Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Montgomery County loses another corporate HQ to Virginia

There goes another one. Amentum Services, a leading government contractor in the fields of engineering, project management and advanced solutions integration, is moving from Germantown to Chantilly in Fairfax County, Virginia. The latest corporate decision to choose Virginia over Montgomery County will bring 157 new jobs to Fairfax County - good jobs with high pay. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) announced the move in a press release Monday.

According to Youngkin's statement, Virginia competed directly with Maryland to woo Amentum, which has 44,000 employees working in 85 countries around the world. “Fairfax County offers the location, access to decision-makers, and talent pipeline that global providers like Amentum are seeking, and we are proud to welcome the company’s leadership and operations team to Virginia,” Youngkin said. “Amentum joins the ranks of the Commonwealth’s diversified ecosystem of more than 800 corporate headquarters across a broad cross-section of industries.”

“I want to thank and congratulate Amentum for choosing Fairfax County for its home base,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey C. McKay said in statement. “Our long-term investment into making Fairfax County the top choice to locate a global business continues to bear fruit, and I am thrilled that Amentum has chosen to take advantage of what we offer.” 

Amentum is the latest corporation to abandon moribund Montgomery County for Virginia, or choose Virginia over Maryland in a relocation search. It joins Amazon, Northrop Grumman, Volkswagen, Lidl, Hilton Hotels, Intelsat, Corporate Executive Board, Nestle, Lego, and Gerber, to name a few. 

Montgomery County and Maryland have had difficulty even gobbling up the crumbs under Virginia's dinner table. When Youngkin made the surprising decision to reject a Ford Motor Company battery plant recently, Maryland wasn't even a serious contender to grab the jump ball. That fumble apparently happened on the watch of former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and the 2018-2022 Montgomery County Council, as Michigan was quickly named as Ford's backup choice. 

Water leaking into garage at new Montgomery County government office building in Wheaton

A reader reported earlier this month that the bottom level of the public parking garage at the new Montgomery County government office building at 2425 Reedie Drive in Wheaton was closed, and that standing water was being pumped out. I inquired with the County Department of Transportation Parking Division, which operates the County-owned garage, and I now have some information from the Chief of Management Service, Jeremy Souders. 

"The County continues to work with the Building Developer, General Contractor, Engineers and [the County Department of Permitting Services] to resolve moisture in the lower level of Garage 13," Souders said. He added that intrusion of moisture or water into underground parking garages is a common occurance. In the case of Garage 13, he said that contractors "are currently injecting silicon into a few moist areas, cleaning, and repainting." Souders said he expects that a majority of the spaces on the G4 parking level will be open to the public again within the next month.

Monday, February 27, 2023

Veterinary clinic to open at Wheaton Plaza

The latest out-of-left-field tenant to take a swing at the vacant Sears Outlet building at Westfield's Wheaton Plaza mall will be a veterinary practice. "Future home of your local veterinary specialists," reads a sign in the window of what most recently was American Freight. You'd never guess American Freight sold mattresses and furniture. In this case, the vet clinic is avoiding the name confusion issue by not giving a name at all. 

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Lovisa opening at Wheaton Plaza, Rico's Ice Cream now open (Photos)

is opening a store at Westfield's Wheaton Plaza mall. The Australian jewelry boutique chain recently leased a space at Westfield's other mall in the county, Montgomery Mall. They even used the same "coming soon" signage. When it opens, look for Lovisa on Level 1 near Macy's.

Meanwhile, Rico's Ice Cream has opened on Level 1, near AT&T and Elite Jewels. It takes over the former Nestle Toll House Cafe kiosk. Rico's specializes in colorful ice cream bars with add-ons drizzled or sprinkled on top. They also have beverages. Rico's has two existing locations in Hyattsville and Laurel, so this is Montgomery County's first bricks-and-mortar location of the local chain.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Piney Branch Pool closed "until further notice," police say

Piney Branch Pool
at 7510 Maple Avenue in Takoma Park is closed "until further notice," the Takoma Park Police Department announced yesterday. The boiler that heats the water in the pool has failed, and must be replaced. Further updates will be issued as the emergency repairs advance, but no timetable for reopening is known at this time. Although it is within the City of Takoma Park, the 25-yard indoor pool is operated by the Adventist Community Services of Greater Washington, in conjunction with the Montgomery County Department of Recreation.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Strong-arm carjacking in Burtonsville

Montgomery County police responded to a report of a strong-arm carjacking in Burtonsville early Tuesday morning, February 21, 2023. The carjacking was reported outside of a townhome in the 4300 block of Dunwood Terrace at 5:44 AM. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Public meeting scheduled for update on Montgomery College Takoma Park construction

Montgomery College has scheduled a virtual public meeting regarding construction progress at the Takoma Park Campus for Tuesday, March 7, 2023 at 6:00 PM. You can RSVP online now for the Zoom meeting. The meeting will provide the public with a progress report on the construction of the Catherine and Isiah Leggett Math and Science Building, and on the renovation of the Library. 

The project team reports that scaffolding is being attached the building to assist in installation of the brick facade. Workers are continuing to backfill utility piping on the Fenton Street side of the building. Installation of security fencing around the Library is scheduled to have been completed by this morning. Interior demolition at the Library will begin as soon as Montgomery County issues the requested permit.

Do you have questions about these two projects, or impacts of the work on the surrounding neighborhood? You can email them now to community@montgomerycollege.edu, and they will be answered during the March 7 virtual meeting.

Rendering courtesy SmithGroup

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Downtown Silver Spring Gulf station becomes Amoco (Photos)

Here's the latest fossil fuel news from downtown Silver Spring. The Gulf station that recently closed at 8600 Georgia Avenue is being converted to an Amoco station. Signage and pumps have been swapped out. It looks like there is still a little bit of paving work to be completed. So, who had the better vintage credit card designs? Gulf, hands down.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Maryland DNR to stage prescribed fire at Rachel Carson Conservation Park in Brookeville

Here's something you don't hear about that often in Montgomery County: The Maryland Department of Natural Resources, in conjunction with the Montgomery Parks department, is planning to stage a "prescribed fire" at Rachel Carson Conservation Park at 22201 Zion Road in Brookeville. It will take place on a day sometime between now and April 2023. The fire is being planned to assist in restoration of a meadow in the park, and to maintain biological diversity.

Weather and other factors will play into the final selection of a calendar date, which will be announced prior to the fire. Montgomery Parks says to expect to see visible smoke rising from the park, and that the controlled burn will last about three hours. "The prescribed fire will be executed under strict requirements set forth in a Forest Service-approved prescribed burn plan,” Mike Riley, director of Montgomery Parks, said in a statement. “We will make sure the public is aware of the fire and take all necessary precautions to ensure the safety of park patrons, staff, wildlife and habitats.” 

This apparently isn't something that happens frequently in Montgomery County. The Rachel Carson fire is the only one currently listed on the Parks department's Prescribed Fire Program page.

Friday, February 17, 2023

Takoma Park street closure scheduled for February 22, 2023

A street closure has been scheduled for tree removal on February 22, 2023 in the 1100 block of Lancaster Road in Takoma Park. Titan Tree Care will be removing a dead tree from a residential property there. Traffic controls will be in place between 1103 and 1109 Lancaster. A crane will need to park in the street in that vicinity, to assist with the tree removal.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Tuesday Morning to close in Aspen Hill, Rockville

Tuesday Morning
will close its stores at Congressional Plaza in Rockville, and at Northgate Plaza in Aspen Hill, the company announced. A closing sale is underway, that includes all merchandise, the company said in an announcement. The Dallas-based home goods retailer said it is closing more than half of its stores, but the closures will have to be approved by a bankruptcy court, Business Insider reports. Tuesday Morning filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Texas on...Tuesday morning.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Stick shift foils would-be carjacker at Safeway in downtown Silver Spring

Montgomery County police responded to a report of an armed carjacking outside the Safeway store at 909 Thayer Avenue in downtown Silver Spring on Monday, February 13, 2023. The would-be carjacker was foiled by an old invention, the manual transmission. Unable to drive the stick shift vehicle, the suspect fled the scene on foot. 

Police describe the suspect as an African-American male, approximately 20-years-old, 5-feet, 6-inches to 5-feet, 8-inches in height, and weighing about 130 pounds. He was wearing a dark jacket, dark pants and a black mask. No surveillance camera footage has been released by detectives as of this writing.

Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to 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.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

3 shot outside Montgomery County government building in Wheaton

Montgomery County police responded to a report of a shooting in front of the Montgomery County Government office building at 2425 Reedie Drive in Wheaton early Sunday morning, February 12, 2023. Officers arrived on the scene around 3:27 AM Sunday, and found an adult male suffering from a gunshot wound. The officers performed life-saving measures on the victim until an ambulance arrived to transport him to a local hospital, where is he now recovering from non-life-threatening injuries.

Two other adult males also suffering from gunshot wounds found their own way to an unspecified hospital. Detectives learned that they, too, were victims of the same shooting outside the government building. Police have not released any descriptions of the suspects. The recently-built 2425 Reedie Drive building is home to several Montgomery County Government departments, including Montgomery Parks, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission and Montgomery County Planning Board, the Montgomery County Recreation Department, and the Department of Permitting Services.

Detectives are urging anyone with information regarding this shooting or the suspect(s) involved to call 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(s). Callers may remain anonymous. 

Monday, February 13, 2023

Assault at restaurant in Takoma Park

Takoma Park police responded to a report of a 2nd-degree assault at a restaurant early yesterday morning, February 12, 2023. Officers arrived at La Playita El Majahual, a popular Peruvian restaurant at 8638 Flower Avenue, at 2:42 AM Sunday. The adult male victim told them that he had been assaulted by four adult males, who then fled the restaurant in a burgundy pickup truck, which police say may have been a Dodge Ram 2500 model. Montgomery County Fire and Rescue were called by officers, and the victim was transported to a local hospital with unspecified injuries.

Anyone with any information about this assault is asked to contact the Takoma Park Police Department at 301-270-1100. Refer to case number #230007084.

Friday, February 10, 2023

Strong-arm carjacking in Takoma Park

Takoma Park police responded to a report of a strong-arm carjacking last night, February 9, 2023, at the intersection of Westmoreland and Carroll Avenues around 7:32 PM. The adult male victim was working in his parked 2016 maroon Honda CRV, PA Tag #LZB2505, on Westmoreland. Three masked suspects approached from Carroll Avenue, and proceeded to yank open his driver's side door. They ordered the victim to step out of the vehicle, and he complied. The suspects then got into the CRV, and sped away, making a right turn onto Carroll.

The victim's work tools were in the CRV. Officers later found some items the suspects apparently threw out of the vehicle in the 400 block of Elm Avenue. Police describe the suspects as two African-American males and one Asian male, all approximately 5'10-6'2, all wearing all dark clothing and all wearing black masks.

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call police at 301-270-1100, and refer to case #230006712.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Car crashes into house in Aspen Hill

It was a wild night in a part of Aspen Hill near the InterCounty Connector. A vehicle left the roadway in the 1400 block of Woodwell Road, climbed a steep front yard, crashed right into the front door of a home, and burst into flames just after 1:00 AM this morning. The driver was extricated by firefighters, and transported to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, according to Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service spokesperson Pete Piringer. Two occupants of the home managed to exit without injury. @MoCoPGNews captured some dramatic video of the scene on Twitter.

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Car stolen in Takoma Park

Takoma Park police are investigating the theft of a vehicle from outside of a home on Februrary 7, 2023 at 6:40 PM. The victim was delivering food at the home in the 7000 block of Carroll Avenue, a typical scenario many thieves have taken advantage of over the last few years.  

The stolen vehicle is described as a 2019 gray Honda Civic, with Virginia Tag # cTTU1834. Anyone with information about this crime is asked to call police at 301-270-1100, and refer to case number #230006278.

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Gold's Gym, Uniqlo to open at Downtown Silver Spring

Hardcore Gold's Gym members who miss working out at the Layhill Center will soon be able to take the Red Line or a long trip down Georgia Avenue to reestablish their old routines. The fitness chain will open a new location at the Peterson Cos.' Downtown Silver Spring development, the Washington Business Journal reported yesterday. Gold's will be on Fenton Street, next to Burger Fi. Also coming soon will be Japanese apparel retailer Uniqlo, which has an existing location at Pike & Rose.

Monday, February 6, 2023

Holy Chow restaurant in Kemp Mill urgently hiring mashgiachs

Holy Chow
, the popular kosher Chinese carry-out restaurant at 1331 Lamberton Drive in the Kemp Mill Center, has an urgent need for qualified mashgiachs. It's not a volunteer position, as they will pay up to $25 an hour for qualified applicants. Applicants must be at least 16, and preferably 17 or older. 

Kosher restaurants require a mashgiach to be on-duty at all times, to supervise the kashrut status of food being served. The restaurant says a shortage of mashgiachs at present is putting the restaurant in danger of having to close, if the gaps can't be filled. If several qualified people were to apply, duties could be split up into a few hours per person, if necessary. Interested applicants can contact Rabbi Walter at rabbimwalter@gmail.com.

Friday, February 3, 2023

Indecent exposure at Wheaton apartment building

Montgomery County police were summoned to an apartment building in Wheaton to investigate an indecent exposure incident that was reported there Tuesday afternoon, January 31, 2023. The incident was reported at an apartment building in the 2400 block of Blueridge Avenue at 3:16 PM. AVA Wheaton is on that block.

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Meditation Museum to celebrate Maha Shivaratri Feb. 11 in Silver Spring

The Meditation Museum at 9525 Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring will celebrate the Hindu festival of Maha Shivaratri on Saturday, February 11, 2023 from 3:00 to 4:30 PM. "Awakening Our Intimate Experience with God will showcase Indian dance, music, poetry, inspirational messages and guided meditation, providing a peaceful and educational environment for participants," the museum announced in a press release. "It will also feature special video messages by world renowned Bk Shivani and administrative head of the Brahma Kumaris, Sister Jayanti." The event will include a live, guided meditation by Sister Jenna, the founder and director of the museum.

"We are thrilled to bring Awakening Our Intimate Experience with God to the Meditation Museum in Silver Spring," Sister Jenna said in a statement. "This event is designed to relieve stress, reconnect the self to a Supreme Love, and reduce anxiety by enjoying an inspirational and relaxing evening. We believe that the thriving Silver Spring community will find Awakening Our Intimate Experience with God to be a truly enriching and unforgettable experience."

The event is free, but registration is required. Interested participants can register online. The Meditation Museum is located just south of the Capital Beltway interchange on Georgia Avenue, in the Montgomery Hills area of Silver Spring. It is also within walking distance of the Forest Glen Metro station.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Montgomery County Council natural gas ban already impacting real estate market

The recent floating of a ban on gas stoves by federal regulators caused an uproar nationwide, but the Montgomery County Council's 2022 actual ban on natural gas energy in future home and building construction is already making waves in the county's real estate market. In recent weeks, some for-sale signs in front of Montgomery County homes have added a new shingle underneath: "Natural Gas AVAILABLE." 

County homeowners fortunate to have a natural gas hookup, and the advantages and alternatives it provides, may now see a bump in their home values. Buyers dreaming of a true "chef's kitchen," showers that don't run cold just because the power is out, or a generator to keep everything on when electric power does go out, will have a static inventory of older properties to choose from.

Montgomery County's natural gas ban was an instructive moment in more ways than one. Of course, it reminds us all of how much the Council enjoys banning things. It's a cheap way to make news, look busy, and not have to spend much money in the process. All the costs fall on businesses and residents. 

Perhaps even more intriguing is the revelation of how County environmental policy often has less to do with actual impact on climate change (though those melting paper straws do add a unique new flavor to our beverages), and more to do with accomplishing hidden or corrupt goals, payoffs, power grabs and other short-term gains. Such is the epic tale of the rise and fall of natural gas in Montgomery County's "green" policy.

It wasn't that long ago that we were told natural gas was "clean energy." This just happened to coincide with fracking mania, which created whole boom towns in often-remote parts of America for a time. Brown drinking water and earthquakes? Merely minor side-effects of "clean energy."

Montgomery County's elected officials and local environmental advocates were all-in on natural gas at that time, as well.

Way back in 1996, Montgomery County purchased its first compressed natural gas Ride On buses. Montgomery County Council staff regularly have referred to these CNG buses as "clean bus technology."

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan touted the purchase of 19 more natural gas-powered Ride On buses in 2000, through a multi-agency agreement that included the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG). "Through this agreement, we're helping to reduce traffic congestion and prevent pollution," Duncan said at the time. "The support of The Clean Alternative program has made it easier for the County to purchase low emission vehicles that reduce air pollution while lowering our fuel and maintenance costs."

Maryland Transportation Secretary John Porcari said that the purchase of these natural gas Ride On buses would "improve air quality and enhance the quality of life" of residents. Then-MWCOG Executive Director Michael Rogers said CNG Ride On buses were an "emerging strategy for improving air quality."

Sue Edwards of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission wrote that the CNG Ride On buses used natural gas as a "clean burning fuel." CNG was "a mechanism to meet air quality objectives," she stated. 

The most interesting endorsement of natural gas-powered Ride On buses came from Elliott Negin of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "Montgomery County is showing the way for our region," Negin was quoted as saying in the press release announcing the natural gas bus purchase.

Two years later, Negin and the NRDC were even more enthused about natural gas. WMATA had announced the purchase of 250 new natural gas CNG buses for the Metrobus fleet.  "This is a great Earth Day present for the nation's capital, Maryland and Virginia," Negin said in a joint press release with the Sierra Club(!!). "Expanding Metro's natural gas program and retiring its polluting diesel buses is clearly the best choice for our public health and environment. It also is the best choice for strengthening U.S. energy security, since we get nearly all of our natural gas from North America, and more than half of the oil we consume is imported."

After reading that, you might wonder if Negin's article in Greater Greater Washington last month was written by an imposter. 

"WMATA’s fleet is currently made up of diesel and compressed natural gas (CNG) buses, which essentially run on methane, a potent global warming gas," Negin and co-authors Steve Banashek and Timothy Oberleiton wrote on December 7, 2022. "Diesel tailpipe emissions have been linked to cancer and heart disease, as well as premature death. CNG bus emissions have been linked to cardiovascular and neurological diseases." Well, so much for enhancing the quality of life!

"Emissions from both fuels cause smog, which exacerbates allergies and such lung conditions as emphysema, bronchitis and asthma, a major problem in the District," Negin, et al continued. "Both types of fuel also pose a threat to the climate. In the greater Washington region, cars, trucks, buses, and other mobile sources account for a whopping 40% of annual global warming pollution. [CNG buses] spew toxic pollution. Their lifecycle global warming emissions, meanwhile, are on average only 6.4 percent lower than that of a diesel bus and, in many circumstances, are nearly the same due to widespread methane leaks and relatively poor fuel economy."

What a difference 20 years makes! Yet all of the properties of natural gas were known to scientists 20 years ago, when Negin, Montgomery County officials and countless other once-ardent promoters of natural gas were demanding Americans switch to that "clean energy" alternative. What's going on here?

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commissioner Richard Trumka attempted to backpedal on his gas stove ban musings last month, after everyone from annoyed chefs to political opponents of the Biden administration ran wild with the issue. Days later, Trumka quietly doubled down on his personal opposition to gas stoves in the back pages of The Washington Post

Looking at Montgomery County environmental "policy" this century, we have to ask, what will his position be twenty years from now?