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Suspects Reportedly Use Pepper Spray In Theft At White Flint Mall

by Aaron Kraut | April 18, 2014 at 6:05 pm | 190 views | No Comments

Lord & Taylor at White Flint MallThree women reportedly involved in a theft at the Lord & Taylor at White Flint Mall used pepper spray on a store clerk, according to scanner traffic.

According to a police lookout on Friday evening, the three suspects were in the same car seen at a theft earlier in the day at the Lord & Taylor at Lakeforest Mall in Gaithersburg.

The White Flint Mall incident happened at about 5:40 p.m. Three black women, armed with pepper spray and a knife, stole items totaling less than $1,000 and one of the women reportedly used pepper spray on a store clerk.

The women were seen leaving the department store (11311 Rockville Pike) in a white Chevrolet Impala that headed north on Rockville Pike.

Tasting Room Wine Bar To Close In Chevy Chase

by Aaron Kraut | April 18, 2014 at 5:45 pm | 90 views | No Comments

Photo via The Tasting Room Wine Bar & ShopA Friendship Heights wine bar dedicated to showcasing varieties from a high-end Virginia vineyard is closing up shop.

The Tasting Room Wine Bar & Shop (5330A Western Ave.) in The Shops At Wisconsin Place announced on Friday that it will close Monday.

The store made the announcement on Facebook.

The wine bar opened about five years ago. Boxwood Winery, the Middleburg, Va. vineyard set up in 2004, opened the tasting room with the hopes of extending its brand.

John Kent Cooke, son of former Washington Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke, backs the operation, which produces three styles of red wine.

There are two other locations of The Tasting Room, one in Reston and one in National Harbor.

Photo via The Tasting Room Wine Bar & Shop

Restaurant Roundup: Penang’s Remodel, City Burger Hiring

by Aaron Kraut | April 18, 2014 at 2:05 pm | 255 views | No Comments

City Burgers, via chef Michael Harr Green Hat Gin and tonics, via Wildwood Kitchen Former Berry Yogurt spot on Norfolk Avenue, now up for lease

Following are a few end-of-the-week tidbits from the Bethesda restaurant world.

City Burger Is Hiring – The folks behind Food Wine & Co. are nearing the opening of their “better burger” concept just a few blocks from their flagship restaurant. Chef Michael Harr, who helms the kitchen at Food Wine & Co. and who is a partner at Fish Taco in Cabin John, tweeted on Friday that the restaurant is now hiring.

Harr and Francis Namin are set to open the burger place at 7105 Wisconsin Ave., just down the street from Namin’s well regarded Food Wine & Co. restaurant (7272 Wisconsin Ave.) and on the same block as Namin and partner Carlos Ramirez’s Beer Wine & Co. (7029 Wisconsin Ave.).

Penang Goes Through $60,000 Renovation – Wondering why Malaysian and Thai restaurant Penang has been closed for the past few weeks?

Bethesda Magazine’s Andrew Metcalf reports owner Kevin Cheah and company are putting the 4933 Bethesda Ave. space through a $60,000 renovation. Cheah wants to market it to a younger crowd with a new look. The menu won’t change.

Look for a reopening on or near April 23.

Prominent Woodmont Triangle Space Officially Available – It’s official now. The former Berry Yogurt space at 7920 Norfolk Ave. is up for lease by property owner Douglas Development.

Blogger Robert Dyer is hoping for Shake Shack, which Douglas has done business with before. He also said Norfolk Avenue could become “the Bethesda Avenue of the redeveloped Woodmont Triangle,” referring to the popular pedestrian street in Bethesda Row.

Like Tonics? – Then Wildwood Kitchen in Wildwood Shopping Center (10223 Old Georgetown Rd.) might be a good bet. The restaurant from chef Robert Wiedmaier says its the first place in Montgomery County with the new Green Hat Gin. It’s putting that into its #6 and #7 seasonal tonics. One is white tea, cucumber, basil & celery. The other has calendura, slippery elm, ginger root, tumeric and pineapple.

Challenger Questions Commitment Of District 18′s Gutierrez After El Salvador Trip

by Aaron Kraut | April 18, 2014 at 12:45 pm | 158 views | 2 Comments

Ana Sol Gutierrez, Flickr photo via Edward Kimmel D-18 Delegate candidate Rick Kessler

A challenger for one of three District 18 delegate seats is questioning the commitment of incumbent Ana Sol Gutierrez because she took a trip to her native El Salvador during the 2014 legislative session.

Rick Kessler, one of seven District 18 Democratic candidates in this June’s primary, said Gutierrez’s absence from the General Assembly on Jan. 30 and Jan. 31 to travel to El Salvador was “about commitment to the district and the office.”

“Running for office is a choice and taking the oath of office is a choice. She chose to do what she wanted to do rather than what she was elected to do,” Kessler said. “It’s only a 90-day session. She chose to leave some of those days rather than be here for us all of those days.”

Gutierrez traveled to El Salvador, where she was born, to vote in the country’s Feb. 2 presidential election. This was the first year U.S.-based Salvadorans were given the chance to vote from outside El Salvador, but there remained difficulties in registering from abroad.

In September, Gutierrez told WAMU she planned to travel to El Salvador to cast her ballot.

“My only way to vote, which is the way I have always voted, is to go to El Salvador to cast my vote,” Gutierrez said then.

When reached for comment on Friday, Gutierrez said, “I’m not interested in this kind of story.”

“If you want to talk about issues, then we can, but not this kind of controversy. I don’t want to do that,” Gutierrez said.

Throughout the district, Gutierrez’s ties to her native country are no surprise. The English and Spanish speaking delegate was a Montgomery County Board of Education member from 1990-1998.

It’s the latest in what has been an at times contentious race for District 18′s three seats in the House of Delegates. All three incumbents — Gutierrez, Al Carr and Jeff Waldstreicher — are running. Kessler, Natali Fani-Gonzalez, Elizabeth Matory and Emily Shetty round out the field.

It appears Kessler and other competitors are targeting Gutierrez, the three-term incumbent who stated her intention to retire rather than run again in 2014 — at least according to challengers who said they got into the race with that open seat in mind.

Gutierrez told The Gazette earlier this month that she never said she wouldn’t run in 2014, saying her decision making on whether to retire is being used by challengers to hurt her campaign.

District 18 includes parts of Bethesda, Chevy Chase, North Bethesda and Silver Spring as well as Garrett Park, Kensington and Wheaton. It’s billed as the most diverse district in the state.

(more…)

PSC To Talk Pepco Rate Hike Request Next Week

by Aaron Kraut | April 18, 2014 at 11:45 am | No Comments

Pepco pole, via Abigail ReidPepco’s request for a $43 million rate increase will go before the state’s Public Service Commission starting next week.

The power company said the application for the increase, filed in December, was necessary to pay for infrastructure improvements that have led to fewer power outages and shorter outage durations.

On Tuesday, April 22, Wednesday April 23, Friday, April 25, Thursday, May 1, Friday, May 2 and possibly Monday, May 5, the Public Service Commission (PSC) will hold a series of hearings on the rate increase request.

If approved, the increases would go into effect on July 4, 2014.

The request includes records of the $238.5 million the company says it spent from October 2012 to September 2013 to improve infrastructure. The company claims it plans to spend an additional $234 million this year.

Pepco says it has done vegetation management on 5,600 miles of overhead wire, upgraded more than 130 overhead distribution feeders and installed new or upgraded more than 860 miles of underground home distribution lines since 2010.

Those improvements, Pepco says, have led to a 38.5 percent improvement in its Average Interruption Frequency Index and 40 percent improvement in its System Average Interruption Duration Index.

Pepco critics say the privately held electric company shouldn’t get more money for fulfilling its basic duty of providing reliable electric service.

The rate increase would mean an increase of $4.80 a month for the average residential customer, according to Pepco’s filing.

In the filing, Pepco also asked for an increase in its return on equity — the allowable return on investment to its shareholders — from 9.36 percent to 10.25 percent.

Last July, the PSC approved part of Pepco’s last rate hike request, a decision that is being challenged in court. In a Nov. 6 earnings call, Pepco Chairman Joseph Rigby told investors the decision to grant $27.9 million of its $60.8 million rate hike meant the company must make another rate hike request.

That request followed in December.

The hearings will all begin at 10 a.m., unless otherwise noted. The April 23 and April 30 hearings will begin at 1 p.m., or half-an-hour after the completion of PSC’s administrative meeting.

The sessions will be a series of evidentiary hearings, in a court-like legal setting that critics of the PSC have said creates barriers to customer participation.

The PSC will hold two public comment hearings on the matter. One will be at the Executive Office Building in Rockville (101 Monroe Street) at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 12.

Written comments may also be filed by Friday, May 30, 2014, and should be addressed to David J. Collins, Executive Secretary, Maryland Public Service Commission, 6 St. Paul Street, 16th Floor, Baltimore, Maryland 21202, referencing Case No. 9336.

The evidentiary hearings next week will be held at the PSC’s headquarters in Baltimore. The hearings will be streamed live at the PSC’s website.

Photo via Abigail Reid

Open Houses This Weekend In Bethesda

by Aaron Kraut | April 18, 2014 at 10:25 am | 106 views | No Comments

Check out a few of the open houses scheduled around town this Easter weekend.

See our Real Estate section for a full listing of open houses and houses for sale around the area.

9302 Kentstone Drive9302 Kentstone Drive
5 BD | 2.5 BA single family detached
Wicca Davidson, W.C. & A.N. Miller Realtors
Listed: $659,900
Open: Saturday, April 19 from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

10406 Snow Point Drive10406 Snow Point Drive
5 BD | 4.5 BA single family detached
Ellen Hatoum, Long & Foster Real Estate
Listed: $1,099,000
Open: Sunday, April 20 from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

8732 Ridge Road8732 Ridge Road
4 BD | 2 BA single family detached
Thomas Whiteman, Long & Foster Real Estate
Listed: $725,000
Open: Sunday, April 20 from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

4 Dudley Court4 Dudley Court
3 BD | 2.5 BA condominium
Jan Brito, Long & Foster Real Estate
Listed: $399,000
Open: Saturday, April 19 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. and Sunday, April 20 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Ursuline Grads Go On Search For Members Of The Class of ’64

by Aaron Kraut | April 18, 2014 at 9:15 am | 100 views | 2 Comments

The Ursuline Academy Class of 1964, via Mary Ellen Schattman

About half of the Ursuline Academy Class of 1964 will be back in Bethesda next weekend, taking a yellow school bus up Old Georgetown Road as part of a three-day long 50th reunion celebration.

Over the past year, organizers have researched maiden names, written letters and tried to track down each of the roughly 60 members of the class.

The all-girls Catholic high school closed in 1975. It is now home to the Lycee Rochambeau French International School at 9600 Forest Road.

On Saturday, April 26, the Class of ’64 will hop on a bus at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Bethesda and head to the school for a tour that’s likely to evoke memories of a very different time.

“When we moved to Bethesda in 1957, it was about as close to Mayberry as you could possibly hope for,” said Mary Ellen Schattman, a Class of ’64 grad and one of the main organizers of the reunion. “It was a small town.”

Prom for the Ursuline Academy Class of '64, via Mary Ellen SchattmanSchattman’s family lived on Rosedale Avenue. She rode her bike to the Bethesda Farm Women’s Market on Saturday mornings to buy sausage to cook for breakfast. She took sewing at Singer Sewing, ate at the Hot Shoppes at Wisconsin Avenue and East-West Highway and remembers a change machine behind the police station kids used to play like a slot machine, hoping for leftover nickels.

It was also a “very difficult time,” said Schattman, who’s maiden name was Brannigan. Resistance to integration caused strife. Bethesda’s Hiser Theatre closed rather than allow black customers.

In November of the Class of ’64′s senior year, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

The school was one of many Catholic high schools that dotted the landscape. The six children in Schattman’s family went to five different Catholic high schools, normal back then.

Ursuline was more academic-oriented than others, Schattman said. She won her school’s Betty Crocker Homemakers of Tomorrow scholarship — despite the fact the school didn’t have a Home Economics class. Latin, French and the sciences were the focus.

Boys weren’t allowed to pick up Ursuline students at the school. Many of the students worked at Camp Shriver — the summer camp Eunice Shriver started in 1962 to match up special needs students with students from area high schools.

The Ursuline Academy Class of 1964, via Mary Ellen SchattmanSome members of the class of ’64 have died. Others live as far away as Europe. About 25 have made reservations for the Hyatt next weekend and Schattman expected more who remained local to show.

The group is still looking for three members of the class: Barbara Peg Hence, Mary Patricia Flan and Carol Jeanne Aldrich.

The reunion will last the length of the weekend, with a dinner on Friday, lunch on Saturday, tour of the old Academy grounds and a brunch on Sunday.

“We expect to have more fun than anyone who has ever had a high school reunion has had,” Schattman said. “My husband’s jealous.”

Photos via Mary Ellen Schattman

WSSC Says Contractor Partially To Blame For Bradley Boulevard Disruptions

by Aaron Kraut | April 18, 2014 at 8:05 am | 124 views | 2 Comments

Traffic cones and a steel plate in the roadway on Bradley Boulevard last weekend (file photo)The contractor on a Bradley Boulevard water main project has had to re-excavate the road multiple times to repair leaks in a new pipe it installed just last October.

Metra Industries, the primary contractor chosen for the project by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, “has struggled to meet contractual requirements and has produced some work that has been unacceptable,” wrote WSSC director of communications Jim Neustadt in an email response to Councilmember Roger Berliner’s office.

Neustadt went on to write that the problems with the project “could serve as an example of why the lowest-bid contracting is not necessarily always the best.”

The constant digging has left the busy thoroughfare near the heart of downtown Bethesda a jumbled mess of steel plates, traffic cones and construction vehicles. It’s also meant a host of complaints to Berliner’s office about late-night construction and daytime lane closures.

Last Friday, Berliner sent a letter to the State Highway Administration expressing his concern about the project and asked the agency to reconsider its permitting process. On Wednesday, Neustadt provided Berliner’s office and the SHA with a recap of the project and what’s next in the process.

On Thursday, Neustadt told BethesdaNow.com that WSSC will send out a similar summary to affected customers with a letter in the next day or two.

“As I said in the letter, we are pursuing appropriate contractual remedies,” Neustadt said. “Our top priority is getting this done so we can get our customers back to some sense of normalcy.”

Neustadt said final paving on the project should be done in late June.

The primary goal of the project is to replace a 20-inch diameter pipe under Bradley Boulevard, near Arlington Road. WSSC said the project was challenging because of adverse weather conditions, a large amount of existing utilities, storm water drainage, restricted working schedules and heavy traffic.

But part of the problem was due to the contractor’s work, Neustadt told public officials.

“We are proceeding with remedies in line with the contract,” Neustadt wrote.

On Thursday, Neustadt said he didn’t want to get into more specifics about the contractual obligations.

In the email, he wrote, “WSSC is working itself away from this type of contracting and has recently been utilizing other selection strategies that hopefully will yield  not only a better product, but better overall value for our customers’ dollars.”

Since the new water main was put into place in October, testing showed the pipe had many leaks, according to WSSC. That meant Bradley Boulevard had to be re-excavated so crews could locate and repair those leaks.

With the pipe unable to operate, Metra wasn’t allowed to tie in the new main to the existing pipe system, set up connections to properties nearby or hook it up to fire hydrants.

Neustadt said the leaks in the pipe have been located and repaired, which will allow Metra to move forward with the rest of the project.

Work that still must be completed includes the installation of two pipes on Arlington Road — a 96-foot long, roughly 10-inch diameter pipe and a 20-foot long, roughly 4-inch diameter pipe.

Crews must also complete seven tie-ins to existing mains, including a key connection to a 60-inch main. Each connection requires a water main shutdown. Neustadt said the contractor plans to perform shutdowns two at a time. Also, the work will happen at night to minimize the impact on customers.

The contractor must also connect the new pipe to two gas stations, an apartment complex and a house before final testing and chlorination.

Weather permitting, the final patching of the pavement will be completed by mid-May with the final mill and overlay paving done by the end of June.

“The current patching is only temporary asphalt which hasn’t held up well due to the extreme winter,” Neustadt wrote.

In a regular monthly email sent to subscribers on Thursday, Berliner wrote he was grateful WSSC saw the project as an example of how lowest-bid contracting doesn’t always work.

“Just sorry our residents have had to pay the price for learning these lessons,” Berliner said.

Gallery B To Feature Fine Arts Photography In May Exhibit

by Aaron Kraut | April 17, 2014 at 3:05 pm | 138 views | 1 Comment

In this one-minute time exposure looking west from Kepler Peak, a turbulent cloud hurtles lightning into Mt. Hamilton foothills. Photo by Laurie Hatch via Bethesda Urban Partnership

Bethesda Urban Partnership’s Gallery B will feature work from seven fine art photographers in its upcoming May exhibition.

The show, called 72 Grams per Pixel, is curated by the company behind the FolioLink website popular with artists and photographers.

Artists include award-winning New York Times photographer Stephen Crowley and Laurie Hatch, the photographer behind the above photo and other photos of astronomical observatories around the world.

The exhibition will be on display from May 1-May 24 from noon to 6 p.m., Wednesday to Saturday.

The opening reception is set for 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, May 9, the same night as BUP’s monthly Bethesda Art Walk. Gallery B is at 7700 Wisconsin Ave., Suite E, with access from the courtyard. Check out the exhibit website here.

Photo via Bethesda Urban Partnership

Turntable Looking Toward Mid-May Opening

by Aaron Kraut | April 17, 2014 at 1:55 pm | 145 views | 2 Comments

Turntable, under construction on Cordell Avenue (file photo)Korean chicken restaurant Turntable is hoping to open in Woodmont Triangle by May 20, according to owner Sung Kim.

The restaurant on Thursday got its Montgomery County alcohol license. Kim told the county’s Board of License Commissioners the restaurant will serve beer, wine and cocktails both inside the restaurant, at an indoor bar and on a front patio space.

The restaurant is taking the former space (4862 Cordell Ave.) of the flagship California Tortilla location, which moved across the street in 2012.

Turntable’s menu and style will be similar to the Turntable location in Manhattan’s Koreatown, just without the beer tower. The restaurant will offer pitchers of beer and close at midnight, seven days a week.

Kim said he’s in the process of finishing hiring and the build-out of the restaurant.

FBI Puts Out Reward For Info On Chevy Chase Bank Robber

by Aaron Kraut | April 17, 2014 at 12:40 pm | 169 views | No Comments

Image via the FBI

The FBI on Thursday said it’s offering $5,000 for information that can help its agents find a suspect in three area bank robberies, including one in Chevy Chase.

The FBI said the man pictured is responsible for the Jan. 13 bank robbery at the Bank of America at 4411 Sout Park Ave. in Friendship Heights.

The FBI said the man is also responsible for a Jan. 29 bank robbery at a Capital One Bank in the Chevy Chase neighborhood of D.C. and a March 28 robbery at a Bank of American in Columbia Heights.

In each of the robberies, the man approached the counter and handed the teller a note that demanded money and implied that he had a weapon. The man then fled the bank on foot after getting the money.

The FBI’s Violent Crimes Task Force, the Metropolitan Police Department and Montgomery County Police are requesting that anyone with information call the FBI at 202-278-2000.

MCP previously offered a $10,000 reward for any information on the identity or whereabouts of the suspect.

Image via the FBI

Organizers Hope Happy Hour Exposes Bethesda Plan To Younger Audience

by Aaron Kraut | April 17, 2014 at 11:50 am | 377 views | 1 Comment

Downtown Bethesda (file photo)Planners searching for more millennial participation in the Bethesda Downtown Plan have found a big opportunity.

A group of young professional planners and those interested in the future of Bethesda will gather at Tommy Joe’s on Wednesday, April 30 to learn about the plan and discuss ways to make Bethesda a better place.

The Congress for New Urbanism D.C. Chapter, Greater Greater Washington, county planners and YIPPS (Young, Innovative, Professional Planning Superstars) teamed up to put together the “Make Your Mark happy hour” at the 4714 Montgomery Lane bar and restaurant.

The event will run from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. One feature will be a Pecha Kucha/20×20-style presentation, meaning organizers will show 20 images of downtown Bethesda for 20 seconds each.

The goal is to get ideas about the future look and feel of downtown Bethesda in an informal, and perhaps more relaxed setting, according to event organizer Dan Reed.

Of the 130 people who showed up for a Planning Department workshop in March on downtown priorities, only six were 20- to 34-years old. That concerned county planners, who say 20- to 34-year-olds make up 40 percent of the downtown area’s population.

For more info on the event, go to the Facebook page or check out the PDF of the event flyer below.

PDF: Make Your Mark Bethesda

Purple Line A Big Focus In Town of Chevy Chase Election

by Aaron Kraut | April 17, 2014 at 10:25 am | 171 views | 2 Comments

Town of Chevy ChaseWith three seats up for grabs and the Purple Line on track for construction sometime next year, the transit system has unsurprisingly become a focus for many Town of Chevy Chase Council candidates.

The Town Council, a five-member group that includes the mayor, approved a $350,000 contract in February with a cadre of lobbyists and legal firms to fight the Purple Line and its proposed route behind a number of homes in the Town.

That decision elicited a wealth of opinions in the Town and an open meetings investigation spurred by Purple Line advocates.

Of the seven candidates for three Council seats in the May 6 election, five mentioned the Purple Line in their candidate statements. Councilmembers Al Lang and Kathy Strom are running for reelection. Councilmember David Lublin announced on Wednesday he won’t run again.

Mayor Pat Burda and Councilmember John Bickerman were elected in 2013 and have terms that will end next year.

In his statement, Lang came out strongly against the Purple Line lobbying contract — not because he favors the transit system, but because he opposes the way the Town went about picking the firm. “BIR” is the lead firm chosen for the contract, Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney:

There are many examples, (tackling the $9M reserves being one), but none is more important than my recent vote against the $360,000 for BIR, our Purple Line lobbying firm. While I have worked hard during my 6 years as Councilmember to find the right resources to mitigate this project, we are elected fiduciaries. Sadly, this contract lacked critical elements; there was not a request for proposal; it was not a competitive process; and we did not negotiate price. Elements well understood by all, not just a business person.

Candidate Grant Davies said the Town’s “mishandling” of its advocacy against the Purple Line has given it a bad reputation in Montgomery County:

Third, we need to improve the Town’s image with the public and the rest of the county. We have always been advocates for good government and considering the needs of the larger community. Our mishandling of our advocacy against the Purple line has given the Town an unwarranted black eye.

Candidate Donald Farren took it a step further, emphasizing that he is for the Purple Line. He also said he is “Pro transparent Town government,” an apparent jab at the contract process.

Candidate Deborah Vollmer is completely opposed to the 16-mile, $2.37 billion light rail:

Over the years, I have actively opposed current plans for the Purple Line; I do believe that improving public transportation is important, but the current plans are unacceptable, as they would destroy the canopy of trees in what is really a linear park, cause other environmental damage, and cause negative impact to all residents, especially those living at the Town’s borders, close to the rail line.

Another recurring thread in the candidate statements was the desire to keep a buffer between the development of downtown Bethesda and the Town, what is predominantly small streets of single-family homes.

Lang had perhaps the most interesting proposal: The purchase of county-owned and operated parking lots just east of Wisconsin Avenue and the conversion of those lots into green space that would “create the buffer the town needs to Bethesda encroachment.”

Vollmer said she would propose a moratorium and the building of new homes. Like much of Bethesda and Chevy Chase, the Town is home to a number of teardown projects. She also said she would put the Town manager’s job on the line every two years by making the extension of that person’s contract a ballot question.

The candidates will participate in a moderated forum on Thursday, April 24 at 7 p.m. at the Town Hall (4301 Willow Lane).

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