by Aaron Kraut — January 27, 2015 at 3:25 pm 1,191 8 Comments

Parking meters in a county garage in downtown Bethesda

The fund Montgomery County uses to pay for upkeep and operation of Bethesda’s public parking lots and garages is dangerously close to being out of money.

A report released Tuesday by the County Council’s Office of Legislative Oversight details how bond payments on the recently completed Capital Crescent Garage, funding help for groups such as the Bethesda Urban Partnership and an increasing amount of parking tax exemptions offered to property owners could mean the Bethesda Parking Lot District goes broke by FY 2020.

This fiscal year, the Bethesda PLD was budgeted to make $21.7 million in revenues, mostly from parking meter fees ($13.9 million) and parking fines ($4.8 million.)

The Bethesda PLD was budgeted to spend $24.8 million, $4.9 million of which went to retiring debt service payments on the Capital Crescent Garage/Lot 31 project. None of the county’s other Parking Lot Districts — in Silver Spring, Montgomery Hills and Wheaton — had any debt service payments.

“The Bethesda PLD fund faces serious structural challenges that will cause the fund to fall into deficit unless corrective actions are taken,” read the Legislative Oversight report. “Under current policies and practices, the fund will annually spend more than it receives in revenues driving its already precariously low fund balance toward zero. The insufficient fund reserve leaves the PLD incapable of absorbing an unanticipated spike in expenses or a downturn in revenue generation.”


by BethesdaNow.com Sponsor — January 27, 2015 at 2:30 pm 0

Rental Report

Editor’s Note: This biweekly sponsored column is written by Rick Gersten, founder and CEO of Urban Igloo, a rental real estate firm that matches up renters with their ideal apartments, condos or houses. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

A new job offer across the country just hit your inbox, and you start in two weeks — congrats!

Now what? Packing up your stuff, tying up loose ends at your old job and figuring out where you’re going to live can feel a bit overwhelming. So you book your plane ticket, and you have two days to find a place. What do you need to do?

First, enlist some help from a real estate agent, especially if you can find one from a rental brokerage.

Give that agent as much detail as possible. In order for someone to find you a great place that meets your needs in just a few days, he or she needs to know a lot about you. Tell your agent all of the deal breakers — how much rent you can afford, the types of apartments you like, amenities you need, if you have pets, if you need parking and what your commute will be.

But you also have to get a little more personal. Remember, an agent knows the area better than you, and can steer you in the direction of a neighborhood you may not have considered because of your hobbies and lifestyle.


by Aaron Kraut — January 27, 2015 at 1:25 pm 0

MCPS Superintendent Joshua Starr (file photo)The four-year graduation rate for MCPS students in the Class of 2014 rose compared to 2013 and gaps between white and minority students have shrunk over the past three years.

The Maryland State Department of Education released the Class of 2014 graduation rates on Tuesday. In MCPS, 89.7 percent of the Class of 2014 graduated high school in four years, a 1.4-percentage point increase from 2013 and a nearly 3-percentage point jump since 2011.

For black students in the Class of 2014, the graduation rate rose to 86.4 percent, a one-year increase of 2.5 percentage points. The Hispanic four-year graduation rate in 2014 increased by 2.5 percentage points.

MCPS said the graduation rate gap between black and white students has narrowed by 3.8 percentage points in the last three years. The school system also said the same time period has seen the graduation rate gap between white and Hispanic students shrink by 3.4 percentage points.

“Over the past three years, we have been helping our schools focus on areas for improvement and how they can best foster the development of academic and creative problem solving skills in students, while also addressing their social emotional needs,” Superintendent Joshua Starr said in a press release. “That work may not be the same in every school, but it is getting strong results across the district.”

The results come as the Board of Education debates Starr’s future with the school system, with some critics pointing out the system’s lingering gaps in performance between white and minority students.


by Aaron Kraut — January 27, 2015 at 12:25 pm 0

District 16 Del. Ariana Kelly (file photo)District 16 Del. Ariana Kelly plans to introduce a bill in Annapolis that could move the state toward a paid family and medical leave program.

In an email to supporters earlier this month, Kelly said she is working with a coalition called the Maryland Legislative Agenda for Women on a bill that would require a feasibility study on creating such a program.

While some states provide paid leave to new parents or people who suffer serious health problems, the money generally comes from a temporary disability insurance program. Maryland doesn’t have a disability insurance program set up.

“Maryland does not have such a program, so our road to paid family leave, although not impossible, is somewhat more complex,” according to a summary of the bill written up by the coalition.

It is my goal to make sure Maryland is the next state to follow suit,” Kelly wrote. “We need to look at what works (and what can be done better!) with those state programs, talk with the Maryland business community, Government agencies, and other stakeholders, and come up with a plan that works for Maryland working families.”


by BethesdaNow.com Sponsor — January 27, 2015 at 11:00 am 292 2 Comments

Ask Andrew

This sponsored, weekly Q&A column is written by Andrew Goodman, broker/owner of Goodman, Realtors. Based in Bethesda, Andrew serves clients in Maryland, D.C., and Northern Virginia. Please submit comments, questions, and opinions in the comments section or via email.

Question: I’m shopping for a condo and I’m seeing a lot of ground-floor units available in my price range. What should I be aware of before purchasing a ground-floor condo?

There is certainly a lot to consider when buying a condo, especially a ground-floor condo. Before buying a ground-floor unit, you should consider the advantages and disadvantages.

Safety/Privacy: Most buyers are concerned with safety when buying a ground-floor unit. Some buyers believe that since you are on the ground floor, it’s easier for someone to break in.

I can’t disagree with that. Common sense says a burglar would have an easier time climbing or seeing into a window on the ground floor versus one on a higher floor. If the condo association will allow it, ground-floor condo owners who have a safety concern can install metal bars on the windows.

Price Per Floor: I’m asked all of the time, “What is the price difference between a ground-floor unit and a condo on a higher floor?”

When purchasing a brand new condo, the developer usually puts a premium on each floor. For instance, every floor you go up can mean a $5,000/$10,000 premium added to the condominium price. But in resale, that dollar amount isn’t so set in stone. A ground-floor unit (unless it has a special feature such as a large patio) would generally not be worth as much as a unit on a higher floor. Still, the current market is the biggest driver of value.


by Aaron Kraut — January 27, 2015 at 10:00 am 328 6 Comments

Montgomery Parks is proposing a new open lawn space, updated playground, interactive art set-up and plenty of other new features for a popular park on the edge of downtown Bethesda.

Parks staff working on the renovation of Caroline Freeland Urban Park (7200 Arlington Road) presented their preferred design option last week to the Edgemoor Citizens Association.

The Edgemoor neighborhood lies just to the west of downtown Bethesda, with some homes in the neighborhood sharing a fence with the park.

The 15 percent-complete design Parks presented last week would add vegetation to that fence in an effort to maintain the park’s buffer effect between the neighborhood and Arlington Road.

The most pronounced change would be the new open lawn in the center of the park, where today trees and multiple paved walkways mean little open space.

The park is most popular for its playground. That playground space would be increased and updated with new equipment and a new fence.

Parks staff said they hoped to improve visibility into the park from Arlington Road. A new main entrance at the Arlington Road and Elm Street corner would include a Caroline Freeland Park sign engraved into a wall and a “park gateway” with a short boulder wall along a walkway.

There would be an interactive art area, stepping stones, and improved stormwater management areas throughout.


by Aaron Kraut — January 27, 2015 at 8:45 am 596 2 Comments

Maplewood-Alta Vista Park, photo via Ilona Szczot

BGR Founder To Open All-Day Breakfast Diner – BGR The Burger Joint founder Mark Bucher is planning an all-day breakfast diner called Community for the ground floor of the 7770 Norfolk apartment project in Woodmont Triangle. Bucher said the full-service restaurant will also include a walk-up window offering coffee and donuts. The 17-floor, 244-unit apartment building is set to be completed later this year. [Bethesda Magazine]

Leggett Proposes Adding School Construction To Budget – County Executive Isiah Leggett is proposing amending the county’s six-year capital budget to add $191.2 million more for school construction projects. Some of the money added to the school construction program would be taken from Purple Line-related projects the county says are moving along more slowly than anticipated, including the Bethesda Metro South Entrance and Capital Crescent Trail. Leggett’s recommended changes also include accelerating funding for part of a new road grid in White Flint/Pike District. The changes must be approved by the County Council. [The Gazette]

Pepco-Exelon Merger Hearings Begin – Evidentiary hearings before the Maryland Public Service Commission on the proposed Pepco-Exelon merger began yesterday. The hearings are set to run from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. each day except for tomorrow through Friday, Feb. 6. The PSC must make a decision on whether to allow the merger by April 1. The hearings will be streamed live on the PSC’s website. [Maryland Public Service Commission]

Photo via Ilona Szczot

by Aaron Kraut — January 27, 2015 at 4:55 am 434 0

Updated at 8:40 a.m. – Montgomery County Public Schools will be closed on Tuesday due to the snow and freezing temperatures around the county.

In Bethesda, major roads such as Rockville Pike and River Road appeared to be clear around 5 a.m., while some secondary roads still were covered in a light but slippery layer of snow. Many sidewalks around town were also covered in snow.

A Winter Weather Advisory for downcounty Montgomery was lifted on Tuesday morning. The Bethesda-Chevy Chase area saw about two inches of snow overnight.

MCPS administrative offices will open two hours late and day care in schools may open at 10:30 a.m. Montgomery County government and Montgomery County facilities will open at 10 a.m. Essential employees are expected to report to work at their regular time.

Trash and recycling pick-ups scheduled for Tuesday will happen, but the county says expect crews to be delayed. Montgomery County Recreation Senior Centers will be closed with all programs canceled.

The federal government will open under a two-hour delay schedule, according to OPM.gov. Employees have the option for unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework.

Photos via TrafficLand.com

by Aaron Kraut — January 26, 2015 at 3:25 pm 0

County Executive Isiah Leggett (file photo)The budget forum with County Executive Isiah Leggett set for tonight in Bethesda has been rescheduled to Feb. 2 because of inclement weather.

Leggett will now host the forum starting at 7 p.m. on Feb. 2. It will remain at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center (4805 Edgemoor Lane).

The budget forum is an annual opportunity for residents to let their priorities for the upcoming budget be known, either by asking Leggett directly or giving their input to the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board — which submits its own recommendations.

Leggett will announce is recommended Fiscal Year 2016 operating budget in March.

The presentation part of the budget forum is here. The county’s projected $238 million budget shortfall will likely play prominently into the discussion.


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