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by BethesdaNow.com — February 11, 2013 at 3:45 pm 0

County officials, nonprofit leaders and others held a press event today to celebrate the release of a report that shows 10 percent of Montgomery’s workforce is employed by nonprofits and the sector has nearly $4 billion in purchasing power.

According to the report, county nonprofits employ 43,371 people and pay out $2.2 billion in wages. That employment base grew 9.1 percent between 2007 and 2011 as overall employment in the county dropped by 2.5 percent.

“Although leaders in government and business may intuitively understand the value of the nonprofit community, this new report compellingly quantifies the return on investment that nonprofit businesses provide,” said Chuck Bean, executive director of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, in a prepared statement. “This cutting-edge examination of the business of doing good in Montgomery County is the new model — now it’s time to do this analysis in every jurisdiction in our region.”

The county’s Department of Economic Development and Department of Health and Human Services funded the report.

Economic Development director Steve Silverman said nonprofits play “an essential” role in the county’s economy.

“The nonprofit sector is a significant and stable source of good jobs, and this report is a reminder that we should strive to attract and retain nonprofit businesses of all types and sizes, just as we do with for-profit businesses,” Silverman said in the release.

The event today was held at Discovery Communications in Silver Spring.

Flickr pool photo by AmyMarieMoore

by BethesdaNow.com — February 11, 2013 at 3:15 pm 0

A group of residents and community leaders hoping to see Montgomery County push up a revision of Bethesda’s aging master plan likely won’t have much luck, according to Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center director Ken Hartman.

But after feedback from County Council members who received the Woodmont Triangle Action Group’s letter asking to expedite the 1994 Sector Plan revision process, Hartman said there are alternative options that could address concerns.

One would be a discussion on public amenities, which some say are lacking as Bethesda continues to welcome new residential apartment and condominium projects. The other would be a functional amendment process regarding Bethesda’s many one-way streets. That could occur before the Sector Plan revision, which is slated to start in 2014 and could take years to complete.

A number of Sector Plan revisions are ahead of Bethesda making it unlikely that it will be moved up, Hartman said Friday at the most recent meeting of the Woodmont Triangle Action Group.

by BethesdaNow.com — February 11, 2013 at 2:45 pm 0

Kathie Durbin is the chief of Licensure, Regulation & Education for the Montgomery County Department of Liquor Control. She also tended bar for 12 years at Bethesda’s Durty Nelly’s, the popular bar on Montgomery Lane that preceded Tommy Joe’s.

Durbin (who is also chair of the Responsible Hospitality Institute) checked in with some thoughts on our story about Bethesda’s nightlife scene and how alcohol regulation could play into an upcoming “night-time economy initiative” from County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) and Councilman Hans Riemer (D-At large) of Silver Spring.

Durbin said that while there are outdated alcohol regulations that will be examined, maximizing the area’s night-time economy is primarily about providing safe places to go while balancing the concerns of businesses and the community.

“I really feel like we’ve come a long way in Montgomery County for nightlife,” Durbin said. “It’s a culture change, a culture shift.”

On the perception that Montgomery County hampers bars and restaurants that make up its nightlife economy, Durbin said the county does need to “have something more structured,” to support those places.

“It’s a question to ask the businesses. If you’re looking at Bethesda and all these town centers that have been developed, there are lots of things to do. It’s really about what the businesses and the community wants in an area,” Durbin said. “I see a lot of action happening in Bethesda. The big thing that drives people is a clean area and a safe area. We just have to be mindful, this isn’t something new.”

Durbin, who recently wrote legislation to allow craft beer growlers at Bradley Food and Beverage on Arlington Road, remembered working and living in a Bethesda with a number of popular night-time hangouts. She also pointed out that affordable housing, not easy to come by in one of the wealthiest counties in the country, is key.

“It’s funny when I hear people say they want to get out of Montgomery County,” Durbin said. “It’s a great community, a place where I lived in my 20s and where I brought my children up.”

by BethesdaNow.com — February 11, 2013 at 1:35 pm 0

County Council President Nancy Navarro (D-East County) today said a proposed gas tax hike from State Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D) probably wouldn’t cover the entire cost of the Purple Line light rail, which would run from Prince George’s County to Bethesda.

“Presently it does not,” Navarro said at a weekly presser when asked if Miller’s proposal would cover the local cost associated with the projected $2.4 billion, 16-mile light rail project. Part of the cost would be picked up by the federal government. “I think we have to wait and see what will be the end result. We understand that obviously within it we will have these Regional Transportation Authorities. It’s too early to understand what the numbers will look like but we have been also very busy calculating exactly what would be the threshold and the way it looks right now is it would not be sufficient.”

Miller’s proposal includes a provision that would allow individual counties to collect up to 5 cents per gallon for local transportation projects. Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) has yet to weigh in on the bill. Raising the gas tax remains an unpopular idea statewide, especially in rural areas where leaders have argued they shouldn’t have to shoulder part of the cost for building transportation infrastructure in Montgomery County.

“I still believe that we have to do whatever we can to ensure that this is a statewide solution. I understand the concerns of the rural jurisdictions, but the bottom line is that Montgomery County is the economic engine of the state so if we benefit from this, so does the rest of the state. So do the rural areas,” Navarro said. “It is really important that we acknowledge that, that we understand, again, who we are in the state. Yes, the urban areas have grown dramatically, but that means more money to be distributed around the state. I’m very concerned about the creation of local transportation authorities because it creates this false impression that we can take care of all that, of this very large challenge.”

Last week, Navarro and Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Potomac) sent a letter to the Maryland Department of Transportation urging them to reconsider stopping all Purple Line design work if transportation funding is not provided in this year’s legislative session.

“It means that this is urgent,” Navarro said. “It means that if we don’t move forward with this particular piece then the risk would be our federal funding. And obviously it creates a sense of urgency for us when it comes to realizing this very important project for Montgomery County.”

Rendering via Maryland Transit Administration

by BethesdaNow.com — February 11, 2013 at 12:30 pm 2 Comments

 

A near-fight that had police rushing to a courtyard of the Georgetown Square shopping center on Friday has the principal of nearby Walter Johnson High School contemplating the school’s open lunch policy.

Police were called to the area around 11 a.m. on Friday by an employee of the DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse who said she saw about 40 kids who were about start what she described as a gang fight.

Police converged and prevented any fighting, said Walter Johnson principal Jennifer Baker, who said the incident involved fewer than five students and was stirred by social media activity over the previous two days. Baker said many more students, having heard about it via social media, rushed out to watch.

Walter Johnson students regularly leave school grounds to eat at Subway, Chipotle, Flippin’ Pizza and others at the shopping center, located at 10400 Old Georgetown Rd.

Friday’s incident was the latest in a series of disruptions at Georgetown Square during the 2012-2013 school year, which Baker said the administration was taking seriously. Baker reminded students they’re lucky to be so close to Georgetown Square.

“I just reminded students that open lunch is a privilege. The only reason that Walter Johnson has the option is our proximity to Georgetown Square and we are guests there,” Baker said. “They need to behave responsibly to be able to use that space.

“In general, the kids here don’t want to be represented that way. That’s not the culture here,” Baker said. “People are not always in favor of open lunch. Sometimes kids don’t treat the neighbors with respect and that’s important to me and it’s important that students learn to be responsible members of the community.”

Baker said she couldn’t discuss the specific punishments handed out to the students involved in stirring up Friday’s incident, but that consequences generally involve a loss of open lunch privileges and any other standard actions that come after fighting of any sort.

“I do take these things really seriously,” Baker said. “Most of the students understand it and don’t want to destroy the reputation of the school and how we’re viewed by the community.”

by BethesdaNow.com — February 11, 2013 at 10:30 am 1 Comment

Last week, White Flint planners and developers won a state award for sustainable growth.

Speaker Christopher Leinberger, author of a study on Washington area walkable communities, said plans for 14,000 housing units and 13 million square feet of mixed-use development on both sides of Rockville Pike near the White Flint Metro station could serve as a national model.

BethesdaNow.com spoke with Dee Metz, Montgomery County’s White Flint Implementation Coordinator, about where the redevelopment process stands and the challenge of connecting four separate development projects around traffic-clogged Rockville Pike.

Metz was the founding director of the Bethesda Urban Partnership, the county-funded nonprofit charged with maintaining and marketing downtown Bethesda. She has served as president of the Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce and has worked in the county’s Department of Housing and Community Affairs and the Department of Economic Development. She was named as the county’s point person on White Flint development in January 2012.

BethesdaNow.com: We’re seeing a dog training center move into White Flint soon. There’s a yoga studio there and a photography school planning to move in nearby. Do you get the sense the neighborhood in White Flint is changing, even before the bulk of the redevelopment takes off?

Metz: I think it is. I think that’s partly because the development community and the local community have worked so well together. I’ve been in the business for almost 30 years. I’ve never seen such cooperation and excitement in a community. With these projects, between the development community and the residential community there are always some naysayers. But they seem to have worked so well together that I think it’s attracted some of these businesses.

I think we’re starting to get more lifestyle type of retail. It’s going to be a little slow coming. [Developer] Foulger-Pratt is working on the North Bethesda Gateway. They’re submitting an amendment to their sketch plan this week or next week. That goes from Rockville Pike to Huff Court on Nicholson Lane, where the Fitzgerald Automotive is. There are three property owners there. They’re going to do five-story over retail, so six-story buildings to create this East Village. What [co-developer] ProMark has identified is we need more of these local retailers. We want the frozen yogurt stores and yoga studios. I think that people are realizing that need.

(more…)

by BethesdaNow.com — February 11, 2013 at 9:30 am 0

County Council Meets With Mikulski — Members of the Montgomery County Council this morning will continue their series of informal discussions with federal and state elected officials when they sit down with Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) at noon. Past meetings have included Sen. Ben Cardin (D) and Rep. John Sarbanes (D). [Montgomery County Council]

Chevy Chase’s Persimmon Reopens — Persimmon, the Wisconsin Avenue restaurant (7003 Wisconsin Ave.) that had been closed since July for renovations, reopened on Saturday with a new look and new menu. [Bethesda Magazine]

Fitness Studio To Open Wednesday The Bar Method, a women’s workout studio with more than 65 locations, is ready to open Wednesday on the ground floor of the Lionsgate Condominium (7710 Woodmont Ave.) according to the Bethesda Urban Partnership.

Flickr photo by im_apatel

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