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by Aaron Kraut — November 26, 2014 at 12:25 pm 204 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 3 Comments

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 203 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 8:45 am 169 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 360 3 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 1:00 pm 378 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 10:00 am 258 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 2:40 pm 256 5 Comments

County Executive Isiah Leggett (file photo)County Executive Isiah Leggett has proposed hiring a “development ombudsman” who would help commercial and residential developers through what can be a tricky county approval process.

County Council President Craig Rice will introduce a bill that would create the new position on Tuesday on behalf of Leggett, who wrote in an Oct. 31 memo that the ombudsman could “bring about tangible improvements that save both time and costs.”

The ombudsman, who would be paid an estimated $198,600 per year, would assist developers in getting approvals and permits necessary for construction “by acting as a problem-solving liaison between the County and State agencies and those affected by their rules and processes.”

Leggett wrote that the person would also be responsible for finding “systemic concerns” with the county’s development approval process “to the attention of the County leadership for resolution.”

Complaints about the county’s development approval and permitting processes are nothing new.

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by Aaron Kraut — November 24, 2014 at 10:05 am 514 8 Comments

Water main break at Wisconsin Avenue and Battery Lane on Monday morning

Updated at 4:40 p.m. –A water main break in downtown Bethesda has the two right lanes of southbound Wisconsin Avenue blocked at Battery Lane on Monday afternoon.

The break was first reported by Montgomery County Police just before 10 a.m. Monday. The road remained open for most of the day, despite a large hole where water was bubbling up and out onto the roadway.

In January, an 8-inch water main broke near the same intersection, causing lane closures through the afternoon rush hour period.

by Aaron Kraut — November 24, 2014 at 8:00 am 172 5 Comments

Flickr photo by ehpien

MoCo Could Be In For More Budget Caution – Lower-than-expected tax revenues in November could mean Montgomery County plays it safe with new spending the rest of this fiscal year and the budget for FY 2016. The state’s distribution of income tax revenue to the county was $96 million below the $443 million projection, leading County Executive Isiah Leggett to pen a memo to County Council Craig Rice saying not to engage in any new spending. [Washington Post]

Bethesda Retains “Bronze” Status As “Bicycle Friendly Community” – Bethesda is still a bronze-level “bicycle friendly community,” according to the League of American Bicyclists. The group first put Bethesda on its list in 2012. [League of American Bicyclists]

Neighboring County Decides To Add Holiday Names – The Prince George’s County School Board isn’t removing all holiday names from its calendar — it’s adding more. The group sent its draft calendar back to a calendar committee with the request that the Hindu holiday Diwali be added. It’s a move in stark contrast to the Montgomery County Board of Education, which claimed earlier this month that removing the names of all religious holidays was the only equitable way to deal with the issue. Prince George’s County has included Muslim holidays on the school calendar since 2007-2008. [The Gazette]

Flickr photo by ehpien

by Aaron Kraut — November 21, 2014 at 11:25 am 415 0

Commercial burglaries at a high-end fashion retailer in Chevy Chase and a not so high-end fast food joint on Rockville Pike lead the most recent Bethesda area crime summary.

Also included is the Nov. 5 carjacking of a teenager in a Bethesda neighborhood. Police have not located the three suspects:

A commercial burglary occurred at the Louis Vuitton located in the 5400 block of Wisconsin Avenue in Chevy Chase on Monday, 11/10 at 8:11 a.m. No forced entry; nothing taken.

A commercial burglary occurred at the Arby’s located at 11710 Rockville Pike in North Bethesda on Saturday, 11/8 between 1:00 a.m. and 6:45 a.m. Forced entry; property taken.

A carjacking occurred in the 7800 block of Hampden Lane in Bethesda on Wednesday, 11/5 at 7:00 p.m. The suspects threatened the victim with a weapon and obtained the vehicle.

Suspects: Black male, 5’11″-6’1″/130-140 lbs., wearing a ski mask; black male; unknown race male

Seven incidents of thefts from vehicles occurred at Virgilia Street and Connecticut Avenue in Chevy Chase on Monday, 11/10 at approximately 2:30 a.m. No signs of forced entry; arrests were made.

Arrested: Male, age 22, from Washington DC; male, of an unknown age, from Washington DC

An incident of theft occurred in the 4900 block of Cordell Avenue in Bethesda on Friday, 11/7 between 7:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. Property was unknowingly taken from the victim while shopping.

A theft from vehicle occurred at Grosvenor Lane & Fleming Avenue in Bethesda on Friday, 11/7 between 3:30 a.m. and 6:15 a.m. Unknown entry; property taken.

Arrested: Male, age 24, from Germantown

A strong-arm robbery occurred in the 5200 block of Westport Road in Chevy Chase on Friday, 11/7 at approximately 8:00 p.m. The suspects threatened the victim with a weapon and obtained property.

Suspect: Black male, 5’9″/180 lbs., black jacket; black male, 5’9″/170 lbs., black jacket 

Two commercial burglaries occurred at Euro Motorcars, 5206 River Road in Bethesda. The first incident occurred overnight between Tuesday, 11/4 and Wednesday, 11/5. No forced entry; property taken. The second occurred overnight between Thursday, 11/6 and Friday, 11/7. Forced entry; property taken

A strong-arm robbery occurred at Whittier Boulevard & Wilson Lane in Bethesda on Monday, 11/10 at approximately 4:30 p.m. The suspects assaulted the victim and obtained property.

Arrested: Male, age 18, from Bethesda 

A residential burglary occurred in the 9200 block of Fernwood Road in Bethesda on Tuesday, 11/11 between 10:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Forced entry; property taken.

A residential burglary occurred in the 9200 block of Beech Hill Drive in Bethesda on Tuesday, 11/11 between 9:45 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Forced entry; property taken.

by Aaron Kraut — November 21, 2014 at 9:25 am 302 1 Comment

State Highway Administration (file photo)As part of a broader improvement project for Connecticut Avenue, the State Highway Administration is set to temporarily close one ramp connecting to the Beltway on Monday, Dec. 1.

Weather permitting, crews will close the ramp from the Outer Loop of the Capital Beltway to northbound Connecticut Avenue from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Dec. 1. Crews are resurfacing the roadway and putting in new traffic signals on the busy northbound and southbound ramps from the Beltway to Connecticut Avenue.

It’s part of an overall $3.7 million safety and resurfacing project for Connecticut Avenue from Dupont Avenue in Kensington to the Beltway in Chevy Chase. Almost 65,000 drivers use the section of Connecticut Avenue each day.

Work began on the project this summer and the SHA says all phases should be complete by fall 2015.

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by Aaron Kraut — November 21, 2014 at 8:55 am 303 0

Photo via rzultarzaba

Transit Advocates Pressing For Council To Pass Urban Road Code – The County Council is set to vote on a bill that would mean narrower roads, slower speed limits and more pedestrian bumpouts and bicycle lanes on newly designed county roads in urban areas of the county such as White Flint and Bethesda. [Action Committee For Transit]

MoCo Democratic Chairman Offers To Resign – Kevin Walling, the Bethesda resident who took over as the chairman of the county’s Democratic Party organization four months ago, offered his resignation Sunday. Walling was facing criticism over the Central Committee’s sample ballots, many of which included misprinted information to the detriment of both Republican and Democratic candidates in this month’s election. [Bethesda Magazine]

Better Than Black Friday? – URBNMarket, the market of vintage and handmade crafts from local vendors, will return for its holiday market on Sunday, Dec. 7 at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad (5020 Battery Lane) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. [URBNMarket]

More Than 1.1 Million Projected To Travel For Thanksgiving – Thanks to low gas prices, AAA is projecting more D.C. area residents will hit the road this Thanksgiving travel period than in any year since 2007. There’s also new data from the region’s Transportation Planning Board that suggests the Tuesday before Thanksgiving — not the Wednesday before — might now be the region’s most congested pre-Thanksgiving travel day. [Washington Post]

Free Lobster Rolls – To celebrate its grand opening, new Westfield Montgomery mall fast casual eatery Lobster ME is offering free lobster rolls from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday. [Lobster ME via Facebook]

Photo via rzultarzaba

by Aaron Kraut — November 20, 2014 at 3:35 pm 4,662 14 Comments

Clyde's Tower Oaks Lodge restaurant, via Facebook

The highest volume restaurant in Montgomery County was fined a total of $9,000 by the county on Thursday two weeks after admitting to a slew of alcohol violations related to a half-price wine special.

The county’s Board of License Commissioners agreed to fine Clyde’s Tower Oaks Lodge $5,000, plus $2,000 for the restaurant’s alcohol sales to minors and $2,000 for failing to make certain records available on the night of Aug. 11.

On that night, a group of Montgomery County Police officers and Department of Liquor Control officials went into the restaurant (2 Preserve Parkway) to investigate reports from the community of overservice and service to underage patrons.

Police said they had received the reports of fights in the parking lot in relation to the restaurant’s Monday night half-price wine special. The restaurant’s manager said two weeks ago that he saw an increasing amount of issues on Monday nights over the summer.

Two officers in street clothes and a DLC inspector witnessed numerous customers who appeared underage with alcohol. One DLC inspector took photos of a patron roaming around the restaurant with a pitcher of beer and of an off-duty employee, who cops said blew a .231 on a portable breathalyzer test.

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