The Town Council, a five-member group that includes the mayor, approved a $350,000 contract in February with a cadre of lobbyists and legal firms to fight the Purple Line and its proposed route behind a number of homes in the Town.
Of the seven candidates for three Council seats in the May 6 election, five mentioned the Purple Line in their candidate statements. Councilmembers Al Lang and Kathy Strom are running for reelection. Councilmember David Lublin announced on Wednesday he won’t run again.
Mayor Pat Burda and Councilmember John Bickerman were elected in 2013 and have terms that will end next year.
In his statement, Lang came out strongly against the Purple Line lobbying contract — not because he favors the transit system, but because he opposes the way the Town went about picking the firm. “BIR” is the lead firm chosen for the contract, Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney:
There are many examples, (tackling the $9M reserves being one), but none is more important than my recent vote against the $360,000 for BIR, our Purple Line lobbying firm. While I have worked hard during my 6 years as Councilmember to find the right resources to mitigate this project, we are elected fiduciaries. Sadly, this contract lacked critical elements; there was not a request for proposal; it was not a competitive process; and we did not negotiate price. Elements well understood by all, not just a business person.
Candidate Grant Davies said the Town’s “mishandling” of its advocacy against the Purple Line has given it a bad reputation in Montgomery County:
Third, we need to improve the Town’s image with the public and the rest of the county. We have always been advocates for good government and considering the needs of the larger community. Our mishandling of our advocacy against the Purple line has given the Town an unwarranted black eye.
Candidate Donald Farren took it a step further, emphasizing that he is for the Purple Line. He also said he is “Pro transparent Town government,” an apparent jab at the contract process.
Candidate Deborah Vollmer is completely opposed to the 16-mile, $2.37 billion light rail:
Over the years, I have actively opposed current plans for the Purple Line; I do believe that improving public transportation is important, but the current plans are unacceptable, as they would destroy the canopy of trees in what is really a linear park, cause other environmental damage, and cause negative impact to all residents, especially those living at the Town’s borders, close to the rail line.
Another recurring thread in the candidate statements was the desire to keep a buffer between the development of downtown Bethesda and the Town, what is predominantly small streets of single-family homes.
Lang had perhaps the most interesting proposal: The purchase of county-owned and operated parking lots just east of Wisconsin Avenue and the conversion of those lots into green space that would “create the buffer the town needs to Bethesda encroachment.”
Vollmer said she would propose a moratorium and the building of new homes. Like much of Bethesda and Chevy Chase, the Town is home to a number of teardown projects. She also said she would put the Town manager’s job on the line every two years by making the extension of that person’s contract a ballot question.
The candidates will participate in a moderated forum on Thursday, April 24 at 7 p.m. at the Town Hall (4301 Willow Lane).
Tiger Grant Applications Include Capital Crescent Trail, Bethesda Metro Entrance – Montgomery County and the state of Maryland are applying for a piece of the pie in the next round of federal TIGER Grant funding. The pair is hoping for some federal funding of the new Capital Crescent Trail, a 4-3-mile shared use path from Bethesda to Silver Spring to run along the Purple Line. Separately, Montgomery County is applying for TIGER Grant funding for its Bethesda Metro Station South Entrance and a study of bus rapid transit on Rockville Pike. There is about $600 million of TIGER Grant money to be given out among transportation projects around the country. [National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board]
National Prescription Take Back Day – There will be two take back locations for unused or expired prescription medications or over-the-counter drugs on Saturday, April 26. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., you can bring those medications to the Chevy Chase Village Police Department at 5906 Connecticut Ave. or the Friendship Heights Community Center at 4433 S. Park Ave. [Montgomery County]
Whitman Grad Grabs Terps’ Starting Job – Class of 2012 Whitman High School graduate Michael Dunn has quickly solidified himself as a starting offensive linemen for the Maryland football team. Dunn started all 13 games last season, splitting time at right guard and right tackle. This season, the Terps’ first in the Big Ten conference, he projects as the team’s starting right tackle. [The Gazette]
Flickr photo by ehpien
Gansler Releases Internal Poll That Shows He’s Closing The Gap – Gubernatorial hopeful Doug Gansler this week released an internal poll that his campaign claimed shows he’s closing the gap on Anthony Brown.
The poll, commissioned by Gansler’s campaign and done by The Mellman Group, shows the gap between Gansler and Brown for the Democratic nomination is now 9 percentage points, compared to 23 percentage points in a February poll by the same pollster.
A Washington Post poll had Brown with a 19-point lead over Gansler in February.
The Gansler poll released this week was based on a survey of 600 voters and had 31 percent favoring Brown, 22 percent favoring Gansler, 8 percent favoring Heather Mizuer and 40 percent undecided.
The Mellman Group the undecided number was significantly lower (29 percent) in February, what Gansler’s campaign said is a sign that people are unhappy with Brown’s roll in the implementation of the state’s failed healthcare exchange.
The state recently decided to ditch its exchange and implement a new one.
Berliner Gets Union Endorsement – A local education workers union has given its endorsement to incumbent District 1 Councilmember Roger Berliner, despite opponent Duchy Trachtenberg’s efforts to win labor support.
SEIU Local 500, which represents MCPS employees and Montgomery College professors, among others, sided with Berliner in a batch of County Council endorsements released this week.
Trachtenberg is working hard to repair relations with local unions after a falling out led to those unions targeting her in the 2010 primary, which she lost as an at-large Council incumbent. Trachtenberg has hired the former executive director of the county’s main employee union as her campaign director.
Korman Gets NARAL Pro-Choice Endorsement – In the likewise competitive District 16 House of Delegates race, candidate Marc Korman announced a key endorsement from the NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland PAC.
The group also gives out 100 percent ratings, a recent source of controversy in neighboring District 18. Korman is running against incumbents Ariana Kelly and Bill Frick, plus five other challengers for three seats in the June 24 Democratic primary.
Hrant Jamgochian, thought to be a leading contender along with Korman, recently picked up the key “Apple Ballot” endorsement of the Montgomery County Education Association. MCEA also put its support behind Frick and Kelly.
“We are very excited about Marc’s race for the Maryland House of Delegates in District 16 and are proud to issue our endorsement,” Erin Schurmann, a NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland PAC board member, said in a press release. “Marc has always been a strong activist for reproductive rights and health in District 16 and Montgomery County. We know that he will be a superb leader and effective advocate when elected and look forward to partnering with him.”
The mid-April cold hasn’t quite left the area. The National Weather Service on Wednesday issued a Freeze Warning for early Thursday morning, with temperatures expected to be in the upper 20s and lower 30s starting Wednesday night:
…FREEZE WARNING IN EFFECT FROM 2 AM TO 9 AM EDT THURSDAY… THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN BALTIMORE MD/WASHINGTON HAS ISSUED A FREEZE WARNING…WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM 2 AM TO 9 AM EDT THURSDAY. THE FREEZE WATCH IS NO LONGER IN EFFECT.
* TEMPERATURES…LOWS IN THE UPPER 20S TO LOWER 30S LATE TONIGHT.
* TIMING…LATE TONIGHT INTO EARLY THURSDAY MORNING.
* IMPACTS…UNPROTECTED COLD-SENSITIVE VEGETATION WILL BE KILLED OR DAMAGED.
Tomorrow’s temperature is expected to climb back toward 60 degrees, with temperatures in the 60s forecast for the weekend.
The shuttered BlackFinn American Saloon owes nearly $130,000 in rent, according to a lawsuit filed last week by the restaurant’s landlord.
White Flint Express LLC, a holding company part of property owner Greenhill Capital, filed suit against BlackFinn last Friday in Montgomery County Circuit Court.
The landlord alleges that BlackFinn owes $129,492.01 in rent through April.
The popular bar and restaurant on a prominent corner of Woodmont Triangle did not open for business on Tuesday, April 1. The next day, it announced through its website that it was permanently closed.
Multiple attempts to reach Paul Derrico, one of the restaurant owners listed in a similar lawsuit over late rent in 2012, have been unsuccessful. Derrico opened the restaurant at 4901 Fairmont Ave. in 2007.
The restaurant remains locked down, with signs advising locksmiths not to attempt change the locks without permission from Greenhill Capital.
On Monday, April 21, the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board will meet at 7 p.m. and hear from Councilmember Roger Berliner (D-Bethesda-Chevy Chase) on prominent issues in front of the Council and the FY 15 operating budget.
On Tuesday, April 22, the Walter Reed BRAC Integration Committee will meet to get updates on local intersection improvement projects, and a presentation from the Stone Ridge School about construction on a new athletic field.
Also tentatively scheduled is an update on Suburban Hospital’s “2020 Campus Enhancement Plan.” The hospital plans a 235,000-square-foot addition that will mean some consolidation and a new four-story building, plus a 1,125-space garage that will require the abandonment of Lincoln Street.
Both meetings will start at 7 p.m. at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center (4805 Edgemoor Lane).
Photo via Suburban Hospital
A year later, a few of those projects are done or near completion. Some have made significant progress, but still have a ways to go. Others broke ground and still more are scheduled to start.
Here’s a quick reference guide of some of the major construction projects in Bethesda, as of April 2014.
The Gallery of Bethesda, Rugby Avenue
The first of two buildings in Donohoe’s Gallery of Bethesda project was completed earlier this year. The 17-story, 235-unit apartment bills itself as the tallest building in Bethesda and has begun move-ins. A 16-story, 221-unit companion building is planned for next door, though ground hasn’t been broken on that project.
Bainbridge Bethesda, Fairmont and St Elmo Avenues
This 17-story, 200-unit apartment building isn’t completely finished. Demolition of older buildings and excavation work began in August 2011, but controversy soon followed.
The building is expect to be completed later this year, possibly this summer.
Lot 31, Bethesda and Woodmont Avenues
This multi-faceted project meant closing Woodmont Avenue south of Bethesda Avenue in September 2012. When the underground garage — a 940-space facility to be operated by Montgomery County — is done, the road will reopen. That’s expected later this year.
On top of that will go a 64-unit luxury condominium building (The Darcy) and a 186-unit apartment building (The Flats) from developer StonebridgeCarras.
8300 Wisconsin Avenue
The future home of a Harris Teeter grocery store and 360 residential units started excavation last year. Projected completion is spring or summer of 2015.
4500 East-West Highway
The first new office building built in downtown Bethesda in more than a decade is expected to finish up later in 2014.
7001 Arlington Road
This five-story, 145-unit apartment building on the former site of the U.S. Post Office on Arlington Road backs up to the Capital Crescent Trail. That will surely be a draw for residents.
The post office building was demolished in March 2013.
Across Fairmont Avenue from Bainbridge Bethesda is developer JBG’s 17-story, 250-unit apartment building, formerly known as 4900 Fairmont. JBG broke ground in October 2013.
4825 Montgomery Lane
The five-floor, four-unit building between Arlington Road and Woodmont Avenue is on the site of a former single family home and will soon have company.
The Lauren, 4901 Hampden Lane
That company will come in the form of The Lauren, an ultra-luxury condo building slated for just around the corner from Montgomery Lane. The developer there got demolition approval in February.
The 15-story, 120-unit apartment from developer Kettler will go on the existing site of the United Bank near the Bethesda Metro station. The bank moved to another building on Wisconsin Avenue and the demolition permit for that building has been issued.
Woodmont View, Battery Lane and Woodmont Triangle
Developer Duball will break ground on its nine-story, 46-unit luxury condo project at the corner of Battery Lane and Woodmont Triangle later this year. It could be interesting. The building will have just 60 feet of frontage on Battery Lane and must be sandwiched between Woodmont Avenue and an existing mid-rise apartment building.
Completion is slated for 2016.
The longtime site of the gas station that housed Eastham’s Auto Servicenter will soon be home to a 120-foot-tall, 139-unit apartment building from Washington Property Company.
Eastham’s will complete its move-out this month, which means groundbreaking at the site won’t be too far behind.
A nearly 20,000-square-foot coworking space with more than 50 offices for local startups is coming to the newly minted Bethesda Crossing building on Wisconsin Avenue.
UberOffices, the coworking office company with facilities in Tysons, Arlington and Dupont Circle will officially open up shop at 7315 Wisconsin Ave. on May 19.
Founder and CEO Raymond Rahbar said he expects many of the companies will come from the life sciences, biotechnology and technology sectors.
“That will be a little different than Tysons and Arlington,” Rahbar said. “We think this is a great market for us. Right now, all the media spotlight is on D.C. for good reason, but Arlington, Bethesda and Tysons are still great market and filled with great companies.”
UberOffices opened its Dupont Circle office share in March. Rahbar said the Bethesda space will build on the experience the company had building out that property.
The first 20 companies that sign up will get the rest of 2014 half-off. Coworking spaces allow startups to have an office without the cost of going it alone. There are traditionally offices that will fit one or two people, starting at rents of $1,000 a month.
The space also offers a common kitchen area and a number of conference rooms, plus single desks that can be rented out for around $300 a month.
MRP Realty, which bought the Air Rights building last year and gave it the Bethesda Crossing moniker, is putting the building through a $30 million renovation project.
UberOffices will have a launch party for the Bethesda location in late May.
Photo via UberOffices
MCPS To Hold Meetings On Fairness Of Private Donations – MCPS is studying the fairness of its private booster donation policy, especially when it comes to funds raised by schools with wealthier parent populations. Critics say the current policy leads to inequities between schools. The closest of the three public meetings to our area will happen on Thursday, May 8 at Churchill High School (11300 Gainsborough Rd.). MCPS says the meetings will be part of the larger study that could lead to changes in the policy for next school year. [The Gazette]
Town of Chevy Chase Council Member Retiring – David Lublin, who has been on the Council of the Town of Chevy Chase for six years, announced his retirement from the position on his politics blog, the Seventh State. Lublin said he will step down this May, at the end of his term. The Town Council has five members. [Seventh State]
‘House of Cards’ Won’t Be Bolting Across the Potomac – According to Virginia’s Film Office director, the Netflix show’s demands for incentive were too much for the state. The production company behind the show threatened to stop filming in Maryland if it wasn’t given millions more in tax credits. The General Assembly didn’t provide those extra millions and now it’s up to the governor’s office to find a way to bridge the gap. [Virginia Public Radio via WAMU]
Firefighters were called to the home at 5708 Cromwell Drive around 1 a.m. and found the home’s occupants had already gotten out. The fire started in the electric panel of a basement utility room, according to MCFRS spokesperson Pete Piringer.
At 1:25 a.m., Piringer tweeted that the fire was under control.
Wednesday morning, he tweeted that the fire caused $75,000 of damage to the house and $25,000 to its contents. There were no injuries.
According to Fire and Rescue spokesperson Pete Piringer, there are multiple minor injuries as a result of the accident, which has some lanes blocked on Old Georgetown Road.
(Original) A vehicle collided with a pole on Rockville Pike near NIH and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Tuesday afternoon.
According to MCFRS spokesperson Pete Piringer, crews are evaluating and additional ambulance units have been requested.
The traffic signals in that area were out earlier on Tuesday afternoon. All lanes on Rockville Pike are blocked as crews arrive at the scene around 4 p.m.
Photo via TrafficLand.com
Signals were out in front of the National Military Medical Center, at Jones Bridge Road and at Woodmont Avenue on Wisconsin Avenue at 3 p.m. Lights were also not working at Battery Lane and Cordell Avenue on Woodmont Avenue.
A reminder: All drivers must treat intersections with non-functioning traffic lights as a four-way stop. Police have taken over traffic operations at Jones Bridge Road and Wisconsin Avenue.
According to scanner traffic, police will try to get Bethesda Urban Partnership crews out to fix at least the traffic signal at Jones Bridge Road before rush hour.
There were 449 customers without power in 20814 and 260 without power in 20815, according to Pepco’s outage map.
The Town of Chevy Chase reported that Meadow Lane was closed between Aspen Street and Leland Street because of a downed tree.
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.
When I was younger and more serious about exercising (think 20-25 years ago), I had four bikes and regularly participated in local and regional biathlons and triathlons.
That was back in the day when such an event was lucky if 100 people showed. Now, zillions of people show up and they’ve turned into massive charity fundraisers.
Earlier this month, Montgomery County officials held a bike summit. One goal of the summit was to discuss ways to get more county residents to bike. To do this, some said a change in mindset was needed — not just an increase in bike facilities.
Exactly how does that happen?
I think it happens by radically altering our landscapes now. Make long lasting and serious improvements to our bike infrastructure now and more people will bike. I believe it is that simple.
We need to turn our focus from these chicken-and-egg questions to real results.
The summits we need are ones where builders and transportation officials sit in a room tasked with duplicating the super bike culture of a place like Portland, Oregon. Everything else is just wasted words.
Here’s Portland’s bike blueprint. Here is some of what Portland has in place:
• 181 miles of bike lanes (Not to be confused with bikeways, or off-road facilities such as the Capital Crescent Trail)
• 5,000 publicly-installed bike racks (After all, when you bike for that bagel you want somewhere to park your bike, right?)
• 15 intersections with bicycle-specific traffic signals to improve safety by reducing conflicts with cars (Could you imagine stopping your bike at the any really busy Montgomery County intersection and not being in conflict with cars?)
Good luck finding this kind of commitment to bike infrastructure in Montgomery County. We have no serious bike infrastructure. And without it, dreaming about a serious bike culture is just that — dreaming.
Build it now and we will ride.
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.
There was no shortage of snow in our area this winter. Judging by the long list of Golden Shovel award winners, there was no shortage of people willing to help neighbors shovel out of that snow either.
Next week, Councilmember Nancy Floreen will again present the Sidewalks Are Safe For Everyone/Golden Shovel award to a bunch of county residents who helped with shoveling and neighborhood safety during snow events.
Floreen, who started the awards program in 2003, will issue 82 Golden Shovel awards to 111 individuals, many in Bethesda and Chevy Chase.
The awards are back for the first time since 2010. But this time, Floreen decided to award all nominees because of the “seemingly never-ending” snow storms.
“Our seniors, school children, people with disabilities and those who walk to work or use mass transit depend on snow-free sidewalks. This goes beyond convenience — it is a matter of public safety,” Floreen said. “To duly recognize these unsung heroes for all the gratitude people expressed, I decided I have to honor everyone who was nominated. They all deserve a Golden Shovel.”
Included is Bethesda resident Fadjil Asikin who “almost single-handedly cleared the busy sidewalks near his house that connect his neighborhood with the Grosvenor Metro and Wildwood Shopping Center.”
There’s Lise and Bill Bernhard who helped a neighbor by clearing snow off steps and cars. The Capizzi family in Chevy Chase (Joe, Anna, Sophia and Peter) joined others to shovel sidewalks on a pedestrian-heavy stretch of Wisconsin Avenue. So did the Hinkley family and Melanie Folstad, also of Chevy Chase.
Bethesda’s Richard Hoye got nominations from several neighbors impressed by his personal plowing of sidewalks along Old Georgetown Road.
New Bethesda residents Mylene and Eric Jouane made friends in their neighborhood quickly by checking in on elderly neighbors and shoveling their sidewalks and paths.
Ben LeBlanc, a 13-year-old in Bethesda, shoveled his neighbor’s walkway and cleared her car of snow. Chevy Chase resident Rick McUmber took the shoveling of the Wisconsin Avenue sidewalk between Hunt Avenue and Bradley Boulevard into his own hands by being the first one out during storms.
Nearby in Chevy Chase, Sue Ousterhout and her daughter Gina Balodemas took on the sidewalk along Bradley Boulevard. Bethesda’s Joseph Porcelli created a website — snowcrew.org — to match up volunteers to residents who are unable to shovel.
Sara Robinson brought out her snow blower in Bethesda to clear the driveway of her medically vulnerable neighbor. Pete Salinger shoveled snow on his neighborhood’s sidewalks.
Floreen will present the awards during the Council’s regular session on Tuesday, April 22, starting at 9 a.m. in Rockville.
It started with a few students apparently cursing out and threatening MCPS Superintendent Joshua Starr on Twitter about a snow day.
A few days later, Starr wrote an open letter to all MCPS parents encouraging them to be aware of what their children were doing on internet social networks.
Now, MCPS is diving in on the issue of “cybercivility,” especially as it concerns school-aged kids and what their parents allow or don’t allow them to do on the internet.
On Thursday, April 24 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., MCPS will host a Cybercivility Community Forum at Richard Montgomery High School (250 Richard Montgomery Dr., Rockville). At the forum will be Andrea Weckerle, author of a book on the subject and founder and president of a nonprofit called CiviliNation, which cites its mission as “taking a stand for civil digital discourse.”
The school system has also started a Cybercivility Task Force it hopes will raise awareness and create ways for schools and parents to curb mean-spirited tweets, Facebook posts and other internet activity.
We ask you: Is cybercivility something that MCPS can achieve? Or, in the anonymous commenter-filled corners of the internet, is it a goal too far out of reach?
As always, feel free to expound on any opinions in the comments section below.
Video via myMCMedia