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by Aaron Kraut — August 29, 2014 at 2:25 pm 0

The most recent crime report for Bethesda, Chevy Chase and North Bethesda includes a 75-year-old charged for aggravated assault and an indecent exposure incident near the Bethesda Metro station:

An aggravated assault occurred in the 7200 block of Arlington Road in Bethesda on Thursday, 8/14 at approximately 6:15 p.m.

Arrested: Male, age 75, from Bethesda

A residential burglary occurred in the 7000 block of Clarendon Road in Bethesda sometime between Tuesday, 8/12 and Thursday, 8/14. Forced entry; property taken.

An indecent exposure occurred in the 7500 block of Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda on Monday, 8/18 at approximately 5:30 p.m. The suspect exposed himself to the victim.

Suspect: W/M, 5’9″/170 lbs., beard 

A robbery occurred in the 3700 block of Manor Road in Chevy Chase on Saturday, 8/16 at about 2:30 a.m. The suspect assaulted the victim and removed property.

A theft occurred at a construction site located at 7604 Holiday Terrace in Bethesda on Monday, 8/11 at 11:30 p.m.

Arrested: Male, age 32, from Gaithersburg; male, age 51, from Silver Spring

A residential burglary occurred in the 6000 block of Roseland Drive in Rockville sometime overnight between Friday, 8/15 and Saturday, 8/16. Unknown entry; property taken.

by Aaron Kraut — August 29, 2014 at 1:40 pm 0

National Institutes of HealthIn need of more chilled water and worried about the reliability of the local water supply, the National Institutes of Health wants to build a new set of water storage structures on its 70-acre Bethesda campus.

The “Assure/Expand Chilled Water Capacity” project will be the subject of a public meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 24 on the NIH campus.

As explained in a Federal Register notice on Thursday, the NIH will be required to do an environmental impact statement for the project.

The NIH says its demand for chilled water has “exceeded the design capacity several times during the previous years,” and that the agency “has also become increasingly concerned about the vulnerability of the local water utility system, and the risk of reliably delivering water to the NIH Bethesda Campus infrastructure.”

Chilled water is commonly used in air conditioning systems. According to a capital budget report from the National Capital Planning Commission, the project consists of renovating an existing chiller plant on the campus (one of the largest on the east coast) full of equipment that has been decommissioned.

“These chillers are absolutely essential in providing cooling capability for NIH’s 240 bed hospital, over 1.3 million research animals, three data centers and over 12 million square feet of sophisticated biomedical research facilities,” read the report, which estimated the cost of the project at just less than $83 million.

The NIH has already presented a campus master plan that would mean renovations to a number of older laboratory buildings and the construction of new ones, as well as 3,000 additional employees at the campus over the next 20 years.

The Scoping Meeting on Sept. 24 will include a formal presentation on the project. All comments and questions on the meeting or the project should be directed to Valerie Nottingham, Deputy Director, Division of Environmental Protection at nihnepa[at]mail[dot]nih[dot]gov.

by Aaron Kraut — August 29, 2014 at 9:05 am 316 4 Comments

Westbard redevelopment area, via Equity One

The formal master plan process that might allow for massive redevelopment in the Westbard section of Bethesda will kick off with a community meeting on Sept. 23.

The Montgomery County Planning Department announced the meeting this week along with a new website dedicated to the Westbard Sector Plan and a Twitter handle.

The County Council approved moving the start of the master plan rewrite up to this fall after Equity One, which recently bought Westbard’s main shopping center and many of the surrounding properties, made clear its goal to redevelop the area into a more vibrant, mixed-use style community.

Equity One outlined some of its plans in a series of community meetings earlier this year and has hired a Rockville-based public relations firm to help create its Westbard Vision website and coordinate community outreach.

In March, Equity One officials and an architect said they want to create a “signature” main street on Westbard Avenue with pedestrian crossings and upscale retailers to replace the loading docks, driveways and surface parking lots there now.

Equity One is partnering with EYA, a residential developer known for its luxury townhouse communities around the D.C. area, and promised to make an honest effort to keep every existing retailer in its new project.

But in order to make it happen, Equity One must get zoning changes that would come as a result of a new Westbard Sector Plan. Last revised in 1982, it’s the oldest master plan in Montgomery County.

Until Equity One came forward with its plans this year, the rewrite was still low down on the county Planning Department’s work schedule.

The Sept. 23 meeting will be one of many hosted by county planners. It’s set for 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the Whitman High School Cafeteria (7100 Whittier Blvd.).

On its Westbard website, planners acknowledge that Equity One “is ready to redevelop” its properties, which include the Westwood Shopping Center, Westwood Towers, Springhouse by Manor Care, Bowlmor Lanes, two Citgo stations and Westwood Center II.

The Westbard Sector includes the area in and around River Road and Westbard Avenue. Planners hope to have the sector plan rewrite delivered to the County Council by June 30, 2015, with the idea that any zoning changes would go into effect by September 2016.

Other key Planning Department dates include a Planning presentation of the Scope of Work on Oct. 21 at Whitman High School, a series of Planning charettes from Nov. 10-14, a Visioning Workshop on Monday, Nov. 10 and a Planning Board public hearing on May 14, 2015.

Photo via Equity One

by Aaron Kraut — August 29, 2014 at 8:05 am 2 Comments

Flickr pool photo by rzuita rzaba

NIH To Conduct Human Testing Of Ebola Vaccine – NIH announced Thursday that it will begin human testing of a potential Ebola virus vaccine next week at its Bethesda campus. The agency’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) is stepping up the pace of human testing for experimental Ebola vaccines because of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa that has led to the deaths of more than 1,400. [NIH]

WSSC Didn’t Notify All Woodmont Triangle Residents Of Late-Night Work – Some residents of the Triangle Towers apartments (4853 Cordell Ave.) are unhappy after WSSC failed to notify them it would be conducting noisy sewer line replacement work in the middle of the night on nearby St Elmo Avenue. A county Environmental Protection official sent the residents a letter saying WSSC should have informed residents of all three buildings within a 300-foot notification range. The work will continue next week and does not require compliance with the county’s noise ordinance. [Robert Dyer @ Bethesda Row]

County Looking For Input On Goldsboro Road Bike Lanes – MCDOT has revealed its preferred design for a set of new bike lanes and pedestrian facilities on a one-mile stretch of Goldsboro Road between River Road and MacArthur Boulevard. The design calls for a five-foot wide bike lane on the westbound side of the road and a bike lane a half-foot wider on the eastbound side of the road. Contact MCDOT’s Greg Hwang with any comments or concerns. [MCDOT]

State Delegate Arrested In Immigration Protest – District 18 Del. Ana Sol Gutierrez was among the nearly 150 protestors arrested on Thursday in front of the White House who were calling for President Barack Obama to enact immigration reform without Congressional approval. Gutierrez, a Chevy Chase resident, was one of almost 2,000 activists who called on Obama to extend deportation protection to millions of undocumented immigrants. [WAMU]

Flickr pool photo by rzuita rzaba

by Aaron Kraut — August 28, 2014 at 12:25 pm 266 3 Comments

Woodglen Drive cycle track proposal, via MCDOT

Almost a year after sharrow markings and a shared-use sidewalk were supposed to be added to Woodglen Drive in White Flint/North Bethesda, officials are proposing a cycle track that would be Montgomery County’s first use of the strategy.

In a presentation on Aug. 11 to the White Flint Implementation Advisory Committee, MCDOT’s Patricia Shepherd and Bruce Johnston outlined the project that will likely be seen as an improvement from the previous plan. (For more details on the presentation, see this post from the Friends of White Flint.)

Cycle tracks are seen as one of the most inviting pieces of bicycle infrastructure because the routes include buffers from vehicle parking and regular traffic lanes. As opposed to a marked bike lane, the cycle track won’t be close enough to a lane of parked cars to risk colliding with an opening car door.

15th Street cycle track in D.C., via MCDOTThe cycle track proposed for Woodglen Drive will run from Edson Lane, the terminus of the off-road Bethesda Trolley Trail, to Nicholson Lane.

The presentation shows two options for the continuation of the cycle track from Nicholson Lane to Marinelli Road, but that portion of the project is likely a few years off as it depends on the proposed redevelopment of the existing shopping center.

The eight-foot wide, two-way cycle track from Edson Lane to Nicholson Lane will be on the west side of Woodglen Drive and be separated from a parking lane by a two- or three-foot wide buffer area that includes plastic posts.

There would also be green-painted pavement to highlight “conflict areas,” where the cycle track crosses intersections or driveways.

Johnston and Shepherd showed photos of an existing cycle track on 15th Street in D.C. that looks very similar to the proposal.

Green zones to illustrate driveways and intersections where bicyclists might come into conflict with vehicles, via MCDOTPlanners and MCDOT will brief the Planning Board on the proposal at the Board’s meeting on Sept. 4.

The cycle track would leave Woodglen Drive with space for a seven-foot wide parking lane on the west side of the roadway, a 10-foot wide southbound travel lane, a 10-foot wide center turn lane and an 11-foot wide northbound travel lane.

There would no longer be curbside parking on the east side of the road, which runs past the Rockville Whole Foods location and North Bethesda Market development.

The cycle track would be one of a few bicycle facility improvements to come to White Flint. MCDOT added a bike lane to Marinelli Road and are considering a cycle track treatment for Nebel Street.

Images via Montgomery County Department of Transportation

by Aaron Kraut — August 28, 2014 at 11:00 am 221 2 Comments

What's In A Name, White Flint branding eventThe age-old question of what to call the place around the White Flint Metro station will be the focus of an event next month set up by the Friends of White Flint, Streetsense and the Montgomery Business Development Corporation.

The open meeting, “What’s In A Name,” comes after years of debate about whether to call the unincorporated, redeveloping area White Flint, North Bethesda, Rockville, something else or some combination of a host of suggestions.

The event is set for Thursday, Sept. 11 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the offices of Streetsense, the brokerage, design and development company based at 3 Bethesda Metro. 

Holly Sears Sullivan, president of the MBDC, will facilitate the conversation, which is sure to draw a variety of opinions.

Last spring, a few furious weeks of back-and-forth between the major developers reshaping the area led to a new suggestion from developer Federal Realty: the Pike District, which would contain individual neighborhoods that could keep their preferred identities — such as White Flint around the White Flint Mall property.

Many of the area’s developers (Federal Realty is building the Pike & Rose project at Old Georgetown Road and Rockville Pike) think the White Flint name is too closely tied to White Flint Mall. In June, a collection of some of the area’s biggest developers known as the White Flint Partnership expressed its support for the Pike District concept.

After some objections to the developer group’s lead role in the process, Federal Realty officials said they were slowing the process down and would be pursuing some type of public meeting to get opinions from a wide array of stakeholders.

Next month’s meeting appears to be one such opportunity.

Developers such as Federal Realty contend the area needs one strong, unified brand name to attract retailers and business. The White Flint Sector Plan area has been called Rockville, despite the fact the actual border to the City of Rockville is farther north on Rockville Pike. It’s also been called North Bethesda based in previous planning efforts and according to the area’s main zip code. There’s also the complicating factor of a different zip code — officially Kensington — that actually covers the land of the landmark White Flint Mall, which will be redeveloped into a massive mixed-use, town center.

The event will not address changing the name of anybody’s postal address or neighborhood.

In an email about the event to members, the nonprofit Friends of White Flint said it’s about time the place gets a name.

“For years, we’ve known that this place needs a name,” read the email. “And, we’ve believed that the community should have input into what that name would be. Our opportunity has arrived.”

RSVPs are due by Thursday, Sept. 4 to hsullivan[at]montgomerybusiness[dot]org.

by Aaron Kraut — August 28, 2014 at 9:00 am 0

Flickr photo by ehpien

Town of Chevy Chase Won’t File Purple Line Lawsuit – Town of Chevy Chase Vice Mayor Pat Burda said the Town will not file a lawsuit against the Purple Line but might file a brief in support of the lawsuit filed Tuesday by the Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail and two Town residents. The Town has spent about $214,000 so far on legal and lobbying fees against the light rail, which the Town is officially opposed to. [Washington Post]

Primary Spending Totals Are In And They Are Large – Marc Korman and Hrant Jamgochian, the two leading non-incumbent candidates in June’s District 16 House of Delegates primary, each spent more than $200,000 on their campaigns. Both financed their campaigns with significant self-loans. Korman loaned himself $69,000 and Jamgochian loaned himself about $150,000, including $30,000 in the days leading up to the primary. Korman won one of three Democratic District 16 nominations along with Bill Frick and Ariana Kelly, who also loaned herself major money for campaign spending. District 16 Senate candidate Hugh Hill loaned himself $50,000 in his losing effort against Susan Lee. [Bethesda Magazine]

School Bus Passing Problem Shows No Signs Of Abating – From January to mid-August, cameras installed on 25 MCPS buses caught about 710 instances of drivers illegally passing stopped buses. The school system and police started the school bus camera program in January to discourage drivers from passing buses with their stop arms out. In a Maryland State Department of Education survey done on one day in May, drivers observed 893 instances of motorists passing stopped school buses. That meant each driver participating saw an average of 1.1 incidents. [The Gazette]

Flickr photo by ehpien

by Aaron Kraut — August 27, 2014 at 4:10 pm 171 0

Purple Line supporters gather at a press conference in August 2013 to announce the pursuit of a public-private partnership to build, design and operate the system (file photo)After Chevy Chase environmentalists filed a lawsuit on Tuesday to stop the Purple Line, some of the light rail system’s staunchest supporters are touting how it will help the environment.

In a statement prepared after the news of the lawsuit, Purple Line Now President Ralph Bennett said his group “is confident that this lawsuit will be found to have no merit.”

The Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail and Chevy Chase residents John Fitzgerald and Christine Real de Azua say the federal government hasn’t adequately accounted for two species of amphipods – the small, shrimp-like creatures they say live in seeps along Rock Creek and Coquelin Run that would be degraded or destroyed by the Purple Line.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says there’s no evidence the endangered amphipod species in question lives in the area near the proposed Purple Line route and that there’s no apparent risk to the one known habitat of an amphipod species that’s a candidate for the endangered list.

“Today’s lawsuit typifies the kind of specious claims that have characterized the history of opposition to the Purple Line,” Bennett said. “Despite the assertions of those who filed the lawsuit, the fact remains that there is no evidence that the species exists within the planned route of the Purple Line. The species is only known to exist in a few springs in the District of Columbia, a fact which was substantiated when this past spring, a search in the Montgomery County section of Rock Creek for the amphipod turned up nothing. Furthermore, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the federal agency responsible for protecting endangered species and their habitats, has held that the construction of the Purple Line would have no effect on the amphipod, even if it were to exist in Montgomery County.”

That search in the spring was done by American University biologist and amphipod expert Dr. David Culver, who the Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail hired with $10,000 in funding from the Town of Chevy Chase to do the surveys.

Purple Line NOW (and like-minded groups such as the Action Committee for Transit) are longtime opponents of the Town of Chevy Chase, which is officially opposed to the Purple Line and hasn’t ruled out litigation of its own.

The $2.37 billion light rail system would run from Bethesda to New Carrollton. The Maryland Transit Administration hopes to select a private concessionaire early next year to design, build and operate the system and start construction late next year. The goal is to complete the project by 2020.

Bennett goes on to say the environmental benefits of the Purple Line “far outweigh any potential harm.”

“The Purple Line is supported by countless environmental groups including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Clean Water Action and the League of Conservation Voters,” Bennett said. “The Sierra Club even went so far as to name the Purple Line as one of the 25 best transportation projects in the United States in 2012. The Purple Line will provide tangible environmental benefits in the form of reduced greenhouse gas emissions and automobile trips, and feature sustainable design elements such as green tracks, green buffers and planter boxes to reduce stormwater runoff and heat gain.”

by Aaron Kraut — August 27, 2014 at 11:55 am 474 4 Comments

Connecticut Avenue backed up at Chevy Chase Circle Wednesday morning, via TrafficLand.com Paved lane on northbound Connecticut Avenue at East-West Highway, via TrafficLand.com

Emergency paving work on Connecticut Avenue in Chevy Chase means multiple lanes will be closed throughout the rest of the week, even during rush hour periods.

The State Highway Administration began a planned resurfacing project of Connecticut Avenue between Chevy Chase Circle and East-West Highway two weeks ago. On Wednesday, officials said crews milled off the top two inches of asphalt and found the road base pavement “to be in an advanced state of deterioration.”

This meant crews had to ditch the asphalt they originally planned to use in favor of a stronger mix to offset the deterioration.

On Tuesday night, crews got to work paving a lane on northbound Connecticut Avenue. The authorization for all-day work meant a huge traffic jam at Western Avenue and Chevy Chase Circle during the Wednesday morning rush hour. Crews must also use two lanes to pave each lane of road.

SHA officials say the rest of the week is going to be just as bad, as the paving work will continue all day (even during rush hour):

Crews expect to complete paving along northbound MD 185 late Thursday and immediately cross over ontosouthbound MD 185 Thursday night or early Friday morning.  All six lanes on this section of MD 185 are expected to be paved by Saturday night, weather permitting.  With two northbound MD 185 lanes expected to be closed today and tomorrow during the afternoon rush hours and two southbound MD 185 lanes expected to be closed for theFriday morning rush hour, traffic is expected to be severely impacted and  motorists should consider MD 355 (Wisconsin Avenue) or other alternate routes.

More than 46,000 vehicles use the 1.5-mile section of Connecticut Avenue each day, according to SHA. The paving project was originally announced at a $2.5 million cost.

Photos via TrafficLand.com

by Aaron Kraut — August 27, 2014 at 11:00 am 181 2 Comments

New escalators at Westfield Montgomery Dining Terrace

State Prosecutor Clears School Board In Credit Card Scandal – Maryland State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt says his office found credit card spending by some members of the Board of Education don’t “rise to the level of criminal misconduct,” and that his office has closed its investigation. [MCPS]

Feds Issue Subpoenas In Probe of Failed Healthcare Exchange – The inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health is subpoenaing documents related to the failed rollout of Maryland’s healthcare exchange. Auditors have requested information from the since removed North Dakota-based lead contractor hired to build the site. [The Baltimore Sun]

Georgetown Prep Grad Dies In Ohio Plane Crash – Abraham Pishevar, a Rockville native who graduated from Georgetown Prep in the spring, died in a plane crash with three others on Monday. Pishevar had just begun his freshman year at Case Western University and was on the plane with teammates on the university’s wrestling team. [Georgetown Prep]

Town of Chevy Chase Might Hire Lawyer For Bethesda Downtown Plan – The Town of Chevy Chase is considering hiring a lawyer to represent it before the Planning Board as it deliberates the Bethesda Downtown Plan. Many in the Town are concerned about the affects increased density and development would have on the neighborhood, which is just east of a large swath of downtown Bethesda. [The Gazette]

by Aaron Kraut — August 27, 2014 at 10:00 am 856 8 Comments

Photos via Brett Hartl/Center for Biological DiversityTwo Chevy Chase residents and the Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail filed a federal lawsuit this week seeking to stop the Purple Line because they claim the light rail would do much environmental harm.

The Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail (FCCT), John Fitzgerald and Christine Real de Azua say the federal government hasn’t adequately accounted for two species of amphipods — the small, shrimp-like creatures they say live in seeps along Rock Creek and Coquelin Run that would be degraded or destroyed by the Purple Line.

The lawsuit follows a notice of intent to sue in June that was more specifically aimed at protecting the amphipod species under the Endangered Species Act.

Meagan Racey, spokesperson for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said the federal agencies involved and the Maryland Transit Administration met with environmentalists and some Chevy Chase residents on Aug. 11.

The Fish and Wildlife Service reviewed its findings from last year in light of the new information from the Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail, which hired American University biologist Dr. David Culver to survey for amphipods this spring near the proposed Purple Line route.

But Racey said officials found no need to revaluate protections for the amphipods because there is no evidence that amphipods exist in the seeps near the Purple Line route.

“We also found from [Dr. Culver] that under nearly ideal conditions he didn’t find these species at all,” Racey said.

In a letter to the Federal Transit Administration (see PDF below) the Fish and Wildlife Service said “there are no known or suspected sites for the Hay’s Spring amphipod within the immediate vicinity of the Purple Line project.”

The Kenk’s amphipod, which is a candidate for federal listing as an endangered species, is known to live in one site about a quarter-mile south of the Purple Line route in the Coquelin Run Spring. But the Fish and Wildlife Service said the site is on a hillside about 40 feet above any groundwater that would be polluted as a result of the light rail.

The Center for Biological Diversity, the major environmental group that was a part of the notice of intent letter in June, is not listed as a plaintiff in the lawsuit filed this week.

Center for Biological Diversity senior counsel Bill Snape said the group fully supports the lawsuit, but didn’t join “because our concerns and objections to the Purple Line are, at this point, relatively narrow, focusing exclusively on the endangered species habitat conservation issues. We are still hopeful that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will wake up and do the right thing.”

The lawsuit also covers complaints about how the Purple Line would affect the aesthetic and recreational value of the Georgetown Branch Trail and a habitat of herons in Coquelin Run.

“The plaintiffs want the Federal Transit Administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Secretaries of Interior and Transportation to find alternatives to the Purple Line route between Bethesda and Silver Spring, in order to protect the Rock Creek watershed that harbors the Hay’s Spring amphipod and the Kenk’s amphipod, tiny freshwater invertebrates found nowhere else in the United States. The lawsuit says these animals’ habitat could be degraded or destroyed by construction of the railway and associated development,” according to a press release provided by Real de Azua.

The Federal Transit Administration is expected to pitch in about $900 million for the $2.37 billion system. The MTA hopes to select a private concessionaire early next year to design, build and operate the light rail and start construction late next year.

In its complaint, the group says Culver’s recent survey “found several seeps along the Purple Line route where the endangered amphipods may currently be or might be restored as part of a recovery plan. A survey of those areas is planned for the late fall when the crustaceans emerge from within their underground habitat. Several agency reports describe stormwater run off and deforestation as major threats to the survival of the endangered amphipods.”

PDF: Capital Crescent Complaint Against Purple Line

PDF: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Response To Amphipod Claims

Photo via Brett Hartl/Center for Biological Diversity

by Aaron Kraut — August 26, 2014 at 3:10 pm 0

John Dugger dedication plaque, via Montgomery ParksMontgomery Parks, the Montgomery Parks Foundation and the Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail will honor trail advocate John Dugger with a special plaque next month.

Dugger, a past chair of the Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail, was one of the leading voices for turing the abandoned B&O rail line from Georgetown to Silver Spring into a multi-use trail that has become one of the most popular of its kind in the country.

In 1991, along with bicyclist Henri Bartholomot, Dugger helped secure federal funds to develop the trail and was personally involved in acquiring and developing extra right-of-way that makes up the 11-mile Capital Crescent Trail that sees about 1 million walkers, joggers, bikers, and rollerbladers each year.

In 1996 and 1997, Dugger was again at the forefront of the push to remove the rails and open the section of trail from Elm Park in Chevy Chase to Silver Spring. The completion of an all-paved, all off-road trail will be part of the Purple Line light rail project. Montgomery County has pledged $95 million to build the trail alongside the light rail route.

Dugger, a retired naval officer and specialist in international law, led the Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail for much of the 90′s. Montgomery Parks maintains the section of paved, continuous trail from the D.C. line to downtown Bethesda.

On Friday, Sept. 12, Parks leaders, elected officials and other community members will gather at the dedication event for a plaque to honor Dugger’s advocacy and work.

Parks will install the plaque, pictured above, on the trail just south of the rest area by the Dalecarlia Water Treatment Plant, near where the trail continues on to D.C.

“We are delighted that the relationship between our three organizations resulted in this important opportunity to honor John Dugger, our friend and champion of the Capital Crescent Trail,” said Coalition Chair Ron Tripp in a press release. “The Montgomery Parks Foundation and Montgomery Parks were not only supportive of this effort, but were our partners in assuring this was done and done well.”

Photo via Montgomery Parks

by Aaron Kraut — August 26, 2014 at 1:05 pm 576 2 Comments

Photo via Benny's Bar and Grill (Facebook)

Montgomery County Police say a former employee at Benny’s Bar and Grill in Potomac threatened owner Benny Fischer and made anti-Semitic remarks after Fischer hung an Israeli and American flag outside of his restaurant earlier this month.

Police on Tuesday said Amber Denise Edmond, 30, of Beltsville called Fischer on his cellphone from a blocked number at about 2:41 a.m. on Aug. 7, the day after Fischer hung the Israeli flag from his 7747 Tuckerman Lane restaurant to show his support for Israel in its military conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

According to police, Edmond “made several threats to harm the owner and made anti-Semitic remarks,” and “also told the owner to take his Israeli flag down from the restaurant.” Police said Edmond then called Fischer again about four minutes later but he did not answer.

That’s a slightly different story than what Fischer told Bethesda Magazine when he talked about the incident earlier this month.

Fischer told Bethesda Magazine he answered the second call during which the caller “continued the rant, saying things like, ‘You f–king Jew, I’m going to kill you and all the other Jews,’ according to Fischer.”

Police said they used phone records to identify the suspect as Edmond. They have charged her with obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs by threat of force and telephone misuse and issued a warrant for her arrest.

Police said investigators are trying to arrange a time for Edmond to turn herself in.

Meanwhile, Fischer is planning a fundraiser at his restaurant for Magen David Adom, the Israeli organization similar to the American Red Cross.

Photo via Benny’s Bar and Grill Facebook

by Aaron Kraut — August 26, 2014 at 11:30 am 916 10 Comments

Top 10 most congested intersections in Montgomery County, via Planning Department 2014 Mobility Assessment Report

By one commonly used metric, the three most congested intersections in Montgomery County are all in Bethesda and North Bethesda.

It’s probably not a surprise to the many who travel Rockville Pike each day that leading the pack is the intersection of Rockville Pike and Cedar Lane, according to data collected and compiled by the county’s Planning Department in its biennial Mobility Assessment Report.

The report uses traffic count data gathered at major intersections to measure critical lane volumes (CLVs). The higher the CLV, the worse the congestion. It’s important to know the planning department doesn’t get updated CLV counts for each reporting period, though it did get a November 2013 count at Rockville Pike and Cedar Lane that showed a morning rush hour peak CLV of 1,957.

That’s good for most congested intersection in the county. More important to planners and policy makers, it far surpasses the intersection standard of 1,600 CLV.

The count, of course, came before a major intersection improvement project that added turning and thru lanes on Cedar Lane to improve traffic flow.

The No. 2 most congested intersection according to the report was at Rockville Pike and Nicholson Lane, with a peak CLV of 1,929. The standard for that intersection is 1,550. No. 3 was Old Georgetown Road at Democracy Boulevard, with a peak CLV of 1,923. That’s an improvement for the intersection, which was the No. 1 most congested in the last Mobility Report, though neither State Highway nor consultants have been able to do a CLV count there since 2009.

Not far behind the terrible traffic trio is Connecticut Avenue at East-West Highway, which comes in at No. 6 with a peak CLV of 1,848. That count was also made in November 2013 and planners say the Chevy Chase intersection is only getting worse.

“In the 2011 report, this location was ranked the 15th most congested; today it is ranked as the sixth most congested. As a down-County area, Connecticut Avenue in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Policy area consistently has one or more intersections ranked in the top 25 most congested. SHA’s improvements here were implemented several years ago. The future Purple Line transitway could alleviate congestion at this intersection,” planners wrote.

Despite the presence of four of the county’s top-six most congested intersections, Bethesda, Chevy Chase and North Bethesda don’t seem to experience more traffic problems than any other particular part of the county. Of the 50 most congested intersections ranked in the report, 12 are in areas known as Bethesda, Chevy Chase or North Bethesda/White Flint.

By another metric — the amount by which intersection congestion surpasses intersection standards — many of the worst intersections in the county are in Rockville and Gaithersburg.

Other findings in the Mobility Report include some bicycle counts. Planners said they weren’t surprised to find Bethesda had the most observable bike trips. According to a similar ranking of bike counts per intersection, 17 of the top 19 most popular spots for bicyclists were in Bethesda, many on the same bicycle routes in downtown Bethesda and around NIH and Suburban Hospital.

The most heavily-traveled Metrobus routes included the J1, J2 and J3 routes that go from Westfield Montgomery mall to Silver Spring via the Bethesda Metro station.

And the Bethesda Metro station once again had one of the highest average weekday ridership numbers of all Metro stations in Montgomery County, along with the stations at Silver Spring, Shady Grove and Friendship Heights.

by Aaron Kraut — August 26, 2014 at 9:25 am 218 4 Comments

Bainbridge Bethesda and construction crane in Woodmont Triangle

Potomac Residents File Court Complaint Against Pepco – A group of Potomac Crest residents have asked a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge to stop Pepco from removing 100-year-old trees on their properties. Pepco says it’s allowed to move the trees because the trees are within 75 feet of the right of way the company owns. A Pepco spokesperson said the residents are concerned about aesthetics, while Pepco needs to cut down the trees to provide reliable electric service to tens of thousands of customers. [The Gazette]

‘Alice In Wonderland’ Tea Shop Could Be Coming To Area – The owner of a New York-based online tea shop and wholesaler recently moved to Bethesda and is planning a brick-and-mortar tea shop for the area, possibly with an “Alice in Wonderland” theme. [Washington Business Journal]

Biden To Raise Money For Brown – Democratic gubernatorial nominee Anthony Brown will get some fundraising help from Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday, when Biden attends a luncheon fundraiser in Georgetown expected to bring in between $300,000 and $350,000 for Brown’s campaign. Brown is running against Republican nominee Larry Hogan, an Anne Arundel County businessman. [Washington Post]

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