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by BethesdaNow.com — December 14, 2012 at 5:05 pm 719 1 Comment

With details emerging from today’s mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school, local officials have expressed condolences to all those affected.

Montgomery County Public Schools pointed to the system’s emergency preparedness procedures, which are rehearsed and reviewed on a regular basis.

MCPS spokeswoman Gboyinde Onijala said each school has a total of four scenario based drills a year based on a weather event, community incident, hazardous materials and lockdown situation.

Montgomery County Police Department officers were detailed to county elementary schools this afternoon.

Meanwhile, County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) released the following statement:

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the families touched by the senseless slaughter perpetrated today at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Such violence directed toward anyone is unspeakable – aimed at little children all the more so. There is no point in trying to make sense of it for it makes no sense.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said ‘we find delight in the beauty and happiness of children that makes the heart too big for the body.’ Tonight, though, hearts are broken into pieces in Newtown, in Montgomery County, and all across America. Some will take a long time to mend. Some never will.

And so we pray, we mourn, and we try to figure what we can do to make sure our classrooms resound to the sounds of laughter and learning, not tragic consequences.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D) also released a statement:

My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families of this tragedy.  The entire nation stands with the community of Newtown. Today is a day for mourning and prayer, but we must immediately get to work to end these senseless, mass killings of innocent Americans. Together, we must act now to stop the carnage.

by BethesdaNow.com — December 14, 2012 at 3:30 pm 1,166 0

Dr. Gene E. Green will be the new president of Suburban Hospital (8600 Old Georgetown Rd.) taking over the position from Brian Gragnolati.

Green, who serves as the chief medical officer for the Johns Hopkins Community Physicians network, was chosen for his experience in “community-based medicine,” Suburban Board of Trustees Chairman Christopher Doherty said in a statement.

Gragnolati will become the senior vice president for the Johns Hopkins Health System, which includes primary care physician offices and six area hospitals including Suburban.

“Suburban Hospital will benefit from Gene’s experience as an effective relationship builder and communicator,” Gragnolati said in a statement. “His knowledge of Johns Hopkins Medicine will be extremely effective in facilitating and accelerating our clinical integration efforts with other parts of the Hopkins system.”

Suburban has been Bethesda’s primary hospital facility since 1943 and cites its affiliation to the National Institutes of Health (NIH is located directly across Old Georgetown Road) with helping to bring about advanced treatment of strokes, heart attacks and other conditions.

Green joined Johns Hopkins Community Physicians in 2003. Before entering medical school, he worked as a paramedic and businessman in Virginia.

Photo via Suburban Hospital

by BethesdaNow.com — December 14, 2012 at 2:30 pm 965 0

Editor’s Note: This new weekly sponsored column is written by the staff of Georgetown Square Wine and Beer (10400 Old Georgetown Road).

Merlot could be the world’s most misunderstood wine varietal. Sales have decreased and planted acreage of Merlot has plummeted in California all since… a movie came out.

Yup, a 2004 movie called Sideways, which had one of the main characters blast Merlot the entire movie. Since the release of Sideways, Merlot sales in the U.S. have steadily declined.

Merlot’s problems are not a quality and taste issue. It’s a marketing problem. When was the last time a sommelier at a restaurant recommended a Merlot to pair with your dinner? It’s probably been a while.

Most people have it in their head that Merlot is a non-quality grape. This couldn’t be further from the truth. California still grows Merlot in it’s top wine producing regions but use most of it for blending purposes, almost hiding Merlot from standing alone. One region has done the opposite the past few decades and has embraced Merlot as a regional wine, Washington state.

The marriage between Washington state and Merlot is a perfect one. Most believed Washington could not become a high quality wine producing region due to it’s cold climate, but with days filled with sunshine and great soil for wine-making, Washington state has become a major region producing great white wine and supple reds.

Merlots from Washington state struggle to grow through the volcanic and glacial soils, this struggle is a good thing when it comes to wine growing. Along with the warm sunny days and cool nights, winemakers turn these Merlot grapes into bold lush wines that can stand up to a California cab any day of the week.

Here are a few of my favorite Washington state Merlot we have in stock.

Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot 2008

Columbia Crest is one of Washington state’s most well-known wineries. Situated in the state’s biggest wine growing region, the Columbia Valley, this Merlot is an excellent value wine. 89 points “Best Value” from Wine Spectator.

Chateau St Michelle Indian Wells Merlot 2008

From Chateau St Michelle’s Indian wells vineyard this Merlot offers a fantastic full-bodied wine that will pair nicely with any pasta dish or grilled meats. 90 points from Wine Spectator.


by BethesdaNow.com — December 14, 2012 at 1:26 pm 737 0


Update at 1:40 p.m. — MCFRS has given the all-clear and officials are allowing people back into their businesses.

Original story: MCFRS and MCPD officials have evacuated the Shoppes of Bethesda strip mall on Hampden Lane after workers in the Montgomery County liquor store (4920 Hampden Lane) reported a strong chemical odor.

MCFRS officials believe the odor was brought into the liquor store through the HVAC system. Workers were on the roof with chemical products.

One person on the scene was feeling ill from the odor but did not want to go to the hospital.

Hampden Lane between Woodmont Avenue and Arlington Road is closed. MCFRS officials are running tests inside the liquor store.


by BethesdaNow.com — December 14, 2012 at 12:45 pm 942 0

Bethesda’s apartment market is booming, but Montgomery County planners are starting to consider whether that boom is upsetting the balance of development in the community.

Planning Department urban designer Margaret Rifkin told a meeting of the Woodmont Triangle Action Group today (Friday) that staff members are taking a hard look at how consistent proposed apartment developments in downtown areas are with the 1994 Bethesda Central Business District (CBD) master plan. That plan called for a concentration of office and commercial uses in the central part of Bethesda, near the Bethesda Metro station.

But with market for new office buildings struggling, developers want to build apartments in those spaces. Rifkin said Florida-based developer Bainbridge has informally spoken to Planning Department staff about a residential project at the former Exxon station at Wisconsin Avenue and Montgomery Lane, a prime location in the heart of Bethesda.

“The core of Bethesda in the sector plan is designed as an employment core and we’ve been increasingly getting proposals coming in for residential,” Rifkin said. “We’ve had several different developers come in who would like to do residential. We all love residential, but we also have to honor our sector plan. So we are going to be very careful about how we frame that issue of consistency with the sector plan.”

In October, McClean, Va.-based developer Kettler presented details on a 120-unit apartment building at the corner of Old Georgetown Road and Commerce Lane, where a bank building now stands.

Jad Donohoe, with the Donohoe Development Co., said developers are pursuing residential projects more often because it’s the better economic bet. Offices are difficult to fill.

“It’s the complete opposite of what Bethesda was going through 15 years ago, in terms of office,” Donohoe told the group, made up of business representatives, residents and others who make recommendations to county government on Woodmont Triangle development. “Part of it is Montgomery County is kind of getting our clocks cleaned in terms of Fairfax and Arlington attracting those new businesses.”

Intelsat, a leading broadcast satellite company that was looking to move from its D.C. headquarters, recently chose Tysons Corner in Fairfax County over Bethesda and other options. The Washington Business Journal reported both Maryland and Virginia offered significant incentive packages, but Tysons won out because the company thought it offered more amenities and easier parking access.

Some residents of the CBD have different concerns, mainly how an aging master plan can ensure the right balance of residents, schools, roads, parks and civic space as more and more housing units are built.

The Woodmont Triangle Acting Group is working on a letter to County Council President Nancy Navarro (D- East County, Mid-County) that would encourage the county to prioritize the CBD master plan update for those reasons.

by BethesdaNow.com — December 14, 2012 at 11:30 am 546 0

The Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Cultures is joining up with some area organizations for a holiday toy drive and blanket drive.

The toy drive, in collaboration with the Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church, ends today. Unwrapped toys can be dropped off at the Glen Echo Park office (7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo) on the second floor of the Arcade Building and wil go to children at the Anacostia Comunity Center.

The Partnership and the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rotary are collecting blankets for the needy. Donations will be accepted through next week.

Glen Echo will hold its annual winter holiday celebration tomorrow from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. More details on that event here.

Flickr photo by ricepeter

by BethesdaNow.com — December 14, 2012 at 10:30 am 1,620 0


Chevy Chase-based JBG Cos. wants to build a 17-story, 475-unit apartment at 7900 Wisconsin Ave., on the south end of a property that was to include the new 2nd District Police Station.

That deal, part of a public-private land swap between JBG and Montgomery County, fell through after JBG didn’t acquire all of the property between Wisconsin and Woodmont Avenues up to Cordell Avenue because of financial reasons.

But JBG plans to go ahead with slightly modified plans for the property it owns, which includes the Columbia Bank office building that houses the Fitness First gym, Parvizian Fine Rugs building and an auto detailer on Woodmont Avenue.

The county parking meter lot (Lot 43) is not part of the project and will remain.

JBG’s Frank Craighill presented plans for the building to the Woodmont Triangle Action Group on Friday morning. The developer submitted its plans to the Planning Department on Thursday. Publicly available renderings won’t be available until Tuesday’s public meeting at 7 p.m. in Room D of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center (4805 Edgemoor Lane).

The building as proposed will include 22,000 square feet of ground floor retail. Craighill said JBG is negotiating with a grocery store chain to take about 20,000 square feet of that space.

Craighill presented a building that would run about 275 feet along Wisconsin Avenue with a “bridge” or arch in the middle for pedestrian access similar to the Bethesda Lane pedestrian and retail area at Bethesda Row.

The average unit size would be somewhere around 785 square feet, though Craighill told the group he expects the 475-unit number to decrease through the planning process. Parking garage access for residents would be on the Woodmont Avenue side of the building.

Craighill said he doesn’t expect JBG will allow for more than a 0.7 parking space per unit ratio.

“We feel that for the demographic we’re kind of targeting and would be attracted to this area, parking is really not a necessary amenity,” Craighill said.

The Bethesda Metro station is less than half a mile from the site. JBG is also exploring creating space for a Capital Bikeshare station on the Woodmont Avenue side of the development. The projected groundbreaking for the project is January 2014.

by BethesdaNow.com — December 14, 2012 at 9:30 am 859 0

Montgomery County has decided to suspend parking meter installation for Chevy Chase Drive and Offut Lane indefinitely, according to an email Department of Transportation Deputy Director Al Roshdieh sent to residents yesterday.

After MCDOT installed meter posts in October, residents on the street of apartments and condominiums were quick to express anger over the plan for 28 meters on Chevy Chase Drive and 17 on Offut Lane.

MCDOT had identified the area as one outside the Bethesda Parking Lot District (PLD) where commuters and downtown workers would park to avoid paying for public parking garages or other meters. Residents in the neighborhood disagreed, saying only people who live on the street parked on the street because of limited parking options at their apartments.

Councilmember Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac) intervened and the installation was suspended. Berliner later apologized for the County Council’s handling of the meter proposal. The council approved the installation in its fiscal year 2013 budget discussions with MCDOT.

It wasn’t until yesterday that MCDOT dropped the meter idea altogether. The suspension also means MCDOT won’t install 100 meters planned for Bradley Boulevard:

To Our Residents,

Based on your written feedback and comments the Department of Transportation has decided to suspend indefinitely the installation of any new parking meters on Chevy Chase Drive, Offutt Lane and Bradley Boulevard. The meter posts already installed will be removed. Before the Department plans any future meter installations in this area we will insure you have ample opportunity to comment in advance.

Based on this decision the planned public discussion is now unnecessary and is hereby cancelled.


Al Roshdieh

Deputy Director

Montgomery County Department of Transportation

The county had planned a meeting with residents on Dec. 20 to discuss the meters, though some of the apartment and condominium leaders involved said they wouldn’t be able to attend on such short notice and that close to the holidays.

Some suggested a residential parking permit as an alternative to meters. Debrah Shaver, on the Board of the Bradley House Condominium Association, said getting signatures from two-thirds of residents on the streets necessary was going to be a difficult task.

by BethesdaNow.com — December 14, 2012 at 8:30 am 716 0

Bethesda Row Juice Bar Starts Home Delivery — Puree Juice Bar (4903 Elm St.) has started a home delivery service after owner Amy Waldman heard many of her customers complain that it is too difficult to get around Bethesda. Puree is making its juices and foods out of a vegan commercial kitchen in Kensington. [Bethesda Magazine]

Survivor of Chevy Chase Car Chase Crash Gets Probation — Reeco R. Richardson, 19, of Washington D.C. was in the stolen car that crashed into a tree in Chevy Chase Circle during a police chase. Richardson is suing the Montgomery County Police Department and started a website that prosecutors asked a judge to shut down. [The Gazette]

Bethesda Art Walk Tonight — Bethesda Urban Partnership’s monthly art walk starts tonight at 6 p.m. Visitors and art-seekers are encouraged to visit eight locations. [Bethesda Urban Partnership]

Flickr photo by ehpien


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