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by Aaron Kraut — November 26, 2014 at 3:00 pm 0

Political Pulse, via Montgomery Municipal CableIf you find yourself tired of turkey and football this weekend (and you’re really interested in local issues) consider checking out “Political Pulse” on Montgomery Municipal Cable Channel 16.

Host Charles Duffy and I discussed development in Westbard and White Flint, how Purple Line advocates hope to convince Governor-elect Larry Hogan to keep the project, the county’s oft-criticized Department of Liquor Control and other news topics of local interest.

The half-hour show will be shown at 9 p.m. on Thursday and at 6 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The interview will be put online next week.

by Aaron Kraut — November 26, 2014 at 1:15 pm 716 7 Comments

Hamburger Hamlet/Du-par's in Georgetown Square Shopping Center

Casual dining chain Not Your Average Joe’s is officially coming to the vacant Hamburger Hamlet space at Bethesda’s Georgetown Square Shopping Center.

Not Your Average Joe’s founder and CEO Steve Silverstein told BethesdaNow.com in July that the restaurant was close to executing a lease for the 8,500-square-foot space with the hopes of opening in March 2015.

On Dec. 4, Silverstein and two others will go before the county’s Board of License Commissioners seeking a beer, wine and liquor license.

Over the summer, the property management company leasing the space had crews do a general demolition inside the restaurant to remove all remaining fixtures left over from Hamburger Hamlet.

That construction — and a dumpster full of debris in the Georgetown Square Shopping Center parking lot — drew the attention of many waiting to see what would replace the Hamburger Hamlet.

It closed in December 2013 after fellow California-based chain Du-par’s attempted a revival by making it into a 24-hour diner and eatery. Original Hamburger Hamlet owners Marilyn and Harry Lewis opened the restaurant — the chain’s first location on the east coast — in 1973.

Not Your Average Joe’s started in 1994 and has more than 20 locations along the east coast, with 15 in Massachusetts. Silverstein opened the group’s first Maryland location two years ago in the Kentlands community of Gaithersburg.

by Aaron Kraut — November 26, 2014 at 12:25 pm 157 1 Comment

Uber DC, Flickr photo via MikeUber and Maryland regulators have come to an agreement that would allow UberBlack and UberSUV to operate legally in the state.

The state’s Public Service Commission (PSC) announced the settlement agreement on Tuesday. (See the PDF below).

If formally approved by the PSC, it would mean the app-based ride company would have to identify all UberBlack and UberSUV drivers for the state.

It would also have to publish a schedule of its times, rates and charges (which would likely include maximum and minimum rates plus surge pricing) on a website that would be available to the public.

UberBlack and UberSUV would be allowed to use only drivers who have Maryland passenger-for-hire driver’s licenses and vehicles that have Maryland operating permits, though drivers licensed in D.C. or Virginia would be allowed to take passengers from those neighboring jurisdictions into Maryland.

The settlement comes after an August decision by the PSC that UberBlack and UberSUV should be classified as part of a traditional transportation company. That means Uber should be subject to the same state laws that other non-taxicab transportation for hire services are.

That decision and the settlement announced Tuesday don’t apply to UberX or UberXL.

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by Aaron Kraut — November 26, 2014 at 11:15 am 1 Comment

Parking meters in a county garage in downtown Bethesda

Montgomery County will let developers apply retroactively for a tax exemption that could cost the county $5.5 million for upkeep of its parking lots and garages.

The County Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a bill that will allow developers in the Parking Lot Districts of Bethesda, Silver Spring and Wheaton to apply for exemptions from the county’s parking tax until Dec. 31.

The actual deadline for applying for an exemption was April 1, but developers including StonebridgeCarras, Washington Property Company, Home Properties and Southern Management Corp. said that only after careful investigation, they found they were being charged Parking Lot District taxes that they shouldn’t have had to pay.

The PLD tax is charged to developers in the Parking Lot Districts of Montgomery County’s downtown areas that don’t include the required amount of on-site parking in their projects. The PLD taxes go toward maintaining the county’s parking lots, curbside spaces and garages.

“Sophisticated developers with reams of accountants and lawyers did not know the rules of the game,” Councilmember Roger Berliner said on Tuesday. “For years and years, they have paid millions of dollars into a Parking Lot District fund, when they had spent the money to create enough parking spaces.

“Presumably, going forward everybody will know the rules of the game,” Berliner said.

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by Aaron Kraut — November 26, 2014 at 10:15 am 166 0

This week’s 2nd District crime summary is a few days early to account for Thanksgiving:

A residential burglary occurred in the 8000 block of Glendale Road in Chevy Chase on Tuesday, 11/18 between 10:40 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. Unknown entry; property taken.

An attempted residential burglary occurred in the 4600 block of Woodfield Road in Bethesda on Friday, 11/14 between 7:15 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. Attempted forced entry; nothing taken.

An aggravated assault occurred on Friday, 11/14 at 10:20 p.m. in the 5000 block of Strathmore Avenue in Kensington. The suspect is known to the victim.

A commercial burglary occurred at Vie de France, 5218 Nicholson Lane in Kensington on Tuesday, 11/11 at 4:30 a.m. Forced entry; property taken.

Two attempted burglaries occurred in the 11900 block of Hunters Lane in Rockville overnight between Tuesday, 11/11 and Wednesday, 11/12. Attempted forced entry; nothing taken at either location.

An attempted residential burglary occurred in the 5700 block of Glenwood Road in Bethesda on Monday, 11/17 between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Attempted forced entry; nothing taken.

A residential burglary occurred in the 6700 block of Michaels Drive in Bethesda on Monday, 11/17 between 10:00 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Forced entry; property taken.

A residential burglary occurred in the 9700 block of Brimfield Court in Rockville on Monday, 11/17 between 3:00 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. Unknown entry; nothing taken.

by Aaron Kraut — November 26, 2014 at 9:25 am 157 0

B-CC senior Patrick Cha, via Wendy's High School HeismanBethesda-Chevy Chase High School senior Patrick Cha has been named one of 12 national finalists for Wendy’s High School Heisman — an award given to high school athletes with impressive off-the-court accomplishments.

Cha, a tennis player at B-CC, has been ranked as high as No. 16 in Maryland’s junior tennis rankings. He’s also kept a 4.0 unweighted GPA in B-CC’s International Baccalaureate program and is an editor-in-chief of the school’s student newspaper, the “Tattler.”

After the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, Cha founded a NGO called NetBenefitUSA. He’s asking for pledges to raise money for a Boston Marathon victim’s fund and an organization working to help victims of domestic violence.

B-CC Principal Karen Lockard announced Cha had been named a national finalist for the award during a special senior assembly on Nov. 10.

The fast food chain Wendy’s created the award in 1994 to coincide with the presentation of college football’s Heisman Memorial Trophy, given annually to college football’s most outstanding player. Cha and the 11 other national finalists will be invited to New York City for a weekend and $2,000 will be donated to B-CC in Cha’s name.

If Cha is named one of the two national award winners (a judging panel picks one male and one female), he’ll be recognized during ESPN’s Dec. 19 broadcast of the college Heisman Trophy ceremony, Wendy’s will donate $10,000 to B-CC in Cha’s name and Cha will get a $500 Wendy’s gift card.

Photos via Wendy’s High School Heisman

by Aaron Kraut — November 26, 2014 at 8:45 am 0

Flickr photo by jacdupree

Bethesda Nonprofit Receives $3.3 Billion Payoff – The Bethesda-based Cystic Fibrosis Foundation will get $3.3 billion for selling royalties to Cystic Fibrosis drugs it helped fund the development of. The sum is thought to be the largest return ever for a charitable organization pursuing disease treatments. Some are concerned that profit motive could cause a conflict of interest for organizations such as the Foundation, especially when it comes to the patients they help. [New York Times]

Pepco Debuts Official “Merger Website” – Pepco has unveiled a website it said will include information and updates about its acquisition by Chicago-based power company Exelon. On the website, Exelon-Pepco claims the merger will mean benefits for customers. The merger is expected to be complete next year, though its regulatory filings still must be approved by the Public Service Commission. [PHITomorrow]

Familiar Face Added To Hogan’s Transition Team – Doug Duncan, the Democrat and former Montgomery County executive, was one of 20 new people added on Tuesday to Republican Governor-elect Larry Hogan’s transition team. Duncan, who took a new job as CEO of Leadership Greater Washington after failing to win back his seat in June, said he won’t be joining Hogan’s administration and is merely offering advice before January. [Washington Post]

Flickr photo by jacdupree

by Aaron Kraut — November 25, 2014 at 3:25 pm 346 2 Comments

WSSC truck Bar at Caddies on Cordell (file photo) A pinball arcade -- not in Montgomery County, Flickr photo by Tomas Fano

A new batch of bills from Montgomery County legislators could legalize the sale of refillable wine growlers, repeal a ban on businesses having more than two pinball machines and create a board to review utility company disputes.

The county’s delegation to Annapolis has revealed 15 bills its members will introduce once the 2015 General Assembly starts in January.

As is often the case, one of the bills draws on an obscure state law — the 1950s provision that prohibited more than two “free-play pinball machines from being available for public use” in Montgomery County.

According to bill sponsor and District 14 Del. Eric Leudtke, “the statutory provisions enacted in the 1950s are obsolete and should therefore be repealed.”

A number of the bills deal with the county’s alcohol law — another common source of legislation. Specific Montgomery County alcohol laws must be changed at the statehouse in Annapolis, rather than in Rockville.

One, from District 18 State Sen. Rich Madaleno, would allow the county’s Board of License Commissioners to waive the county’s residency requirement for those applying for an alcohol license.

Those applying for an alcohol license in the county must have lived in the county for the two years prior to their application — a law that some say has made it hard for out-of-county restaurant owners to open up shop.

An effort last session to exempt the county from the two-year residency requirement failed.

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by Aaron Kraut — November 25, 2014 at 2:15 pm 0

Montgomery County sealThe Thanksgiving holiday will bring a bunch of government closures and free parking at all meters in downtown Bethesda on Thursday.

Also be sure to avoid southbound Wisconsin Avenue and northbound Old Georgetown Road on Thursday morning, as hundreds of runners will be taking part in the annual Turkey Chase:

County Offices — Closed

Libraries — Closed

County liquor stores — Closed

Recreation — All programs and facilities are closed

Montgomery Parks — all Parks facilities are closed on Thursday. For operating schedules on Friday, including Brookside Gardens, ice rinks, tennis centers, trains and carousels, visit www.MontgomeryParks.org.

Ride On — Sunday schedule

Metrobus — Sunday schedule

Metrorail — Holiday schedule. On Friday, rail and bus service will operate on a regular weekday schedule with normal fare and parking rates in effect.

TRiPS Commuter Stores (Silver Spring and Friendship Heights) — Closed

Refuse/recycling pickup — No collection. Collection provided one day later for remainder of week (last collection day is Saturday).

Transfer Station — Closed

Parking at public garages, lots, curbside meters — Free. Meters won’t be free on Friday.

MCPS Administrative Offices — Closed

State offices and courts — Closed

Regular weekend schedules will be in effect on the Saturday and Sunday following Thanksgiving.

by Aaron Kraut — November 25, 2014 at 1:20 pm 211 3 Comments

A large water main break has Wilson Lane closed between Bradley Boulevard and Oldchester Road on Tuesday in Bethesda.

The break, to a 20-inch line along Wilson Lane near Radnor Road, was discovered on Tuesday morning.

WSSC crews on the scene had to dig up a section of the roadway to gain access to the main. A member of the crew working on the main said he thinks the road will be reopened by Tuesday evening.

But plan ahead to avoid Wilson Lane west of Bradley Boulevard on your evening commute.

by Aaron Kraut — November 25, 2014 at 1:00 pm 360 23 Comments

The intersection of Battery Lane and Woodmont Avenue in downtown Bethesda

The County Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a law requiring narrower streets, lower speed limits, sidewalks and bicycle lanes when it comes to new or redesigned roads in areas such as Bethesda and White Flint.

Councilmembers Roger Berliner and Hans Riemer introduced the “Urban Road Code” bill late last year amid the debate over a section of Old Georgetown Road near Rockville Pike.

While the design standards in the bill won’t to apply county roads already under design or state roads, Berliner said Tuesday that part of his motivation for the new standards was to avoid the type of “fights road by road” with MCDOT seen in White Flint.

“We want to have a new paradigm where we say,’ Let’s slow down, let’s make the lanes narrower, let’s make the turning shorter, let’s make pedestrians have a safe place,’” Berliner said. “And we are doing that literally by shrinking the roads from 12 feet to 10 feet.”

Shrinking lane widths to 10 feet wide, shrinking the space between curbs at intersections to a maximum of 15 feet and setting “maximum target speeds” at 25 miles per hour are three major aspects of the new law. Those aspects also led to some disagreement with MCDOT. Officials from the department said the narrower lane and curb radii widths could pose problems for large trucks, buses and county emergency vehicles.

The new road code allows for MCDOT to get a waiver from the county executive if a 10-foot wide lane “would significantly impair public safety.”

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by Aaron Kraut — November 25, 2014 at 11:10 am 153 0

The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Weather Advisory for Bethesda and much of the D.C. area for Wednesday.

For the immediate D.C. suburbs, that could mean a coating or up to an inch of snow throughout the day:

…WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM 8 AM TO 6 PM EST WEDNESDAY…

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN BALTIMORE MD/WASHINGTON HAS ISSUED A WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY FOR SNOW… WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM 8 AM TO 6 PM EST WEDNESDAY.

* PRECIPITATION TYPE…SNOW.

* ACCUMULATIONS…2 TO 5 INCHES IN THE FAR NORTHERN AND WESTERN SUBURBS OF WASHINGTON AND BALTIMORE. A COATING TO AN INCH NEAR INTERSTATE 95.

* TIMING…RAIN WILL CHANGE TO SNOW BETWEEN 8 AND 11 AM WEDNESDAY MORNING. THE HEAVIEST SNOW WILL OCCUR THROUGH 2 PM WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON. SNOW WILL TAPER OFF LATE WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON.

* TEMPERATURES…LOWER TO MIDDLE 30S.

* WINDS…NORTH BECOMING NORTHWEST 10 TO 15 MPH WITH GUSTS AROUND 20 MPH.

* IMPACTS…ROADS MAY BECOME SNOW COVERED AND SLIPPERY…MAINLY ACROSS THE FAR NORTHERN AND WESTERN SUBURBS OF WASHINGTON AND BALTIMORE. SNOW WILL ALSO REDUCE THE VISIBILITY.

by Aaron Kraut — November 25, 2014 at 10:00 am 254 0

Radio tower, auto repair shops and the back of the Park Bethesda apartment in Westbard

Councilmember Roger Berliner promised he won’t vote for a new master plan for the Westbard section of Bethesda unless it adequately addresses school overcrowding issues.

Berliner, the councilmember representing Bethesda, weighed in on the controversial Westbard Sector Plan rewrite in an email blast on Monday.

A Concept Framework Plan revealed by county planners last week would allow mixed-use development of up to 75- and 80-foot heights along some sections of River Road and Westbard Avenue, a preliminary proposal that drew much opposition from existing residents.

“I know many of you have participated in the Planning Department’s recent charrette process and I also know the preliminary thoughts that have been shared thus far has elicited some strong opinions. And that is an understatement,” Berliner wrote.

The plan is about a year away from making it to the County Council, where Berliner’s official role begins.

But the councilmember said he felt it was important to clarify the idea that the Westbard Sector Plan was being revised “for Equity One.” Equity One, the developer that late last year and early this year bought up many of Westbard’s commercial properties, lobbied the Council to move the plan up on the Planning Department’s work schedule:

First and foremost, this plan is not being done “for Equity One” as has been asserted by some in the community. …

…The Westbard Plan was adopted in 1982 and not updated since. Certainly a lot has changed since then, including but not limited to greater awareness of the connection between building techniques and stormwater management, increased desire of our community for greater pedestrian and bicycle connectivity and access, and increased desire for a wide range of community amenities.  But the most important element of any master/sector plan is the opportunity to review and assess the adequacy our public facilities like schools, libraries, parks, and recreational opportunities.

As long as I have been on the Council (since 2006), there has been talk about updating the Westbard Sector Plan. Long before anyone heard of Equity One‘s interest in the area.  There was also shared agreement that in light of other pressing county needs, Westbard should not be included in the Planning Department’s annual work plan (approved by the Council each year) until there was at least some reason to believe redevelopment might occur.  When the sale of the Westbard Shopping Center occurred, it seemed to the Council that the time was now ripe to review and update the plan — not for Equity One, but in terms of our standard operational practices for reviewing and updating our land use plans.

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by Aaron Kraut — November 25, 2014 at 9:00 am 0

Flickr photo by ehpien

New County Bill Would Limit Use Of E-Cigarettes – A bill sponsored by Councilmember Nancy Floreen would prohibit using an electronic cigarette anywhere a traditional cigarette is prohibited. It would also prohibit the use of e-cigarettes by those age 18 and younger and would require child-resistant packaging. The bill will be introduced on Tuesday. [Montgomery County Council]

NIH To Publish Final Master Plan Study On Friday – The National Institutes of Health will publish its Final Environmental Impact Statement for its master plan of development on Friday. The federal agency is looking to redevelop and add buildings to its Bethesda campus and add 3,000 employees over the next 20 years. The FEIS will include studies of the NIH’s proposed alternative, maximum development alternative and the no action alternative. The publication of the FEIS will be followed by a 30-day “waiting period” in which public comments can be sent in.

Urban Country Holding Month-Long Sale – Furniture and accessory store Urban Country (7117 Arlington Road) will host a month-long holiday sale starting on Friday. [Urban Country]

Mortgage Company Moves Into Bethesda – Guaranteed Rate, a national chain of mortgage lenders, has moved its Rockville retail office to 10411 Motor City Drive, Suite 500 in Bethesda. [Guaranteed Rate]

Flickr photo by ehpien

by Aaron Kraut — November 24, 2014 at 3:35 pm 166 2 Comments

A recent addition to downtown Bethesda’s art scene will host its first Holiday Show starting next week.

Studio B, the Bethesda Urban Partnership-backed art studio space in the Bethesda Crescent building, will offer up the work of its four resident artists starting Wednesday, Dec. 3 until Dec. 20.

BUP opened up the space (7475 Wisconsin Avenue) earlier this year after it was donated by property owner Bainbridge. Four local artists will sell their works, starting at less than $100:

Linda Button of Chevy Chase, MD, describes herself as an urban figurative artist. Her body of work, which includes oil paintings, focuses on mannequins as seen through storefronts along city streets, a look through the designed windows that dazzle and evoke imaginations of another life.

Judy Gilbert Levey of Bethesda, MD, is an oil painter. Among her works which include interpretations of varying landscapes and objects from nature, she is also showcasing a new set of fall paintings that are inspired by Bethesda’s wooded areas. The work focuses on the light filtering though trees and the glowing colors of autumn leaves.

Steve Hay of Cabin John, MD, also an oil painter, exhibits paintings of both local and New York City landscapes. New pieces he is currently working on include depictions of the C & O canal, the Potomac River and scenes around Bethesda. Hay often practices as a plein air oil painter but when working from photographs he still leans on his experience as a plein air painter to achieve the vibrancy, depth, and lively atmosphere that are distinct to his paintings.

Songmi Heart of Fairfax, VA, showcases an abstract painting style. Working with different mediums including acrylic and oil, her pieces vary between black and white and remarkably colorful in both small and large-scale sizes. Heart’s current work is based on musical inspiration, interpretive illustrations of sound, rhythm and beat.

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