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by BethesdaNow.com — January 29, 2013 at 3:40 pm 0

 

The Montgomery County Council announced today that its public hearing on the Chevy Chase Lake Sector Plan is set for 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 5.

The Council received the Sector Plan on Friday from the County Planning Board, which since September has been hashing out guidelines for building heights, densities and other details of the mixed-use commercial and residential development planned for both sides of Connecticut Avenue between Chevy Chase Lake Drive and Manor Road.

Differences remain between County Planning Staff, the Board and residents, specifically on building height limits. Members of the Connecticut Avenue Corridor Committee have said they will likely protest some of the Board-approved building heights during the public hearing.

In a letter to County Council President Nancy Navarro (D-East County), Planning Board Chair Francoise Carrier said the Sector Plan expands access to transportation alternatives in one of the heaviest areas of car traffic in the county.

Carrier also labeled the Plan’s two-step implementation process, which would require the planned Chevy Chase Lake Purple Line station to be built before some development, an “innovative staging framework.”

“While the Staff Draft recommended moderate heights and densities for the Town Center, the majority of the Planning Board had a vision for the plan area with significantly greater heights and densities, both before and after the Purple Line,” Carrier wrote. “The majority of the Board considered it particularly important to take full  advantage ofthe anticipated arrival ofthe Purple Line by intensifying development in the Town Center.”

Images via Montgomery County Planning Department

by BethesdaNow.com — January 29, 2013 at 2:40 pm 1 Comment

News came yesterday that big box bookstore Barnes & Noble will close about 30 percent of its 689 stores in the next decade after another down year of book sales.

That could mean a big loss for Bethesda Row, where the Barnes & Noble at 4801 Bethesda Avenue serves as an anchor store and perhaps the most prominent landmark in the bustling mixed-use development project.

Company spokeswoman Mary Ellen Keating said “we expect to be [in Bethesda] for many years to come,” though she wouldn’t specify how long the company’s lease is other than to say it was long term.

A marketing representative for Rockville-based Federal Realty, which owns the property, did not return a request for comment.

Keating told Bethesda Patch the company “has great real estate in prime locations and the company’s management is fully committed to the retail concept for the long term.”

Earlier this month, Barnes & Noble announced a 10.9 percent decline in retail sales during the nine-week 2012 holiday season compared to 2011. Most of that decline came from new stores open for less than a year.

Flickr photo by North Bethesda Market

by BethesdaNow.com — January 29, 2013 at 2:00 pm 0

Officials will present updated designs next week for the Intelligence Community Campus-Bethesda (ICCB) on Sangamore Road, a once controversial project that neighbors now say should fit in better with the surrounding wooded area.

Representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers and construction company Whiting-Turner will provide “the updated Architectural Vision for the campus,” according to Montgomery County Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) coordinator Phil Alperson. The meeting is set for 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 7 at the Washington Waldorf School (4800 Sangamore Rd.).

In November, seven or eight of some of the most vocal community leaders said they were pleased with alternate designs presented in a small community meeting. The $300 million, 40-acre campus at 4600 Sangamore Rd. is surrounded by parkland.

Winnebago Road resident Harry Pfohl said the designs included new features that better integrated the campus into the forest around it and that they were very well received.

“They presented some real ways to integrate the project with the National Park forestland behind it and to landscape the garage to provide for a more wooded, natural setting,” Pfohl said. “The concepts were unanimously enthusiastically received by the community leaders. That really says something.”

The campus, which will be expanded to hold about 3,000 employees, use to house the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency headquarters. That agency was relocated to Virginia under BRAC and the Defense Intelligence Agency will take over Sangamore Road.

Pfohl said the neighbors were particularly impressed by the stormwater management plan and landscape features such as small ponds.

“Everyone was grinning,” Pfohl said in November.

by BethesdaNow.com — January 29, 2013 at 11:52 am 0

(UPDATED: 12:15 p.m.) Montgomery County police are searching the Capital Crescent Trail for a man who reportedly matches the description of a suspect in a rape on the Trail last year.

There was no sexual assault today, as we first reported. Officer Janelle Smith, a spokeswoman for MCPD, said somebody tipped off police to a man who looked similar to a composite sketch of the suspect in the October incident.

At 11:39 a.m. today, police were called to search the Trail near the Arlington Road entrance for a Hispanic male with a mustache, riding an old-fashion bicycle reportedly toward downtown Bethesda. Police were searching the trail in both directions on Tuesday.

Police said a man riding a bicycle was seen in the area of the Trail between MacArthur Bouelvard and Massachusetts Avenue on the night of Oct. 21, when the sexual assault took place.

by BethesdaNow.com — January 29, 2013 at 11:45 am 0

Strathmore is kicking off its Friday Night Eclectic series this Friday with an 11-act mini-music-dance-theater-and-art festival hosted by local alt-rock band Bellflur.

Bellflur, bands Exit Clov and Echo Wall are all releasing new albums around their performances at the Strathmore Mansion (10701 Rockville Pike). The show includes bands performing in different rooms with accompanying visual artists: actors from the Grain of Sand Theatre, dancers from the Beth Elliot Dance Group, presentations from artists Ben Tolman, Beth Farnstrom, Alabaster Slade, Steve Gentile, video director Richard Bernett and author Goodloe Byron.

Doors open at 8 p.m. The performance starts at 9 p.m. Standing room only tickets can be purchased for $15 at the door and $12 in advance at the Strathmore’s website:

This wandering performance experience a la New York’s Shakespeare-esque Sleep No More takes over Strathmore’s historic Mansion with The Ghosts of Handsome Skin, a project that includes musicians, artists, authors, actors, dancers and choreographers from the Washington, D.C. area. The immersive night is built around atmospheric indie band Bellflur’s new album “Twelve Vagrant Monologues from the Last Living Star”, a collaborative music and art project with author Pablo D’Stair and artist Ben Tolman.

The series continues on Friday, Feb. 8 with D.C. singer-songwriter Stone Kawala and host Martin Amini of Silver City Productions, who will headline a performance of poetry, spoken word and hip-hop with Philadelphia Slick, Soho Kings with poet-singer Mihenta, poet Drew Law and D.C. singer-songwriter Kara Falck.

Strathmore will also host a Friday Night Eclectic show on February, 15 and 22, March 1, 8 and 22 and April 5 and 26. For more information, visit the Strathmore’s website.

Photo via Strathmore

by BethesdaNow.com — January 29, 2013 at 10:30 am 0

Montgomery County is recovering but not all the way back from the fiscal woes of the last few years, County Executive Isiah Leggett and other officials told residents at a budget forum on Monday in Bethesda.

Leggett, who held the event before the release of his recommended fiscal year 2014 operating budget on March 15, cut 1,254 county positions from 2010 to 2012 and faced the loss of about $4 billion in property tax revenue during the recession.

Things have begun to turn around. But a county budget analyst warned there’s still limited room to restore some of the programming and positions that have been cut.

“Things are a little bit better, but we’re not out of the woods yet,” said Jennifer Hughes, director of the Montgomery County Office of Management and Budget.

As always, Hughes and Leggett described a budget that would be mostly devoted to three “given” areas: schools, public safety and debt service payment.

Montgomery County Public Schools took up 48 percent ($2.1 billion) of Leggett’s recommended $4.428 billion budget for last year, and that rate likely won’t change much. Combined with funding for public safety (police, fire, corrections and homeland security) and the payment of debt for capital projects, Hughes said there about 29 percent of the budget should be left for what she labeled “discretionary funding.”

Last year, a healthier budget cycle meant the restoration of 92 county positions and a recommended $37.7 million increase for public safety, $26.9 million increase for other employee compensation/fixed costs/non-public safety and $60 million increase for retiree health benefits.

Leggett touted the county’s new Open Data program as an example of a servie that increased government transparency while being affordable and innovative. He also relayed his belief that by the time his operating budget gets to the County Council, about 98 percent of it will be agreed upon.

County Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac) will likely have a role in wrangling over the remaining budget issues. He spoke at the forum and praised Leggett (D) for his “fiscal stewardship” during tough economic times, a recurring label that has come to define Leggett’s time in county government’s top position.

Monday’s forum was the third of five Leggett will host countywide. Tomorrow, he’ll head to the Silver Spring Civic Building before going to the East County next week.

The County Council approves the operating budget at the end of May.

by BethesdaNow.com — January 29, 2013 at 9:30 am 9 Comments

Officials in charge of a Wisconsin Avenue sidewalk project promised less of an environmental impact on Chevy Chase’s “Green Mile” than first feared during a public meeting on Monday.

But in a packed room of the Somerset Town Hall, the long controversial issue seemed as divisive as ever. The State Highway Administration wants to build a 0.7-mile, $1.2 million sidewalk to connect bus stops on the east side of Wisconsin Avenue between Grafton Street and Bradley Lane.

“Why do we need this at all? We feel we are being railroaded,” said one resident against the sidewalk proposal. “I have trouble understanding where this demand is coming from. Clearly there is a very strong demand from people that are bikers.”

Cyclists were just one group involved in the discussion, which at times devolved into heated arguments between a crowd of about 60 people split by a variety of interests.

A number of cyclists from neighborhoods just south of Chevy Chase spoke up in favor of the sidewalk. They argued it would allow less experienced riders a way to get from Friendship Heights to downtown Bethesda without risking safety on the busy road, more important with the coming introduction of Capital Bikeshare.

Some Chevy Chase residents said they were opposed to the sidewalk because they can’t envision anybody using it, especially without the promise of additional crosswalks that would encourage east-to-west movement across Wisconsin Avenue.

There were plenty of Chevy Chase residents who said the sidewalk was necessary to connect the four bus stops in the stretch.

“I think it is very sad and unfortunately laughable the square chunk of concrete that northbound riders are faced with when they get off the bus,” said one resident in favor of the sidewalk.

“I think people are living in the past,” another said. “How could you not have sidewalks on both sides of Wisconsin Avenue?”

(more…)

by BethesdaNow.com — January 29, 2013 at 8:30 am 0

Roti Mediterranean Grill Opening In March — The fast casual kabob and falafel joint is officially opening in March in Westlake Village Center (10327 Westlake Dr.). The announcement was made a few days after the Chicago-based chain started promoting its free lunch for a year contest. [Washington Business Journal]

Summer Camp Fairs Coming To Bethesda — Washington Family Magazine is sponsoring two summer camp and activity fairs in Bethesda. The first is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 16 at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad (5020 Battery Lane). The second is set for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 2 at Westfield Montgomery Mall (7101 Democracy Blvd.) in the main court in front of Macy’s. Lists of participating camps can be found on Washington Family Magazine’s website. [Washington Family Magazine]

State Bills Would Ban Fake Pot — A quartet of laws that would ban synthetic marijuana in Maryland are circulating in Annapolis. Maryland is one of six states that doesn’t ban the products and could soon be the jurisdiction in the area if Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray signs a bill that would ban it there. [Washington Examiner]

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