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by Aaron Kraut — March 27, 2015 at 4:20 pm 318 1 Comment

View of proposed of B-CC High School addition, which could start next year depending on state and county school construction budgets, via mCPSMontgomery County would get an extra $5.8 million from Annapolis next year for school construction under a new plan announced Friday.

House Speaker Michael Busch announced lawmakers have found $20 million in construction funds that would be split by the state’s five high-growth school districts. The money came from trimming Gov. Larry Hogan’s proposed capital budget and would not require additional funding.

The $20 million would be split annually among counties that have an enrollment of greater than 150 percent of the statewide average, or an average of more than 300 portable classrooms over the past five years.

County Executive Isiah Leggett praised the proposal, which also got approval from two legislative committees on Friday.

“I want to thank Speaker Michael Busch and the members of our Delegation who made bringing home additional funds to help us address our public school construction issues their number one priority,” Leggett said in a statement. “Passing this legislation shows a commitment to working with Montgomery County to address the ongoing challenges of capacity problems in our public schools.”

State legislators from Montgomery County cautioned that the school system’s ask for $223 million in school construction bonds from the state would be difficult to make happen.

The proposal outlined Friday is more in line with Leggett and the county delegation’s strategy during last year’s General Assembly, in which they proposed $20 million in state construction funding a year to the “big three” counties of Montgomery, Prince George’s and Baltimore.

Montgomery County, growing at a rate of about 2,500 students a year, would be in line for $5.8 million, the largest chunk of money for FY 2016.

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by Aaron Kraut — March 27, 2015 at 1:00 pm 318 6 Comments

A Montgomery County Department of Liquor Control truck makes alcohol deliveries on St Elmo AvenueUpdated at 1:35 p.m. – Montgomery County on Friday hit back at critics of the county’s unique alcohol control model, arguing the system has helped protect the county from the amount of alcohol-related problems that affect other communities.

The occasion for the county’s push against privatizing its alcohol distribution and liquor retail operations was the latest meeting of the Council’s Ad Hoc Committee on Liquor Control, which hopes to recommend major reforms later this year.

Dr. David Jernigan, a public health professor at Johns Hopkins, said Montgomery County’s control model is close to the “sweet spot,” wherein the county can decide not to sell alcohol products deemed especially dangerous while also satisfying the needs of its licensees — the restaurants and beer and wine stores that rely on the county’s Department of Liquor Control (DLC).

Montgomery County Police Capt. Tom Didone also cautioned against getting rid of the DLC from a public safety perspective.

“Public health experts will testify this morning that Montgomery County’s Local Liquor Control system is superior to protecting the public health, combatting underage drinking and striking the balance between the sale of a legal, controlled substance and meeting community concerns and the public interest,” the county announced in a Friday morning press release. “Montgomery’s system, in fact, has blocked the introduction of numerous liquor industry products aimed at underage drinkers.”

It later put out a more detailed release citing a variety of statistics and expert opinion.

Councilmember Hans Riemer, the chair of the committee, has criticized the DLC before.

But for a few weeks, it’s been apparent that Riemer and colleagues Marc Elrich and George Leventhal would prefer to keep the county’s current system intact while improving its management and allowing special order craft beers and wines to be sold privately to county restaurants and beer and wine stores.

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by Aaron Kraut — March 27, 2015 at 9:35 am 160 0

A burglary at an apartment construction site leads the latest 2nd District crime summary:

A commercial burglary occurred at a construction site located at 8300 Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda between Saturday, 3/15 and Monday, 3/16. Forced entry; property taken.

A commercial burglary occurred at Music & Arts, 12274 Rockville Pike in North Bethesda on Tuesday, 3/17 at 12:37 p.m. Unknown entry; property taken.

A residential burglary occurred in the 7000 block of Rollingwood Drive in Chevy Chase on Thursday, 3/12 between 10:27 a.m. and 1:01 p.m. Forced entry; property taken.

A sex assault occurred in the 7000 block of Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda on Thursday, 3/12 at 7:15 p.m. The suspect is known to the victim.

Two incidents of theft from vehicles occurred in this beat during this reporting period. Incidents occurred on Dupaul Drive and Stoneham Court in Bethesda. Items taken included a computer and a cell phone.

by Aaron Kraut — March 27, 2015 at 8:45 am 481 4 Comments

Flickr pool photo by John R Whitaker

Renovations Start Next Week For North Bethesda Restaurant – Helen’s The Bar hopes to open in the former Addie’s building at 11120 Rockville Pike over the summer. Addie’s and local restaurant owner Jeff Black left the spot because the landlord wouldn’t agree to a renovation plan. Helen Wasserman, a D.C. caterer taking it over, said renovations should begin next week. [Bethesda Magazine]

Norwood School 5K Run/Walk – The Norwood School (8821 River Road) is hosting a 5K Run/Walk on April 12 to raise money for Horizons Greater Washington. The nonprofit works on private and public school partnerships “designed to empower economically disadvantaged students.” The event will take place on the Norwood School’s Bethesda campus. [Horizons 5K at Norwood]

White Flint Wegmans Watch – Officials from New York-based grocer Wegmans were in town Thursday for their new Alexandria store. They didn’t talk about the long-rumored location at the White Flint Mall redevelopment project, which has been stalled due to legal issues. But company officials said they’re still eyeing other D.C. area sites in Tysons Corner and the old Walter Reed site in D.C. [Washington Business Journal]

Details On Old Georgetown Road Project – The State Highway Administration’s intersection improvement project at Old Georgetown Road and Cedar Lane has started. The SHA put out a public notice with more details of lane closures and contact information. [SHA via Montgomery County]

Flickr pool photo by John R Whitaker

by Aaron Kraut — March 26, 2015 at 3:15 pm 413 1 Comment

The Persei apartment building at Grand Park Avenue in Pike & Rose

The first mixed-use development project part of the county’s White Flint redevelopment plan will take home a top award from a national planning organization.

Pike & Rose, the half-finished 24-acre neighborhood at the old Mid-Pike Plaza shopping center, is this year’s recipient of an Award of Excellence from the American Planning Association and the National Association of County Planning.

The award recognizes Rockville-based developer Federal Realty and the Montgomery County Planning Department, which authored the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan.

The plan set new zoning, road and land use recommendations for the Rockville Pike corridor around the White Flint Metro station. It would allow for 3.5 million square feet of mixed-use office, housing, restaurant and retail space in what mostly still is a series of strip shopping centers.

Pike & Rose finished its first phase last year, with an 80,000-square-foot Class A office building, 174-unit mid-rise apartment building and new retail and restaurant spaces throughout. Its 319-unit apartment tower is set to deliver this summer.

The second phase will bring 185,000 additional square feet of ground floor retail divided by 30 stores, another 264 apartment units, a park and 104 luxury condos on top of a 177-room Hilton hotel announced last fall.

“The White Flint Sector Plan represents the transition from car-oriented suburbs into livable, urban-style communities with access to transit. Pike & Rose exemplifies this exciting change and sets a high bar for the mixed-use developments to come,” Planning Director Gwen Wright said in an announcement.

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by Aaron Kraut — March 26, 2015 at 2:00 pm 2 Comments

Metro on Thursday released two safety videos telling riders what to do in case of a smoke or fire emergency on a train or in a station.

The videos, which come in 90-second and three-minute versions, come after January’s deadly incident in D.C, when a woman died after smoke spread through a stopped Metro car.

“In the wake of the January 12 incident, customers indicated that they wanted additional information about what to do in an emergency and that they trust Metro Transit Police to deliver that message,” Metro announced.

Bethesda Metro StationThe video covers when and how to evacuate a rail car, how to use on-board safety features such as the intercoms and how to identify and avoid the electrified third rail.

A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board found that the smoke in the January incident near the L’Enfant Plaza station likely came from an arcing insulator — when water or other debris makes contact with the third rail.

Arcing insulators are common on the Red Line in Bethesda, where tunnel leaking issues have Metro officials planning a 14 weekend shutdown of the stretch next year.

At a Council committee hearing in January, MCFRS Acting Chief Scott Goldstein said firefighters have responded to 62 emergency situations in Metro stations over the last three years, the vast majority of which had to do with reported or actual arcing insulators.

At a Council committee hearing on Tuesday, Metro officials said they didn’t know how long it would take to evacuate the Bethesda Metro station, but that it would probably take longer than the National Fire Protection Association’s standard of six minutes.

Video via Metro

by Aaron Kraut — March 26, 2015 at 12:05 pm 250 2 Comments

U.S. Census population change 2013-2014

Montgomery County’s population grew by another 10,680 people last year, again giving the state’s most populous jurisdiction the largest year-over-year increase in population.

The U.S. Census on Thursday released county and city population changes from July 1, 2013 to July 1, 2014.

While Howard County once again had the state’s largest population growth rate (1.4 percent), Montgomery County saw the largest amount of new residents. The county’s 1 percent growth rate was good for fourth in the state, behind Howard COunty, Charles County (1.2 percent) and Prince George’s County (1.1 percent).

Howard County was second in terms of new residents with 4,350.

The 10,000 additional residents gives Montgomery County a total population of 1,030,447, according to the Census.

The information is based on population estimates since the 2010 Census and births, deaths and migration numbers.

The amount of new residents is slightly fewer than the county saw over the previous year (July 2012 to July 2013). Montgomery County added 12,201 people in that timeframe and about 13,000 people the year before, when it went over the 1 million population mark.

by Aaron Kraut — March 26, 2015 at 11:00 am 224 2 Comments

County Executive Isiah LeggettMontgomery County says its settlement with Pepco and Exelon was a good deal, despite criticism from the County Council that the agreement won’t prevent electricity rate hikes.

“The status quo with Pepco is unacceptable. The alternative to this settlement is not necessarily something better,” said Patrick Lacefield, spokesperson for County Executive Isiah Leggett. “The alternative could well be no deal at all. Then county residents are stuck with the status quo. [Leggett] doesn’t want that and neither do county residents.”

Leggett and Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker agreed to the deal last week.

In exchange for the counties’ support of Exelon and Pepco’s merger bid before state regulators, the utilities promised $57.6 million for energy efficiency programs, bill credits for Pepco customers, five megawatts of solar power generation, a $50 million “Green Sustainability Fund,” and recreational trails along Pepco transmission lines.

But Councilmember Roger Berliner, an energy attorney part of a group involved in the merger deliberations, said the deal should have also guaranteed “our ratepayers should not be pawns in Exelon’s desire to prop up its nuclear power plants.”

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by Aaron Kraut — March 26, 2015 at 10:00 am 927 7 Comments

White Flint Mall Marriott International's Fernwood Road headquarters, Photo via Marriott International

A group of residents, developers and business owners wants to pitch Marriott International on moving its headquarters to White Flint.

The Friends of White Flint is planning a strategic campaign to at least get the possibility of relocating to White Flint/the Pike District on the hotel giant’s radar.

Speculation about the Fortune 500 company’s future has run rampant since early this month, when CEO Arne Sorenson told the Washington Post Marriott plans to move from its Bethesda corporate headquarters by the time its lease is up in 2022.

Many in the Friends of White Flint, a group formed to ensure the area’s redevelopment is done according to the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan, see potential for Marriott to move to Metro-accessible, yet-to-be-developed office space that could spur the area’s new look.

“It can make the community,” Friends of White Flint Executive Director Amy Ginsburg said Wednesday. “You want to be live, work and play and if there’s no work, it’s hard to sustain it. A major corporation like Marriott, it brings jobs, it brings stability, it brings sustainability.”

The company has about 2,000 employees at its Bethesda headquarters, in the Rock Spring office park on Fernwood Road.

Sorenson told the Washington Post that he’s looking for a location that’s transit accessible to appeal to a younger workforce. The White Flint Metro station would seem to serve that purpose, and was perhaps the largest reason why Montgomery County moved to allow the massive amount of new residential units and commercial space under the 2010 Sector Plan.

“This might be the single best thing that could be done to really kick off White Flint and turn it into what we’d like to see it be,” said Saul Centers Senior Vice President Brian Downie.

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by Aaron Kraut — March 26, 2015 at 8:35 am 248 0

Flickr photo by ehpien

Raskin Will Run For Congressional Seat – State Sen. Jamie Raskin says he will run for Chris Van Hollen’s soon-to-be-vacant 8th District Congressional seat. The longtime state legislator from Takoma Park was widely rumored to be looking at the seat once Van Hollen announced he would run for Senate. Raskin said he will formally announce his run next month. [Baltimore Sun]

How Pepco’s Tree-Cutting Program Works – Since 2012, Pepco has been required to more aggressively prune and remove trees that could fall and knock down power lines. Some feel the utility has been too aggressive. But Pepco says it follows a standard protocol and always gets permission if a tree is on private property. [The Gazette]

Van Hollen Unhappy About HHS Relocation Plan – The Department of Health and Human Services is planning to move 100 employees and contractors slated for its renovated Twinbrook facility to Utah. Rep. Chris Van Hollen this week told HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burrell the move would be “detrimental to our region and devastating to the families” of affected employees. [Van Hollen On HHS Move]

‘Brit Bandit’ Released Early From Prison – Charles Francis Watkins, who in 1997 used a fake British accent when robbing homes at gunpoint, was set free Wednesday after a judge agreed to end his prison sentence. Based on a letter from Watkins and testimony from a prison official, the judge determined that Watkins had changed for the better. The break-ins in 1997 attracted attention because they happened at high-end Montgomery County homes and because Watkins and a partner spoke with British or Australian accents to their victims. [Washington Post]

‘Sports Junkie’ Coming To Bethesda Row Tonight – Eric Bickel, one of the “Sports Junkies” from 106.7 The Fan will be at the American Tap Room (7278 Woodmont Avenue) tonight for a college basketball viewing party. [CBS DC]

Flickr photo by ehpien

by BethesdaNow.com — March 25, 2015 at 1:25 pm 420 0

This biweekly column is written by Suzanne Lawter, Director of Community Outreach for Mutts Matter Rescue, a local nonprofit, all-volunteer dog rescue. Mutts Matter is a network of volunteers who love animals and want to make a difference by helping forgotten and discarded dogs find loving families. Since our founding in 2010, we have successfully rescued and placed more than 1,400 dogs in the local Washington Metropolitan area.

Alexandra, affectionately known as Alex, is a delightful 4- to 5-year-old, 11-pound Hairless Chinese Crested who has a true joy for life. This social little pup is spunky, playful, good with kids and dogs of all sizes, and would be an ideal companion for a single owner who telecommutes or fit well in an active home with kids. Alex has an engaging personality, and when you meet her, she will probably want to curl up in your lap for a quick snuggle. She’s a sweet soul who just wants to please, and needs a family to love and call her own.

Alex is a remarkable dog in many ways, and has an amazingly resilient spirit. She survived years of neglect in a puppy mill, where she was locked in a cage and forced to breed, but has emerged unfazed and ready to embrace the world around her. We rescue a lot of dogs from these terrible places, but rarely do we see one so immediately social and trusting of people. Alex really loves people and craves attention, and she deserves a special family who will cherish her.

Chinese Crested dogs like Alex are not common in rescue, and they definitely stand out in a crowd. Their origin has been a bit of a mystery, but many believe they are descended from African or Mexican hairless dogs. When Chinese explorers discovered the breed, they brought them back home and bred them to be a smaller size. They wanted the dog for its excellent ratting abilities aboard their ships, and could trade them at different ports. The Chinese also viewed these dogs as having healing powers and would use them as living heating pads to help nurse sick sailors.

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by Aaron Kraut — March 25, 2015 at 10:00 am 211 3 Comments

People walking down the sidewalk along Bethesda Avenue (file photo)

A study of 30 factors influencing health found that Montgomery County is the healthiest jurisdiction in Maryland and compares well to the healthiest places in the country.

The sixth annual County Health Rankings, from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute, used Census numbers, hospital stats, crime data and other government reports to come up with the results.

The rankings were split into five categories: quality of life, health behaviors, clinical care, social/economic factors and physical environment.

Montgomery County ranked No. 1 or No. 2 in the state in all categories except physical environment, where high housing costs, the amount of people driving alone to work (66 percent) and the amount of people with “long commutes” (52 percent) put the county at No. 8 out of the state’s 24 local jurisdictions.

Howard, Frederick and Carroll Counties followed Montgomery as the state’s healthiest, per the rankings. Baltimore City was judged to have the poorest health, followed by Caroline, Cecil and Allegany Counties.

Montgomery County had an 8 percent adult smoking rate and a 19 percent adult obesity rate, both numbers that were in the healthiest 10 percent of U.S. counties.

The county’s relative wealth and access to education helped too. The rankings considered high school graduation rates (87 percent), those who did at least some college (76.9 percent) and children in poverty (10 percent), all of which put Montgomery in the top 10 percent in the country.

by Aaron Kraut — March 25, 2015 at 9:00 am 270 0

Flickr pool photo by Ilona Szczot

Clark Funeral Set For National Cathedral – A. James Clark, founder and chairman of Clark Enterprises, died last week. A memorial service has been set for Wednesday, April 8 at Washington National Cathedral. The Bethesda-based construction conglomerate was responsible for the building of many of the area’s landmark buildings and 28 Metro stations.

No Decision On MCPS Snow Day Waiver – The Maryland State Board of Education on Tuesday voted to allow local school systems to apply for snow day waivers of up to three days, which MCPS has already done. But it also said the final decision on whether school systems have to make up snow days will belong to the state superintendent. [State Department of Education]

Easter Egg Hunt At Pike & Rose Restaurant – City Perch (11830 Grand Park Avenue) is having an Easter egg hunt from 10 a.m.-10:30 a.m. on Easter Sunday (April 5). The restaurant will provide complimentary Easter baskets. City Perch is also offering a $35 “farm-fresh” Easter brunch and a $50 Easter dinner. [City Perch]

Earth Month Stream Cleanups – April is Earth Month, so the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection has put together a series of cleanup events throughout the county. On Saturday, April 18, MCDEP will host a cleanup of the stormwater pond in Bethesda. [Montgomery County]

Flickr pool photo by Ilona Szczot

by Aaron Kraut — March 24, 2015 at 1:35 pm 863 25 Comments

County officials on Monday showed off renderings of a new sidewalk, shared-use path and bicycle lanes that could be coming to Bradley Boulevard in Bethesda.

The county’s Department of Transportation (MCDOT) wants to build an eight-foot shared-use path on the north side of Bradley from Wilson Lane to Glenbrook Road. It also hopes to install a five-foot sidewalk on the south side of the stretch and five-foot bicycle lanes in the shoulders on both sides of a slightly shrunken down roadway.

MCDOT showed off the renderings above at a public workshop on Monday. It’s taking comments about Phase II of the project, which will soon be at the 35-percent design phase and ready to go to the County Council. It could be included in next spring’s six-year capital budget.

The county first studied improvements to the stretch in 2009, spurred by a 2003 request from the South Bradley Hills Civic Association to build a sidewalk along the north side of Bradley Boulevard.

Area bicyclist groups and bicycle commuters, including MoBike and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, then asked the county to include bicycle lanes that are prescribed in two separate master plans for the stretch of road.

In 2011, a County Council committee recommended widening the road shoulders from four feet to five feet and designing them with bicycle lanes, which would mean no more parking along Bradley Boulevard.

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by Aaron Kraut — March 24, 2015 at 12:15 pm 369 7 Comments

Councilmember Roger Berliner (file photo)Roger Berliner on Tuesday said he and others urged County Executive Isiah Leggett not to agree to a settlement with Pepco and Exelon over the utility companies’ merger bid.

Berliner, the District 1 Council member and an energy attorney, said the Council told Leggett and his team a few weeks ago that the proposed settlement agreement didn’t do enough to ensure that Exelon won’t raise electricity rates in Montgomery County.

Some fear the Chicago-based utility is purchasing Pepco Holdings Inc. to help finance its large fleet of nuclear power plants, which experts say are losing money because of lower natural gas costs.

“Our ratepayers should not be Exelon’s piggy bank and our ratepayers should not be pawns in Exelon’s desire to prop up its nuclear power plants,” Berliner said.

In the settlement announced last week, Exelon and Pepco promised Montgomery County some money for low-income ratepayers, new energy efficiency programs, five megawatts of solar power generation and recreational trails along some of its transmission lines.

In exchange, the county will support the Exelon-Pepco merger bid in front of the Maryland Public Service Commission, expected to rule on the merger this spring.

“Without violating our closed session protocols, I think it is appropriate to share that to a person, we urged him not to do so,” Berliner said of the Council’s meeting with Leggett and county attorneys. “Not because the deal being offered was a bad deal. It was simply the wrong deal.”

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