by Aaron Kraut — October 30, 2014 at 10:25 am 1 Comment

Talbert's beer and wine store in Westbard, Flickr photo by ehpien

What is a charrette?

It’s the question often overheard from residents attending Planning Department events, where the concept has become a staple of the department’s outreach efforts.

Starting Monday, Nov. 10, planners will offer a series of charrettes aimed at figuring out what the Westbard area of Bethesda should look like over the next 25-30 years.

Residents, business owners and property owners are invited to drop in to a morning walking tour, stop by an open house or attend an evening session at Walt Whitman High School.

The definition of charrette is “a meeting in which all stakeholders in a project attempt to resolve conflicts and map solutions together.”

With residents already wary of new residential development that might come from new property owner Equity One, that probably won’t happen over the course of one week. But planners are hoping to get as much input as possible before proceeding with their sector plan rewrite:

The PlanWestbard Community Charrette will take place during the week of November 10; a full schedule of meetings is posted online at www.montgomeryplanning.org/planwestbard. Staff will be on hand to answer questions and provide insight into the Sector Plan process from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.Westwood II (5110 Ridgefield Rd, Bethesda, MD). Evening presentations will be held during the week at the Walt Whitman High School cafeteria (7100 Whittier Blvd, Bethesda, MD) from 6 – 9 p.m. The final presentation of the completed Concept Plan will be held at Westland Middle School (5511 Massachusetts Ave., Bethesda, MD) from 7 – 9 p.m.

Charrette Schedule At A Glance:
Monday, November 10 – Walking Tours will be conducted in the community at 10 a.m. and noon starting at Westwood II.  Charrette Open House hours will be held from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Westwood II. Attend the PlanWestbard Visioning Session at Walt Whitman High School starting at 6 p.m.

Tuesday, November 11 – Observance of Veterans Day (no charrette activities)

Wednesday, November 12 – A “Sunrise Series” meeting will be held for business owners at 7 a.m. at Westwood II.  Charrette Open House hours will follow until 5 p.m. at Westwood II. The Framework Concept will be presented at Walt Whitman High School from 6 to 9 p.m.

Thursday, November 13 - A “Sunrise Series” meeting will be held for all stakeholders at 7 a.m. at Westwood II followed by Charrette Open House hours until 5 p.m. The community will be asked to give feedback on the preferred options for the Framework Concept at Walt Whitman High School from 6 to 9 p.m.

Friday, November 14 -The community is invited to drop in at Westwood II during the day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to talk with Montgomery Planning Department staff as they refine the Concept Plan.

Monday, November 17 – Planners will be working on the results of the charrette in preparation for Tuesday’s evening presentation of the Completed Concept Plan at Westland Middle School.

Tuesday, November 18 – Planners will summarize the results of the charrette and its influence on the plan at Westland Middle School from 7 to 9 p.m.

About the Westbard Sector Plan:
The existing WestbardSector Plan is one of the oldest plans still in use in Montgomery County, having last been revised in 1982. It is now being updated at the direction of the Montgomery County Council to keep pace with the times and changes in the area.

by Aaron Kraut — October 30, 2014 at 9:00 am 482 0

Medical Center Metro, photo via rzultarzaba

30 Years Of Purple Line Bickering – Bethesda Magazine’s Lou Peck looks back at the origins of the Purple Line and how the stated goals for the transit system have shifted from getting cars off the road to spurring economic development. [Bethesda Magazine]

Vote, Get Free Chips and Queso – Local burrito chain California Tortilla is giving free chips and queso to any customer who votes on Tuesday. Bethesda’s location is at 4871 Cordell Ave. [California Tortilla via Facebook]

Bethesda Avenue Restaurant Runs Into Health Code Issues – Tara Thai (4828 Bethesda Ave.) was forced to close on Oct. 17 because of a roach infestation and other unsanitary conditions. It reopened the next day. [Washington Post]

Free Taxi Rides On Halloween – The Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP) will offer free cab rides on Friday night in an effort to prevent drunk driving in Montgomery County and other local jurisdictions. [The Gazette]

Photo via rzultarzaba

by Aaron Kraut — October 29, 2014 at 2:35 pm 323 3 Comments

Stewart Moss, executive director of The Writer's Center, talks about a model of a renovated and expanded Walsh Street facility Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad, at Battery Lane and Old Georgetown Road
Town of Chevy Chase Photos via Brett Hartl/Center for Biological Diversity

A host of Bethesda and Chevy Chase community organizations are looking to a half-square mile town of less than 3,000 people for help funding some major projects.

The Town of Chevy Chase, an incorporated town between Wisconsin and Connecticut Avenues made up almost exclusively of single-family homes, has a roughly $9 million budget surplus that hasn’t gone unnoticed.

On Wednesday, the Town’s Council will consider four requests for donations ranging from $9,000 for new computers at the local elementary school to $100,000 for accessibility upgrades at a Bethesda cultural center.

At the Town Council’s October meeting, each proposal was determined to meet the Town’s contribution eligibility requirements, reserved for one-time, capital expenses that relate in some way to the small community in Chevy Chase:

The Chevy Chase Elementary School PTA is requesting a $9,000 contribution to buy six iMac computers for the school’s 6th grade elective arts programs.

According to the PTA, MCPS has not budgeted for the replacement of the existing Apple computers at the school and the older computers aren’t compatible with the most current photography and video-editing software.

Jennifer Mitchell, a Town resident who made the request, said the computers would be used for classes in photography, filmmaking and music arts for at least four years and would also be used by a team of fifth graders at the school involved in producing news broadcasts.


by Aaron Kraut — October 29, 2014 at 1:30 pm 174 0

Councilmember Marc Elrich speaks at a Wednesday press conference to announce Montgomery County's kitchen incubator project, held at the Marriott Teaching Kitchen at the Universities of Shady Grove in Rockville, Photo via Manna Food Center

Montgomery County will lean on what’s probably the best local example of a kitchen incubator in an effort to start one of its own.

The county on Wednesday announced Union Kitchen — the D.C. organization that provides kitchen space for about 50 local food businesses — will join with Bethesda-based retail and development firm Streetsense to look for potential incubator sites, come up with a management structure and look at training programs.

Union Kitchen’s 7,300-square-foot warehouse provides food business entrepreneurs ready-to-go kitchen space and equipment, often one of the highest-costs to opening a restaurant. It’s meant to provide a low-cost, low-risk way for local food businesses to get established.

With an increasing demand for locally-sourced food, Montgomery County put out a request for proposals this summer to get help building their own.

“This facility will foster the growth of small businesses and provide new workforce opportunities for our residents,” County Executive Isiah Leggett said at a press conference Wednesday. “Part of what makes this project so special to me, personally, is that it represents our commitment to creating economic opportunities for all facets of Montgomery County.”

Dan Hoffman, the county’s Chief Innovation Officer, said the list of food entrepreneurs waiting to get into Union Kitchen in D.C. includes some Montgomery County businesses.

“We frequently get calls from people who have a family recipe or a special culinary skill that they want to scale into something bigger,” county Economic Development Director Steve Silverman said. “In addition to space, they really need business questions to be answered and mentoring from experts in the field.”

Union Kitchen and Streetsense will provide a scope of work with all of their planning.

Union Kitchen co-owner Jonas Singer said he’s seen “an explosion in interest in startup, locally owned food businesses,” in Montgomery County.

“A food incubator allows people to not just dream, but to achieve, creating economic wealth, jobs, and businesses that bring all of us, as customers, great food and experiences,” Singer said.

Photo via Manna Food Center

by Aaron Kraut — October 29, 2014 at 12:25 pm 162 0

Montgomery County CouncilA number of local parents and child care providers say new rules for selecting which providers get to operate in MCPS buildings are just a codification of the status quo.

At stake is the process for which the county’s Community Use of Public Facilities (CUPF) picks which providers get to operate before and after school programs in county schools.

After two lawsuits and many complaints about undisclosed conflicts of interest, unfair standards and school principals with too much sway in the rebidding process, Montgomery County proposed a new set of regulations last month.

But at a County Council public hearing last week and in emails sent to county officials, many say the proposed regulations still don’t provide specific enough standards or include anyone with child care experience in the rebidding process:

“In the Commission’s view, these two documents represent a codification of the status quo and do not serve to address the concerns raised by child care providers and parents related to the selection of well-qualified providers and the implementation of consistent, quality child care in elementary before and after school programs,” wrote Shaun Rose, who runs the Rock Spring Children’s Center in Bethesda and is a member of the Commission on Child Care.

“The Regulation and Administrative Procedures that apply only to Child Care in Public Space (CCIPS) administered by the Community Use of Public Facilities (CUPF), afford CUPF much discretion in the process, and do not make it clear which section of government is responsible when parents or providers have an issue with CUPF’s actions,” Rose wrote. “Of particular concern is that the draft Administrative Procedures neglect to require that the selection committee include a member with child care expertise.”


by Aaron Kraut — October 29, 2014 at 11:10 am 215 0

Small fire on roof at Pike & Rose construction site, via Pete Piringer

Firefighters are responding to a fire on the roof of one of the buildings under construction at the Pike & Rose project in North Bethesda/White Flint.

Smoke was visible from the top of the building, near the intersection of Old Georgetown Road and Executive Boulevard at about 11:05 a.m.

Workers told MCFRS personnel on the scene they were working with asphalt on the roof and the fire was put out.

Two lanes of southbound Old Georgetown Road near its intersection with Executive Boulevard have been closed to allow for fire department staging.

Photo via Pete Piringer

by Aaron Kraut — October 29, 2014 at 10:15 am 836 5 Comments

Existing Euro Motorcars layout at Arlington Road/Bethesda Avenue Proposed new layout for Euro Motorcars at Arlington Road/Bethesda Avenue

There could be good news for Bethesda drivers tired of dodging car-carrying trucks often taking up an entire lane of Arlington Road.

Euro Motorcars Bethesda, the Mercedes dealership where those cars are being dropped off, is exploring a redevelopment project that would bring a new “internal road” to the site — putting an end to the daytime deliveries that are a nuisance for some.

Architect Jon Penney presented an early version of the idea on Wednesday during the Planning Department’s online property owner forum.

Euro Motorcars Bethesda (7020 Arlington Rd.) would keep its existing three-story garage that borders the Bradley Boulevard Shopping Center. Essentially, the rest of the property — a showroom, service customer drop-off and two small surface parking lots — would be consolidated and divided by an east-to-west road where customers could wait and where those car carriers could stop.

Penney said getting the car carriers off Arlington Road was one of the reasons Euro Motorcars is exploring redevelopment. It’s also possible the redevelopment could provide space for a new dealership franchise or a multi-story residential project.

The project would eliminate three curb cuts along the property’s frontage on Bethesda Avenue and provide a new underground parking garage.

Penney didn’t specify how aggressively Euro Motorcars is pursuing the idea, and he didn’t say if the dealership was asking for new zoning from the ongoing rewrite downtown Bethesda’s sector plan.

Images via Montgomery County Planning Department

by Joseph Hawkins — October 29, 2014 at 9:30 am 221 5 Comments

My Two Cents is a weekly opinion column from Bethesda resident Joseph Hawkins. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of BethesdaNow.com.

On Nov. 4, District of Columbia voters could pass a measure making marijuana sales legal.

One potential roadblock to pot sales in D.C. is Congress, but let’s let the election dust settle before figuring out if D.C. becomes the next Colorado.

Joseph HawkinsOne argument against legalizing pot in D.C. is that it will cause more teenagers to use marijuana. Of course, if pot sales become legal in D.C., teens could not purchase it legally. Nonetheless, some are concerned.

I’m not really sure one way or the other about the cause-and-effect argument. But the issue did make we wonder what the current local marijuana usage rates are amongst area teens.

Fortunately, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia teens participate in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) every other spring. Rates from the 2013 survey reveal some interesting findings:

  • D.C. teens are smoking up a marijuana storm already.  By the 12th grade, nearly 4 in 10 teens reported smoking pot or weed in the past 30 days.
  • Overall, Montgomery County teens smoke less than their peers statewide, but by the 12th grade, nearly 3 in 10 teens reported smoking pot or weed in the past 30 days.
  • If you’re concerned about making sure your teen doesn’t smoke weed, move to Utah. Teens in Utah registered the lowest 30-day usage rate in the nation at 7.6 percent.

The YRBS has been administered to teens since 1991. In 1991, the national 30-day marijuana usage rate stood at 14.7 percent. Clearly, the 30-day usage rate has moved higher. The highest 30-day usage rate ever recorded was in 1999, when the rate stood at 26.7 percent.

And clearly, teenage marijuana use is happening with our teens. A recent update on school resource officers showed there were 77 marijuana possession-related arrests at MCPS high schools last school year, by far the most frequent offense.

If pot sales become legal in D.C., will more teens in Montgomery County use marijuana?

Joseph Hawkins is a longtime Bethesda resident who remembers when there was no Capital Crescent Trail. He works full-time for an employee-owned social science research firm located Montgomery County. He is a D.C. native and for nearly 10 years, he wrote a regular column for the Montgomery Journal. He also has essays and editorials published in Education Week, the Washington Post, and Teaching Tolerance Magazine. He is a serious live music fan and is committed to checking out some live act at least once a month.

by Aaron Kraut — October 29, 2014 at 8:25 am 0

Flickr photo by ehpien

State Delays PARCC Exam Graduation Requirements – The Maryland State Board of Education on Tuesday announced passing Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exams in English 10 and Algebra I won’t be a high school graduation requirement until the 2016-2017 school year. Earlier this month, the Montgomery County Board of Education asked the state to delay making the exams a graduation requirement to allow more transition time for students used to courses aligned with the previous state tests. [Maryland State Department of Education]

Capital Bikeshare Owner Has New Owner – Portland-based Alta Bicycle Share, which operates Capital Bikeshare, is selling its business to a group of New York investors that includes Equinox gyms. The deal isn’t expected to immediately impact Capital Bikeshare operations in Montgomery County. [Washington Post]

B-CC Senior Wins Third Straight County Title – Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School senior Nora McUmber won her third straight Montgomery County cross country title two weekends ago in Gaithersburg and reigning team state champion Walter Johnson took top honors in the team standings. Whitman won the boys team championship. [The Gazette]

Taxi Talk – Councilmembers on Tuesday introduced two bills aimed at evening the playing field between traditional taxi companies and app-based services such as Uber. A third bill would put companies such as Uber and Barwood on the same countywide digital dispatch system. The president of Barwood Taxi said that wouldn’t help his company compete with Uber, which now faces no real government regulation. Councilmember Marc Elrich told colleagues it may not be wise to try to prop up the traditional taxicab industry, as new technologies often lead to changes. [WAMU]

Flickr photo by ehpien

by Aaron Kraut — October 28, 2014 at 3:15 pm 225 2 Comments

MCPS Superintendent Joshua Starr (file photo)MCPS Superintendent Joshua Starr on Tuesday restarted the school system’s public push for state funding of school construction projects with a press conference in front of portable classrooms.

Starr, speaking at Rockville’s Beall Elementary School, once again made the case that the rapidly growing school system is in need of help from Annapolis when it comes to a number of important school construction and addition projects — including some in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase area.

The superintendent is recommending an additional $220.8 million be added to the existing $1.53 billion capital budget passed in May by the County Council. That $220.8 million would theoretically come from Annapolis, where county legislators were unsuccessful during last year’s General Assembly in garnering enough out-of-county support for a state construction funding package.

“Montgomery County continues to make significant investments in meeting the space and facility needs of MCPS and we are very appreciative of their commitment,” Starr said. “But enrollment in our school district is increasing every year and if we are going to keep up with that growth, an even bigger investment is going to be needed. It is our hope the state will step up this year and provide additional revenue to its largest and fastest-growing school district.”

School and county officials came together during last session to push for support. But even then, many expressed the feeling that the upcoming 2015 General Assembly might provide a more realistic opportunity.


by Aaron Kraut — October 28, 2014 at 2:15 pm 391 4 Comments

Suburban Hospital and Montgomery County officials on Tuesday celebrated the groundbreaking of the facility’s long fought over expansion project.

After years of opposition from neighbors — and a complicated process to allow for a new clinical center to be built on a neighborhood street — the hospital says it’s finally on its way to a much-needed capacity boost and facility upgrade for patients.

“To have the kinds of facilities that match the staff and the capabilities here are really what this is all about,” said Brian Gragnolati, a senior vice president with The Johns Hopkins Health System that oversees the hospital’s operations. “Now, it took us a while to get here, but I think that patience is incredibly important.”

The $225 million enhancement will include a new, 1,125-space parking garage, which will be built on the site of the existing parking garage once an interim lot is completed. The new garage is scheduled to be completed in 2017.

Then, the hospital will build a four-story, 235,000-square-foot new clinical center on what’s now Lincoln Street. The existing hospital building will remain. The hospital bought the houses on Lincoln Street, asked the county to approve an abandonment of the street and eventually got county approval of the zoning required for the building.

That was in 2010.


by BethesdaNow.com Sponsor — October 28, 2014 at 12:30 pm 0

Ask Andrew

This sponsored, biweekly Q&A column is written by Andrew Goodman, broker/owner of Goodman, Realtors. Based in Bethesda, Andrew serves clients in Maryland, D.C., and Northern Virginia. Please submit comments, questions, and opinions in the comments section or via email.

Question: What is a deposit and what is an appropriate deposit amount to submit with an offer?

Answer: A deposit is a form of consideration, which makes a contract valid. A contract has to have some form of a deposit for it to be considered a valid and enforceable one. A check is the most common form of a deposit.

A deposit, otherwise known as an Earnest Money Deposit (or EMD), is submitted with an offer to show good faith to the seller that the buyer has no intensions of walking away from the transaction. This holds the property for the buyer through the purchase process so no other buyer can snatch it out from under them.

The amount of the deposit can vary depending on the purchase price and the market.

One percent of the purchase price is usually the rule of thumb for making a deposit on a residential property. However, the higher the deposit the stronger the offer is.

For instance, if the offer price is $100,000, the seller may not accept a $1,000 EMD because $1,000 is probably not enough money to prevent a buyer from walking away from a contract.

From a seller’s standpoint, the deposit should be enough that the seller feels the buyer would think twice before walking away. As a buyer’s agent, I always recommend at least a $5,000 deposit. If you were purchasing a $1 million house, I would recommend at least a $20,000. Again, the higher the deposit the stronger the offer.


by Aaron Kraut — October 28, 2014 at 11:25 am 2,019 8 Comments

A major construction company with a downtown Bethesda address has a grand vision for the future of the plaza on top of Bethesda’s Metro station.

Clark Enterprises, headquartered next to the Bethesda Metro Plaza on Old Georgetown Road, hired the architects behind Bethesda Row to come up with designs for transforming the area into a large park meant to “recapture the historic and symbolic center of Bethesda.”

David Kitchens, architect with Cooper Carry, will present two design concepts for a “Bethesda Metro Park” on Wednesday in a Planning Department-hosted property owners forum.

The concepts would involve making one of downtown Bethesda’s most disappointing open spaces into one of its most active and welcoming, complete with a great lawn, retail kiosks, interactive water features, architectural columns, moveable seating and even a ping pong table or bocce ball court.

Montgomery County planners working on a rewrite of the downtown area’s sector plan have identified three potential areas for new green and civic space. The Bethesda Metro Plaza is not one of them.

The last sector plan, completed in 1994, envisioned the plaza as a central community gathering space, complete with a since shuttered ice skating rink.

“Clark Enterprises recognized an opportunity to restore Bethesda Metro Plaza to a vibrant gathering space as it was originally envisioned,” according to the presentation.


by Aaron Kraut — October 28, 2014 at 10:25 am 0

Tim WillardWe asked Tim Willard, a Green Party candidate running for one of four at-large seats on the County Council, to write a sub-750 word essay describing why residents should vote for him on Nov. 4.

Below is Willard’s unedited response:

I have lived in Montgomery County for thirty years. My wife and I raised our three children here, including a son and daughter that we adopted from Guatemala. I have a Ph.D. in history and worked for 26 years at the National Archives. I am now retired and providing day care services for my two year old grandson.

I am running because I want to build a sustainable future so that our children and grandchildren can enjoy the same quality of life that we do. There are many creative solutions we can use to achieve this goal.

We need to reduce our global warming emissions, starting at the local level. We should set a goal of using 100% renewable energy. The county government can take the lead by leasing all county owned roof space and right of ways for crowd funded solar efforts, which will provide residents an inexpensive way to profit from the solar economy. The cost of renewable energy is coming down rapidly, and renewables are now competitive with other sources of electricity. Now is the time to bring the County into the renewable era.

We can build a thriving green economy that provides local jobs for our citizens. Oakland, California established a Green Job Corps that trains youth for the new green economy. D.C. public schools train students for green jobs such as green roof technicians. We can do the same.

We should help small, locally owned businesses by simplifying the sometimes burdensome, bureaucratic maze they face. Promoting cooperative banks, consumer unions, and other locally owned financial institutions will result in more investment in local needs while being less vulnerable to the kind of financial malfeasance that brought down the economy in 2008.


by Aaron Kraut — October 28, 2014 at 9:25 am 0

Restaurants along Cordell Avenue in BethesdaIn an attempt to speed up what can be a lengthy restaurant permitting process, Montgomery County on Monday launched a new initiative in which a host of county agencies will be available at the same time for a free consultation.

The “Recipes for Success” program includes a 13-page packet answering common questions about permits needed before opening a new restaurant.

Starting Nov. 4, it will also consist of a chance to meet with officials from the Department of Permitting Services, Department of Economic Development, Department of Liquor Control, Health and Human Services, the Fire and Rescue Service and the WSSC all at one time and all before potential restaurant owners get started on design work for a new or expanded eatery.

Permitting Services Director Diane Schwartz Jones said in a press release the consultations are meant to make “the process smoother, more friendly, understandable and efficient.”

There are more than 3,000 food establishments in the county and about 200 in downtown Bethesda and the immediate surrounding area.

Aspiring restaurant owners must get a use/occupancy permit, make sure their location is up to building and fire code and make sure they have all required permits for any new wiring, construction or outdoor seating, among other requirements.

While Permitting Services can help with all of those issues, it’s up to an entirely different department (Liquor Control) when it comes to getting an alcohol license. Economic Development can help with other aspects of starting a business, MCFRS might need to review design plans for some new buildings and WSSC staff might need to review water and sewer plans.

To schedule the pre-design consultation meeting, call 311 or 240-777-0311 from outside Montgomery County.


Subscribe to our mailing list