26°Clear

by Aaron Kraut — February 26, 2015 at 6:49 am 258 6 Comments

Rockville Pike and Cedar Lane Thursday at 6:45 a.m., via TrafficLand.com Old Georgetown Road at Arlington Road and St Elmo Avenue at 6:45 a.m. Thursday, via TrafficLand.com Rockville Pike at Nicholson Lane at 6:45 a.m. Thursday, via TrafficLand.com

Montgomery County Public Schools will be closed Thursday due to snow.

MCPS originally announced a two-hour delay, with the caveat that another decision could be coming by 7 a.m. Administrative offices will open two hours late and day care programs in school buildings may open at 9 a.m.

The Montgomery County government will open as usual and trash and recycling pick-ups will proceed as normal. Regular Wednesday pick-ups are being made today due to last Saturday’s snow storm.

Montgomery County Recreation has cancelled all scheduled programs and activities. Community Centers and aquatic facilities will be open for drop-in use.

Major roads were slick but mostly clear of snow accumulation a little before 7 a.m.:

State Highway officials on Wednesday warned morning commuters to consider delaying their commutes. Federal government employees are on a two-hour delayed arrival schedule, according to OPM.

Via TrafficLand.com

by Aaron Kraut — February 25, 2015 at 4:20 pm 1,034 22 Comments

Typical section of planned Bradley Boulevard sidewalk and bicycle lane project, Via MCDOT

Long-debated bicycle lanes and sidewalks planned for a stretch of Bradley Boulevard still face opposition as Montgomery County readies to present plans for the project on Monday.

The county’s Department of Transportation (MCDOT) is in Phase II of its Bradley Boulevard sidewalk and bicycle facility project and is hosting a public workshop on Monday to detail its progress.

MCDOT wants to build an eight-foot shared-use path on the north side of Bradley from Wilson Lane to Glenbrook Road. It also hopes to install a five-foot sidewalk on the south side of the stretch and five-foot bicycle lanes in the shoulders on both sides of a slightly shrunken down roadway.

Once planning is finished this summer, MCDOT and county elected officials will determine if it should be included in next year’s capital budget.

It’s a project with a long history.

The county first studied improvements to the stretch in 2009, spurred by a 2003 request from the South Bradley Hills Civic Association to build a sidewalk along the north side of Bradley Boulevard.

Area bicyclist groups and bicycle commuters, including MoBike and the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, then asked the county to include bicycle lanes that are included in two separate master plans for the same stretch of road.

“There is absolutely no justification to spend money on discretionary projects such as the bike highway when essential services are being cut, and particularly in an environment where the county plans to borrow money for capital projects,” wrote Eric Schroeder, a resident opposed to the project. “Ike Leggett and the County Council need to take a long hard look at how spending priorities are being established in relation to the proposed reductions that are a result of the budget shortfalls. Removing the Bradley Boulevard project from consideration would be a good place to start.”

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by Joseph Hawkins — February 25, 2015 at 3:00 pm 302 10 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.

If you watch this video from the Washington Business Journal, you’ll see and hear County Executive Isiah Leggett claim, “I’ve got 100,000 jobs sitting here.”

Joseph HawkinsLeggett is making the appeal that these new jobs rely on transit improvements to service new areas of development, including White Flint, the White Oak Science Gateway in East Silver Spring and, presumably, downcounty areas that would be redeveloped around the Purple Line.

His message is clear: If our new Republican governor kills the Purple Line project and doesn’t fund transit projects like it, he’s killing Montgomery County’s chances at mega-job creation.

Estimating how many new jobs are squeezed out of a new development project is not my expertise.

But 100,000 is a big number. Where does it come from? It’s one Leggett has been using for a while now and it would be virtually unprecedented in our area.

Just look at D.C. From 2004-2014, the booming city added 54,275 new jobs. Will a Purple line, a new rapid transit system and whatever other transit improvements come along allow us to double that?

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by Aaron Kraut — February 25, 2015 at 1:45 pm 513 0

Updated at 2:45 p.m. – More snow is predicted for Bethesda and much of the D.C. area on Thursday morning, though most meteorologists so far don’t expect much more than an inch of accumulation.

The National Weather Service is predicting the snow could start around 3 a.m. Thursday and go into the morning commute period:

NWS forecast for Thursday morning

The NWS also put out a Winter Weather Advisory from 3 a.m. to noon Thursday:

…WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM 3 AM TO NOON EST THURSDAY…

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN BALTIMORE MD/WASHINGTON HAS ISSUED A WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY FOR SNOW… WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM 3 AM TO NOON EST THURSDAY.

* LOCATIONS…CENTRAL MARYLAND AND THE WESTERN VIRGINIA SUBURBS OF WASHINGTON DC.

* HAZARD TYPES…SNOW.

* SNOW ACCUMULATIONS…1 TO 2 INCHES.

* TIMING… LATE TONIGHT THROUGH LATE MORNING. SNOW IS EXPECTED TO BE HEAVIEST DURING THE MORNING COMMUTE.

* IMPACTS…ROADS MAY BE SNOW COVERED AND SLIPPERY.

* WINDS…NORTHEAST 5 TO 10 MPH.

 * TEMPERATURES…IN THE UPPER 20S.

The Washington Post‘s Capital Weather Gang is forecasting 1-3 inches of snow for downcounty Montgomery and D.C.

Howard Bernstein of WUSA9 is predicting 1-2 inches for the area.

In case you think this predicted late February snow is unfair, the teacher behind MoCo Snow reminds us that Montgomery County Public Schools actually cancelled school because of winter weather as late as March 17 last year.

by Aaron Kraut — February 25, 2015 at 12:15 pm 350 10 Comments

Rendering of Purple Line vehicle heading to Bethesda, Image via Maryland Transit Administration

A new statewide poll shows 72 percent of Marylanders support moving the start of the school year to after Labor Day and that most who have heard of the Purple Line project support its construction.

Goucher College’s Department of Political Science and International Relations asked 619 residents about a number of prominent state political issues and the presidential ambitions of three Marylanders.

Seventy-two percent of respondents said they support Comptroller Peter Franchot’s controversial effort to move the start of the school year to after Labor Day. Nineteen percent of respondents opposed the idea and 9 percent said they didn’t know or refused to answer.

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot (file photo)Franchot, a Montgomery County resident, has argued the move would boost the tourism industry in vacation hubs such as Ocean City and Deep Creek Lake.

State and local education officials are opposed to the idea, cautioning that moving the start of school after Labor Day could push the end of the school year well into June or even July if there are enough weather closures. Montgomery County Board of Education President Patricia O’Neill has argued school scheduling decisions should be left up to local school districts.

Franchot’s office highlighted the poll numbers on Wednesday in a press release. A State Senate bill that would ban public school districts from starting school before Labor Day is scheduled for a committee hearing on Thursday afternoon in Annapolis.

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by Aaron Kraut — February 25, 2015 at 11:00 am 517 1 Comment

The Capital Crescent Garage will require payment starting Monday

The trial run at the new Capital Crescent Garage in downtown Bethesda is almost over.

The Montgomery County Department of Transportation will start charging drivers who park in the 960-space garage on Monday.

MCDOT and developer StonebridgeCarras opened the five-level garage under the Lot 31 project on Jan. 20. Parking has been free since “to give parkers time to become acquainted with the new garage,” according to the county.

County officials hope the facility will put to rest any complaints about a perceived lack of parking in Bethesda. The garage has a Bethesda Avenue and Woodmont Avenue entrance within walking distance of Bethesda Row.

The garage will have an 80-cents an hour rate from 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Friday, same as the other county garages in downtown Bethesda.

Unlike most other county garages, the Capital Crescent Garage doesn’t have meters. Parkers will be given a ticket upon entering, then pay that ticket before getting back in their vehicles at pay machines. Machines at the garage exits will also let drivers pay from their vehicles with a credit card.

If you make it to the garage before Monday, don’t be alarmed to see entrance and exit gates down. MCDOT said Wednesday that parking personnel will be testing the gates before fees are required on Monday.

If the gate arms are blocking the entrance to the garage, take a ticket and use the ticket to exit. There will be no charge.

by Aaron Kraut — February 25, 2015 at 10:05 am 650 0

ShopHouse is opening in Pike & Rose on March 7Chipotle spin-off ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen will open Saturday, March 7 at Pike & Rose in the White Flint/Pike District.

ShopHouse will offer a free entree to those who visit the spot (11584 Old Georgetown Road) from noon to 7 p.m. on opening day.

A bowl at ShopHouse starts with a choice of white rice, brown rice, noodles or salad. There’s grilled chicken satay, grilled steak laab, pork and chicken meatballs or tofu. Vegetables include broccoli, charred corn, eggplant and thai basil or green beans.

Then, customers can choose a sauce, a topping and a garnish, much in the same way customers order burritos at Chipotle.

The chain opened its fifth location on Bethesda Row in October 2013.

by Aaron Kraut — February 25, 2015 at 8:45 am 442 1 Comment

Photo via Rzulta Rzaba

Dave & Buster’s, White Flint Go Back To Court – More legal drama involving White Flint Mall and a longtime tenant is scheduled for this spring. Dave & Buster’s had its lease terminated by the mall after it challenged the mall owners’ redevelopment plans. The national chain of restaurant-arcades is now appealing a federal judge’s decision that the mall could terminate the lease. A hearing is set for May. [Washington Business Journal]

Metro Launches Anti-Sexual Harassment Ads – Metro will display a set of new anti-sexual harassment public service announcements throughout the system. The ads read, “You have the right to be safe waiting for and riding Metro. You don’t have to put up with inappropriate comments, touching, gestures or actions.” [Metro]

‘Wednesday Movie Rewind’ At Bethesda Row – Bethesda Row Cinema (7235 Woodmont Avenue) is starting a weekly classic movie series tonight with two showings of “The Royal Tenenbaums.” Tickets are $9. [Bethesda Row Cinema via Twitter]

Summer House Starts Brunch – Summer House Santa Monica, the new restaurant at Pike & Rose in the White Flint/Pike District, will start a brunch program this weekend. Brunch will run from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays and be available for to-go orders. The restaurant is located at 11825 Grand Park Avenue. [Summer House]

Photo via Rzulta Rzaba

by Aaron Kraut — February 24, 2015 at 4:15 pm 498 1 Comment

Fernwood Road water main break, via Heather Bradley

Updated at 9 a.m. Wednesday – An issue with a water main valve near Marriott International headquarters in Bethesda produced a geyser-like tower of water that shut down a section of Fernwood Road on Tuesday.

The incident happened in the 10400 block of Fernwood Road on Tuesday afternoon.

The image above is from a reader who drove by as the water shot up from the road.

Another witness said the water shot up almost 50 feet and was freezing in nearby trees.

WSSC said it eventually shut down the 36-inch main under the road to repair a vacuum valve. The agency had to call in Montgomery County Department of Transportation plow crews to clear ice:

Eighteen customers were without water service Tuesday evening, though WSSC said all customers had water service by Wednesday morning.

WSSC has dealt with about 200 water main breaks over the last week of sub-freezing temperatures.

Photo via Heather Bradley

by Aaron Kraut — February 24, 2015 at 3:00 pm 265 9 Comments

Bethesda Metro station (file photo)Add three Montgomery County Council members to those against another Metro fare increase.

Roger Berliner, Nancy Floreen and Tom Hucker — the members who make up the Council’s Transportation Committee — on Tuesday urged the WMATA Board of Directors to ditch the idea of a 10-cent fare increase and service reductions.

The Board of Directors is set to meet Thursday to consider putting the fare increase up for public comment. The Board won’t decide until May whether to go through with the increase, which would start in July. It would be the second straight year Metro imposed a fare increase. It typically tries to avoid increasing fares two years in a row.

“Our region needs to do everything in its power to get people out of their cars, not give them good excuses to get in them,” wrote Berliner, Floreen and Hucker. “Regrettably, we believe that at the staff budget proposal threatens to create a ‘death spiral.’ If fares increase even further and service deteriorates, fewer people will opt to ride Metro. Lower ridership in turn will inevitably translate into further service cuts, fare increases and even lower ridership. This is most assuredly not a sustainable path forward.”

The Council members suggest WMATA should lean more heavily on dedicated funding from Maryland, Virginia and D.C. They cited Metro’s 66 percent farebox recovery rate, the highest in the country.

“As a result of this firebox recover rate, fares are already too high and budgets are extremely sensitive to corresponding dips in ridership.”

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by Aaron Kraut — February 24, 2015 at 1:45 pm 343 7 Comments

The 'Welcome to Bethesda' gateway sign at Wisconsin Avenue and Woodmont Avenue, via BUP

It could take special property taxes or more money from the county budget to one day see a Taste of the Pike District or Friendship Heights Circulator.

A report released Tuesday by the County Council’s Office of Legislative Oversight delved into what it takes to create and fund business improvement districts — the type of organizations that provide an extra layer of marketing, maintenance and in some cases transit to specific areas.

Much of the 84-page report was devoted to case studies of 15 “local districts” from some of the country’s biggest cities. But a substantial portion of the report discussed how, or if, Montgomery County could duplicate groups such as the Bethesda Urban Partnership elsewhere.

The Partnership (BUP) celebrated 20 years last year and according to OLO “is widely recognized as a model public-private partnership that successfully delivers government, community and business services.”

BUP organizes and puts on annual events such as the Taste of Bethesda, which can draw as many as 40,000 people to Woodmont Triangle, and operates the Bethesda Circulator, a free shuttle that makes a loop around various spots in downtown Bethesda.

But 82 percent of BUP’s budget this fiscal year came from Bethesda parking meter and fee revenue. It’s a funding mechanism the OLO said likely wouldn’t work in other areas where there’s an interest in a similar organization, such as the White Flint/Pike District and Friendship Heights.

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Rental Report: Renter FAQs

by BethesdaNow.com Sponsor — February 24, 2015 at 12:40 pm 0

Rental Report

Editor’s Note: This biweekly sponsored column is written by Rick Gersten, founder and CEO of Urban Igloo, a rental real estate firm that matches up renters with their ideal apartments, condos or houses. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

FAQ: Why is the rent on the apartment I looked at last week higher this week?

In managed apartments, rent prices change frequently, and they can even change daily depending on the building.

Many companies use software that looks at a variety of factors each day to determine the rent they charge for a specific unit. Even though their algorithms are complex, pricing primarily boils down to occupancy rate. A 95 percent occupancy rate is considered efficient in multifamily buildings, and if the occupancy rate is more than 95 percent, then you will likely pay a premium for a unit in that building.

Tip: When touring a building, ask about their occupancy rate. If they have 5 percent or less of their units vacant, then you may want to shop around in buildings nearby to see if there is a better deal. Also, if you find a place you like at a price you can afford, you may want to lock it in at that price. Ask what you need to do in order to hold a unit.

FAQ: Is there a time of year when I will get a better deal on an apartment?

While you may score a deal in the winter in many cities, that doesn’t necessarily ring true in the D.C. area. No doubt, the summer months are the busiest time because of students moving in and out of the area and recent grads starting new jobs.

Also, in election years there’s a shift in the late fall and early winter. However, D.C. generally has a constant influx of people throughout the year.

Bottom line: The deals to be had are often in new buildings trying to fill their units, not necessarily at any specific time of year.

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by BethesdaNow.com Sponsor — February 24, 2015 at 11:35 am 0

Ask Andrew

This sponsored, weekly 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: I’m thinking of listing my house, but I didn’t know how this cold and snowy weather would affect my chances of selling it fast. Thoughts?

The brutal cold does impact the market. The cold weather could hinder the movement of properties in a number of ways. It also might help.

Limited showings: The cold does tend to keep buyers inside rather than viewing properties. If the cold weather keeps buyers from seeing your home, that obviously limits the opportunities for someone to purchase it.

Home’s appeal: When it’s cold outside the landscaping of the home isn’t as noticeable. Flowers aren’t blooming, the lawn isn’t bright green and more. The home’s exterior character and appeal will not present itself in the cold as it would in the warmer seasons. If there’s snow on the ground, it also limits the potential buyer’s ability to see the entire property and landscape. Not to mention that buyers snowy shoes could leave the home filthy.

Now, the flip side is that there are some buyers who are looking to purchase within a specific time frame. So, if you were to list your home in this weather, there may be potential to sell it quicker than the warmer weather months.

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by Aaron Kraut — February 24, 2015 at 10:20 am 0

Stream flows under Rockville Pike and Cedar Lane near NIH campus, photo via J.D. Mack

The lane shift slated for a busy section of Rockville Pike near Cedar Lane has been delayed for a third time, this time because of freezing temperatures.

The State Highway Administration said the lane shift would start at 7 p.m. Tuesday. But according to Montgomery County, the record-low temperatures mean the SHA can’t put down new pavement markings necessary for the shift:

The SHA removed the median along Rockville Pike just north and south of its intersection with Cedar Lane/West Cedar Lane. The removal of the median was to allow traffic officials to shift the six thru-lanes of Rockville Pike slightly to the west, allowing for the first portion of an underground culvert replacement project on the east side of the road.

The lane shift was originally supposed to happen in January, but weather issues moved it back to last week. Snow last week moved it back to Tuesday. Now the freezing temperatures have moved it back to March 3, according to Montgomery County.

Sidewalks will remain open and turning movements from West Cedar Lane onto Rockville Pike won’t be impacted. But turns from northbound Rockville Pike to West Cedar Lane will be restricted for the rest of the year and probably well into 2016.

In the late spring or early summer, the SHA expects to shift traffic again as a second phase of culvert work starts under the middle portion of the road. Northbound traffic will move back to the right and southbound traffic will remain where it was during the first phase.

There will be a third phase a few months after that during which crews replace the culvert on the southbound side of Rockville Pike. Southbound traffic lanes will shift back to the east.

Photo via J.D. Mack

by Aaron Kraut — February 24, 2015 at 9:05 am 481 0

Snow on Saturday on Rockville Pike, photo via Rzulta Rzaba

Owner Of Bethesda Company Indicted In Alleged Mortgage Fraud Scheme – Alberic Okou Agodio, owner of a Bethesda-based real estate firm, was indicted by a federal grand jury of charges related to a mortgage fraud scheme. Federal authorities say Agodio used the names of three dozen immigrants and students living in the area as straw purchasers for a row houses in Baltimore. He got about $3.8 million in home mortgage loans to buy the houses, according to the indictment. [The Gazette]

Leggett To Do Online Chat Today – County Executive Isiah Leggett will take online questions and comments in a discussion set for 1 p.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday. [Montgomery County]

New Boutique Coming To Wildwood – Hadlee, a new clothing boutique, is coming to a vacant store in the Wildwood Shopping Center at 10303 Old Georgetown Road. [Robert Dyer @ Bethesda Row]

La Madeleine Giving Away Berry Tarts – To celebrate its 32nd birthday, the chain of French cafes will be giving away mini blueberry tarts on Tuesday. There are two area locations of the restaurant in downtown Bethesda (7607 Old Georgetown Road) and the Pike District (11610 Old Georgetown Road). [La Madeleine]

Gallery B March Exhibit – Gallery B will present its March show, “Beyond the Surface,” starting on March 4 at the gallery (7700 Wisconsin Avenue, Suite E). The show features photography from Shelva Gallman, weaving by Janice Knausenberger, mixed-media painting by Shelley Lee Marie and painting by Michele Morgan. The opening reception will be Friday, March 13 and the gallery will be open from noon-6 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday. [Gallery B]

Photo via Rzulta Rzaba

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