Friday, March 31, 2023

Takoma Park church broken into

Takoma Park police are investigating a break-in at the Takoma Park Seventh Day Adventist Church at 6951 Carroll Avenue. Detectives say that some time between 8:00 PM on March 28, 2023 and 12:00 PM on March 29, one or more suspects broke a basement window at the church. They entered through the window, and stole church property, which was not identified by police. 

Anyone with information about this crime is asked to please call police at 301-270-1100. Refer to case number 230015158. 

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Suspect arrested in Aspen Hill armed robbery

Montgomery County police have identified and arrested a suspect in the February 3, 2023 armed robbery in Aspen Hill. Hector Zelaya Reyes, 19, place of residence not given by police, has been charged with armed robbery, first-degree assault and use of a firearm in the commission of a violent felony. He is being held without bond at the Montgomery County Central Processing Unit.

Detectives allege that Zelaya Reyes summoned a ride-sharing vehicle in the 12900 block of Connecticut Avenue early that afternoon. They say he asked the driver to take him to an address in the 14100 block of Weeping Willow Drive. When they arrived around 1:10 PM, Zelaya Reyes allegedly pulled a handgun on the driver and demanded money. The driver complied, and Zelaya Reyes exited the vehicle with the cash.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Montgomery County Council unanimously "reaffirms" appointment of James Hedrick to Planning Board

Montgomery County Planning Board commissioner James Hedrick will remain a member of the body, after his February appointment was unanimously "reaffirmed" by the County Council yesterday. County Executive Marc Elrich had vetoed Hedrick's appointment last Friday, leaving the Rockville resident's fate in limbo for several days, as supporters and detractors resumed their debate over his candidacy over the weekend. Hedrick had received eight votes from the eleven-member Council on February 28 to secure his appointment, and needed nine yesterday to survive Elrich's veto.

Hedrick found nine, and then some, when every councilmember supported his appointment at yesterday's Council session. Some councilmembers who showed unusual spine in opposing Council President Evan Glass's behind-the-scenes maneuvering when the new Council first convened last December found their knees buckling on Tuesday. A tweet prior to the meeting inadvertently revealed that the Council had already reached a decison to unanimously support Hedrick, an agreement that was come to off-the-record, out of public view. Some of the same councilmembers who took Glass to task for making decisions off-line in December about committee assignments went along with his ex parte process this time.

It's likely the Council circled the wagons in this case because Glass could have sold the Hedrick Holdouts the argument that this was a vote on principle, of the power and will of the Council versus the executive. Does this mean the more independent minds on the Council will now support the Glass agenda for the rest of his term as president? No, as the competing bills on rent stabilization clearly show.

Is the Hedrick appointment reason for opponents of Thrive 2050 and its threat to end single-family-home zoning to get their blood pressure up? No. As I noted Saturday, Hedrick's support of Thrive and upzoning are hardly unique on the new Planning Board. The Council will not appoint anyone who opposes Thrive. Hedrick's votes will likely be indistinguishable from any other commissioner this Council would have appointed in his place.

If anything, Hedrick's appointment may improve the quality of the Board's work. Even if you disagree with the plans and policies he might vote to approve, his experience as chair of Rockville Housing Enterprises gives him an expertise on some of the technical and practical issues of multifamily housing that has been lacking in some of the commissioners in recent years. Board observers won't soon forget the many classic "amateur hour" moments from the Casey Anderson era, such as commissioners determining the maximum height for a parcel in the Westbard sector by looking at a distorted Google Street View image during a meeting.

One thing is for certain: the Hedrick controversy aside, the developer campaign contributors to the County Council are over-the-moon about the Planning Board situation as a whole. By all rights, the many scandals that ended with the forced resignation of the entire Board last year should have triggered comprehensive investigations by the local media, the Council, the Maryland Attorney General, and the FBI - starting with Farm Road and ending with Liquorgate. Some people might have even been looking at time behind bars in federal prison. Few could have imagined that the Council would be able to not only entirely sidestep investigations, but also seize the unprecedented power to appoint an entirely new Board and Chair all at once. 

We can wonder why the media and those other levels of law enforcement agreed to look the other way, much as they did during the 2018 County government $6 million embezzlement scandal. But we can truly know why the Council found the chutzpah to sweep the Anderson-era scandals under the filthy Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission rug. 

Once again, it goes back to one of the most pivotal moments in Montgomery County political history: the victory of the County political cartel over the Columbia Country Club in the Purple Line struggle. The elected officials dared to grab the third rail (pun intended), and when the next election came around, they realized that they weren't electrocuted - they were reelected! Turns out, especially when you have the local media in your back pocket, the third rail is a brass ring. If we can beat the Columbia Country Club, they concluded, we can beat anybody.

Energized to try their luck, the 2014-2018 Council approved a massive property tax hike, and the Westbard sector plan. They even aggressively defended the cover-up around, and ongoing desecration of, the Moses African Cemetery in Bethesda. While they ended up getting term limits, albeit with extremely-generous 12-year terms, when the actual elections came around in 2018...the voters - whose posteriors were still smarting from a tax and Westbard spanking they had just received two years prior - voted for the same or similar candidates who had delivered the beatdown to them.

The Council couldn't believe its good fortune. Realizing it now enjoyed serious Trump-shooting-somebody-on-Fifth-Avenue immunity, it could now go for broke. "Smart growth" around transit stations and the 2014 pledge that "we just want the shopping centers, we won't touch the neighborhoods" suddenly gave way to developer fever dreams like Thrive 2050. Serious players like Kenwood and the Citizens Coordinating Committee on Friendship Heights who had to be bargained with in the past could now be ignored, resulting in decisions like the Little Falls Parkway road diet scandal, and the Westbard-area road closure fiasco.

Of course, the Anderson-era Planning Board was the harbinger of this iron-fist, winner-take-all era we've now entered. Gone are the days when well-argued testimony from a resident could lead a commissioner like Francoise Carrier, Amy Presley or Norman Dreyfuss to change their mind on an issue. When you come to a Planning Board session in recent years, you know how the vote is going to go, with extremely rare exceptions. Your only role as a resident or civic association officer is to at least get the opposing view on the record for posterity.

One can hope independent minds will somehow emerge on the new Planning Board. But the Council demonstrated such closed minds in its interview process, that it's hard to believe this new Board won't redefine the term "lockstep" with frequent unanimous votes. 

Consider that among the applicants for the interim board was former Rockville Mayor Larry Giammo. By every measure, Giammo was - if anything - overqualified to serve as a Planning Board commissioner. As mayor, Giammo successfully delivered the $400 million revitalization of Rockville Town Center. He also had served as a commissioner on the Rockville Planning Commission prior to that. And after leaving office, he has been a leading voice for the interests of City residents on growth, development and school overcrowding issues. In short, someone familiar with the nuts-and-bolts of development and its impact on public facilities and infrastructure, but with a record of representing the best interests of the community. That is the essence of what you would want in a Planning Board commissioner, right?

The Council didn't even include Giammo on its finalist interview list. 

That tells you everything you need to know about the credibility of the County Council in this process.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich leading economic development mission to Taiwan

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich has accepted an invitation from the Taipei Computer Association to speak at its 2023 Smart Cities Summit and Expo in Taiwan this week. He won't be alone on the trip, as he is leading a delegation to the event. Elrich's guests will be County Councilmember Natali Fani-Gonzales, chair of the Council’s Economic Development Committee; Kevin Beverly, board chair of the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation (MCEDC); Gail Roper, Montgomery County’s chief information officer; and Judy Costello, Montgomery County's special projects manager for Business, Innovation and Economic Development.

Representatives of five businesses that specialize in what a County press release calls "Smart Cities-related technologies" will also travel with the delegation. The companies are DFSFederal, Lumo Imaging (located in Potomac), Machfu (Rockville), Person Clinic (Rockville), and TSS, LLC. Not mentioned in the press release is whether their travel costs are being paid for by the County, or the businesses themselves.

The event will culminate this Friday, when Elrich will meet with Chiang Wan-an, the mayor of Taipei. Elrich will be one of only four members of the 1,300 expo participants who will participate in the mayor’s conference-ending press conference.

“I’m looking forward to meeting with Taiwanese business and academic leaders to learn more about their activities and to speak with them about why Montgomery County is a top location for them to enter or expand their presence in the United States," Elrich said in a statement.  “Getting Montgomery County’s economy moving and working for everyone is my top priority as the Chair of Council Economic Development Committee,” Councilmember Fani-González said in the joint statement with Elrich. “That is why I am thrilled to join the County Executive and County business leaders on this delegation to Taiwan to bring investment and jobs to the County. We will aggressively court businesses and academic and research institutions to choose Montgomery County for their next location.”

Monday, March 27, 2023

Jiffy Lube burglarized in Takoma Park

Takoma Park police responded to a burglar alarm at Jiffy Lube at 6510 New Hampshire Avenue early Saturday morning, March 25, 2023, at 2:20 AM. When officers arrived at the scene, they found the door to the business open, but no sign of anyone inside. Reviewing surveillance camera footage from the time of the burglar alarm being triggered, officers saw a white woman inside the auto repair shop.

The female suspect was wearing a green ski mask, a black with white stripe Puma hooded sweater, gray pajama pants with white characters, black socks, and black/white Nike sandals. She was carrying a white purse, and had a lion tattoo on her left hand.

Officers and the business have not yet identified anything that was actually stolen. The suspect fled via the front door and remains at large. No photos or video have been released of the suspect.

Anyone with information about this crime is asked to please call police at 301-270-1100. Refer to case number 230014395.

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Marc Elrich explains veto of Montgomery County Planning Board member

Most residents became aware of Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich's veto of the appointment of Rockville resident James Hedrick to the County Planning Board not through a formal announcement by Elrich's office, but through the reaction of Hedrick's supporters after the County Council was informed of the executive decision. The first press release would come from Council President Evan Glass, who was displeased by Elrich's rejection of the Council's choice of Hedrick. It's unclear if Elrich did not anticipate that Glass would go public with the issue over the weekend, as the executive did not lay out his thinking in the public realm on Friday. But whatever the reason, Elrich did respond Saturday by posting his Friday letter to Glass online.

"I met with Mr. Hedrick for almost two hours on Friday, March 10," Elrich wrote, "and have reviewed his participation in land use issues in Montgomery County, his comments on social media, and other work. After this review, I have decided to disapprove his appointment to the Planning Board." Elrich noted that the recent replacement of the entire Planning Board due to a series of scandals, none of which have been investigated by the County Council or Maryland attorney general to date, made restoration of confidence and public participation in land use decisions essential to establishing a functional board.

"In the nuanced work of planning, there is a need to recognize the opinions and lived experiences of others and to come to the table ready to work together," Elrich wrote. "During my interview with Mr. Hedrick, he made it clear that he has no interest in doing this difficult work. Instead, his comments to me, as well as on social media, demonstrate an ideological close-mindedness as well as a disdain for those whose views do not comport with his."

"Mr. Hedrick’s view is that we need greater housing densities everywhere, that he has 'heard the same arguments' from those who oppose his view, and that he 'doesn’t have a lot of patience with those people,'" Elrich continued. "He seemed unaware that over the past 16 years, master plans have been used to substantially increase housing densities. He also seemed unaware of the fact that the forecasts for population growth in the county are based on the densities adopted in these master plans. This demonstrates a basic lack of understanding of the county’s master plan process, one of the most important elements of the Planning Board’s responsibilities and one that requires balancing sometimes competing policies – what rezoning is needed to encourage buildout; what steps must be taken to promote racial equity and social justice issues such as displacement and gentrification; what consideration must be given to the environmental consequences of increased land coverage."

Elrich has long pointed out that Montgomery County has already approved sufficient new housing units to meet the forecasted need by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments by 2030. He has also sought to highlight a number of projects that would either preserve or create new affordable housing that his office has orchestrated since 2022. And many note that developers haven't even begun to fully build out all of the available "smart growth" areas near Metro stations in downtown Bethesda and Silver Spring alone - nor the numerous "dumb growth"areas not within walking distance from Metro that the Council has deemed "activity centers," such as Westbard. In this context, Elrich and other slow growth advocates are perplexed as to why developers are now seeking to rezone existing single-family-home neighborhoods for multifamily housing, before even cashing in on the many land-use victories they've already won since 2002.

The controversial Thrive 2050 plan approved by the Council and previous, scandal-ridden Planning Board will provide only more luxury housing at market rates, despite claims that the plan was designed to increase housing opportunities for those who can't currently afford to live in the county. Even the Council's own consultants warned councilmembers that they had failed to adequately solicit and obtain feedback from people of color on racial and equity issues surrounding Thrive 2050. While proponents said Thrive 2050 would increase options, it in fact reduces options, by eliminating the single-family-home neighborhoods that are the main draw for homebuyers who choose the suburbs. Home prices in the few cities that have eliminated single-family-home zoning have not fallen as proponents have promised, but only continued to increase. The ultimate winners have been developers, not homebuyers or the poor.

However, Hedrick was not the only Council appointee to support Thrive 2050. Elrich wound down his letter to Glass by emphasizing the need to reduce the "toxic atmosphere" of the previous Planning Board, arguing that the appointment of Hedrick would not contribute to that effort. The boards of the last decade have been seen by many residents as only responding to the desires of developers and their paid lobbyists, very few of whom have registered as such with the state. Resident concerns were typically ignored, or even belittled, by planning commissioners. 

"The appointment of a new Planning Board is an opportunity for a fresh start, removed from the toxic atmosphere that permeated the defunct Planning Board at all levels, including social media," Elrich wrote. "Unfortunately, Mr. Hedrick perpetuates, rather than alleviates, that atmosphere. He has made insulting and dismissive statements about those with opposing viewpoints. When asked about this, he disappointingly expressed no regrets."

"Such rigid views are anathema to restoring the reputation of the Planning Board and the public’s confidence in its decisions. Land use planning in Montgomery County is at an inflection point that will determine how we move forward in addressing housing and community building mindful of the important role land use decisions play in ameliorating the increasingly apparent effects of climate-driven storm events on our homes, businesses, and transportation systems. We need Planning Board members with good judgment who are open-minded, constructive, and, above all, interested in hearing from all sides in a fair and transparent process before they have reached a decision. Mr. Hedrick does not meet those standards."

Elrich concluded his letter with an almost-Trumpian touch of all-caps, declaring "the appointment of James Hedrick to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission is DISAPPROVED." It was not immediately clear if the meeting between Elrich and Hedrick was recorded in any fashion, so that Elrich's characterizations of Hedrick's responses could be verified. Elrich's sizeable constituent base among homeowners countywide appeared to be satisfied by the decision, based on social media reaction. The move by Elrich was exactly the sort of action his voters put him in office to take, and puts the Hedrick holdouts from the February 28th Council approval vote on the spot this coming Tuesday, when Glass promised the Council would discuss Elrich's veto.

Robbery at knifepoint in Aspen Hill

Montgomery County police responded to a report of an armed robbery in Aspen Hill yesterday morning, March 25, 2023. The robbery was reported in a parking lot in the 14200 block of Weeping Willow Drive, off of Bel Pre Road, at 9:30 AM Saturday. A knife was the weapon employed in the robbery. 

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Montgomery County Executive vetoes County Council appointment of James Hedrick to Planning Board

James Hedrick

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich (D) has vetoed the appointment of Rockville resident James Hedrick to the County Planning Board. Elrich has not made the reasons for his disapproval of Hedrick public yet. The only public statement regarding the matter came in response to Elrich's move, a press release from County Council President Evan Glass (D).

“I am disappointed that County Executive Elrich disapproved James Hedrick’s appointment to the Montgomery County Planning Board," Glass wrote in his statement. "Mr. Hedrick received affirmative votes from a supermajority of councilmembers to become a Planning Board member on Feb. 28."

While Hedrick received a supermajority of eight votes from the eleven member Council that day, he will need at least one more if the Council is to override Elrich's veto and be appointed to the Board. Glass wrote that the Council will "discuss" the veto at its next meeting this coming Tuesday, March 28, 2023. 

Hedrick was a candidate for the Rockville City Council in 2019. He currently serves as the chair of Rockville Housing Enterprises (his term expires June 1), and as the vice-president of Action Committee for Transit.

Friday, March 24, 2023

AT&T to open new store in Aspen Hill

will open a new wireless store at the Aspen Hill Shopping Center. Competitor T-Mobile already has a store there. This will fill in a gap in AT&T's bricks-and-mortar network in Aspen Hill. They have two stores down in Wheaton, but the drive or walk will now be shorter for their Aspen Hill customers when the new store opens this summer.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Tastee Diner closes in Silver Spring

Tastee Diner abruptly closed forever yesterday at 8601 Cameron Street in downtown Silver Spring. It had been open since 1935. According to a press release from developer Roadside Development, the firm has acquired the diner site and an adjacent property. 

Roadside claims it will somehow incorporate the diner car into the future development it is planning. But the firm has little choice in that matter. As a historic structure, the diner car cannot be demolished. It can, however, be moved. It was moved once before, and Montgomery County allowed Community Paint & Hardware - believed to be the only remaining 19th-century commercial building in downtown Bethesda - to be moved to a County-owned parking lot in August of 2017.

Tastee Diner's Bethesda and Laurel locations remain open for business.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Update on Red Ribbon Bake Shop in Wheaton (Photos)

Construction is underway at the future site of Red Ribbon Bake Shop at 2501 University Boulevard West, in the Georgia Crossing shopping center. Permanent signage has been installed on the storefront. The bakery will be the second major Filipino business brand to choose Wheaton in recent years. Jollibee was the first at Westfield's Wheaton Plaza mall.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Car stolen in Glenmont

Montgomery County police are investigating the theft of a vehicle from an apartment complex in Glenmont. The vehicle was reported stolen from a parking lot in the 2300 block of Glenmont Circle at 7:41 AM on March 19, 2023. That is the Glenmont Forest apartments off of Georgia Avenue.

Monday, March 20, 2023

Grace Methodist Church burglarized in Takoma Park

Takoma Park police detectives are investigating a brazen burglary at Grace Methodist Church at 7001 New Hampshire Avenue yesterday morning, March 19, 2023. Officers responded to the church at 10:53 AM Sunday. "Unknown suspects" had stolen unspecified property from the church, police determined. 

Anyone with information about this crime is asked to please call Takoma Park police at 301-270-1100. Refer to case number 230013308 when you call.

Saturday, March 18, 2023

Moe's Southwest Grill closes in Wheaton (Photos)

Moe's Southwest Grill
has closed at Westfield's Wheaton Plaza mall. Their space in the food court has been walled off. Moe's opened here in December 2019, and I'm surprised it has only lasted a little over three years. There's been a lack of Moe's in Montgomery County, but fortunately they still have a great Montgomery Village Center location

Friday, March 17, 2023

Woman slashed by knife-wielding attacker in Takoma Park sexual assault

A woman was sexually-assaulted and wounded by a knife-wielding attacker in Takoma Park at 3:00 PM on Wednesday, March 15, 2023. Takoma Park police officers responded to the scene in the 7700 block of Maple Avenue and found a female victim with lacerations to her leg. She told officers that she met up with a man she had met through a dating app, and that he had sexually assaulted her.

The victim was transported to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, police said. Detectives were able to identify the male suspect, and a warrant has been issued for his arrest. Anyone with information about this incident, or who believes they were victimized by the same suspect, can contact the Takoma Park Police Criminal Investigations Division at 301-270-1100. 

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Montgomery County property tax hike proposed in County Executive's $6.8 billion FY-2024 budget

Montgomery County elected officials have raised property taxes on homeowners every year since 2010, except for FY-2015, when a 2014 election-year tax cut delivered a whopping average $12 savings to tax-whipped residents (gee, thanks!). It looks like they are going to do it again for FY-2024, as County Executive Marc Elrich (D) released his proposed budget yesterday, and he suggested the largest property tax hike since FY-2017. The extra payday would go exclusively to Montgomery County Public Schools, whose student performance has only declined as bigger and bigger budgets have been approved for it by the County Council. Money has never been the problem at MCPS, only incompetent leadership since the exit of Superintendent Jerry Weast, a clearly-failed curriculum, and an increasingly-stark lack of student safety and security.

There's an even greater problem about the record $3.2 billion outlay for MCPS in Elrich's budget. Due to the disastrous Maintenance of Effort law, the amount spent on MCPS can never go down from one year to the next. So, even as Elrich himself declares "a mild recession could take place later this year," his budget would lock in a required expenditure of at least $3.2 billion for MCPS in the FY-2025 budget - even if a recession deals a severe blow to County revenue. And we're not even talking about the worrisome situation in the banking sector, which is persisting despite a federal bailout of wealthy billionaires at Silicon Valley Bank earlier this week.

What that would mean, is that savings and cuts would have to be found elsewhere in the budget: police, fire, libraries, road maintenance, etc. And the County Council is already cruising toward a rude fiscal awakening, as it has convinced itself, the local media, and enough voters that its rosy budgets of the last few pandemic years were due to councilmembers' overwhelming talent and skill, and not the overwhelming federal cash that poured into the County to cover COVID-19 losses. That money is now being cut off by Uncle Sam.

You wouldn't know it from reviewing the proposed budget. And from a steep tax hike being proposed, you wouldn't know that a majority of County residents are being hit hard by persistent inflation. Not to mention that, for many County residents - particularly the elderly and others on fixed incomes - the current property tax has become the equivalent of a second mortgage they must pay off on their home.

There are other fanciful ideas in the budget announcement, such as the recent canard pushed by the County political cartel that Montgomery County residents are somehow paying less property taxes than some other jurisdictions. This is false, because the assessments on houses are so much higher in Montgomery County than in those jurisdictions that MoCo residents actually pay more. In reality, Montgomery County has the highest real property tax payments, and the highest total tax and fee burden in the Washington, D.C. region. We pay massive income and piggyback income taxes, real estate transfer taxes, energy taxes, cell phone taxes, rain taxes, and more - many of these being taxes that don't even exist in counties around us. 

Our current tax structure and burden are two of the major reasons for our moribund County economy. Montgomery County's economic growth and strength have been at or near rock bottom in the region for more than a decade, as measured by every relevant federal indicator. No major corporation has relocated its headquarters to Montgomery County in over a quarter century. 

Taxes have also been the major cause for the flight of the rich out of Montgomery County, which caused the County's "Rodeo Drive" of Friendship Heights to crash, leaving behind vacant buildings and empty storefronts. Significantly increasing taxes and spending, as we've done and as is being proposed again here, is a reckless move in this context, and total insanity when you factor in the County's massive debt.

One positive thing Elrich's budget proposes? Providing the funding to restore the Office of the People's Counsel, a lawyer who can represent the people in land use matters. This is long overdue, but we don't need a $6.8 billion budget or a property tax hike to make that happen.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

McDonald's challenges Chick-fil-A with new lemonade

has already attempted to muscle into the chicken sandwich market with the very Chick-fil-A-esque McCrispy. Its spare pickle accompaniment and buttered bun leaves no doubt as to which fast food chain inspired its inception. Now the Golden Arches are again displaying the sincerest form of flattery toward America's favorite closed-on-Sundays restaurant, with a new beverage many Chick-fil-A customers find goes best with that famous chicken sandwich: lemonade. It's appearing in select markets across America right now, including New York City, Dallas, Chicago, Seattle, and...Montgomery County, Maryland.

But this lemonade isn't what you might have expected, given McDonald's' Coca-Cola partnership. It would have been easy, cheap and predictable to simply promote Minute Maid Lemonade. After all, Minute Maid has one of the best store-bought lemonades on the market.

Pre-made bottled or frozen lemonades haven't been the tradition at Chick-fil-A, though, so McDonald's is again turning to a formula that has worked for its upstart competitor. Chick-fil-A lemonade is made with "three simple ingredients: real lemon juice, cane sugar and water," according to the company's website. The new McDonald's Lemonade is made with...real lemon juice, cane sugar and water. Chick-fil-A lemonade has bits of pulp in it, due to being squeezed from real lemons. McDonald's Lemonade also has bits of pulp in it.

Wow, what a coincidence!

It's safe to assume that if customer reaction is favorable enough, the new lemonade will be added to the menu nationwide. For now, check your local McDonald's in Montgomery County, and you can be one of the first in America to sample it. Even on Sundays.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Takoma Park homeowner transported to hospital after fighting home invader

A home invasion in Takoma Park yesterday ended with the homeowner in the hospital. According to Takoma Park police, an African-American male in his 20s, wearing a light blue puffy jacket, black slacks and a backpack, broke a window on the ground floor of a home in the 6600 block of Gude Avenue sometime after 7:00 AM Monday. Inside, he allegedly confronted the owner of the home.

The suspect and homeowner engaged in a fight, which ended on the front porch of the home. The suspect then fled on foot toward Poplar Avenue. Police responded at 7:23 AM. The homeowner was transported to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries from the fight, police said.

Anyone with information about this home invasion is asked to call Takoma Park police at 301-270-1100. Refer to case number 230012185.

Monday, March 13, 2023

Montgomery County government offers self-defense courses for women as violent crime wave persists

Violent crimes such as armed carjackings, assaults, and robberies continue to plague Montgomery County, in all areas and at all hours. Montgomery County announced today that it will be offering low-cost self-defense courses for women this month and next, classes that will include "training on risk, crime awareness and prevention. Participants will be given a 13-piece student folio with information on how to reduce the risk of exposure to violence and how to escape violence. Participants also will learn some physical aspects of self-defense."

The courses will cost $12, and will be offered through the Montgomery County Commission for Women. You must pre-register to participate, and classes will have to fill up with at least 10 participants to be held. Teenage girls aged 13-17 are welcome to register, but must be accompanied by an adult, the County said in its announcement. Register online now and choose your location; the classes will be held at Montgomery County public libraries. All locations are in the East County or Germantown area.

The Commission for Women will not offer a course for men, but advises that such a course is available. Men are directed to call 240-777-8300 for information about that separate class.

Gold's Gym launches web page for future Silver Spring location

Gold's Gym
has activated an official page for its future location at Downtown Silver Spring. The page has images and information about the fitness facility, and a sign-up form to reserve status as a Founding Member. Located at 901 Wayne Avenue, Gold's Gym will front onto Fenton Street next to Burger Fi. The gym will mark Gold's' return to Silver Spring after the closure of its Layhill Center facility.

Photo courtesy Gold's Gym

Friday, March 10, 2023

Kensington gas station demolished to make way for new shopping center (Photos)

A vacant gas station at 10619 Connecticut Avenue in Kensington has been demolished. The demolition signals the beginning of construction of the future Kensington Crossing shopping center. Tenants signed for the retail property so far are Mezeh Mediterranean Grill, Buffalo Wild Wings GO, and an M&T Bank branch with a drive-thru. Three retail spaces are still available for lease at this prime property on a major commuter route.

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Olney man arrested for trading drugs for sex acts with 15-year-old girl

Montgomery County police detectives with the Special Investigations Division and Special Victims Investigations Division have arrested an Olney man they accuse of trading drugs for sex acts with a 15-year-old girl. Erik Calderon Pereira, 22, has been charged with a third-degree sexual offense, and sexual solicitation of a minor, for engaging in illicit sex acts with the girl between December 2021 and February 2023. Detectives allege that Pereira gave the girl drugs, for which she would pay him in the form of performing sex acts. 

Pereira is now free on $20,000 bond. Detectives believe there could be other teenage victims in this case. They are urging any victims to contact Crime Solvers of Montgomery County toll-free at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477). Callers may remain anonymous.  

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Montgomery County Metro ridership up 94.6% year-over-year

Montgomery County commuters have been returning to the Metro subway system in force in recent months, according to the latest data from WMATA, the D.C.-area transportation authority that operates it. Ridership in January 2023, the most recent month for which data has been made public, was up 94.6% over January 2022. Pandemic-era data released by Google in 2020-2022 had shown much weaker ridership, and a turtle-like pace of increasing return to the system after the initial lockdown of 2020.

A Red Line train approaches the
Rockville station

The biggest surges, 296.6% at Shady Grove and 263.6% at Rockville, may have had more to do with maintenance-related closures at those stops over the last two years. Grosvenor-Strathmore was the next-highest, with an increase of 140.5%. Twinbrook had the smallest increase at 8.7%. WMATA's numbers are based upon the number of entries and exits recorded at each station, so they do not count gate jumpers, only paying customers.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Solaire Social food hall construction begins in Silver Spring (Photos)

The Solaire 8200 Dixon apartments opened last November in downtown Silver Spring. But construction is just getting started on the most eagerly-awaited feature of the property, the Solaire Social food hall on the ground floor. Signage has been installed outside, but work is in the earliest stage on the interior fit-out. A liquor license hearing for the food hall is now scheduled for March 16, 2023.

When completed, Solaire Social will feature 11 vendor stalls with different dining concepts. It will also have a Top Golf Swing Suite golf simulator. Solaire Social has been scheduled to open before the end of this spring - we'll see if that is realistic or not in the coming weeks.

Monday, March 6, 2023

Piney Branch Pool reopens in Takoma Park

The Piney Branch Pool has reopened at 7510 Maple Avenue in Takoma Park. It closed last month after a boiler that heats the water in the pool broke down. The pool remained closed for 12 days while a replacement was installed. Work was completed in time to reopen the indoor pool yesterday.

Bacon Ranch McCrispy arrives at McDonald's in Montgomery County

The new Bacon Ranch McCrispy has arrived at McDonald's restaurants in Montgomery County. While the limited-time-only menu item is scheduled to be available nationwide on March 13, 2023, it is popping up early at McDonald's locations in Montgomery County. The Bacon Ranch McCrispy sandwich features a "whole muscle chicken filet," topped with a special ranch sauce on both the top and bottom buns, applewood smoked bacon and crinkle-cut pickles. A Deluxe version adds sliced Roma tomatoes and shredded lettuce.