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by Aaron Kraut — April 15, 2015 at 3:00 pm 493 1 Comment

Michael Mosier, suffering from a rare type of brain tumor, colors in a map that keeps track of his "Big Hero Michael" fundraising effort for brain tumor research, Photo via Race For Hope - DC

A Bethesda family has raised more than $60,000 for brain tumor research in honor of their son, who is currently suffering from a brain tumor found just a week after his sixth birthday.

Michael Mosier was about to start kindergarten at Seven Locks Elementary School when he was diagnosed with a diffuse intrinsic pontine giloma brain tumor last September.

There are about 100-150 new diagnoses of the rare pediatric cancer a year in the U.S. and fewer than 10 percent of children with the tumor survive more than two years after diagnosis.

Mosier’s family started a “Big Hero Michael” fundraising team for the May 3 Race for Hope in D.C. Last year, the event raised $2.6 million for brain tumor research and support with 600 teams and 11,600 participants.

The Facebook-based fundraising effort has received $61,000 from people in 30 different countries with 163 members. Mosier, who must use a wheelchair and needs help with routine tasks, has been helping to keep track of the donations by coloring in a map.

The goal is to fill in a world map with yellow, Mosier’s favorite color.

Photo via Race For Hope – DC

by Aaron Kraut — April 15, 2015 at 1:50 pm 356 4 Comments

Uber DC, Flickr photo via MikeUber and other app-based ride services seem here to stay after a state law that makes it legal for the companies to operate was passed this week.

In Montgomery County, where members of the County Council have been debating Uber-related issues for months, the law could mean a 25-cent surcharge on all rides.

Councilmember Roger Berliner has been at the center of the Council’s debate on transportation network companies such as Uber and traditional taxi cab companies that claim they’re at a competitive disadvantage. The taxi industry is among the most heavily regulated in the county.

Uber, meanwhile, is a relatively new service that hasn’t faced the same type of driver background checks, vehicle maintenance requirements and licensing.

The state bill would require Uber drivers to go through fingerprint-based background checks if the Maryland Public Service Commission deems it’s necessary for public safety. It would also allow local governments to impose a 25-cent surcharge on Uber or Lyft rides.

That surcharge would go toward better service for the disabled in taxis. Berliner said Tuesday he hopes to introduce an amendment to the county bill he proposed that would create the surcharge.

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by Aaron Kraut — April 15, 2015 at 12:35 pm 176 0

The 2013 Annual Pike's Peek 10K (file photo)An annual 10K race on Rockville Pike will shut down two lanes of the road for much of the morning of Sunday, April 26.

The Pike’s Peek 10K takes runners from the Shady Grove Metro station to Marinelli Road. It’s set to start at 7:50 a.m. and will include post-race festivities at the finish line near the White Flint Metro station.

From 6:30 a.m. until after the last runner passes, the two center lanes of Rockville Pike from Gude Drive in Rockville to Marinelli Drive will be closed to traffic.

Traffic will be allowed in the right lanes at all times, though drivers won’t be able to cross to the other side of the Pike when runners are on the course. Each intersection will be staffed with county or City of Rockville police officers.

From 8:15 a.m.-9:15 a.m., northbound traffic on Rockville Pike will be diverted to eastbound Nicholson Lane to accommodate the post-race festival. Drivers can go east on Nicholson Lane, make a left on Nebel Street and then a left onto westbound Old Georgetown Road to return to the Pike.

The finish area will be stocked with food, family activities and music.

Registration is still open for the event.

by Aaron Kraut — April 15, 2015 at 11:25 am 2,033 12 Comments

Police and arson officials are investigating a bizarre series of fires set inside four vehicles in a Bethesda neighborhood on Wednesday.

A police spokesperson said a suspect or group of suspects went into four apparently unlocked vehicles in the area of Wessling Lane and Glenbrook Road, took property out of the glove compartments and set the property on fire in the vehicles. At least one of the fires was set in the vehicle’s front passenger’s seat.

One of the fires was set inside a minivan in a driveway at 5124 Wessling Lane, where homeowner Angela Zimmerman said her husband came outside at about 6 a.m. Wednesday to find a smoldering pile of papers and other items on the passenger seat with the door closed.

“We’ve had people do petty things — go through your glove compartment, whatever. But this is weird,” Zimmerman said. “The valet key was there. They didn’t try to take the car. They didn’t take anything.”

Zimmerman said police found a spray bottle they suspected was used to start the fire.

A luxury SUV at the house across the street had much worse damage, Zimmerman said.

Cops were looking at another car in the driveway of nearby 7010 Glenbrook Road.

A police spokesperson said the investigation is ongoing and the department hopes to have more information later today. Arson investigators from MCFRS are taking part in the investigation.

by Aaron Kraut — April 15, 2015 at 9:40 am 2,418 32 Comments

Workers pave over a driveway in Chevy Chase, at the center of a dispute between neighborsThe Chevy Chase woman fighting her neighbors over the paving of a driveway spent Monday night and much of Tuesday in a Montgomery County jail.

Deborah Vollmer said she was arrested on a warrant by police on Monday evening and taken to the county’s detention facility at Seven Locks.

Vollmer admitted that on March 25, she “physically prevented” some workers from putting up a fence dividing her property from the driveway, which she and her neighbor at 7200 44th Street share via a 1920s easement agreement.

That would be a violation of her probation resulting from a 2012 incident in which Vollmer wrote “No justice no peace” with her finger in wet concrete that was being applied for the driveway’s new apron. She also admitted to taking some of her neighbors’ paving stones and “throwing them down on the driveway.”

She was convicted of two counts of malicious destruction of property and ordered not to communicate with the Schwartzes. She’s brought at least six lawsuits against the family and the courts have sided with the Schwartzes each time. Vollmer has had to pay about $30,000 in legal costs.

A Circuit Court order requires Vollmer consent to her neighbors’ plans for the new driveway. She’s appealing the decision.

Vollmer wrote in an email to news outlets that she suspects the family’s lawyer, Steven Nemeroff, had something to do with having police act on the warrant. Nemeroff denied that claim and said he didn’t even know about the arrest until after it happened.

“I think it was an effort to humiliate me and to sort of beat me down when it could’ve been done a different way,” Vollmer said. “I’m not willing to totally cave in to their plans with no modification.”

This week, workers began putting down the new driveway.

“I had nothing to do it. She’s a lawyer right? What is ironic is that she knows what a court order means. She doesn’t want to abide by the court order,” Nemeroff said. “She doesn’t care. We agreed to pay 100 percent for the improvements. She refused all repairs. The law is that you have to maintain it.”

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by Aaron Kraut — April 15, 2015 at 8:45 am 181 0

Construction crane going up at 7100 Wisconsin, photo via Mike Landsman

Westbard Businesses Worried About Redevelopment – Business owners in the Westwood Shopping Center are waiting to see what will happen with property owner Equity One’s pitch to redevelop the facility and surrounding properties. Some are worried their businesses will effectively be shut out. Equity One says any rent increases will be based on the Consumer Price Index. Any construction is at least three or four years away and zoning still must be approved by the Planning Board and County Council. [The Gazette]

SMOB Bill Fails Again – A bill that would’ve given the student member of Montgomery County’s Board of Education full voting rights on issues such as employee contracts and the budget failed in the waning moments of the 2015 legislative session in Annapolis. The bill was poised for final passage just after midnight Tuesday when a Republican state senator from Frederick County questioned it. After his questions, a motion was made to close the legislative session. The bill would’ve applied only to Montgomery County. [Bethesda Magazine]

Bethesda Green Business Wins Award – Savenia Labs, a Bethesda Green incubator company that provides energy ratings for homes and appliances, was named to a “Best for the Environment” list by nonprofit B Lab. [Savenia Labs]

Ride On Food Donation – Ride On passengers will get a free ride if they donate a non-perishable food item for the county’s annual “Give and Ride” program. The program will run from Sunday, April 19-Saturday, April 25. Donations will go to Manna’s Smart Sack program, which helps primarily elementary school aged-children who rely on free and reduced price meals. [Montgomery County]

Photo via Mike Landsman

by Joseph Hawkins — April 14, 2015 at 3:20 pm 336 3 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.

For the past 15 years, I’ve worked as a federal contractor supporting a government survey that assesses school health.

I see what educators and health experts around the nation do to improve the lives of youth. And one of the side benefits of the work is that I get to attend the occasional conference to hear about what is actually happening on the ground.Photo via Real Food for Kids-Montgomery Several years ago, for example, I spent half a day listening to Kentucky educators explain how they connected local farmers and schools to improve school lunches. Local farmers also helped build functional school gardens. The end result was a true farm-to-table operation. Kentucky school children were eating just like the hipsters on the Food Network.

And so when a small group of Montgomery County Public Schools parents started advocating for “real” food, I paid attention. Was farm-to-table coming to MCPS?

Led by Lindsey Parsons and Karen Devitt, Real Food for Kids – Montgomery (RFKM) was formed in 2012.

In less than two years, RFKM has grown from a handful of supporters to over 3,900 countywide. There have been a few initial food fight victories for RFKM and the group has earned support from some on the County Council. For RFKM, the stars are lining up for great things to happen.

And so with RFKM now firmly on the radar, I decided to spend a little time with Devitt, allowing her to reflect on where she thinks RFKM is headed.

Joseph Hawkins: Beyond the data (the numbers of overweight of obese children, for instance) what single thing motivated you to form RFKM more than anything else?

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by Aaron Kraut — April 14, 2015 at 2:10 pm 1,489 37 Comments

Dr. Francis Collins, via NIHUpdated at 3:45 p.m. – The director of the National Institutes of Health is defending the agency’s controversial decision to add employee parking to its Bethesda campus.

Dr. Francis Collins said NIH was surprised by a 2004 decision from the National Capital Planning Commission that set a new guideline for Washington area federal agencies. Agencies are now expected to pursue a ratio of one parking space for every three employees as a way to dissuade single-occupancy vehicle trips and encourage use of mass transit.

Collins made the defense in a letter to County Councilmember Roger Berliner, who along with Rep. Chris Van Hollen and state legislators recently urged NIH to reconsider adding more parking spots in its campus expansion plan.

Collins also wrote that most NIH employees can’t afford housing in downtown Bethesda, much of which is within walking distance of the NIH campus.

He referred to “numerous high-rise construction projects boasting luxury apartments that will be unaffordable for nearly all NIH and Walter Reed employees.”

Current employee parking on the 310-acre NIH campus exceeds the 1:3 ratio by 2,129 spaces. The agency’s master plan will increase employee parking by 1,000 more spaces over the next 20 years, resulting in a long-term parking ratio of 1 parking space for every 2.4 employees.

The National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) rejected the plan because of the parking issue at its meeting on April 2. The hearing included a nearly hour-long discussion with an NIH planning official who claimed the agency needs the parking because it employs “a bunch of high-ranking scientists,” and “not your regular people.”

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by Aaron Kraut — April 14, 2015 at 1:22 pm 215 0

MCFRS (file photo)Montgomery County firefighters were on the scene of an apparent arcing insulator in the Red Line Metro tunnel north of the Bethesda station.

Firefighters were called to the station at about 1 p.m. Tuesday for the report of a fire on the track. MCFRS spokesperson Pete Piringer said there was no fire, but that Metro officials have advised firefighters of an arcing insulator about 200 feet north of the Bethesda station platform.

Metro has closed the track and is now single-tracking between the Bethesda and Medical Center stations. A little after 1:20 p.m., Metro advised MCFRS that it had the situation under control.

According to emergency scanner communications, Metro had to turn a train back because of smoky conditions in the tunnel.

Reports of smoke, often caused by arcing insulators, are a frequent occurrence in the tunnel because of leaking problems with the tunnel’s roof. Metro plans to close off the section for 14 weekends next year to fix the tunnel.

Firefighters responded to a similar arcing insulator incident near the Bethesda station just a week ago, the last time the area saw significant rain.

The Bethesda station is still open.

by Aaron Kraut — April 14, 2015 at 12:25 pm 508 8 Comments

Photo from tipster shows what appear to be a G&G tow truck driver watching the Connor Building lot from the third floor of the Woodmont Corner Garage across the streetUpdated at 4:45 p.m. – A new county law would combat predatory towing by outlawing the use of “spotters” from tow truck companies and tows that happen in the middle of the night without a property owner’s permission.

The legislation, introduced Tuesday by Councilmember Roger Berliner, would make it harder for tow truck companies to haul off vehicles they deem are parked illegally in private commercial parking lots.

There are between 30,000 and 40,000 trespass tows a year in Montgomery County and downtown Bethesda is among the more popular spots to find one, according to Eric Friedman, the director of the county’s Office of Consumer Protection.

The average cost to reclaim a towed vehicle is $168, not counting the time and effort it takes to get to the impound lot, which must be in Montgomery County no farther than 12 miles from the spot of the tow.

Friedman has been talking about the issue for years, appearing on national news programs and working with Berliner to craft the bill. A state law made Montgomery County’s ability to operate on its own more difficult with regards to trespass towing rules. There’s also a federal preemption issue that hinders the ability of local governments to establish their own guidelines.

But the bill introduced Tuesday would address many issues associated with what Friedman has labeled predatory towing — tows that are technically legal but seem unreasonable and that county officials say can hurt businesses districts.

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by Aaron Kraut — April 14, 2015 at 11:30 am 1,506 2 Comments

The Intelligence Community Campus-Bethesda under construction on Sangamore Road

Residents near a federal construction project in Bethesda say they’ve woken up to radios blaring at 4:30 a.m., seen half-naked workers changing clothes in a residential parking lot and almost been blocked in their driveways.

As construction continues on the $300 million, 40-acre Intelligence Community Campus-Bethesda (ICC-B) at 4600 Sangamore Road, some in nearby neighborhoods claim disruptive contractors who park outside of the secure, fenced-in site have been a problem for months.

Not all of the workers on the project have the necessary security clearance for the site, so some choose to park on nearby neighborhood streets.

While there is legal two-hour parking on streets such as Overlea Road in the Sumner neighborhood, resident Jane Croft said she and her husband have had to call Montgomery County traffic officers a few times to issue tickets.

“It was difficult getting out of our driveway because there were cars parked on both sides. That has improved a lot,” Croft said. “But we’ve been there when they’ve been issuing tickets. Guys come down and just look at the tickets and just throw them on the seat.”

At a meeting on Tuesday organized by neighborhood groups, deputy project manager Jim Turner said officials have continually told the workers — most who appear to be subcontractors for general contractor Whiting-Turner — to avoid parking on neighborhood streets.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the federal agency in charge of the project.

Turner said project managers have opened up about 40 spaces on another federal site on MacArthur Boulevard. There’s a roughly 20-space lot available on the ICC-B campus and recently, 100 spaces were made available in the campus’ new parking garage.

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by Aaron Kraut — April 14, 2015 at 10:15 am 677 7 Comments

Pike District logo rendering, via Streetsense/White Flint PartnershipThis logo could soon be coming to streets and storefronts across the recently-minted Pike District.

The White Flint Partnership, the group of developers planning to transform the area from strip shopping centers to mixed-use neighborhoods, hired Bethesda real estate firm Streetsense to come up with logo options using the Pike District name.

The Partnership and Streetsense did a naming study last year to come up with one name to define the unincorporated area alternatively known as White Flint, North Bethesda, Rockville and even Kensington.

While some said they preferred the area be known as White Flint, some developers hoped to avoid the label so their projects wouldn’t be confused for White Flint Mall or tied too closely to it. The Mall site is just one part of the redevelopment supposed to happen in the area thanks to Montgomery County’s 2010 White Flint Sector Plan.

A group of residents, business owners, county government officials and developers called the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee agreed to the Pike District name in December.

On Tuesday, the Downtown Advisory Committee gave its approval to using the logo on the county’s PikeDistrict.org, which had its soft launch Monday night. The website will formally launch next week at a chamber of commerce networking event at Pike & Rose.

Regional Services Center Director Ken Hartman, the county official behind the website and committee, said the logo’s color scheme hasn’t yet been set. Streetsense is working on a branding book that would outline how and where the logo could be used.

Rendering via Streetsense/White Flint Partnership

by Aaron Kraut — April 14, 2015 at 9:15 am 0

Photo via Mike Landsman

General Assembly Ends With Budget Standoff – Legislators approved a state budget including about $202 million that Gov. Larry Hogan says he won’t spend. About $68 million of that money is reserved for education funding in big counties such as Montgomery. The money can’t be spent on anything else this year, but Hogan argued the state will have to use the money in the future to fix budget deficits Democrats created. [Washington Post]

Rainy Tuesday – Expect rain to last much of the day Tuesday before tapering off this evening. [National Weather Service]

Board of Education To Discuss Controversial Collocation – The Board of Education on Tuesday is set to discuss a controversial proposal to collocate a special needs school with a future middle school in Bethesda. Interim Superintendent Larry Bowers recommended a collocation of Rock Terrace School an Tilden Middle School. A public hearing is set for April 27 and the Board may approve the proposal on May 12. [Board of Education]

Children’s Inn at NIH Partners With Marine Corps Marathon – Participants in this fall’s Marine Corps Marathon and 10K can raise money for the Children’s Inn at NIH with a personalized fundraising page and other benefits. [Children's Inn at NIH]

Photo via Mike Landsman

by Aaron Kraut — April 13, 2015 at 3:00 pm 151 0

Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson (file photo)The County Council is looking for applicants for two open Planning Board spots, though the people in those seats now are expected to re-apply.

The first terms of Commissioner Norman Dreyfuss and Chair Casey Anderson expire on June 14.

The Council tabbed Anderson to move from a commissioner’s seat to chair of the Board last year, making it seem unlikely that he would be replaced now.

Nonetheless, the Council is accepting applications for both positions with a deadline of 5 p.m. on Wednesday, April 29.

The Board provides the Council with recommendations on zoning and land use issues in area-wide master plans. It also reviews and approves all individual development proposals, plus approves the operating and capital budgets for Montgomery Parks.

The five members serve four-year terms and are limited to two full terms. Annual salary for the commissioners is $30,000, while the chair earns $200,000.

The Board meets every Thursday, third Wednesday of each month and during additional meetings. According to a County Council advertisement for the job, a Board member spends about two full days a week on average in scheduled and informal meetings. Additional time is needed for prep work.

by BethesdaNow.com Sponsor — April 13, 2015 at 1:45 pm 151 1 Comment

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.

Q: What are transfer and recordation taxes and how are they calculated?

Transfer and recordation taxes are fees imposed to the buyer and seller at settlement. These taxes are based on a percentage of the purchase price and are included within the closing cost section of the settlement sheet.

Transfer tax is a tax on the passing of title to property from one person or entity to another. Just like the title of the tax says, it is the tax to transfer title ownership from the seller to the buyer. In Montgomery County, the county transfer tax is 1 percent of the purchase price. The state transfer tax is 0.5 percent of the purchase price in all counties.

Recordation tax is a tax imposed by the State for any instrument that transfers an interest in real property or that creates a security interested in real or personal property. This is the tax imposed to record the legal documents with the clerks of Circuit Courts.

In Montgomery County, the recordation tax is $3.45 per every $500 (or $6.90 for every $1,000) up to a purchase price of $500,000. The recordation tax is $5 per every $500 (or $10 for every $1,000) for any purchase price above $500,000. Please note that the first $50,000 of the state recordation is exempt if the property will be the purchaser’s primary residence.

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