County Executive Isiah Leggett announced the selection on Wednesday, more than seven months after Fire Chief Richard Bowers left the county for Fairfax County’s fire chief job. Lohr’s appointment will be subject to County Council approval.
Lohr took over supervision of the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services’ four division chiefs and 13 civilian managers after Bowers left. The MCFRS has a $218 million operating budget.
Prior to becoming interim chief, Lohr served as Chief of Operations since 2008. He started as a firefighter and worked his way up to battalion chief before taking over a series of senior administrative positions.
Lohr makes an annual salary of $155,703.19, according to county data. Before his departure, Bowers received a $190,000 annual salary.
Pepco on Wednesday filed an expected rate increase request with the Maryland Public Services Commission that would mean an extra $4.80 to the average residential customer’s monthly electric bill.
The $43.3 million rate increase request comes on the heels of the PSC’s decision in July to approve a part of Pepco’s most recent rate increase request. That decision also included approval for Pepco’s controversial grid resiliency charge.
In its rate increase request filed today, Pepco says it has spent $238.5 million from October 2012 to September 2013 to upgrade infrastructure and this increase would cover those costs.
There will be a public hearing held in Montgomery County before the decision is made, set for July 2014.
Councilmember Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda) has been a frequent Pepco critic. He released the following statement:
Pepco today asked the Maryland Public Service Commission to approve recovery in rates of more than $43 million of expenditures. Pepco is within its rights to seek such approval. However, it is the responsibility of the Commission to scrutinize that request and ensure that only those expenditures that were prudently incurred and that are ‘used and useful’ are allowed to be passed through to ratepayers. In the most recent rate cases, the Commission has found that Pepco had sought recovery of expenditures that were not proper and reduced their requests by more than 50 percent. I would fully expect our County to actively participate in this proceeding, as we have in the past in accordance with legislation that I sponsored, and work to ensure that Pepco does not pass on to ratepayers costs that are not proper.
Pepco is also seeking an increase in its return on equity. I continue to believe that Pepco’s financial returns should be based on its performance. While the number and duration of outages has improved since 2010 and their recent investments and actions have raised them from the lowest quartile nationally, in my view, its overall performance has not risen to the level that justifies an increase in its return on equity. It is still a utility that is ranks in the bottom half of all utilities in terms of performance. That is not good enough for the residents of Montgomery County and it should not be good enough for the Commission.
Police were called to the PNC Bank at 10221 Old Georgetown Rd. for the report of a bank robbery at about 9:45 a.m. on Wednesday.
Officer Janelle Smith, a Montgomery County Police spokesperson, said there was no other information on the incident or suspect at this time.
Police surrounded the shopping center on Wednesday morning and brought in a K9 unit to help search for a suspect, similar to the scene on Aug. 16.
In August, a man in a red dress shirt and red tie with a fedora walked into the PNC Bank and showed a note to the teller demanding money, police said. The teller gave the suspect an undisclosed amount of cash and the man left the bank. At the time, police linked the suspect to other bank robberies in the county.
On Monday, Police said a man implied he had a weapon before taking cash from the PNC Bank inside the Giant Food store at 12051 Rockville Pike, in the Montrose Crossing Shopping Center.
School Board Members Gear Up For Reelection — Three of the four Montgomery County Board of Education members up for election in the June Democratic primary have filed for reelection, including Bethesda resident Patricia O’Neill. O’Neill, 63, is the longest serving member who will go for her fifth term. [Washington Post]
New Speed Cameras On Bradley Boulevard — Montgomery County now has three speed cameras on Bradley Boulevard between Goldsboro Road and Huntington Parkway, where the speed limit is 30 miles per hour. The cameras in the 5600 block of Bradley tracks cars going both northbound and southbound. [Montgomery County Police]
More From Tuesday’s Police Chase — The incident started when a resident called in a suspicious situation in the 9400 block of Locust Hill Road, according to police. Police said two suspects were eventually arrested after a car and foot pursuit in a River Road neighborhood. As of Tuesday afternoon, the suspects hadn’t been charged. [The Gazette]
What’s Up In White Flint? — Friends of White Flint provides an update on various redevelopment projects around the area. Many are still years away from fruition. It appears North Bethesda Market II, set to be the tallest building in Montgomery County, is on hold. [Friends of White Flint]
Flickr photo by patzere4
It’s an important symbol of the New Deal era based on a piece of Bethesda history. But for the last 17 months, the old Bethesda Post Office mural has been sitting in Postal Service storage.
On Wednesday, the 1939 mural of the Bethesda Farm Women’s Market that was proudly displayed in the old Bethesda Post Office will be re-installed in the county’s Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center (4805 Edgemoor Lane).
The mural has been restored, according to Regional Services Center Director Ken Hartman, who worked with the United States Postal Service to let it again see the light of day.
The mural was funded by the Works Project Administration, the largest New Deal agency that put millions of unemployed men to work on public works projects. It also commissioned music, writing and arts projects, such as the mural.
The old post office (7400 Wisconsin Ave.) was built in 1938 as part of the New Deal next to the Madonna of the Trail statue. The post office building has been deemed historic. Faced with mounting financial difficulties, the USPS closed it in 2012 and sold it for $4 million to the Donohoe Companies.
The mural went in a year after it opened. It was created by Robert Gates, who later became head of the Art Department at American University. It shows a woman feeding animals next to women selling produce at the Farm Women’s Market, which opened on Wisconsin Avenue in 1932.
In 1938, Eleanor Roosevelt visited the Procurement Division of the Treasury Department to look at the sketches of the mural. She later wrote in her diary the sketch was “charming,” and “I think these post offices are making the country more and more conscious of decorative, artistic values.”
It will go in the lobby of the Regional Services Center, located on the first floor/plaza level of the building.
Photo via Save the Post Office
Planners will propose an extra 50 feet in building height in their attempt to get the owner of Bethesda’s Apex Building to tear the building down.
For almost four months, county planners have been analyzing how to convince the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), which owns the building at 7272 Wisconsin Ave., to raze the building so the state can build an optimal Bethesda Purple Line station underneath.
Planners will go to the Planning Board on Thursday with their final stab at zoning changes they hope the Pharmacists group will accept in exchange for losing its profitable building, which includes ASHP offices, restaurants and a popular Regal movie theater.
The Planning Department wants to send the Minor Master Plan Amendment to the County Council by the end of the week, so it has time to debate the changes and associated costs before the end of the year. The Maryland Transit Administration says it wants an answer as to the building owner’s intentions by early 2014, as it hopes to secure federal funding for the $2.1 billion, 16-mile light rail.
Lately, the ASHP has seemed unwilling to raze or part with its building, at least not for the redevelopment package first proposed by planners.
So the revised draft plan to be presented Thursday would allow a redeveloped building on the site to reach 250 feet, up from the 200 feet proposed in September.
At the heart of the issue is how all the elements of an optimal Purple Line station (a high-speed elevator connection to Metro’s Red Line, separate tunnel for the Capital Crescent Trail, Purple Line platform and integrated ventilation shaft) would limit the redeveloped building’s potential on the ground floor.
“We believe the current plan requirements, such as the incorporation of two tunnels, integration of ventilaton, the new addition of a shell-ready Purple Line station and limitations to the ground level will significantly limit the ability to effectively utilize the additional density resulting from the modest increase in [floor-area-ratio],” ASHP Senior Vice President and COO David Witmer told the Planning Board on Nov. 7. “Without modification of the plan to better balance transit and commercial interests, and additional incentives outside the plan, we’re concerned there may not be sufficient benefit to us pursuing such a disruptive undertaking.”
The revised plan says the 250-foot building height (at densities similar to the office buildings near the Bethesda Metro station) will ”allow greater flexibility in accommodating on the Apex site the numerous program elements of the improved station and trail.”
It appears allowing for a taller building with more density won’t be the only promise the county may have to make.
An economic study commissioned by the Planning Board found rezoning the property won’t cover the potential losses for the ASHP.
The report, which came out in September, said $5 million to $10 million of public money could be required to close the gap. The plan to be presented Thursday does not recommend a specific amount of money to be doled out, but does say planners have been working with the county’s Department of Economic Development.
According to WSSC’s service alert map, the break occurred near 4701 Willard Avenue, home to a number of apartment buildings. At the nearby Wisconsin Place Community Recreation Center, all evening activities have been cancelled because of the break.
It’s unclear how many customers are without water service.
WSSC has shutdown water service in the area and has a work order to repair the break.
County Councilmember and Germantown resident Craig Rice on Tuesday officially took over as president of the nine-member governing body for the last year of its four-year term.
Rice, who represents the Upcounty area, is a former state delegate who won his first Council term in 2010. He served as Council vice president during the last year and took over the role from Councilmember Nancy Navarro.
The council president position is typically doled out to a new councilmember each year, during which he or she gets to set the agenda and serve as the public face of the Council.
Rice said one of his major priorities is emphasizing how important jobs of all types are to Montgomery County:
Now it is the end of 2013 and the opportunity to build upon the great work of my colleagues as we shepherd our County into an evolving era. An era in which jobs are paramount and opportunity is for the taking for ALL of our residents. It is that opportunity to follow their own career path that will be the cornerstone of our success because we are a diverse County, with diverse needs. We need automotive technicians and construction workers just as much as we need bio-tech scientists and engineers. Our quilt is a patchwork of all kinds of backgrounds and skill sets. We need to have the jobs to support those myriads of careers. And to provide those jobs means we need to have a strong economic base.
So let me be clear, and I want Virginia to hear me: Jobs are important to Montgomery County. And we know the No. 1 contributor of those jobs is our small business sector. Yet there is so much more we can do to support our small businesses, especially those that are located here in Montgomery County.
This past Saturday, we celebrated Shop Small or Small Business Saturday, where the nation dedicated a day to patronizing our small businesses. Shouldn’t Montgomery County Government do the same? We need to do a better job with County procurement in supporting our locally owned businesses. We need to show our businesses due deference by prioritizing doing business with them, as we all stand to benefit as a result.
Rice played a crucial role in last week’s Council vote to raise the minimum wage to $11.50 an hour by 2017, a move business groups vocally opposed. Rice, who originally hoped to delay the bill until the state legislature acted in 2014, switched sides late in the debate in favor of the $11.50 per hour bill.
That decision allowed bill supporters the room they needed to get it passed by a final 8-1 vote.
Councilmember George Leventhal (D-At large) criticized Rice in the Council session for changing his mind, eliciting a defensive response from Rice. It wasn’t the first time the two went head-to-head during a Council session. Earlier this year, Rice and Leventhal battled over a proposed zoning change study in Aspen Hill that could allow for a Wal-Mart.
Leventhal will serve as Rice’s Council vice president and, as is tradition, nominated Rice on Tuesday. The two have led the Council’s charge for more permanent supportive housing for the homeless.
Rice is also expected to play a big role in the Montgomery County Delegation’s hopes of securing more school construction funding in Annapolis.
Photo via Montgomery County Council
ORIGINAL Police on Tuesday afternoon chased a theft suspect through Bethesda and are still looking for the man, who got out of his vehicle in a neighborhood near River Road.
The car chase started a little before 1:15 p.m. near West Cedar Lane and Old Georgetown Road, according to scanner traffic. The suspect, a black male with a brown coat, had stolen tags and is suspected of stealing copper gutters.
The chase continued to west of Old Georgetown Road, then south to Bradley Boulevard before the suspect drove toward River Road and made a left into the neighborhood at River Road and Royal Dominion Drive.
The suspect then got out of his vehicle at Royal Dominion Drive and Jensen Place. Police are looking for the suspect in that area and have called for K-9 units and a Maryland State Police helicopter to assist in the search.
Minimum Wage Reveals Council Rivalries — We mentioned how last week’s vote to approve a minimum wage increase brought to light a good amount of tension between members of the Montgomery County Council. The Washington Post’s Bill Turque provides the play-by-play. [Washington Post]
Boutique Giving Back — Nina McLemore, a recent arrival in Chevy Chase, will donate 15 percent of all sales made until Dec. 15 to the Washington Area Women’s Foundation. On Dec. 7, the women’s clothing store will host a personal styling event with McLemore and a free class from Potomac Pilates. [Nina McLemore]
Fraud Attempts In Chevy Chase — Montgomery County Police last week reported three Town of Chevy Chase residents received “fraud type telephone calls.” In each case, the caller told the resident there were outstanding warrants for them and they had to “send money to take care of the warrants.” The calls were obviously fake. The Town is asking anybody who receives a similar call to report it to Montgomery County Police. [Town of Chevy Chase]
Flickr photo by m. barham
The site was originally envisioned as an office building, but a down office market means Montgomery County Planners will support a planned 14-story, 225-unit apartment building when it goes before the Planning Board next week.
The Bainbridge Companies is proposing the building at 7340 Wisconsin Ave., just south of the Bethesda Metro station in a section of town the 1994 Bethesda CBD Master Plan deemed the “Metro Core,” marked for high-density office development and employment uses.
But despite the residential nature of the project, planners will recommend the developer’s project and preliminary plans for approval at the Planning Board on Dec. 12.
In their analysis, planners said a number of properties in the Metro Core identified for mixed-use residential retail have been approved for office space, including the upcoming Bethesda Center project that will feature 250,000 square feet of office space:
Perhaps more important was the well demonstrated lack of a market for new office development. While the Sector Plan recommends employment uses for much of the Metro Core District, the office market for this area is weak, and the demand for residential living at this transit-proximate location is strong. At this time, there are very few residential uses located in the Metro Core District to satisfy the high demand, and those in existence are located on the periphery of the District. The project represents an opportunity to place multi-family residential units near the substantial employment uses already located in the Metro Core District, creating the vibrancy of extended activity into the nighttime. Too much office use without complimentary residential uses does not promote the extended activity needed for a successful downtown.
The building will include up to 15,000 square feet of ground floor retail space. It’s the site of a long vacant Exxon gas station with driveways on each of the three bordering streets — Montgomery Lane, Wisconsin Avenue and Hampden Lane.
But the apartment would have a single entry and exit point on one-way Montgomery Lane into and out of a 200-space parking garage below ground. The developer has vowed to dedicate 15 percent of the roughly 225 units as moderately priced.
At a required public meeting earlier this year, the attorney representing Bainbridge in the planning process said the building should be taller to take full advantage of the site’s proximity to the Metro station. A number of residents in the audience actually agreed.
But Dalrymple said Bainbridge doesn’t want to wait until a new Bethesda CBD Sector Plan — one that could theoretically allow more density in the Metro Core — is complete.
An apartment is also in the pipeline for the United Bank building at Commerce Lane and Old Georgetown Road. The existing site of the 2nd District Police Station will also likely be turned into a residential development in a land swap deal with Bethesda-based developer StonebridgeCarras.
Images via Montgomery County Planning Department
The robbery was called in at 1:55 p.m., according to Police spokesperson Angela Cruz. According to preliminary information, a man implied he had a weapon before taking cash from the PNC Bank inside the grocery store at 12051 Rockville Pike.
Police are still on the scene at the Montrose Crossing Shopping Center. There have been no injuries reported.
Expect a new restaurant and bar at 4848 Cordell Ave., which now is the site of a men’s transitional homeless shelter leased by Montgomery County and operated by Catholic Charities. Local architect Steven J. Karr lists the project as in the works for prominent Bethesda landlord Lenny Greenberg.
Using the same basic sketch design he used for Roof, Karr lists the project as a 4,200-square-foot change-of-use that will cost $1,000,000 and that has a projected completion date of November 2014.
The county will consolidate the homeless shelter with a women’s shelter in North Bethesda.
Tommy Joe’s owner Alan Pohoryles is nearing the debut his new Roof bar and restaurant at the corner of Cordell and Norfolk Avenues, across the street from Brickside (4866 Cordell Ave.), the Prohibition-themed bar and restaurant that opened in January. Smoke BBQ (4858 Cordell Ave.) opened earlier in January a few doors down.
It also appears Smoke BBQ will have a new neighbor. Bethesda Magazine says longtime pizza takeout joint Victor’s (4860 Cordell Ave.) has finally closed.
is still looking for someone has found a tenant to take the vacant former space of the flagship California Tortilla franchise, which moved across the street in 2012. Greenberg said the incoming tenant does not yet wish to be identified.
Rendering via Steven J. Karr
Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett on Thursday will sign the bill to raise the minimum wage in the county to $11.50 an hour over the next four years.
The measure, done in conjunction with the Councils in Prince George’s County and D.C., has been hailed as a historic move for economic equality and derided as risky for small business and politically motivated.
Councilmember Marc Elrich, the man who first proposed the bill, and others have said the four-step raise (the $7.25 per hour wage will go to $8.40 an hour in October 2014) isn’t enough to address the need for a real living wage in the county.
Businesses in Bethesda were concerned about “indexing,” or tying the wage to the consumer price index, which the bill did.
Where do you stand?
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Purple Line Opponents May Have New Talking Point — The Washington Post this weekend published a story on the Hay’s Spring amphipod, an endangered half-inch crustacean that is known to live in Rock Creek Park in D.C. and likely lives in Rock Creek Park in Maryland — though wildlife officials have never seen it. A Chevy Chase resident and environmental lawyer is considering suing the state over its plans for the Purple Line light rail over the creek in Chevy Chase. State transit officials said the amphipod was not mentioned in its Final Environmental Impact Statement because neither state nor federal wildlife agencies have identified it. Purple Line supporters say it’s a ploy by Purple Line opponents to delay the transit system. [Washington Post]
“Operation Turkey Chase” Nabs 13 DUI Arrests — Montgomery County Police and local and state partner agencies made 131 traffic stops on Wednesday night in an alcohol enforcement program called “Operation Turkey Chase.” Of those stops police made 13 DUI arrests, made six criminal arrests and found three provisional license violations. [Montgomery County Police]
Ledecky Named World Female Swimmer of the Year — The Bethesda native got the honor after winning four golds at the world championships in July and is the first distance swimmer named female swimmer of the year since 1990. [Baltimore Sun]
Turkey Chase Results — More than 9,000 runners took to the streets of Bethesda on Thanksgiving for the annual Turkey Chase. A Walter Johnson alum won the men’s 10K race with a time of 31:43. [Turkey Chase]
Flickr photo by MarkR Photos