Montgomery County planners were hoping last week’s Streetsense-hosted party would introduce millennials to the downtown Bethesda planning process with the promise of free food, drink and cornhole.
After a few hundred showed up last Wednesday, planners now hope they can keep them interested.
“This was as much to share information, hear their questions and encourage them to be involved in the fall,” said Margaret Rifkin, part of the Planning Department’s team working on the Bethesda Downtown Plan. “We wanted to engage and invite people to be in our feedback loop in the fall, so we weren’t going out with specific questions about planning from our point of view.”
The event was organized by Streetsense, a brokerage, design and development company with a sprawling office at Bethesda Metro Center, after the Planning Department approached the company and developer JBG about more age-targeted outreach.
Until last week, planners hadn’t been able to get much of a response or input from millennials in sessions about the Bethesda Downtown Plan, which will bring new zoning and land use guidelines for the next 20-25 years of Bethesda development.
Streetsense did some basic surveying of what attendees would like to see more of in downtown Bethesda, information that Rifkin said the firm will provide planners in a few weeks.
She said it’s hard to know what portion of attendees work in downtown Bethesda, live in downtown Bethesda, work and live in downtown Bethesda or were representing event sponsors. The event was co-sponsored by Chevy Chase-based developer JBG and Bethesda-based Clark Construction.
“My perception was we got a very good complement of people who were work in downtown Bethesda and a small number who live there and we had just a few who both live and work in Bethesda,” Rifkin said. “But that’s just our staff circulating and talking with people. My feeling is this was a wonderful way to put out a wide net.”
Planners displayed the concept framework plan, a preliminary idea of where new development, parks and open spaces might go. Planners are expected to present their final work to the Planning Board this fall, which is expected to send it up to the County Council in the winter.
“We were really pleased with the number of people who came over to talk with our staff at length about the framework,” Rifkin said. “Although we know that many people would go anywhere for free food, we had a really good number of people who were genuinely interested.”
Photo via Montgomery County Planning Department
The savings and the potential to save $3.4 million annually were outlined in a memo this month from Finance Director Joseph Beach to Councilmember Nancy Navarro. Navarro chairs the Council’s Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee, which set up the county’s Property Tax Compliance Office in 2012.
Navarro said that office has since worked to identify the correct tax status of residential properties. The office found many properties from absentee owners that were receiving tax credits — the county’s Homestead Credit and Income Tax Offset Credit — that only owner-occupants are eligible for.
According to a Council press release, the office has identified nearly 4,900 ineligible accounts, based on its review of rental housing lists maintained by the Department of Housing and Community Affairs. The office cross-checked those lists with the State Department of Assessments and Taxation to see which accounts were improperly claiming the credit.
The Homestead Credit limits an owner-occupied property’s taxable assessment to a 10 percent increase each year. The Income Tax Offset Credit for 2014 is $692.
County staff says the continued tracking of tax status could mean added additional revenue of $3.4 million per year — though the Council press release claimed the office’s ability to correct the status of more properties depends on the state’s ability “to keep pace in updating its records.”
According to Bill Delaney, who manages the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service blog, a group of MCFRS employees noticed a senior resident who got a flat tire just across the street from the station on the corner of Bradley Boulevard and Wisconsin Avenue.
Rather than watch the resident struggle to get the tire fixed or car towed in the middle of a busy street, the crew rolled the car into the station driveway and installed a spare tire.
“While not a situation they normally handle the crew felt it important to help, promptly changed the tire, and got the driver safely on their way,” Delaney wrote.
Photo via MCFRS
A family of Lebanese immigrants opened the first Lebanese Taverna 35 years ago in Arlington. It’s now a company of six full-service restaurants with a location at 7141 Arlington Rd. And on Aug. 20 and 21, it will also have $2.50 tabouleh and $2.75 baba ghanoush.
The full throwback menu is here. It’s for dine-in customers only and includes the staples: $6.95 for shawarma that costs $12.50 at the restaurant today, $6.95 for shish kabob that now starts at $16 and $2.25 for hummus that now starts at $6.50.
The 1979 menu special will rotate for two days at a time through all restaurant locations.
Image via Lebanese Taverna
A Bethesda shopping center is getting a facelift as it brings in more big-name national retailers.
The Shoppes of Bethesda, which has parking and an upper level along Hampden Lane and a lower level on Elm Street, is undergoing a series of facade and signing changes.
Crews are on-site and have chained off much of the upper level. The stores remain open, with temporary signage and scaffolding built on top of entrance ways.
Four locally owned stores in the shopping center closed or relocated in 2013. A fifth tenant, Irish pub and restaurant Ri Ra, relocated to Georgetown. The Hinode sushi restaurant closed last week and will be replaced by Tako Grill, another Bethesda sushi restaurant now on Wisconsin Avenue.
New arrivals to the center included Pure Barre, a national chain of franchised fitness studios. A Noodles & Co. and Soul Ryde cycling studio are set to take over the empty Ri Ra space on Elm Street.
Shoppes of Bethesda owner David Draiman has been mum, at least to us, about future plans for the center. Back in November, blogger Robert Dyer posted a rendering of the renovations found on the Shoppes of Bethesda Facebook page.
Rendering image via Facebook
A trip through downtown Bethesda’s core of one-way streets can throw drivers for a loop, especially if you miss your destination and have to go around again.
To a growing group of residents and business owners, the downtown’s system of one-way streets — which includes a rare couplet made up of eastbound-only Montgomery Avenue and westbound-only East-West Highway — is outdated and hurting the area’s retail scene.
With the rewrite of the area’s master plan ongoing, the local Citizens Advisory Board will likely send a letter to County Executive Isiah Leggett and the County Council asking that they study or consider the possibility of making those one-way streets go two-way.
The Board, organized by Montgomery County’s Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center, is made up of residents and business representatives, many who have been active participants in the Bethesda Downtown Plan. They see the Plan, which must be approved by the Planning Board before it’s approved by the County Council, as an opportunity to take on the one-way street issue.
“It seems like we’re at an inflection point with Park and Planning looking at the future downtown Bethesda,” said Citizens Advisory Board Chair Jad Donohoe, who’s also a vice president at the Donohoe Development Company. “I thought it would be useful to get something in their hands that would speak to that one particular issue. They’d have backing from a community group.”
That community backing could come in handy in front of the County Council, but also in front of the State Highway Administration.
The state agency is in charge of some of the sections of one-way road identified in the letter, including Old Georgetown Road (from Commerce Lane to Woodmont Avenue). The SHA is known for its focus on moving cars, which means reluctance to change road patterns, road widths or add traffic signals if the moves risk slowing traffic down.
Ken Hartman, director of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center, told the Advisory Board the one-way street network might be one of the reasons why the Bethesda Metro Plaza space has been a failure.
The space, just above the Bethesda Metro station and next to the Hyatt hotel space, was envisioned as the town center of downtown Bethesda in the last county master plan (completed in 1994).
There was an ice skating rink that never gained traction. Attempts at retail space didn’t quite work and now the plaza along one-way Old Georgetown Road serves primarily as a pass-thru for Metro commuters.
Meanwhile, the busiest retail and restaurant sections of Bethesda are a few blocks to either side of the Metro station at Bethesda Row and in Woodmont Triangle.
Hartman also said he often gets complaints from people who say the one-way streets of Old Georgetown Road and Woodmont Avenue lead them to miss the county parking garage used for the Regional Services Center — the county government’s hub in downtown Bethesda.
“The one-way streets are a source of increased speed and confusion. Many people who try to reach this facility, if you miss the left turn into this garage you have to go all the way around again,” Hartman said. “For us, and we’re a government office, that’s a problem.”
The letter from the Advisory Board — which will likely be approved by a majority of the group and sent this summer — also asks for consideration of two-way streets along Woodmont Avenue (from Old Georgetown Road to Hampden Lane), Montgomery Lane (from Woodmont Avenue to Wisconsin Avenue), North Lane (from Woodmont Avenue to East Lane) and East Lane (from North Lane to Montgomery Lane).
Photo via Google Maps
Montgomery County Is Tech Savvy, Says Group – The Public Technology Institute has designated Montgomery County as a “Tech Savvy County in 2014.” The Institute looks at local government performance in cybersecurity, commitment to green technology, performance management and other measures. Montgomery County was one of four local governments in the country and the only county in Maryland to be designated tech savvy. [Montgomery County]
White Flint Project Faces Long Wait – Gables White Flint, a series of apartments planned for just north of Wall Park and the Shriver Aquatic Center, faces a long wait as the county continues to work toward a reshaped street grid. The project also depends on a large parking garage to be shared by residents and users of the Aquatic Center and future Wall Park. The county didn’t include money for that project in the current six-year capital budget. [Friends of White Flint]
Tax Free Week – The week before the first day of the public school year will once again be a tax free shopping week for apparel and footwear less than $100. Shop Maryland tax-free Week will run from Sunday, Aug. 10 to Saturday, Aug. 16. [Comptroller of Maryland]
Flickr photo by ehpien
The County Council’s Health and Human Services Committee on Monday heard from a group of health experts in a session dedicated to learning about the battery-operated products increasing in popularity. E-cigarettes heat liquid nicotine, along with flavors and other chemicals, into a vapor that the user inhales.
But health officials say the nicotine found in the products is highly addictive, has “immediate bio-chemical effects on the brain and body at any dosage” and can be toxic.
The Food and Drug Administration has banned fruit and candy flavors from traditional cigarettes and many — including the National Association of Attorneys General — have urged the FDA to do the same when it comes to e-cigarettes.
A briefing from the University of Maryland School of Law provided to members of Council on Monday recommends licensing electronic smoking device retailers, prohibiting the use of the products on school property, prohibiting flavored electronic cigarette nicotine, “limiting the placement of sale to areas inaccessible to the consumer” and restricting the sale of the products to places where only adults can enter.
At his weekly press conference, Council President Craig Rice told reporters he doesn’t think it will be long before the County Council acts in an effort to keep kids away from the product.
Still, that same briefing from the University of Maryland School of Law says there isn’t yet consensus on the health risk of e-cigarettes:
While ESDs continue to gain popularity, not enough is currently known about their short-term and long-term health risks, their effectiveness as smoking cessation tools, or even their contents. However, the scant information that is available suggests the need for comprehensive regulation. In the absence of federal regulations, states and local authorities can continue to take the lead in restricting the availability and appeal of ESDs to minors. Property owners can also restrict the use of ESDs on their premises. Such regulations can help protect the public from the unknown, potentially harmful effects of these new devices.
There is no current federal law for regulation of e-cigarettes, though the FDA has proposed a regulation that would create a minimum age of purchase and ban the sale of the devices in vending machines, among other strategies.
For those sticking around town this week, there are a number of worthwhile events, including the start of this year’s Bethesda Outdoor Movie Series:
Bethesda Outdoor Movie Series
Woodmont Triangle: Corner of Norfolk and Auburn Avenues
Time: 9:00 p.m. — 11:30 p.m.
The Bethesda Urban Partnership will present the ninth annual Bethesda Outdoor Movies: Stars on the Avenue from July 22-26, 2014. Five evenings of major motion pictures in a variety of genres will be showcased, including new releases, action, comedy, musical and classic films. Admission is FREE and show times will begin at 9pm at the corner of Norfolk and Auburn Avenues in Bethesda’s Woodmont Triangle.
Tuesday, July 22: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Wednesday, July 23: Moonrise Kingdom
Thursday, July 24: Citizen Kane
Friday, July 25: Pitch Perfect
Saturday, July 26: Top Gun
Residents, employees and visitors are encouraged to arrive early and bring their own lawn chairs. A limited number of chairs will also be provided. Woodmont Triangle is home to numerous restaurants, ice cream and coffee shops and attendees are invited to enjoy dinner or a snack before the 9 p.m. movie start. Parking is available in the Auburn Avenue garage which is adjacent to the event site.
Bethesda Big Train Baseball
Shirley Povich Field 10600 Westlake Drive
Time: 7:30 p.m. — 10:00 p.m.
Game: Baltimore Redbirds vs. Bethesda Big Train
Come out to Shirley Povich Field in Cabin John Regional Park and enjoy a night full of baseball and fun and affordable family entertainment as you watch the Bethesda Big Train of the Cal Ripken League!
BCC Chamber of Commerce – Monthly After Hours
Gallery Bethesda 4800 Auburn Avenue
Time: 5:00 p.m. — 6:30 p.m.
Join us after work for cocktails and networking at the newly opened Gallery Bethesda. Cost $10/Members Free.
The NEW Farm Women’s Outdoor FRIDAY Market starts July 18th! A handful of new food and craft vendors begin this Friday with more coming July 25th! Bethesda’s Top Deli Food Truck- Corned Beef King headlines the Farm Women’s new Outdoor Market. New vendors bring together cuisine from around the world to satisfy every palate.
Gallery B: 7700 Wisconsin Avenue, Suite E
Time: 12:00 p.m. — 6:00 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday
Summer Visions is a group exhibition featuring work by Shaune Bazner, Judy Gilbert Levey, Donna K. McGee, Patricia Zannie and Michele Zugrav.
Gallery hours: Wed. – Sat., 12-6 p.m.
Opening reception: Friday, July 11, 6-9 p.m.
A national traffic safety organization honored Montgomery County’s top traffic enforcement official, a man who has experienced personal tragedy when it comes to vehicle safety. Montgomery County Police Capt. Thomas…
This sponsored, biweekly 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…
Check out all the activity on the local real estate market from last week, including the sale of a $2.8 million home near Bradley Boulevard: 5225 Pooks Hill Road;…
Work has started on the 12-floor, 139-unit Solaire apartment project at the longtime site of Eastham’s Exxon Servicenter on Wisconsin Avenue. Last week, crews demolished the gas station structures that…
A multi-vehicle accident on Old Georgetown Road Friday left at least four people injured and some lanes closed. MCFRS responded to the scene, at the southbound Old Georgetown Road ramp…
Strathmore on Friday announced a two-day, “culinary and epicurean arts festival” packed with national TV personalities, local chefs, food trucks, tasting sessions and a craft beer garden. “Appetite –…