because the individuals involved are political appointees holding public offices, not career employees. 

Monday, October 3, 2022

Royal Jewelers to open store at Wheaton Plaza

Royal Jewelers
will open a new store at Westfield's Wheaton Plaza mall. "Coming soon" signage has been posted at its future space, in direct sight of a competing Kay Jewelers store. But Royal Jewelers' niche is a bit different, targeting the hip-hop market of upcoming rappers and their fans. The Annapolis-based firm specializes in "Tennis Chains, Hip-Hop Luxury Watches, Grillz, Micro pave rings," and custom-designed pieces.