White Flint residents, property owners and developers are keeping up the pressure in their push for a more pedestrian-friendly design of Old Georgetown Road near Rockville Pike.
In a letter sent Monday to County Executive Isiah Leggett, a group of 15 organizations and two individual residents called for a review of the county Department of Transportation’s policies for White Flint, more cooperation between the department and local stakeholders and a letter to state transportation officials emphasizing the importance of a four-lane Old Georgetown Road.
The letter comes almost a week after Lindsay Hoffman, executive director of the Friends of White Flint, criticized MCDOT for presenting an Old Georgetown Road design that kept the existing six lanes and added two lengthy turning lanes that in some stretches make the road seem like eight lanes.
That set off a strong rebuke from county officials, who claimed that the “70 percent design” threshold for the road Hoffman referred to hadn’t even been completed.
“It’s very disappointing and frustrating to see that a community group have taken facts from I don’t know where that are inaccurate and made assumptions,” said county assistant chief administrative officer Ramona Bell-Pearson last week.
MCDOT did present some working designs for the road to Federal Realty during a meeting about traffic studies, according to Regional Services Director Ken Hartman. But Hartman said those designs did not constitute the more formal 70 percent designs that will be complete in late October or early November.
FoWF Founder: Leggett Should Walk Across Rockville Pike, Old Georgetown Road – Barnaby Zall, founder of the Friends of White Flint group, wrote yesterday that County Executive Isiah Leggett must address the apparent “disconnect” between the goals outlined for White Flint and Transportation Department plans for Old Georgetown Road. Officials have said they’d made no decisions on a new design for the road. Friends of White Flint last week charged that they were considering a design that would essentially make the road eight lanes wide, instead of the Sector Plan-prescribed four. [Friends of White Flint]
Locals Dot Forbes 400 Richest Americans List – Developer and Washington Nationals owner Ted Lerner, Mitchell Rales, investment firm boss David Rubenstein and developer Bernaud Saul II are four local multi-billionaires who once again appeared on this year’s Forbes list of richest Americans. [Washington Business Journal]
MoCo Law Enforcement Honored For ‘Sovereign Citizen’ Case – The Anti-Defamation League recognized Montgomery County law enforcement for its investigation and arrest of Lamont Butler, the squatter who claimed a $6 million Bethesda mansion for his own in 2013 because the property originally belonged to his “Moorish American” group. The ADL says it recognized Montgomery County for the case because it was an example of fighting the spread of anti-government extremism. [The Gazette]
Flickr photo by ehpien
MCPS last week revealed three early designs for an addition to overcapacity Walt Whitman High School.
All three would use the land of the existing Whittier Woods Center (once an elementary school, now a daycare facility in front of the school) for a new building that would likely include 13 regular classrooms, two science labs, two engineering labs, one art room and an auxiliary gym.
MCPS senior planner Deborah Szyfer presented the three potential designs to parents and other community members on Tuesday. Another open to the public meeting is set for Monday, Oct. 6. The 2:30 p.m. start time is geared for staff just after the regular high school day ends.
As is the case with all three school clusters in Bethesda, the Whitman cluster has seen a large increase in students — particularly at the elementary school level. MCPS planners have said turnover in single family neighborhoods, private school students transferring to public schools during the recession and an uptick in the birth rate are all contributing factors.
Whitman High School was remodeled in 1992 and has an existing capacity of 1,882 students. It’s already overcapacity, with a projected 1,910 students this school year and 1,921 students last school year.
With that in mind, plus the coming surge of elementary and middle school-aged children in the cluster, MCPS recommended and was given money in the current capital budget for an addition feasibility study.
Szyfer said next year’s freshman class at Whitman will be “the first very large class,” and the school will is projected to be 239 students overcapacity by 2019. The school is projected to pass the 2,000 enrollment work during the 2015-2016 school year and hit 2,121 students by the 2019-2020 school year.
By then, MCPS hopes to at least have the money to fund an addition project that would provide a capacity of 2,300 and perhaps have that addition project already under construction.
One option would be a combination one-story and two-story building with a courtyard in the area where the Whittier Woods Center stands now. Another option would provide for a more compact three-story addition and a third concept would be two-stories with room for yet another addition.
Szyfer said planners are considering that option because of the Westbard Sector Plan, which could mean new residential development along Westbard Avenue and River Road. Many school-aged children in that new residential development would be in the Whitman cluster.
“It would allow more options for the future and we’re trying to plan for that future,” Szyfer said.
Architects will continue to do site planning to come up with cost estimates, Szyfer said, before submitting the project to the superintendent next year for consideration in his FY2017-2022 capital budget request.
But as is often the case with school addition and renovation projects, the Whitman addition will be competing against a number of other projects in a number of other overcapacity school clusters.
The daycare that leases out the Whittier Woods Center would be notified of when it must vacate the building once funding is in place.
The three concept plans presented last week should be put up on the MCPS website soon, Szyfer said.
The first wage raise — from the state minimum $7.25 per hour to $8.40 per hour — will go into effect Wednesday. The minimum wage will increase to $9.55 per hour on Oct. 1, 2015, to $10.75 per hour on Oct. 1, 2016 and finally to $11.50 per hour in 2017.
To mark the occasion, County Executive Isiah Leggett, a number of councilmembers, minimum wage workers and a group of labor leaders will gather at the National Labor College in Silver Spring.
At the urging of Councilmember Marc Elrich, the county joined Prince George’s County and D.C., which passed the same minimum wage legislation.
“I believe that a higher minimum wage for Montgomery County is justified, given the higher cost of living in the County as compared to the rest of the State,” Leggett said in a prepared media release.
Leggett joined Gov. Martin O’Malley and U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez last month at the Boloco burrito location in Bethesda to tout a higher national minimum wage. Earlier this year, O’Malley signed a bill to raise the minimum wage elsewhere in the state of Maryland to $10.10 by 2018.
The county says this year’s increase will mean about $2,400 in gross pay for those who now work 40-hour weeks at the minimum wage. Those likely to see the most benefit are food service workers, housekeepers and cashiers.
The law applies to work for all private sector employees with at least two employees working in Montgomery County.
According to an analysis done by the University of Maryland, there are 77,000 workers in the county who earn less than $12 an hour. The family “self-sufficiency standard” for one adult and one preschool-aged child in the county is $64,606.
The state’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation will be responsible for enforcing the county’s minimum wage law. Those who wish to get more information or file a complaint about a violation of the law should contact the DLLR.
Charges Dropped Against NIH Police Officer In Road Rage Case – A construction worker says NIH police officer Phillip Zhu pulled a gun on him in a June 2 incident of road rage on Rockville Pike. Prosecutors disagreed, dropping felony charges against Zhu after hearing his very different version of the story. Zhu has denied ever pulling his gun on the man and he remains on paid administrative leave with the NIH Police Department, pending results of an internal affairs investigation. [ABC7]
State Elections Board: Leggett Shouldn’t Have Used Campaign Money For Foreign Trips – The Maryland State Board of Elections ruled this month that County Executive Isiah Leggett improperly used $9,200 in campaign funds for trips to El Salvador, Ethiopia and China between 2011 and 2013. The Board also disallowed a $12,700 loan from Leggett to his campaign to fund travel expenses for the September 2013 trip to China. Leggett said he has repaid his campaign committee the $9,200 and that he used the campaign funds instead of county funds to save money for county taxpayers. [Washington Post]
Democrats Open Campaign Office In Bethesda – The Maryland Democratic Party on Sunday opened its “2014 Bethesda Coordinated Campaign Headquarters” in a Woodmont Avenue office building. The space will act as a phone bank for volunteers. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Anthony Brown, attorney general candidate Brian Frosh and many of the candidates for state legislature positions were at the office to mark the opening. [Anthony Brown Campaign]
Marijuana Decriminalization Kicks In This Week – Wednesday, Oct. 1 will bring a batch of new state laws into effect, including the decriminalization measure that will make getting caught with less than 10 grams of marijuana a civil charge and not a criminal offense. [WAMU]
An assault in Woodmont Triangle and group of teens police say burglarized a house lead the most recent 2nd District crime summary:
An aggravated assault occurred during the early morning hours of Sunday, 9/14 in the 7900 block of Norfolk Avenue of Bethesda.
Arrested: Male, age 34, from Hyattsville; male, age 26, from Olney
A residential burglary occurred in the 8600 block of Melwood Road in Bethesda on Thursday, 9/11 around 6:20 p.m. Unknown entry; property taken.
Arrested: Male, age 16, from Bethesda; male, age 17, from Bethesda; male, age 17, from Bethesda; male, age 18, from Bethesda
An attempted residential burglary occurred in the 7500 block of Woodmont Avenue in Bethesda on Monday, 9/8 at approximately 10:30 a.m. Attempted forced entry; nothing taken.
Arrested: Male, age 56, of no fixed address
A commercial office burglary occurred at JBG, 11426 Rockville Pike in Rockville sometime between Friday, 9/12 and Saturday, 9/13. Forced entry; nothing taken.
An attempted residential burglary occurred in the 11500 block of Patapsco Drive in North Bethesda on Sunday, 9/14 at 12:50 a.m. Attempted forced entry; nothing taken.
Seven thefts from vehicles occurred during this reporting period on Parklawn Drive, Old Georgetown Road and Woodglen Drive in North Bethesda. A backpack, laptops, cell phones, and other loose items were taken.
A residential burglary occurred in the 4400 block of S Park Avenue in Chevy Chase sometime between Monday, 9/8 and Monday, 9/15. Unknown entry; property taken.
A theft occurred in the 7400 block of Helmsdale Road in Bethesda sometime between Wednesday, 9/10 and Saturday, 9/13. Property was taken from outside a residence.
Seven thefts from vehicles occurred in the 7100 block of Democracy Boulevard in Bethesda on Saturday, 9/14 between 11:00 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. Items taken included laptops, clothing, cash, and other loose items.
Police spokesperson Angela Cruz said cops got a call at 10 a.m. from someone at the Ourisman Honda (4800 Bethesda Ave.), reporting a man was spraying Mace and fighting people. Cruz said police are searching the area and will likely arrest the man on charges of assault and attempted theft.
According to scanner traffic, the alleged incident injured one person.
Police and K9 dogs are searching parking garages in the area of Bethesda Row and Hampden Lane.
The 17-story, 200-unit Bainbridge Bethesda apartment building held a ribbon cutting and grand opening celebration on Thursday, celebrating a project that was seven years (and one name change) in the making.
Move-ins started in August and about 40 units have been rented.
A number of activity rooms, an internet lounge, conference room, outdoor patios overlooking downtown Bethesda and a rooftop pool are all part of the building’s upscale pitch.
Studio apartments, at 540 square feet, start at $2,020 rent per month. (The studios are sold out, according to the Bainbridge Bethesda website.)
One-bedroom units range from $2,215-$2,390 a month, one-bedroom units with a den (849 square feet) start at $2,785 and two-bedroom units range from $3,590-$4,680.
Construction on the building (4918 St Elmo Ave.) began in 2011. Bainbridge President Thomas Keady told the crowd at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting that the developer bought the land back in 2007.
Once known as “The Monty,” the project was set to become the first of the new luxury apartment towers to hit the Woodmont Triangle section of Bethesda. Construction delays — including one because of construction-related structural damage to an existing set of buildings next door — slowed the process.
Next-door property owner Lenny Greenberg won $3.2 million and another $3.5 million in legal fees after a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge determined Bainbridge’s construction contractors continued sheeting and shoring practices that they knew didn’t work. Greenberg then sued Bainbridge and its contractors for damage he claimed happen to his buildings on the St. Elmo Avenue.
Jeffrey Kane, President and CEO of the National Real Estate Advisors firm that helped finance the project, thanked those who made the project happen, “despite the fact that our neighbor Lenny Greenberg likes to file lawsuits.”
A tour after the ceremony included looks at the building’s first-floor mezzanine and business areas, the 15th-floor party room and outdoor patio (complete with a table shuffleboard) and the 18th-floor rooftop pool.
FBI Flooded With Tips About Bradford Bishop – Since putting suspected murderer Bradford Bishop on its “Ten Most Wanted” list in April, the FBI has received about 350 reports of possible sightings. One put Bishop in Cambodia. It wasn’t him. Another had him as a dead man found floating off the coast of Mexico. DNA samples proved it wasn’t him. One Bishop look-alike provided fingerprints to prove his identity and once he was cleared, asked investigators for a Bishop flyer as a souvenir. [The Gazette]
Council Set To Approve Public Campaign Financing, But Will It Work? – The County Council will likely pass a public campaign financing bill on Tuesday, setting up the system for County Council and county executive candidates. The history of other local campaign finance bills is mixed, with many making little difference and some just serving to increase the amount of donations from special interest-backed PACs. [Washington Post]
What The Bethesda Purple Line Station Will Look Like – MTA Purple Line project manager Mike Madden explained what the Bethesda Purple Line station will look like, barring another go at trying to redevelop the Apex Building above. [Seventh State]
Now, the home may be razed to make way for 19 townhouses.
The long-vacant home alongside a creek belonged to Donald Dawson, an Air Force general, attorney and aide to Harry Truman. Dawson was married to Hungarian actress Ilona Massey — known for her role in the films “Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man” and the Marx Brothers’ “Love Happy.”
“She looks like Dietrich, talks like Garbo and will probably be smiling from all the fan magazine covers in no time,” The New York Times wrote after Massey’s 1939 film debut, according to The Washington Post.
A small group of developers (known only as 6789 Goldsboro LLC) want to build a row of 19 townhouses that would run parallel to the creek and perpendicular to Goldsboro Road near the traffic circle in Glen Echo.
Developers plan to apply for Planning Department approval by the end of the month, project lawyer Timothy Dugan said at a community meeting Wednesday night. Dugan said he wants to file the application before the county’s new zoning ordinance takes effect, as the developer has a better understanding of the existing zoning.
The area’s master plan (last revised in 1990) identifies the 5.23-acre property as suitable for as many as 26 townhomes, but Dugan said no more than 19 are planned.
About 40 locals attended the meeting, at one point forming a circle around Dugan and firing questions at him as if in a cross-examination. Many had concerns typical with townhouse or apartment projects in predominantly single-family home neighborhoods.
Locals voiced concerns about traffic (a project engineer said the townhomes would generate 30 peak-hour trips), the effect on an already over-capacity school district and tree removal. Others were worried about how the project might affect the nearby creek.
Dawson died in 2005. The house had been on the market since 2011 as a likely teardown, but garnered little interest. According to a 2012 story by Washington Post columnist John Kelly, the stream was a problem, as was the fact that the lot cannot be subdivided.
The group of developers bought the property for $1.35 million last year, state real estate records show.
The sketch shown to those at the meeting was preliminary, Dugan said. The 19 units won’t be taller than 35 feet, which was a key concern of Cairn Terrace residents, whose homes back up to the property.
Photo via MRIS
Local Hockey Coach Gets 14 Months For Thefts – A local and well-known youth hockey coach was sentenced to 14 months in prison and five years probation for a stealing wallets from locker rooms of ice rinks around the region. Barry Fig, 36, apologized in court for the thefts and said they were spurred by his addiction to Adderall. When he is released from prison, Fig won’t be able to go to the Cabin John Ice Rink, one facility where he stole from players. [WJLA7]
Brown Avoids Risk, Hogan Stays Vague – In the race for governor, presumed frontrunner Anthony Brown has kept his campaigning mostly limited to Democratic partisans, while Republican opponent Larry Hogan has stayed perhaps purposely vague on some proposals. [The Washington Post]
Bethesda Accounting Firm In Big Merger – Bethesda-based Watkins Meegan and its 200 employees will join national accounting firm CohnReznick in a merger slated to start on Nov. 1. Watkins Meegan managing partner Mike Micholas will be part of the combined firm’s senior management in the Washington region. [Watkins Meegan]
Flickr photo by ehpien
After years of controversy over rezoning, the Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church (8011 Old Georgetown Rd.) approved a development contract with Virginia-based Bush Construction Corp. The church also closed on a loan with Eagle Bank on Wednesday to facilitate the development, according to church representative Barry Lemley.
The project would involve a 107-unit condo building next to a new, 65,000-square-foot church and family life facility. That facility would include a worship center, basketball court and office space for local nonprofits.
Lemley said the church will immediately get into preparation to file the proposal with the Planning Department.
The approval process could take up to a few years. Lemley said construction of the new facility and condo building should take about 18-20 months.
The church says the $25.4 million Bethesda Graceful Growing Together Community Center will fill a need for community recreation space in downtown Bethesda. Lemley testified in March in Annapolis for a $250,000 bond from the state that would go toward building the community center.
At the time, Lemley said the church expected $19 million for the sale of the land to an outside developer. The remaining $6 million for building the center will come from other loans and a $1 million capital campaign, as detailed in the state bond bill.
The church first partnered with D.C.-based developer Bozzuto in 2006, but when the group’s first crack at a zoning change was denied in 2007 by the county hearing examiner, the church and Bozzuto went separate ways in 2009.
An compliance check of Montgomery County restaurants and stores that sell alcohol found the vast majority of waiters, bartenders and storekeepers follow the rules when it comes to checking IDs.
The county’s Department of Liquor Control reports that its annual compliance check returned an 81 percent compliance rate, up from 72 percent last fiscal year.
Non-compliance during the check does carry some significant penalties. The first offense means a $1,000 fine for the business and a mandatory review hearing before the county’s Board of License Commissioners.
Liquor Control and Police train and send out volunteers, usually high school students, to try to buy alcohol with some very specific instructions: no facial hair, provocative clothing or sunglasses. The only things the volunteers are allowed to carry are a cell phone, buy money provided by Liquor Control and a valid ID.
In Maryland, underage IDs are vertical, all the more reason it should be obvious to servers the client isn’t 21 or older.
The county’s latest design for a revamped Old Georgetown Road near Rockville Pike is too wide and doesn’t reflect the pedestrian-friendly nature outlined in the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan, according to a local activist.
But a county official said no decisions on the design have been made and a “70 percent” design referred to by the activist this week isn’t even complete.
Lindsay Hoffman, executive director of the Friends of White Flint group, claimed MCDOT is sabotaging the new road network planned for west of Rockville Pike in a lengthy critique published Tuesday on the group’s website. She referred to 70 percent road designs she said were unveiled last week that don’t decrease the amount of lanes on the road from six to four, as recommended by the Sector Plan.
The Friends of White Flint, a nonprofit made up of residents, developers and business owners, says its mission is to see the White Flint Sector Plan carried out as prescribed. The group joined the Coalition for Smarter Growth on Wednesday in a call for residents to email County Executive Isiah Leggett’s office and urge MCDOT to reconsider its Old Georgetown Road design.
Ramona Bell-Pearson, an assistant chief administrative officer who’s been working on White Flint issues, said she’s not sure where Hoffman got that information from.
“DOT is in the process of working with design engineers to get to a 70 percent design but that has not been finalized,” Bell-Pearson said. “We don’t even have a date to when it will be finalized.”
The issue of Old Georgetown Road has been bubbling since June 2013, when MCDOT officials first presented a 35 percent design of the road between Executive Boulevard and Rockville Pike that was wider and had a higher speed limit than many had hoped for.
A week later, Councilmember Roger Berliner sent a letter to MCDOT echoing many of those same concerns.
The design Hoffman claimed was unveiled last week by MCDOT includes keeping the existing three thru lanes and a turn lane for much of the length of Old Georgetown Road between Grand Park Avenue (the new road at the entrance of the Pike & Rose project) and Towne Road (what is now known as Hoya Street).
Hoffman wrote that essentially means an eight-lane road when the Sector Plan recommended four:
In defense of their design, MCDOT argues that this is a four-lane road. According to them, the design technically contains only two travel lanes in each direction; the additional lanes, which extend nearly the entire length of the roadway, are “merely turning lanes.”
This obfuscation may hold water for traffic engineers, but for anyone unlucky enough to bike or walk along the road, that distinction provides little comfort. Under the MCDOT proposal, a pedestrian must traverse eight lanes of traffic to get across Old Georgetown Road. For cyclists, the lack of dedicated lanes means they must take their chances staying safe among four lanes of traffic.
In reality, the effect of this design will be even more wide-reaching. By prioritizing driving over everything else, MCDOT will fulfill its own skewed vision for mobility in the county: fewer people will walk, bike or take transit. Even if we want to, we just won’t feel safe. Instead, we’ll choose to drive for every single trip, adding to congestion and undermining the entire premise of the White Flint Sector Plan redevelopment.
Dee Metz, the county’s White Flint coordinator, said the design for Old Georgetown Road is complicated by the fact that it’s a State Highway route. She said the State Highway Administration made it clear two years ago to Federal Realty, developer of the Pike & Rose project on the north side of the road, that the four-lane redesign wouldn’t come right away.
“The state really controls any decisions on Old Georgetown Road, and they made it clear back when The Preliminary Plan for Pike & Rose was approved in 2012, through a condition of approval, that they required six lanes to remain on Old Georgetown Road until Rockville Pike was reconstructed,” Metz wrote in an email.
A Baltimore-based company of senior living communities is hoping to take advantage of a rapidly redeveloping downtown Bethesda.
Brightview Senior Living is proposing a seven-story assisted living building at the site of an existing warehouse at 4907 Rugby Ave and single-family home being used as an office. The building would include between 90 and 98 units with first floor-commercial space and one level of underground parking, said Brightview Vice President of Development Andrew Teeters.
The company has independent living, continuing care, assisted living and dementia care facilities in eight states in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.
The company plans to submit its sketch plan for the project in the next few weeks to the Planning Department. The entire approval process could take a few years.
Teeters and an architect presented renderings of the building and a large roof deck that would be open to residents.
Brightview Senior Living is a division of The Shelter Group, a developer that specializes in senior living communities.
Renderings via The Shelter Group