by Aaron Kraut — November 25, 2014 at 11:10 am 156 0

The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Weather Advisory for Bethesda and much of the D.C. area for Wednesday.

For the immediate D.C. suburbs, that could mean a coating or up to an inch of snow throughout the day:









by Aaron Kraut — November 25, 2014 at 10:00 am 270 0

Radio tower, auto repair shops and the back of the Park Bethesda apartment in Westbard

Councilmember Roger Berliner promised he won’t vote for a new master plan for the Westbard section of Bethesda unless it adequately addresses school overcrowding issues.

Berliner, the councilmember representing Bethesda, weighed in on the controversial Westbard Sector Plan rewrite in an email blast on Monday.

A Concept Framework Plan revealed by county planners last week would allow mixed-use development of up to 75- and 80-foot heights along some sections of River Road and Westbard Avenue, a preliminary proposal that drew much opposition from existing residents.

“I know many of you have participated in the Planning Department’s recent charrette process and I also know the preliminary thoughts that have been shared thus far has elicited some strong opinions. And that is an understatement,” Berliner wrote.

The plan is about a year away from making it to the County Council, where Berliner’s official role begins.

But the councilmember said he felt it was important to clarify the idea that the Westbard Sector Plan was being revised “for Equity One.” Equity One, the developer that late last year and early this year bought up many of Westbard’s commercial properties, lobbied the Council to move the plan up on the Planning Department’s work schedule:

First and foremost, this plan is not being done “for Equity One” as has been asserted by some in the community. …

…The Westbard Plan was adopted in 1982 and not updated since. Certainly a lot has changed since then, including but not limited to greater awareness of the connection between building techniques and stormwater management, increased desire of our community for greater pedestrian and bicycle connectivity and access, and increased desire for a wide range of community amenities.  But the most important element of any master/sector plan is the opportunity to review and assess the adequacy our public facilities like schools, libraries, parks, and recreational opportunities.

As long as I have been on the Council (since 2006), there has been talk about updating the Westbard Sector Plan. Long before anyone heard of Equity One‘s interest in the area.  There was also shared agreement that in light of other pressing county needs, Westbard should not be included in the Planning Department’s annual work plan (approved by the Council each year) until there was at least some reason to believe redevelopment might occur.  When the sale of the Westbard Shopping Center occurred, it seemed to the Council that the time was now ripe to review and update the plan — not for Equity One, but in terms of our standard operational practices for reviewing and updating our land use plans.


by Aaron Kraut — November 25, 2014 at 9:00 am 0

Flickr photo by ehpien

New County Bill Would Limit Use Of E-Cigarettes – A bill sponsored by Councilmember Nancy Floreen would prohibit using an electronic cigarette anywhere a traditional cigarette is prohibited. It would also prohibit the use of e-cigarettes by those age 18 and younger and would require child-resistant packaging. The bill will be introduced on Tuesday. [Montgomery County Council]

NIH To Publish Final Master Plan Study On Friday – The National Institutes of Health will publish its Final Environmental Impact Statement for its master plan of development on Friday. The federal agency is looking to redevelop and add buildings to its Bethesda campus and add 3,000 employees over the next 20 years. The FEIS will include studies of the NIH’s proposed alternative, maximum development alternative and the no action alternative. The publication of the FEIS will be followed by a 30-day “waiting period” in which public comments can be sent in.

Urban Country Holding Month-Long Sale – Furniture and accessory store Urban Country (7117 Arlington Road) will host a month-long holiday sale starting on Friday. [Urban Country]

Mortgage Company Moves Into Bethesda – Guaranteed Rate, a national chain of mortgage lenders, has moved its Rockville retail office to 10411 Motor City Drive, Suite 500 in Bethesda. [Guaranteed Rate]

Flickr photo by ehpien

by Aaron Kraut — November 24, 2014 at 3:35 pm 167 2 Comments

A recent addition to downtown Bethesda’s art scene will host its first Holiday Show starting next week.

Studio B, the Bethesda Urban Partnership-backed art studio space in the Bethesda Crescent building, will offer up the work of its four resident artists starting Wednesday, Dec. 3 until Dec. 20.

BUP opened up the space (7475 Wisconsin Avenue) earlier this year after it was donated by property owner Bainbridge. Four local artists will sell their works, starting at less than $100:

Linda Button of Chevy Chase, MD, describes herself as an urban figurative artist. Her body of work, which includes oil paintings, focuses on mannequins as seen through storefronts along city streets, a look through the designed windows that dazzle and evoke imaginations of another life.

Judy Gilbert Levey of Bethesda, MD, is an oil painter. Among her works which include interpretations of varying landscapes and objects from nature, she is also showcasing a new set of fall paintings that are inspired by Bethesda’s wooded areas. The work focuses on the light filtering though trees and the glowing colors of autumn leaves.

Steve Hay of Cabin John, MD, also an oil painter, exhibits paintings of both local and New York City landscapes. New pieces he is currently working on include depictions of the C & O canal, the Potomac River and scenes around Bethesda. Hay often practices as a plein air oil painter but when working from photographs he still leans on his experience as a plein air painter to achieve the vibrancy, depth, and lively atmosphere that are distinct to his paintings.

Songmi Heart of Fairfax, VA, showcases an abstract painting style. Working with different mediums including acrylic and oil, her pieces vary between black and white and remarkably colorful in both small and large-scale sizes. Heart’s current work is based on musical inspiration, interpretive illustrations of sound, rhythm and beat.


by Aaron Kraut — November 24, 2014 at 2:40 pm 258 5 Comments

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

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

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

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

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


by Aaron Kraut — November 24, 2014 at 1:40 pm 422 1 Comment

The snowstorm in February 2014 that brought about 12 inches of snow to downtown Bethesda, Photo courtesy of Ed Stulginsky

The State Highway Administration wants those traveling out-of-town for Thanksgiving to avoid driving on what could be snowy roads come Wednesday.

Forecasters are predicting a varying amount of snow and rain for a large portion of the East Coast — just in time for what’s traditionally the country’s busiest travel day of the year.

“Driving in heavy snow, with limited visibility, is no way to spend the holiday,” SHA Administrator Melinda B. Peters said in a prepared release. “Travelers, particularly professional truck drivers and distributors, need to pay close attention to forecasts and adjust plans. If you planned to travel Wednesday, please consider altering your schedule and drive Tuesday or Thursday instead.”

Weather predictions for Wednesday will likely be revised on Tuesday. For now, the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang says there’s a “low to medium” chance of 1-3 inches of snow accumulation in the suburbs immediately northwest to D.C. Baltimore and farther out suburbs might see a higher snow total.

The National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center is forecasting a 90 percent of precipitation for Wednesday that could be rain, snow or a mix of both.

Most of that rain or snow is forecasted to fall between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. on Wednesday.

Photo courtesy of Ed Stulginsky

by Aaron Kraut — November 24, 2014 at 12:30 pm 406 2 Comments

Westfield Montgomery mall will be open for Thanksgiving and Black Friday

It’s that time of the year.

Quite a few retailers around town are preparing specials for Black Friday. Some at Westfield Montgomery mall will gain venture into so-called Grey Thursday territory by opening the night of Thanksgiving:

Westfield Goes All Out – The mall (7101 Democracy Boulevard) hopes to show off $90 million in renovations in a big way and will open its doors at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving. The mall will close at midnight, just to reopen six hours later for a full day of Black Friday shopping, Santa photos and giveaways:

Santa Claus and his elves are now onsite through Christmas Eve, and with a Santa’s FastPass, guests may view and select their photo package ahead of time, pre-pay online and receive expedited service. Upon arrival, customers will have access to an exclusive entry line for faster time to Santa on their selected day. Shoppers interested in participating in the FastPass program can schedule an appointment and purchase their Santa photo packages online.

Back by popular demand, Westfield Montgomery is also encompassing the spirit of giving as Merry Makers return to surprise and delight shoppers with unexpected acts of kindness. The professionally trained actors dressed in fashion- holiday attire will spread holiday cheer by carrying shopping bags, expediting gift wrapping, distributing retailer gift card giveaways and samples, and even purchasing gifts for unsuspecting guests.

Bethesda Row Offers Deals And A Brunch – Check out Bethesda Row’s Events page for a detailed description of which retailers will be offering what on Black Friday. Mon Ami Gabi (7239 Woodmont Avenue) will be offering a Black Friday brunch from 11 a.m.- 4 p.m.

Free Parking At Chevy Chase Center – It won’t cost you anything to park in the garage attached to the restaurants and stores at Chevy Chase Center in Friendship Heights. Parking is free the entire weekend.

Not Into Shopping? – For those who hope to skip the shopping on Friday, Montgomery Parks will open the Garden Railway Exhibit at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton (1800 Glenallan Avenue) at 10 a.m. The free exhibit features trains and trollies winding around detailed miniatures of the botanical garden, Wheaton Ice Arena and Glen Echo Park.

by Aaron Kraut — November 24, 2014 at 11:15 am 1,593 44 Comments

A tow truck company may be using prohibited means to find illegally parked cars in an infamous downtown Bethesda parking lot.

A tipster sent in the images shown here of what appear to be two tow truck drivers from Rockville-based G&G Towing perched on the third floor of the county’s Woodmont Corner Garage.

Photo from tipster shows what appear to be G&G tow truck drivers watching the Connor Building lot from the third floor of the Woodmont Corner Garage across the streetThe drivers appear to be watching the lot across the street at the Connor Building (7720 Woodmont Ave.), a place well-known for its high frequency of vehicle tows. In one of the photos, the men can be seen looking at the lot while their tow trucks are parked in spots nearby.

It turns out Montgomery County is well aware of the problem.

Eric Friedman, the director of the county’s Office of Consumer Protection and its point man on aggressive towing issues, said the Department of Transportation sent G&G a letter in 2009 ago advising the company to stop using its parking garage to watch the lot.

“DOT basically told them the garage can’t be used for their business purposes,” Friedman said. “We got them out of there once. It’s inappropriate.”

In April, the company successfully challenged parts of a 2012 state law that outlawed the use of “spotters” to watch for drivers who walk-off of private properties on which they’ve parked. (See the PDF of court decision below.)

Friedman, who has appeared on ABC News’ 20/20 program to talk about the predatory towing issue, said the state law outlawed employees who were “primarily” used as spotters, meaning tow truck drivers who also watch parking lots may be allowed.

“G&G gets upset when you call it predatory. They prefer aggressive. We call it overly-aggressive,” Friedman said. “But when they’re up high in a parking garage with cameras, that’s exactly what they are. Clearly the intent was they shouldn’t lie in wait and swoop in like hawks.”

Friedman said it appears the state will appeal the Anne Arundel Circuit Court judge’s opinion in the case to the state’s Court of Special Appeals.

G&G Towing, which often refuses requests for comment from the media, has yet to respond to a request for comment related specifically to the photos.


by Aaron Kraut — November 24, 2014 at 10:30 am 178 0

5800 Hillburne Way 5213 Carlton Street 9515 Kentstone Drive

Check out the condos, townhouses and homes that sold last week in Bethesda and Chevy Chase:

  • 7240 Westlake Terrace; 2 BD | 2 BA condominium; List price: $225,000; Sale price: $210,000
  • 7541 Spring Lake Drive; 2 BD | 1 BA condominium; List price: $225,000; Sale price: $220,000
  • 5101 River Road; 1 BD | 1 BA condominium; List price: $245,900; Sale price: $230,000
  • 10101 Grosvenor Place; 1 BD | 1 BA condominium; List price: $284,000; Sale price: $274,900
  • 10104 Fleming Avenue; 4 BD | 2 BA single family detached; List price: $599,000; Sale price: $584,000
  • 7218 Swansong Way; 3 BD | 3 BA townhouse; List price: $599,000; Sale price: $600,000
  • 4504 Gretna Street; 4 BD | 2.5 BA single family detached; List price: $699,000; Sale price: $699,000
  • 8606 Ridge Road; 3 BD | 1.5 BA single family detached; List price: $625,000; Sale price: $701,000
  • 9303 Wadsworth Drive; 4 BD | 3 BA single family detached; List price: $749,000; Sale price: $724,900
  • 9901 Pomona Drive; 4 BD | 3 BA single family detached; List price: $849,900; Sale price: $800,000
  • 7918 Quarry Ridge Way; 4 BD | 3.5 BA townhouse; List price: $834,500; Sale price: $834,500
  • 5800 Hillburne Way; 5 BD | 3.5 BA single family detached; List price: $1,140,000; Sale price: $1,080,000
  • 6905 Loch Lomond Drive; 6 BD | 4 BA single family detached; List price: $1,120,000; Sale price: $1,105,000
  • 4507 Delmont Lane; 4 BD | 3.5 BA single family detached; List price: $1,175,000; Sale price: $1,165,000
  • 5605 Chesterbrook Road; 5 BD | 4.5 BA single family detached; List price: $1,225,000; Sale price: $1,190,000
  • 5505 Mohican Road; 5 BD | 3.5 BA single family detached; List price: $1,270,000; Sale price: $1,270,000
  • 9515 Kentstone Drive; 5 BD | 4.5 BA single family detached; List price: $1,450,000; Sale price: $1,375,000
  • 5213 Carlton Street; 5 BD | 4.5 BA single family detached; List price: $1,795,000; Sale price: $1,750,000

Photos via MRIS

7918 Quarry Ridge Way 6905 Loch Lomond Drive 5605 Chesterbrook Road

by Aaron Kraut — November 24, 2014 at 10:05 am 517 8 Comments

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

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

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

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

by Aaron Kraut — November 24, 2014 at 9:15 am 354 5 Comments

Once you find it, the Willett Branch Stream looks more like an industrial storm drain.

The stream runs in a concrete channel through the Westbard section of Bethesda, winding behind and under many of the area’s parking lots, landscaping yards and car repair garages.

Daylighting,” or restoring the stream to its natural state, is one of the biggest improvements Montgomery County planners would like to see in Westbard over the next few decades.

With that in mind, the nonprofit Little Falls Watershed Alliance led a tour of the stream on Saturday. Members pointed out all that’s wrong with it and a few dozen tour-goers strapped on boots to walk through a stream many didn’t even know was there.

“What the apartment has done, turning its back to the creek, using it as a dumping ground — I think is shameful,” said Alliance Executive Director Sarah Morse, while looking over the stream as it passes behind the Westwood Towers Apartments. “Streams and creeks are supposed to be for nature but also for people.”

County planners working on a revision to the Westbard Sector Plan have proposed requiring those who want to redevelop Willett Branch-adjacent properties to help fund the restoration of the stream. Those redeveloped properties would also have to abide by more modern stormwater and environmental protection laws.

Planners also pitched a new trail that would transform the stretch from eyesore into inviting parkland.


by Aaron Kraut — November 24, 2014 at 8:00 am 175 5 Comments

Flickr photo by ehpien

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

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

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

Flickr photo by ehpien

by BethesdaNow.com Sponsor — November 21, 2014 at 3:00 pm 311 0

WWBG Editor’s Note: This column is sponsored by Georgetown Square Wine and Beer (10400 Old Georgetown Rd.).

This column was written by Georgetown Square Wine and Beer customer Garrett Cruce. Follow his beer travels on Instagram.

Just up I-270 in Frederick is Flying Dog Brewery, an operation that’s gaining popularity across the country and a reputation as an adventurous maker of beer.

They regularly push the envelope with their beers, making them with unorthodox ingredients like green tea or mint chocolate. Even their standard IPAs can be extreme hop bombs that aren’t for the untrained palate.

Sometimes Flying Dog creates unique gems that appeal to craft beer lovers and newbies alike. Their summer ale — known as Dead Rise — was brewed with Old Bay seasoning and was wildly popular. For the winter season, they’ve created a set of four beers that are packaged together — The Holiday Collection.

Though brewed with more orthodox ingredients, these beers were created to be enjoyed with a unique pairing: Cookies.

Marylanders might recognize the iconic packaging of Otterbein’s Bakery, a Baltimore classic. That packaging is mirrored in the red and white box that contains the Holiday Collection. Each beer in the box is meant to be paired with a different Otterbein’s cookie. These special beers work so well with cookies that Santa might need a designated driver when he comes to Maryland.

Join us on Saturday, Nov. 22 at our Gaithersburg location – Downtown Crown Beer and Wine – from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. for a special launch party with Flying Dog Brewery. There will be a free tasting of the Holiday Collection and the Otterbein’s cookies that inspired it. You can stock up on your case or fill your growler while they last.

After the jump are more details on the Holiday Collection, which is readily available at Georgetown Square Wine and Beer:


by Aaron Kraut — November 21, 2014 at 1:55 pm 516 10 Comments

A meeting this week with members of Montgomery County’s delegation to Annapolis and MCPS officials exposed some friction when it comes to the school system’s recent request for $223 million in state school construction funding.

The Parents’ Coalition, which describes itself as a school system watchdog, posted video of a question and answer session with county delegates, state senators and MCPS Superintendent Joshua Starr during the meeting on Tuesday morning.

District 15 Del. Kathleen Dumais had some stern words for Starr, claiming the school system’s public campaign for state school construction funding has put the delegation in a tough position considering the state’s overall budget deficit.

District 15 Del. Kathleen Dumais, photo via Wikimedia user 1msulax“I’m just saying, be realistic in your request,” Dumais told Starr. “Don’t set us up for failure. Work with us. We want to work with you. But you put us in this position and then say, ‘Ooops, you didn’t do it,’ and we’re getting the blame. That is not fair.”

She also criticized a school system press release from Nov. 17 that mentioned how last year’s push for state construction funding “fell through.”

“I read the press release and there’s like, something missing that is stark. What it doesn’t say, says a bill didn’t pass so you didn’t get any money, but that’s false,” Dumais said. “Montgomery County got $39 million in school construction money. You don’t mention that in your press release. That’s unfair.”

Starr responded by assuring Dumais that MCPS and the Board of Education are on the same page with the delegation. He also said Montgomery County legislators aren’t the only ones who face skepticism from officials elsewhere in the state.

He described a recent meeting of local school superintendents from around the state during which an unnamed official questioned Montgomery County’s need for the funds.


by Aaron Kraut — November 21, 2014 at 12:25 pm 3,745 32 Comments

Photo via Roof, on Instagram

Roof Kitchen & Bar will close on Sunday, a little less than a year after opening in Woodmont Triangle.

Owner Alan Pohoryles confirmed the news on Friday.

“Unfortunately, the rumor is true,” Pohoryles wrote in an email. “We have a couple offers to buy the place and are working on a deal with them.”

Smashburger and Roof, at the corner of Cordell and Norfolk AvenuesPohoryles, the owner of the popular Tommy Joe’s bar and restaurant at 4714 Montgomery Lane, opened Roof on the second and third floors of a newly constructed building on Norfolk Avenue with the hopes of introducing a more high-end dining experience to Woodmont Triangle.

The rooftop bar became a popular hangout during the summer, but Pohoryles told Bethesda Magazine earlier this month that the inside second-floor dining room was hard to distinguish from the ground-floor Smashburger franchise.

So he changed the name to Roof Kitchen & Bar and altered the menu. This week, the restaurant added signage to the second floor windows of the building (7940 Norfolk Ave.).

But it didn’t make enough of a difference to keep the operation going.

“It has been a difficult decision to make,” Pohoryles wrote.

Top photo via Roof


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