by Aaron Kraut — January 13, 2015 at 9:30 am 1,151 3 Comments

Quinton Stevens-Palmer, one of two founders of The Conscience Group, via The Conscience GroupTwo friends want to get in on the ground floor of what could be a lucrative statewide medical marijuana industry, and they want to do it in Bethesda.

Quinton Stevens-Palmer and Collin Brown have started organizing and raising money for The Conscience Company, what they envision as a distributor and cultivator of cannabis for a wide range of medicinal uses and with an emphasis on green practices.

The two 23-year-olds, originally from Northern Virginia, have known each other since middle school.

While pursuing his degree at the University of Colorado, Stevens-Palmer found that medicinal marijuana provided a suitable treatment for a rare and sometimes painful nerve disorder that affects his neck, shoulder and ability to move one of his hands.

He shadowed successful dispensary owners in Colorado, picking up what works and what doesn’t within that state’s booming market for both medical and recreational marijuana. With the state of Maryland’s medical regulations expected to be finalized in a few months, prospective companies could start applying for state licenses in June.

The first medical marijuana could hit the market in 2016.

“I need to be able to give people the same opportunity I had and in the right way with the cleanest products,” Stevens-Palmer said. “I don’t want people to think they’ll just be able to go into this store and smoke this substance. That’s not right.”


by Aaron Kraut — December 31, 2014 at 11:25 am 0

Bethesda GreenGreen business incubator Bethesda Green is looking for 15 green business start-ups to take part in a one-on-one business mentoring and investor pitch program.

The Mentor Capital Network, the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development and corporate funders such as Bethesda-based Honest Tea are helping to organize and fund the program. It’s seeking the additional 15 companies in 2015 to add to Bethesda Green’s existing stock of companies in its Green Business Incubator.

Those companies in the program will get business plan advice, mentoring and a chance to pitch to potential investors.

The Bethesda Green Incubator, located at the corner of Woodmont and Cordell Avenues, has been home to companies such as an eco-friendly landscaping service and a home energy rating company.

“The spectrum of the local green economy is vast. Our partnership with Bethesda Green and the Mentor Capital Network helps us to find promising entrepreneurs ready to tackle energy and environmental challenges,” said outgoing Economic Development Director Steve Silverman, in a press release.

Applications are being accepted through Jan. 15 and acceptance decisions will be announced on Jan. 22. Businesses selected must then submit a summary of their business plan by Feb. 20.

by Aaron Kraut — October 23, 2014 at 12:30 pm 0

A Bethesda company that analyzes energy costs recently added a pretty famous new property to its portfolio.

Savenia Labs, the Bethesda Green business incubator company, hooked up with the U.S. Department of Energy to rate the solar panel system installed earlier this year on top of the White House.

Savenia’s home ratings calculate the value of energy-saving appliances, lighting and other improvements before someone buys or sells a home. Most of Savenia’s ratings so far have come locally, thanks to a partnership with Bethesda realtor Jane Fairweather and Bethesda homebuilder Sandy Spring Builders.

Gold Solar Rating from Savenia Labs for the White House, via Savenia LabsThe calculations are based on water, electricity and other utility rates in the home’s zip code. Home sellers or builders can enter the product model numbers for new water heaters or other appliances into Savenia’s database to see projected costs. Savenia then will provide a gold, silver or bronze home rating and details on environmental impacts and costs of proposed upgrades.

The White House installed a 6.3kW solar panel system on a portion of the building’s roof.

Per Savenia’s analysis, the system is valued at almost $27,000 and should earn up to another $43,000 over the next 15 years through energy production and renewable energy certificates.

That means 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue gets a Savenia Gold Rating “because of the high return on investment for someone looking to move into this house, whoever that might be in 2017.”

Video via the White House, photo via Savenia Labs

by Aaron Kraut — September 30, 2014 at 1:30 pm 186 0

Zack Kline, founder of A.I.R. Lawn Care. (file photo)A local entrepreneur with a green landscaping company is looking for support in a program that could net his business $150,000 in funding.

Zack Kline launched his Rockville-based A.I.R. Lawn Care company last year as a member of Bethesda Green’s Green Business Incubator. Kline graduated from the incubator earlier this year while his “eco-friendly landscaping company” has continued to grow.

He’s looking to be one of 20 small business owners selected by Chase in its Mission Main Street program. The bank will provide those businesses each with a $150,000 grant, trip to Google for a small business marketing workshop and free Google Chromebook laptop.

Kline needs a few more Facebook votes to put him over the 250 mark, which would make him eligible for the grant.

It wouldn’t be his first grant — Kline won a $5,000 prize in a college startup competition. His company is inspired by hot, humid summers toting around gas-powered lawn equipment.

He said he came up with the idea while working for a landscaping company on a large lot in Darnestown during a 95-degree Code Red air quality day. His job was to trim and edge the perimeter of the whole property using a gas-powered weedeater.

A.I.R. uses a truck with a solar panel to help power up equipment, including electric blowers, mowers and trimmers with chargeable batteries.

Since officially launching in June 2013, the company has grown to more than 100 clients, including commercial accounts such as the Kentlands community in Gaithersburg.

Kline said he’s hoping to use the $150,000 to hire more employees, buy more equipment and vehicles and find some property to use as a headquarters.

The voting deadline is Oct. 17.

by Aaron Kraut — September 29, 2014 at 3:00 pm 279 1 Comment

Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro station area from above

The Planning Department is now offering free trees to property owners in the Grosvenor area, an expansion of the program looking to create more tree canopy in urban areas of the county without much of it.

The department’s Shades of Green program is funded primarily by required contributions from developers who don’t replace or plant new trees on their sites. Since 2012, the Planning Department has offered property owners in some urban areas the chance to apply for a variety of almost 20 trees, ranging in height from 25 feet to 40 feet and taller.

The program has been active in downtown Bethesda, Friendship Heights and Westbard. A 2011 study by the department found that many of the county’s developed areas were lacking the 25 percent tree canopy benchmark meant to ensure cooler buildings, better air quality and reduction of the heat island effect.

In 2011, planners found the Bethesda Central Business District had 24 percent tree canopy coverage, the area around the Grosvenor apartments and Metro station had 44 percent, North Bethesda had 23 percent, White Flint had 19 percent and Friendship Heights had 31 percent.

Property owners interested must sign up for an evaluation. If tree experts determine the site has sufficient soil volume and sunlight, a property owner may qualify.

by Aaron Kraut — September 9, 2014 at 1:30 pm 222 4 Comments

Councilmembers Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal and Hans Riemer with Republican challenger Robert Dyer (far right) at a candidates forum in May in Chevy Chase (file photo)Two members of County Council are pitching a bill that would ban the use of environmentally harmful styrofoam plates, trays, cups and carryout trays in Montgomery County.

Councilmembers Hans Riemer and George Leventhal introduced bill 41-14 on Tuesday. It would enact the ban beginning Jan. 1, 2016. The bill would closely mirror a similar bill signed this year in D.C. and also ban the sale of foam loose fill packaging (packing peanuts).

“Many studies have shown that these foam products, especially those used for take out food, makes up a substantial portion of the waste found in our waterways,” Riemer said in a statement. “It never biodegrades, but it breaks apart, making it especially difficult to clean up. Recyclable and compostable alternatives are readily available and competitively priced, so there is no reason for any establishment to continue using foam products.”

Julie Lawson, from a network of environmental groups called Trash Free Maryland, said clean-up volunteers often have trouble picking up tiny pieces of styrofoam foodware. Polystyrene foam is a petroleum-based plastic that has also been banned in various ways in San Francisco, Seattle and New York City.

“This bill is another great step forward in protecting our environment. In 2012, I sponsored a resolution banning the use of polystyrene foodware by County government, and I applaud the recent decision of Montgomery County Public Schools to stop using polystyrene lunch trays. Because MCPS was able to make this transition, I am confident that the private sector will be able to as well, and we are giving them more than a year to comply,” Leventhal said in a statement.

The Council will hold a public hearing on the measure on Oct. 14 and the Council’s Environment Committee is set to hold a worksession on Oct. 30.

by Aaron Kraut — July 3, 2014 at 9:45 am 198 1 Comment

Add another first for the Gallery Bethesda apartment project in Woodmont Triangle.

The U.S. Green Building Council on Wednesday awarded the 18-story, 234-unit building on Rugby Avenue with a LEED Gold rating, the first new construction in downtown Bethesda to achieve the mark.

The LEED certification system awards points for various energy saving and sustainable attributes of buildings across many categories. According to developer Donohoe, the Gallery Bethesda earned its Gold rating thanks in part to onsite stormwater management, high efficiency lighting, green roofs, a complimentary electric car charging station for residents and use of more than 75 percent recycled materials during construction.

“We’ve designed Gallery to be the healthiest, most environmentally friendly residences in Bethesda,” Donohoe Development Senior Vice President Jad Donohoe said in a press release.

Construction finished on the building (the first of two Gallery Bethesda residential towers) early this year. Donohoe and apartment management firm Vantage Management celebrated the official grand opening in June.

It’s the first completely smoke-free apartment in downtown Bethesda and the first completed residential project in the new wave of development hitting Woodmont Triangle. It’s also the tallest residential building in downtown Bethesda.

Some photos via Donohoe Companies

by Aaron Kraut — June 30, 2014 at 2:30 pm 0

Véronique Marier, photo via LinkedInBethesda Green will turn to an area resident to take over as its executive director.

The green nonprofit on Monday announced the hiring of Veronique Marier, most recently a deputy director of the D.C. government’s Energy Administration. Marier will take over for departing Executive Director Dave Feldman, whose official last day will be July 11.

“We’re delighted Véronique is joining Bethesda Green at a pivotal point in its development,” Bethesda Green Board Chair Anthony Millin said in a prepared statement. “She has the energy, drive and experience to lead the organization as we explore ways to expand our efforts in Bethesda through supporting exciting new sustainable projects such as commercial rooftop gardens and EcoDistrict development in the downtown business sector.”

The ecodistrict concept could be part of a new planning department master plan for the area, though its unknown to what extent.

Marier led the development of D.C.’s Comprehensive Energy Plan and helped finalize new energy benchmarking regulations for D.C. buildings. She also helped develop legislation passed last fall in D.C. that removes barriers to installing rooftop solar panels.

Feldman helped found Bethesda Green in 2008. The nonprofit, with the backing of Montgomery County, established a green business incubator above the Capital One Bank branch at Cordell and Woodmont Avenues.

Feldman is leaving the position to set up Bethesda Green-like organizations in other cities through his company, Livability Project. The press release said Feldman will remain involved with Bethesda Green.

Marier could not be reached for comment.

Photo via LinkedIn

by Aaron Kraut — June 25, 2014 at 4:05 pm 379 1 Comment

Potential areas for solar panels on top of the Woodmont Avenue Garage, via MCDOT Potential areas for solar panels on top of the Del Ray Avenue Garage, via MCDOT

Montgomery County on Wednesday put out a request for proposals for companies interested in installing solar panels in empty parking spots on the top of 12 public garages.

The county’s Department of Transportation is looking for vendors to put the solar panels on four garages in downtown Bethesda, seven in Silver Spring and one in Wheaton. The concept would have those vendors sell energy generated by the solar panels back to the county to power the garages, and perhaps other structures.

MCDOT says the RFEP (the “E” is for energy) is part of the county’s efforts to meet its climate and clean energy goals. Proposals are due by Sept. 5.

Three of the four garages included in downtown Bethesda are known as home to entire levels of empty parking spaces, especially on the top floors of the structures.

Photo of unused parking spaces on top of the Old Georgetown Road Garage, vis MCDOTThe six-floor Del Ray Avenue Parking Garage (4907 Del Ray Ave.) is so empty that the top floor is chained off. MCDOT estimates the top floor of the garage could fit enough solar panels to produce 757,355 killowatt hours annually. That would be enough to offset 66 percent of the energy used to power the garage each year.

Each garage presents its own set of challenges involving nearby buildings that would create shadows, elevation changes and HVAC units. The Del Ray Garage, for instance, has a large HVAC center at the center of the top floor that could cramp where solar panels would go.

A press release announcing the RFEP claimed it makes Montgomery County one of the “first major east coast urban jurisdictions to have solar generation on top of parking facilities.” The concept of solar panel canopies over parking spaces has been done, mostly in California.

MCDOT hopes to select its vendor early next year with a contract start date some time in the second quarter of 2015.

Other Bethesda garages included in the RFEP are the Woodmont Avenue Parking Garage (7730 Woodmont Ave.), the adjacent Old Georgetown Road Parking Garage (7661 Old Georgetown Rd.) and the popular St. Elmo Avenue Parking Garage (4935 St. Elmo Ave.).

The top level of the St Elmo Avenue Garage, via MCDOTThe St. Elmo Avenue Garage sees more demand than the other three. It’s not uncommon for the garage to be completely full on weekend evenings. The RFEP didn’t include estimates for how much kWH could be produced from solar panels on top of that garage.

MCDOT said it intends to purchase all electricity generated by the systems on a per kilowatt basis. It also said excess power could be used to reduce electric bills for the underground garages owned by the county.

Photos via MCDOT

by Aaron Kraut — June 10, 2014 at 3:15 pm 259 0

People walking down the sidewalk at Bethesda Row (file photo)County planners might recommend making part of downtown Bethesda an ecodistrict.

What does that mean?

Find out Wednesday, June 18 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., when the Planning Department hosts a community workshop on the ecodistrict concept as part of its Bethesda Downtown Plan outreach.

Ecodistricts are an emerging planning concept that involve reusing water, capturing waste and prioritizing sustainable building design. The idea is that planning more sustainable and more environmentally friendly development at a neighborhood scale — rather than project-by-project — will net better results.

What precisely that will bring to downtown Bethesda isn’t yet clear. You can learn more about the broad strokes with this presentation from county planners.

Ecodistricts take on a variety of characteristics.

In January 2013, the National Capital Planning Commission approved a plan that provides the framework for an ecodistrict in the 15-block area of mostly federal office buildings located just south of the National Mall.

Over a 20-year period, the NCPC hopes the plan will result in most  of the area’s energy, water, and waste being captured, managed, and then reused. Greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by 51 percent, even with the potential addition of four million square feet of development.

Potable water consumption would be reduced by 70 percent, all stormwater will be managed and 80 percent of waste could be diverted from landfills.

Portland, Ore. has five designated ecodistricts that were initially cared for and maintained by a city-created nonprofit, before control was ceded back to the city.

The workshop is set for 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center (4805 Edgemoor Lane).

by Aaron Kraut — May 9, 2014 at 10:20 am 341 2 Comments

Dave Feldman, executive director of Bethesda Green, is stepping down later this yearEight years ago, explaining the idea of a sustainability nonprofit (and what exactly such an organization did) was a task in and of itself for Bethesda Green Executive Director Dave Feldman.

This year, after building Bethesda Green into a business incubator of 15 companies, partnering with local restaurant owners to reduce energy usage and leading a number of other “green” projects around town, Feldman will step down to start creating Bethesda Green-like groups across the country.

“Green and sustainability in this country were quite young,” said Feldman, who started Bethesda Green with a $25,000 county grant championed by Councilmember George Leventhal.

“It’s much more of a common discussion right now. You see it in the county’s schools, the county offers a green certification and you hear it in a lot of the businesses that are now making their operations green,” Feldman said. “The movement has definitely come a long way. We had to build it so people could see what it looked like.”

What Bethesda Green looks like, eight years later, is part economic development engine, part environmental nonprofit, part facilitator of partnerships between businesses and county government.

Leventhal and Honest Tea co-founder Seth Goldman helped Feldman found the nonprofit and remain influential in its operation and activities.

Feldman, who comes from an economic development background, said one of the main catalysts for the organization was then-Chevy Chase Bank, which graciously gave Bethesda Green the office space it uses today above its now Capital One Bank branch at Cordell and Woodmont Avenues.

Debbie Kaufmann makes a pitch at the 2012 Startup Maryland event, hosted by nonprofit Bethesda Green (file photo)That physical space allowed Feldman and crew to put the theory of Bethesda Green to action through the Bethesda Green Business Incubator. It’s carried as many as 17 green companies, including one that analyzes hidden energy costs of home appliances, a gasoline-saving landscaper, homemade sauce-selling duo and bathtub salt and soap maker.

“Everybody has contributed in different ways to the incubator,” Feldman said. “I visualized it. I had no idea how it would unfold. I had no idea Chevy Chase Bank would give us $4,000 square feet in downtown Bethesda. You can’t expect these types of things.”

The other purpose of Bethesda Green is to serve as a facilitator, or a platform for collaboration between business and government. The offices include an education center. Bethesda Green has hosted pitch sessions to help start-ups refine their message for seed investors. It’s also brought the concept of sustainability to local business owners.

Take for instance, GRAB (the Green Restaurant Association of Bethesda). The owner of Yamas on Rugby Avenue and Tony Marciante of Chef Tony’s fame started an informal group of restaurant owners to talk tax breaks, incentives, biofuel, waste oil and smart purchasing methods for restaurants to be more green and cut costs.

Feldman said Bethesda Green will likely put up a green roof on a prominent Bethesda building soon, though the details haven’t been finalized. It’s behind the recycling bins seen throughout downtown Bethesda, a seemingly small but concrete effort Feldman said resonates with residents and business owners.

Feldman will stick around until the organization finds its new executive director and he’ll remain as an advisor. His main focus will shift to his consulting firm, The Livability Project, which will seek to bring Bethesda Green-like nonprofits to other communities around the country. Look for one in Prince George’s County soon.

It’s also possible Bethesda Green could be the hub of a future region-wide “sustainability cluster,” something Feldman hopes to pursue on a national level.

Today, Bethesda Green has six part-time employees and revenue of $325,000. Feldman said a green, sustainability nonprofit can work anywhere. But it helped that his first major effort at the concept came here.

“Part of it is because Bethesda has an engaged group of residents. There was a need and an opportunity. You also have the right leadership here,” Feldman said. “It didn’t happen in other towns. It happened in Bethesda.”

by Aaron Kraut — May 2, 2014 at 9:15 am 0

The new NRC office building at White Flint (file photo)Among the seven energy bills County Executive Isiah Leggett signed on Thursday was an energy benchmarking bill that made Montgomery County the first county in the country to require private commercial property owners to make public their energy efficiency measurements.

The bill, sponsored by Councilmember Roger Berliner in a package of nine laws and zoning changes passed by the Council last week, was “a watershed moment for Montgomery County,” Leggett said.

The benchmarking requirement might have been even stronger. The bill originally proposed by Berliner included requirements for property owners to do an audit on their buildings and to make the energy efficiency improvements those audits called for.

Commercial real estate developers and property owners almost immediately pushed back, saying the requirements would be too costly.

“I knew we were pushing the envelope. The building owners and the development community said, ‘Oh my goodness Roger.’ I felt that I had gone not one bridge too far, but two bridges too far,” Berliner said. “So I took some of those provisions out and started with the county first.”

Similar to benchmarking bills in major cities, the law signed Thursday will require county-owned buildings to benchmark first and by June 1, 2015. There will then be a six-month work group to analyze how the county benchmarking process went and suggest any changes for commercial property owners.

Buildings greater than 250,000 square feet will have to comply with the law by December 2016. Buildings greater than 50,000 square feet will have to comply by 2017.

Berliner said his hope is that making energy usage public information, coupled with the a county loan fund to help commercial property owners make energy improvements, will bring property owners together with companies that finance energy efficient retrofits.

Other bills signed by Leggett on Thursday included one that requires the county to use a company that installs LED lights in its next street light contract. One bill requires the county get 50 percent of its electric power from renewable energy resources by next year and 100 percent by 2016. Another bill speeds up the permitting process for installing electric vehicle charging stations.

by Aaron Kraut — April 23, 2014 at 12:30 pm 156 2 Comments

A rain garden in an ecodistrict in Malmo, Sweden. Flickr photo via La Citta Vita

Incentives for sustainable design features, district heating and cooling systems and a fund for public amenities could be things coming to downtown Bethesda through the Planning Department’s ongoing master plan for the area.

Planners will likely pitch ecodistricts and a general public amenities fund as two of their preliminary recommendations as part of the Bethesda Downtown Plan, according to county planner Marc DeOcampo.

DeOcampo talked about the recommendations at a Citizens Advisory Board meeting on Monday, ahead of the Planning Department’s next planned workshop on Saturday, May 17.

Ecodistricts are an emerging planning concept that involve reusing water, capturing waste and prioritizing sustainable building design. The idea is that planning more sustainable and more environmentally friendly development at a neighborhood scale — rather than project-by-project — will get better results.

DeOcampo said the Planning Department is pursuing a consultant who worked on the SW D.C. Ecodistrict Plan. In January 2013, the National Capital Planning Commission approved a plan that provides the framework for an ecodistrict in the 15-block area of mostly federal office buildings located just south of the National Mall.

Over a 20-year period, the NCPC hopes the plan will result in most  of the area’s energy, water, and waste being captured, managed, and then reused. Greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by 51 percent, even with the potential addition of 4 million square feet of development.

Potable water consumption would be reduced by 70 percent, all stormwater will be managed and 80 percent of waste could be diverted from landfills.

Portland, Ore. has five designated ecodistricts that were initially cared for and maintained by a city-created nonprofit, before control was ceded back to the city.

Montgomery County planners have identified social sustainability, economic sustainability and environmental sustainability as the three themes guiding the Bethesda Downtown Plan since almost the beginning of their work on it.

The amenity fund idea has been pitched by a number of downtown residents, including the Board of Directors of the Bethesda Arts & Entertainment District.

It’s not yet clear precisely how the Planning Department’s recommendation would look.

But community activists would like to see money from the private developers of downtown Bethesda help finance projects like a semi-permanent sculpture garden along Norfolk Avenue, a community black box theater or a civic green space that’s accessible and visible.

Montgomery County now provides a public amenity option to developers that want increased density, a common occurrence in downtown Bethesda. In an attempt to create a more vibrant urban place, developers can provide open spaces and public art.

But in Bethesda and elsewhere, those amenities are usually restricted to the developer’s property.

Flickr photo via La Citta Vita

by Aaron Kraut — March 24, 2014 at 4:10 pm 675 1 Comment

Completed Stoney Creek Stormwater Pond (file photo)A Montgomery County project to capture pollution from downtown Bethesda before it hits Rock Creek will be honored at “the Academy Awards of the engineering industry” in April.

The county’s Stoney Creek Stormwater Management Pond, a 1.3-acre pond that captures runoff from 204 acres of the Bethesda Central Business District and NIH campus, will receive the 2014 Engineering Excellence Award from the American Council of Engineering Companies.

The project, from the Department of Environmental Projection, actually sits on a six-acre site just south of the NIH campus and just west of Woodmont Avenue.

The county completed the $2.5 million project last May. It includes two underground chambers for capturing trash and pollutants washing downstream from Bethesda, subsurface aerators to enhance pond water circulation and native trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants, grasses and wetland vegetation.

Environmental planners say the project, which began in October 2010, will treat stormwater from parking lots and developed areas that would have otherwise ended up in a tributary of Rock Creek.

The award ceremony is set for April 29.

by Aaron Kraut — March 10, 2014 at 1:05 pm 1,618 19 Comments

The controversial fence under construction in May 2013, photo via Wayne PhyillaierA group opposed to Purple Line construction on the Capital Crescent Trail says a Purple Line supporter is behind a $500 county-levied fine against its president, who built a new backyard fence last summer in the county-owned trail right-of-way.

Last week, we told you the story of Ajay Bhatt, president of the Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail and a Chevy Chase resident whose home backs up to the Georgetown Branch extension of the trail.

Bhatt, an ardent critic of the Purple Line as currently proposed, built a new fence around his property, except Montgomery County found the fence to have been built illegally, about 18 feet on to its property. The county’s right-of-way includes the trail and is set to be handed over to the state for construction of the 16-mile light rail system.

Wayne Phyillaier, a Silver Spring resident who supports the Purple Line because it would include a rebuilt trail, documented Bhatt’s fine and upcoming appeal in a blog post.

On Friday, Bhatt provided this response from the Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail group, which indicates Phyillaier prompted a county investigation into the fence:

We are responding to a recent personal attack on our President, Ajay Bhatt. As most of you know, Ajay resides along the trail in a home owned by his family since 1977, and his family has enjoyed the trail immensely. Many homes along the trail include fences, sheds, and similar structures that overlap the county right-of-way — a holdover from when the railroad owned the land. A fence has been at Ajay’s house since the late 70s, and it has been replaced at least three times since then. In an effort to pull attention away from the real issues with the Purple Line, Wayne Phyillaier, an active Purple Line booster and blogger, complained about the fence and the county subsequently responded with a citation. Mr. Phyillaier is not a neighbor and has no legitimate interest in this particular fence. Ajay properly sought and received a permit for the fence and is exercising his legal rights to resolve this issue in the most common sense way. FCCT has raised many significant concerns regarding the proposed Purple Line, many of which are detailed in our response to the Final Environmental Impact Statement. These are the real issues that affect everyone, and we welcome respectful discourse on these topics from all interested parties.

Last week, Phyillaier told us he wouldn’t have written about the fence, had it not been for its new construction by a resident who clearly knew the history of the trail right-of-way.

The controversial fence today,photo via Wayne Phyillaier“It’s the most recent construction that I know of,” Phyillaier said. “I don’t think it’s necessary for the county to start going through and ripping through all these old fences and old tool sheds. There’s really no public good in ripping them out or confronting the property owner. I think it’s important that the county confront Ajay or anyone else who is doing new construction.”

Behind homes in Chevy Chase that back up to the trail, there are many fences and sheds that are technically in the county-owned Georgetown Branch right-of-way.

Many were built before Montgomery County purchased the right-of-way for a potential transit line in 1988, some as far back as the 1950s. That has caused confusion and frustration among some homeowners whose backyards back up to the trail.

The trail used to be a CSX rail line.

It’s unclear what permit Bhatt received for the fence construction. There’s no record of a permit issued in 2013 for his property in the county’s Public Right of Way records. There is no record of a Residential Construction Permit issued for his property in either 2012 or 2013.

Photos via Wayne Phyillaier


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