Thursday, February 29, 2024

Purple Line work requires month-long lane closure on NB Carroll Avenue at University Boulevard

Purple Line light rail-related work will require a month-long lane closure on Carroll Avenue at its intersection with University Boulevard E. starting March 4, 2024. The right-turn lane on northbound Carroll Avenue will be closed during that period, from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM, and on nights and weekends when necessary. You will still be able to turn right onto University, but anticipate brief delays, and watch for signage and any instructions from flagmen. The lane closure is necessary as workers build new curbs and pedestrian islands, and repave the roadway, the Maryland Transit Administration said in a statement.

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Monumental Sports Network to broadcast Old Glory DC pro rugby matches for 2024 season

Monumental Sports Network
has reached an agreement to broadcast 13 of Old Glory DC's Major League Rugby matches during the 2024 season. Old Glory DC plays its home games here in Montgomery County, at the Maryland Soccerplex in Germantown. The season and broadcast schedule will begin with Old Glory DC's road opener against the New Orleans NOLA Gold this coming Saturday, March 2 at 4:00 PM EST. The games streamed by Monumental Sports Network can be watched through your Pay TV subscription on cable TV, on, or by downloading the Monumental streaming app on iOS, Android, Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV, and using an "eligible TV Everywhere log-in."

"Monumental Sports Network is the ideal partner to carry Old Glory and bring all the action, intensity and elegance of professional rugby to the entire Greater Washington Region," Old Glory DC Chairman Chris Dunlavey said in a statement Wednesday. "Rugby is the greatest team sport in the world, and Monumental is bringing it to your living room."

“We are thrilled to welcome Old Glory to the Monumental Sports Network family,” Monumental Sports Network VP of Content & Programming Caitlin Mangum said. “We are happy to bolster our live programming lineup and offer D.C.-area sports fans the chance to enjoy this exciting and quickly growing sport.”

The schedule for Old Glory DC matches on Monumental Sports Network will be as follows:

Saturday, March 2 at NOLA Gold at 4pm

Saturday, March 9 at New England Free Jacks at 2pm

Saturday, March 16 vs. Chicago Hounds at 4pm

Saturday, March 23 vs. San Diego Legion at 4pm

Saturday, March 30 at Charlotte Rugby at 6pm

Saturday, April 6 vs. RFC Los Angeles at 5pm

Saturday, April 20 vs. Houston Sabercats at 5pm

Saturday, May 11 at Chicago Hounds at 6pm

Friday, May 24 at Seattle Seawolves at 10:30pm

Saturday, June 1 vs. Charlotte Rugby at 7pm

Saturday, June 8 vs. New England Free Jacks at 7pm

Saturday, June 22 at Miami Sharks at 7:30pm

Saturday, June 29 vs. NOLA Gold at 7pm

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Update on Taco Bell Cantina, opening soon in Silver Spring (Photos)

Taco Bell Cantina
looks ready to go at 8662 Colesville Road in downtown Silver Spring. All of the equipment appears to be in place. The pickup window has now been christened as "After Hours Pickup," with purple paint and a large Taco Bell logo. No word if the glass is bulletproof, given recent events in the neighborhood. But expect the window to do strong business after shows at The Fillmore next door. Taco Bell remains mum on the opening date here.

The closer the "upscale" Taco Bell gets to opening, the more it looks like a carry-out, rather than the hangout lounge the store model has been marketed as in the past. Seating is not prominently positioned inside the restaurant, and the vibe its giving off is "grab and go," not "chill out for awhile." How pushing the carryout angle jibes with the "boozy Taco Bell" gimmick, now that pandemic liquor takeaway loopholes have been closed again, remains to be seen. The tired existing storefront at 8662 Colesville also clashes with the slick Taco Bell logos attached to it, but no two Cantina exteriors appear to be alike nationwide, so this may be par for the course-arito.

Monday, February 26, 2024

Silver Spring Recreation and Aquatic Center opens

Montgomery County officials held a ribbon-cutting Saturday to inaugurate the new Silver Spring Recreation and Aquatic Center at 1319 Apple Avenue in downtown Silver Spring. County Executive Marc Elrich and his predecessor Ike Leggett were joined by County Council President Andrew Friedson, and representatives from the County's Department of General Services, the County Recreation Department, Housing Opportunities Commission of Montgomery County, and Holy Cross Health to cut the blue "Grand Opening" ribbon. At 120,000-square-feet in size, the facility holds pools for swimming, low level diving, exercise, aquatic play, training and teaching opportunities; a gymnasium, a fitness center, movement and dance studios, multipurpose activity rooms, staff offices, a teaching kitchen, café, a new home for the Montgomery County Sports Hall of Fame, public use space and "social space." 

Some programming at the Silver Spring Recreation and Aquatic Center will be free for County residents. Other classes and programs at the facility have a fee, and pool access requires paid admission or a membership. County residents are encouraged to sign up for a free RecFit pass for access to the fitness room, open gym/drop-in activities and the game room. Full information on programs and fees can be found on the facility's website.

The $72 million center has been an object of envy for residents in Bethesda and the Upcounty area since it was announced. Its debut hasn't been all hearts and flowers, however. One resident has complained on social media about the limited hours of the indoor children's pool area. Some have theorized that may just be an early staffing issue, as the County is currently recruiting employees for the summer season.

“The Silver Spring Recreation and Aquatic Center will be a great addition for Silver Spring,” County Executive Marc Elrich said in a statement. “The residents of downtown Silver Spring and nearby communities have been looking forward to the opening of this facility, and I think they will be impressed with the amenities and activities there. This is the first County recreation center in downtown Silver Spring and offers a variety of ways for residents to stay active and maintain a healthy lifestyle. I want to thank our General Services and Recreation Departments for creating this beautiful, eco-friendly facility. We invite residents to take full advantage of everything the center has to offer.”

Photos courtesy Montgomery County Government

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Old Glory DC pro rugby team to host open training session for fans today in Germantown

Professional rugby arrives at the Maryland Soccerplex at 18031 Central Park Drive in Germantown today, February 24, 2024. Old Glory DC, a Major League Rugby team, will host an open training session from 1:00 to 3:00 PM this afternoon. In addition to a preview of the team in action, fans can meet the coaches and players after the session ends. Team ambassadors will provide "Rugby 101" explanations and provide real-time match analysis, and food and beverages (including adult beverages) will be available for sale from vendors on-site. Admission to the event is free.

Old Glory DC's new head coach is Simon Cross. This season's roster features stars from 11 countries around the world, including Team Captain Jamason Faanana-Schultz (AUS), DC native Jack Iscaro (USA) Rob Harley (GBR) of the Glasgow Warriors, Damien Hoyland (GBR) of the Edinburgh Rugby Club, Axel Muller (ARG), and Perry Humphreys (GBR). 

The team's season will begin March 2, 2024 with a road game against the New Orleans NOLA Gold. Old Glory DC's home opener at the Soccerplex will be on March 16, when the club hosts the Chicago Hounds. Single match and season tickets can be purchased during today's event, or online.

Friday, February 23, 2024

Strong-arm robbery in Aspen Hill

Montgomery County police responded to a report of a strong-arm robbery in Aspen Hill this past Tuesday night, February 20, 2024. The robbery was reported in the 13100 block of Turkey Branch Parkway at 8:36 PM Tuesday. 

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Wawa Burtonsville plan advances to Montgomery County Planning Board

A proposal to open a Wawa convenience store and mega gas station at 15585-15595 Old Columbia Pike in Burtonsville will be reviewed by the Montgomery County Planning Boad at its February 29, 2024 meeting. Montgomery County planners are recommending approval of the project, with conditions. Wawa will need to obtain a special exception from Montgomery County to accommodate the project's size, and comply with conditions of a forest conservation plan, before it can pull permits to construct the store. The site is currently home to a 7-Eleven, a gas station, and a Mattress Barn store. All would be demolished to make way for the Wawa.

The property owners have proposed construction of a new signalized intersection to facilitate safer ingress and egress from the Wawa onto Old Columbia Pike. They have also agreed to construct a 10'-wide "sidepath" along Old Columbia Pike, and a 16'-wide "bike breezeway" (first time I've heard this term in Montgomery County planning) along the ramp to Route 29. A new trash enclosure would be constructed, and up to nine electric vehicle charging spaces would be provided at the Wawa.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Rideshare driver assaulted in White Oak

Montgomery County police responded to a report of an aggravated assault of a rideshare driver in White Oak early on the morning of February 10, 2024. The driver was assaulted by four suspects near the intersection of New Hampshire Avenue and Lockwood Drive. A weapon was displayed by at least one of the suspects during the assault. 

Police describe the suspects as four Black males of unknown age. If you can identify any of the suspects, or have any information related to this incident, you are asked to call police at the anonymous Crime Solvers tipline at 1-866-411-8477, or the non-emergency number at 301-279-8000.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Armed robbery at Wheaton apartment complex

Montgomery County police responded to a report of an armed robbery at a Wheaton apartment complex early on the evening February 4, 2024. Around 6:02 PM, two suspects approached the adult male victim, displayed a handgun, and assaulted him. They fled with the victim's money and property. Police describe the suspects as two Hispanic males, approximately 20 years of age. If you can identify any of the suspects, or have any information related to this incident, you are asked to call police at the anonymous Crime Solvers tipline at 1-866-411-8477, or the non-emergency number at 301-279-8000.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Assault at Marilyn J. Praisner Community Recreation Center

Montgomery County police were called to the Marilyn J. Praisner Community Recreation Center at 14906 Old Columbia Pike in Burtonsville early Wednesday evening, February 14, 2024. An individual reported having been the victim of an assault there. The assault was reported at 6:19 PM Wednesday.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Pedestrian killed in Montgomery Hills

A Gaithersburg man was pronounced dead at the scene after being struck by the driver of a gray 2020 Honda CR-V in Montgomery Hills Tuesday night, February 13, 2024. Khalid Shakir Scriven, 27, was in the roadway of the 9500 block of Georgia Avenue near Flora Lane around 8:00 PM when he was hit. The driver of the CR-V remained at the scene and is cooperating with police.

An accident investigation is active and ongoing, police say. Anyone with information regarding this collision is asked to contact CRU detectives at (240) 773-6620.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Update on Java Nation in Silver Spring (Photos)

Java Nation
appears to be on the verge of opening in the Station Square building at 1010 Wayne Avenue in downtown Silver Spring. The local chain says that it is dividing the space into two concepts: Java Express for those on-the-go or in a rush, and Java Restobar, offering all-day long meals and creative cocktails alongside your coffee favorites. As you can see, a convenient takeout window for Java Express is now delineated by signage installed above it. An outdoor dining area is taking shape, with fencing, stringed lighting, and tables in place. Given what we've seen at the existing Java Nation locations in Montgomery County, expectations are high for this newest venture.

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Rock Creek Trail closure ahead in Lyttonsville

A section of the Rock Creek Trail around the Purple Line light rail bridge will temporarily close on or about February 14, 2024. The closure is scheduled to last for about four weeks, and a detour will be in place (see map above). This is necessary to rehabilitate Rock Creek and the trail itself from alterations and damage caused by the construction. Work will take place in shifts from 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM, and 5:00 PM to 3:00 AM, as necessary. Crews are working against time, as environmental restrictions will take effect once spring arrives.

Monday, February 12, 2024

Strong-arm robbery at bus stop in Forest Knolls area of Silver Spring

Montgomery County police responded to a report of a strong-arm robbery at a bus stop in the Forest Knolls area of Silver Spring late yesterday morning, February 11, 2024. The robbery was reported at a bus stop in the 700 block of University Boulevard W. at 11:40 AM Sunday.

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Larry Hogan announces run for U.S. Senate in Maryland

Larry Hogan, with wife Yumi,
files for U.S. Senate race at the
Maryland Board of Elections office in
Annapolis Friday

Former Maryland Larry Hogan (R) has finally come to his senses, and is running for the one office he might have a chance to win in 2024, the Maryland U.S. Senate seat of the retiring Ben Cardin (D). The question that will be answered in November: Did Hogan's decision come too late? Hogan announced his entry into the race Friday afternoon. Since leaving office in January 2023, the former governor has been exploring a potential run for U.S. President - - initially as a Republican, then as part of a bipartisan ticket under the No Labels platform.

Hogan is the strongest candidate for the U.S. Senate the Maryland GOP has been able to muster in decades. He might have even been the favorite in the race, had he segued directly from being a popular governor with bipartisan support to the Senate campaign. But Hogan's presidential ambitions have enraged both the Donald Trump-loving base of the GOP, and Democrats and independent voters who fear a No Labels ticket will end up sending Trump back to the White House in 2025. 

Once praised by Democrats for his willingness to trash Trump on the national stage, Hogan has received more jeers than cheers on social media for his No Labels adventure and U.S. Senate announcement. And Trump supporters, who still remember Hogan verbally pummeling Republican gubernatorial nominee Dan Cox throughout the 2022 election season, were already lashing "Lockdown Larry" online within minutes of his announcement Friday.

The initial raw feelings will likely give way to a suddenly serious race for the U.S. Senate in Maryland. One big winner after Hogan's announcement: local broadcasters, who are going to enjoy an infusion of cash from the Republican National Committee, National Republican Senatorial Committee and GOP dark money groups. MAGA Republicans may not be enthused to vote for Hogan, but the multinational corporations behind various superPACs suddenly see a Senate seat that could be flipped from blue to red by an establishment Reagan Republican.

The biggest losers from Hogan's entry? Democratic candidate Angela Alsobrooks, as national and Maryland Democratic strategists grapple with the fact that only David Trone will be able to dominate the money race in a contest with Hogan. And Republican Robin Ficker, who was the frontrunner in the GOP primary race until yesterday afternoon. Ficker had the most money, and greatest name recognition, among the GOP candidates prior to Hogan's announcement.

Trone vs. Hogan would likely be a premier matchup this fall, with money and national surrogates pouring into the state. The advantage has to go to Trone at the moment. He not only has unlimited funds from his own pocket, but his friends include Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Democratic Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries. Trone has even hosted fundraisers with Obama and Bill Clinton -- in person -- at his home.

Another big problem for Hogan: abortion. The word you will hear the most from summer to fall in 2024: Abortion, abortion, abortion. It will be coming from your television speakers during every commercial break. The abortion issue could provide Democrats with a clean sweep of the White House, U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate in November. It's been a winning issue for Democrats in blue and red states alike, since Roe v. Wade was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. It's an issue Hogan will have to skillfully navigate, as in that context, few Democrats will want to help tip the Senate back to the GOP by voting for Larry Hogan.

Still, even Trone hasn't been able to buy a seat in Congress every time he's run, losing his first primary contest to Jamie Raskin. Trone doesn't have much support among Republicans, except when compared to more-progressive candidates in his party. On balance, Hogan is remembered by independent and moderate voters in both major parties as a popular governor who ran the state well for eight years. He has much more name recognition statewide than Trone. But he doesn't have the razor-thin advantage he might have had, if he had gone directly into the race from Government House in 2023.

Photo courtesy Hogan for Maryland

Friday, February 9, 2024

Soul of Langston one-man play free to attend in Takoma Park February 23

Writer and actor Daron P. Stewart will perform his one-man play, Soul of Langston, at the Takoma Park Community Center at 7500 Maple Avenue on Friday, February 23, 2024 at 7:30 PM. This special Black History Month event will bring poet Langston Hughes to life, while posing his still-relevant question, "What happens to a dream deferred?" The play was inspired by Hughes' influence on generations of creatives and activists, from the Civil Rights movement to the hip hop culture of the present day. Admission to the performance is FREE, but donations are welcomed.

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Olney Library to close for one day on February 27, 2024

The Montgomery County Department of Public Libraries announced today that the Olney Library at 3500 Olney-Laytonsville Road will temporarily close for one day on February 27, 2024. An "essential exterior assessment" will be performed on the building during the closure. The library will reopen at 10:00 AM on February 28. 

If there is inclement weather on February 27, the assessment and closure will be postponed until March 1. The closest alternative library is the Aspen Hill branch at 4407 Aspen Hill Road.

"We recognize the impact of our services on your daily lives, and we regret any disruption caused by this one-day closure,” MCPL Director Anita Vassallo said in a statement. "We encourage you to access services at nearby branches and explore our digital resources during this time. We appreciate your understanding and look forward to resuming operations at the Olney branch."

Photo courtesy MCPL

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Montgomery County to host meeting on security at houses of worship Feb. 21

Montgomery County officials will host a special meeting regarding security at houses of worship on February 21, 2024, from 7:00 - 9:00 PM. The meeting will be held in Bethesda, at a location to be announced only to those who register. "Attacks on houses of worship continue to occur at an alarming rate," a meeting announcement states. The meeting will feature presentations by representatives from the Montgomery County Police Department, the Fire and Explosives Investigation Unit of the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, and the County's Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security. 

Attendees will learn how to "minimize the risk of violent intruders," and what to do in the event of an attack on their house of worship. A menorah was vandalized outside a synagogue in Olney last December, and a suspect desecrated and attempted to burn down two Christian churches - and vandalized a Baptist cemetery - along Old Georgetown Road in Bethesda in July 2022. Meeting registration is open online now.

Photo courtesy Montgomery County

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

MD Retailers Association revives effort to allow beer, wine sales in Maryland grocery stores

MRA poster inside Harris Teeter

One of the biggest shocks to the system many new residents of Montgomery County experience, is the moment they learn they cannot purchase beer or wine at their local grocery store or convenience store. They quickly become familiar with Montgomery County's government monopoly on alcohol sales, and the archaic liquor laws of MoCo and Maryland. Restaurateurs and retailers frustrated with the status quo that reduces the profit margins of their businesses - and puts them at a disadvantage when competing against their rivals in Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia - made a push to change these laws in the last decade. The effort ran out of steam when no significant media campaign or financial contributions were employed to directly boost the candidates for office who would vote to overturn the Prohibition-style system.

Now the Maryland Retailers Association is reviving the campaign with a new website, and posters such as the one seen above this week in County supermarkets. There is a lot of information and data on the website. It has an easy way to contact your elected officials to encourage them to modernize our liquor laws. Whether the effort will be any more successful than the last remains to be seen.

If the MRA and business owners don't write fat checks to the candidates who will vote to change the laws, and won't publicly endorse those candidates and send glossy mailers with a list of their names to every voter, the campaign will fail again. Most of the articles linked to on the website are from media outlets who strongly support the incumbents and candidates who favor and will preserve the ossified government liquor monopoly we have now. That's not exactly a smart way to propagandize the public in favor of liquor reform, folks.

Former Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich was prophetic about many things. He was savagely pilloried by local officials and the media during his time in office for supporting casinos and bus rapid transit. Both later became policy cornerstones of the Montgomery County and Maryland political machines of his most-venomous opponents. One other thing he used to say that has aged very well: Until business owners "get dangerous," and actually back candidates - Democratic, Republican, Green, independent - who will vote their way, nothing will change. The MRA has a nice website. But their campaign doesn't sound very "dangerous" yet.

Monday, February 5, 2024

Armed carjacking in Aspen Hill

Montgomery County police responded to a report of an armed carjacking in Aspen Hill this past Saturday night, February 3, 2024. The carjacking was reported in the 14200 block of Trillium Terrace at 6:24 PM Saturday. @DCNewsLive on Twitter reported that two male suspects escaped with the victim's blue 2014 Toyota Camry. Trillium Terrace is a residential street in a small townhome community off of Bel Pre Road.

Friday, February 2, 2024

Suspects arrested in armed robbery, stabbing at Kensington Safeway

Montgomery County police have apprehended two Prince George's County men in relation to the January 30, 2024 armed robbery and stabbing at the Safeway grocery store at 10541 Connecticut Avenue in Kensington.  William Fernando Calix, 31, and Christian Alexander Gonzalez, 18, are accused of stealing merchandise. Calix is accused of brandishing a knife, and then cutting a store security officer on the chest with it. The employee was transported to a local hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Calix, of New Carrollton, and Gonzalez, of Hyattsville, were located by officers in the 3300 block of University Boulevard W., and arrested. Gonzalez was charged with theft via a criminal citation and released. Calix was charged with theft and first-degree assault. He was released on a $10,000 unsecured personal bond. Police have not released either suspect's mugshot.

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Another attempt to restore Office of the People's Counsel in Montgomery County

Montgomery County's government bodies - Board of Education, Montgomery Parks, the Montgomery County Planning Board, to name three recent examples - are in disarray, and have been embroiled in scandals. Incredibly, while holding oversight power, the County Council has actively chosen to not restore funding for a position that can help hold the County's planning authorities (including the Council itself) more accountable to residents and taxpayers: The Office of the People's Counsel. Never a popular position among the developers who have funded most or all of the councilmembers' campaigns this century, depending upon which Council term is under discussion, the OPC was axed in 2010 when the Council finally had an excuse to do so: a budget crisis of their own making. But in 2023, more than a decade after the "Great Recession" ended, the current Council still voted against restoring funding for the OPC.

Fed-up residents and responsible growth advocates are launching a new attempt to persuade councilmembers - some of whom vowed to fund the OPC, but then betrayed the voters and organizations they made the vow to, once in office - to restore the OPC in the FY-2025 budget. The Montgomery Countryside Alliance, which works to protect rural areas, open space and streams from impacts of overdevelopment, is taking a leadership role by creating an easy form to send a brief message to the County Council in support of funding for the OPC.

For those not familiar, the OPC is (or was!) a land-use attorney who provides free advice and technical information to residents regarding development and land-use issues. Residents, most of whom cannot afford the kind of powerhouse legal representation that developers and the County itself have at their disposal, can therefore be better prepared to defend their interests before the Planning Board, County Council and hearing examiners. The OPC can also point out when the Board or Council is in violation of the rules or breaking the law, which non-land-use-attorney citizens may not be able to recognize their own. Perhaps most importantly, the People's Counsel can represent residents' interests in administrative hearings.

Boosting hopes for the return of this critical County government position is Bill PG/MC 112-24 at the Maryland General Assembly in Annapolis, which is sponsored by Senator Ben Kramer of Montgomery County. Senator Kramer has also been a leading voice to make the planning process in the County more directly accountable to residents, such as considering proposals to move some aspects of planning under the executive branch of County government. Kramer's bill would fully fund the Office of the People's Counsel in Montgomery County, just as other jurisdictions like Prince George's County have. In other words, Kramer is saying to the Council, "if you won't do it, we will." But, if you don't use this form to send a message to the Council and the full Montgomery County delegation to Annapolis in favor of funding the OPC, they might not!