Undeterred by a Court of Special Appeals ruling against them, members of the Rock Creek Hills Citizens Association say they’re prepared to take their case against a middle school in their local park to the state’s highest court.
The neighborhood group is against the school system’s plan to to build a second Bethesda-Chevy Chase cluster middle school at the park (3701 Saul Rd.). MCPS says it needs the school to accommodate overcrowding at Westland Middle School and the planned reassignment of Grade 6 students from Chevy Chase and North Chevy Chase Elementary Schools.
Neighbors sued to block the school and maintain the 13.4-acre park. At issue was the manner in which the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) acquired the site from the Board of Education in 1990. At that time, the school system didn’t need the land.
A Montgomery County Circuit Court judge threw out the suit last April, saying the school system had the right to get the land back to build a new school. The Planning Board reluctantly transferred the land back to the Board of Education last July.
The Rock Creek Hills group appealed the Circuit Court decision. Earlier this month, the state’s Court of Special Appeals likewise threw out the suit.
But Citizens Association President Jim Pekar and member John Robinson said they consider the Court of Special Appeals’ findings to be “erroneous,” and they are prepared to file another appeal to the Court of Appeals, Maryland’s highest court:
Last week, a three-judge panel of the Court of Special Appeals, in Annapolis, released a ruling affirming the decision of the Circuit Court in Rockville, to dismiss our litigation seeking to enforce the law and protect Rock Creek Hills Park. The panel did not rule against our arguments that the proposed conversion of the Park is unlawful; instead, their ruling was based primarily on their finding that the appealing parties lack adjacent property owner and taxpayer standing.
Specifically, the Court of Special Appeals held that adjacent property owners lack adjacent property owner standing because the County’s option to reclaim the land for educational use was not a land-use related provision.
This week, the RCHCA Board held an emergency meeting. After reviewing the court’s ruling, and consulting with our counsel, we consider the findings of the Court of Special Appeals to be erroneous. This is particularly true given a March 27 decision of Maryland’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, which reached the opposite conclusion in a different case that dealt with similar issues. Given this, we are preparing a motion for reconsideration, asking the Court of Special Appeals to reconsider their decision on our standing in light of the recent Court of Appeals decision, and to rule on the merits of our case. Failing that, we are prepared to file an application for Certiorari to the Court of Appeals; that is, we are prepared to ask our State’s highest court to consider our case.
Your Board continues to believe that our case has considerable merit,and asks for your continued support in this matter.
In October, the Board of Education approved an agreement that would allow Montgomery Parks to continue to operate Rock Creek Hills Park as a park until construction started on the school. Construction for the unnamed middle school is slated to start in July 2015.
Despite the possibility of another appeal, it appears that opponents of the school realize they might be fighting a losing battle.
Last fall, Robinson told members of the Citizens Association that it would be a good idea to participate in design discussions about the school in order to get the best design for the building.
On Tuesday, the Board of Directors for Crossway Community, Inc., which runs the Community Montessori Charter School, voted to close the public section of the school because of insufficient funding.
The school opened as the county’s first public charter for the 2012-2013 school year, but said it only has public funding for 40 of the 100 students. The school has mixed-age Montessori-style classrooms of 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds.
According to a press release from Montgomery County Public Schools, parents can enroll students at the school in their neighborhood MCPS school for next year. Crossway’s not-for-profit non-charter school “is fully prepared logistically to absorb all charter school children for the next school year — and at this year’s tuition rates.”
In September, The Gazette reported that Crossway did not receive any school-system funding for its 3-year-old students and only received funds for some of its 4-year-olds who are income eligible. The school was looking to raise $150,000 in private donations during the 2013-2014 school year.
“We will work closely with the school and parents to ensure a smooth transition for students who move to their neighborhood school next year,” MCPS Superintendent Joshua Starr said in a prepared release. “We know this was a difficult decision for the Board of Directors and we will work with the charter school to facilitate the transition for students and their families.”
Crossway’s CEO said the failure of the charter school shouldn’t mean the end for the model in Montgomery County.
“Everyone involved can take heart that we’ve all had a promising vision of what the future of education will look like,” Kathleen Guinan said. “We know now where some of the pitfalls are and we have also seen the great potential of the idea. For over 22 years, Crossway Community has been and is committed to making great things happen for young children and their parents. This is consistent with the best research in the country in preparing our children for the 21st century. We will continue to focus on improving the lives of our youngest citizens ages zero through six years.”
Parents were notified of the vote in a letter on Wednesday and there will be a parent meeting at the school on Thursday at 6 p.m.
The USPS has been searching for months for a new location for the post office, which has a lease that’s about to end and wouldn’t survive the anticipated demolition and redevelopment of the mall.
USPS real estate specialist Rick Hancock wrote Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Director Ken Hartman on Friday to announce the new location will be at 5420 Edson Lane, a house that has been used as an office.
“We believe this new location will provide the community with an upgraded, modern facility that offers a safe working environment for our employees and the level of service expected by our customers,” Hancock wrote.
Hancock told BethesdaNow.com the house will be retrofitted for USPS use and there will be on-site parking. There are no plans to redevelop the house at this time.
The new site will be in the 20852 zip code, not the Kensington 20895 zip that somewhat confusingly includes the area of White Flint Mall. When the search started, Hancock said USPS was looking for a five-year lease with a five-year extension option at any new site.
Photo via Google Maps
A robbery at a Kensington bank and a pharmacy burglary lead the most recent 2nd District crime summary:
A commercial bank robbery occurred at the M & T Bank, 10420 Montgomery Avenue in Kensington on Saturday, 12/7 just before 1:00 p.m. The suspect threatened the victim with a weapon and obtained property.
Suspect: B/M, 200 lbs.
A commercial burglary occurred at Kensington Pharmacy, 3737 University Boulevard W. in Kensington on Thursday, 12/5 between 3:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. Forced entry; property taken.
The rest of the crime summary follows:
A commercial burglary occurred at International Pediatrics, 10901 Connecticut Avenue in Kensington sometime overnight between Tuesday, 12/3 and Wednesday, 12/4. Forced entry; property taken.
Eight thefts from vehicles were taken from vehicles parked in the 10600 block of Connecticut Avenue in Kensington overnight between Monday, 12/9 and Tuesday, 12/10. Vehicle parts were taken.
A bank robbery occurred at PNC Bank, 10211 Old Georgetown Road in Bethesda on Wednesday, 12/4 at approximately 9:50 a.m.
Arrested: Male, age 47, from Rockville
A residential burglary occurred in the 7400 block of Helmsdale Road in Bethesda overnight between Sunday, 12/8 and Monday, 12/9. No forced entry into car and garage. Property taken.
A theft from vehicle occurred in the 7400 block of Helmsdale Road in Bethesda overnight between Sunday, 12/8 and Monday, 12/9. Vehicles were left unlocked and an iPod and loose cash were taken.
Fifteen incidents of theft of property outside homes occurred in this beat during the late night or early morning hours. Incidents occurred on Wood Way, Marilyn Drive, Randall Lane, Nahant Street, Ft. Sumner Drive, Scarsdale Road, Duvall Drive, Baltan Road, Ridgefield Road, Searl Terrace, and Namakagan Road.
A commercial burglary occurred at the Village Green Apothecary, 5415 West Cedar Lane in Bethesda on Monday, 12/2 between 8:00 p.m. and 8:40 p.m. Forced entry; nothing taken.
A theft occurred at Unlimited Electrical Contractors, 7101 Democracy Boulevard in Bethesda on Saturday, 12/7. Property taken from a construction site.
The United States Postal Service on Tuesday revealed the four options it’s looking at for a replacement for the White Flint Mall Post Office.
In a letter (see below) to Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Director Ken Hartman, USPS real estate specialist Rick Hancock wrote that a Site Review Committee officially ruled out staying or relocating within White Flint Mall.
“The Mall redevelopment will not be completed for 2-3 years,” Hancock wrote. “It is not an operationally feasible or economically viable alternative to operate a Postal facility in a construction redevelopment site.”
The Committee also apparently looked at, then ruled out Metro Pike Center. It’s slated for redevelopment.
The four options still on the table, and subject to a 30-day public commenting period are:
– 5420 Edson Lane
– 5000-5060 Nicholson Lane (Nicholson Plaza)
– 11760 Parklawn Drive — (Parklawn Commerce Center)
– 11601-11631 Nebel Street — (Flint Hill Building)
All four of the sites are in the 20852 zip code. Thanks to a bizarrely drawn zip code map, the existing White Flint Mall post office is in the Kensington zip of 20895. Many in the urbanizing White Flint area would like a zip code of their own.
Hancock has said the main concerns for a new post office building are finding a five-year lease and a site with enough parking and access for mail trucks.
See the letter for instructions on how to submit comments.
Meanwhile, there has been no progress on finding a location for a second Bethesda post office. Hartman reports the Postal Service is still looking for a site that is both economically viable and operationally feasible.
Members of the Rock Creek Hills Citizens’ Association and the Save The Rock Creek Hills Park group have sought to block the school and maintain the 13.4-acre park that the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) acquired from the Board of Education in 1990.
In April, Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Ronald Rubin ruled in favor of the school system, which wants to build a second middle school at the park (3701 Saul Rd.) to accommodate overcrowding at Westland Middle School and the planned reassignment of Grade 6 students from Chevy Chase and North Chevy Chase Elementary Schools.
In July, the Planning Board reluctantly agreed turned the park over to the school system.
On Tuesday, the Board of Education approved an agreement that would allow Montgomery Parks to continue to operate the property as a park until construction started on the school. Construction for the unnamed Bethesda-Chevy Chase Middle School No. 1 is slated for July 2015.
Meanwhile, MCPS has been holding a series of four community worksessions on the design of the school. The final two are set for Wednesday, Oct. 16 at 3:45 p.m. and Wednesday, Oct. 30 at 7 p.m. Both will be in the media center of North Chevy Chase Elementary School (3700 Jones Bridge Rd.).
There will be a PTA/community schematic design presentation on Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. at the school.
In September, Rock Creek Hills Citizens’ Association President John Robinson wrote on the group’s website that it may be time to give up the fight against the school in order to get the best design for the building:
Below is a notice regarding the meetings the School Board Staff is scheduling for the schematic design of the proposed BCC MS #2 planned for the Rock Creek Hills Local Park site starting September 11. It is appropriate to attend those meetings to be informed and to suggest design changes that would mitigate the impact of the proposed school and to assure it most effectively serves the students if it is built. However I believe nothing will be gained at this point from protesting the prior decision at these meetings or debating whether the school should be built. The Council President recently affirmed that the Council and the rest of the County government consider this issue closed. If we are to be effective as a
community in addressing design concerns, it should be for constructive engagement and comment. Otherwise we are likely be ignored and undercut any educational and design concerns our residents may have.
An appeal with the Court of Special Appeals has no briefing schedule yet. It can take that court two years to to issue a final decision.
It was a special day at Kensington Parkwood Elementary, where a throng of students gathered three blocks from the school before a coordinated walk to mark International Walk to School Day.
Principal Barbara Liess wishes it was a bit more ordinary. School buses and parents driving their kids in the morning often cause traffic issues in the immediate vicinity of the Saul Road school.
“Let’s do this more often, and not just today, when we do this on purpose,” Leiss said.
A number of schools across the county held similar events. Walk to School Day is meant to highlight the benefits of walking to school.
County Executive Isiah Leggett, Councilmember Roger Berliner and other officials spoke about walking to school as a health and environmental issue.
Near Bethesda Elementary, at the intersection of Arlington Road and Edgemoor Lane, the focus was squarely on safety.
In February, a three-month old child in a stroller was dragged from a crosswalk on Arlington Road by a motorist. The child was uninjured.
Since that incident, a group of Bethesda Elementary parents and the Action Committee for Transit have been urging the county to make traffic-calming adjustments to the road, including reducing speed limits, making no right-turn on red signs and installing leading interval intersections that would mean exclusive windows for pedestrians to cross.
“When we got to the other side, we heard this, ‘Oh my baby. Oh my baby.’ There was this woman running after this SUV,” said Jane Hodges, a Bethesda Elementary School staff member who witnessed the incident. “I called 9-1-1. The car finally stopped about a quarter of the way down that block. I couldn’t look because I could see there was a baby buggy underneath the car. I couldn’t look. I just couldn’t look.”
The infant was strapped in and covered because it had been lightly raining that day. Hodges said the driver seemed to be in shock and the baby, who wasn’t hurt, had been sleeping.
Action Committee for Transit members held up signs at the intersection on Wednesday. The group says it has yet to receive a response from the Montgomery County Department of Transportation about its suggested traffic-calming measures.
“The county is spending thousands of dollars to bus children a few blocks because the streets are so unsafe,” said Bethesda Elementary parent Wendy Leibowitz, who has been leading the effort. “The steps to safer streets around our school are clear and inexpensive. If the county made a few of those changes, there would be less need for buses, and we’d have healthier children who can walk to school and back.”
The county has conducted visible police enforcement of the intersection and installed new 25 mph speed limit signs in the school zone. The county has also repainted many of the “ladder crosswalks” in downtown Bethesda to ensure visibility.
Kensington Parkwood Elementary School (4710 Saul Rd.) will host a number of county officials for the annual event, meant to encourage students and parents to walk or bike to school and put more attention on unsafe driving behaviors.
The walk will begin at 9:05 a.m. at the corner of Saul and Wildwood Roads. County Executive Isiah Leggett, Councilmember Roger Berliner, Board of Education member Shirley Brandman, Del. Al Carr, Kensington Parkwood principal Barbara Liess and others will participate in the walk.
The event will also highlight the school’s “School Pool” program, a service that matches parents of students who attend the same school for transportation purposes. Kindergarten-second grade students will get an assembly on safe walking tips.
In February, a three-month old child in a stroller was hit and dragged from a crosswalk on Arlington Road near Bethesda Elementary School. The child was uninjured.
Since, a group of parents at the school have started an effort to get the county to install a number of traffic-calming measures. The county responded by conducting police enforcement of the intersection and installing new 25 mph speed limit signs in the school zone.
The announcement was a mere formality. The post office can’t remain in the mall, much of which is set to be torn down and redeveloped into a mixed-use town center-style property. The lease is up May 31, 2014 and USPS says White Flint Mall won’t renew it.
USPS real estate specialist Rick Hancock explained the moving process at a community meeting in July.
After that meeting, six people wrote in to either ask that the post office remain in the mall or to raise concerns about parking and convenience at the yet-to-be-determined new location.
USPS Vice President of Facilities Tom A. Samra wrote the decision to move is now final. (See the letter below.)
Samra also wrote: “The Postal Service’s goal is to secure a new customer service location as close to the current site as possible and within the same ZIP Code.”
That would mean a new post office location in Kensington, a good distance from White Flint Mall thanks to a strange 20895 zip code that is split in two parts around the incorporated town of Garrett Park. The smaller, westernmost part of the zip code reaches to the area around White Flint Mall, which also happens to be part of the White Flint Sector as designated by Montgomery County and the Planning Department.
Because of the expected surge in residents and businesses in the area, many White Flint leaders said they’d like to see the White Flint Mall post office stay in the area, even if it can’t stay in the 20895 zip code.
Before the July meeting, the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee decided to pursue a separate zip code for the White Flint Sector, similar to how Fairfax County won approval from the USPS in 2011 to combine two zip codes of McLean and Vienna into one for redeveloping Tysons.
At the time, Hancock said he couldn’t say for sure if the new post office would have to remain in the 20895 zip code.
Hancock is in charge of finding new possible sites for the 1,200-square-foot retail post office. The new post office will provide the same services as the existing one does, according to Samra.
A trio of big events should leave anybody staying in town with plenty to do this Labor Day weekend.
Glen Echo Park is hosting its annual Labor Day Art Show with an opening reception at 7 p.m. on Friday. The Show will run from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Admission is free.
The exhibition will feature the work of more than 250 artists, many who have been instructors or students at Glen Echo Park (7300 MacArthur Blvd.) Most artwork on display will also be for sale.
Also at Glen Echo Park this weekend is the Irish Music & Dance Showcase, free and open to the public in the Bumper Car Pavilion. The show will run from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Monday.
On Sunday, The 4th Annual Bake Bethesda A Pie Contest from Central Farm Markets will go down at Bethesda Elementary School (7600 Arlington Blvd.).
More than 200 spectators watched 45 participants show off their crusty creations during last year’s event. A D.C. woman won both categories with a tropical fresh coconut pie and a tomato onion goat cheese pie. Each pie will be judged on overall appearance, crust color, flavor, texture and doneness, filling consistency, flavor and originality.
Spectators will be able to try the pies afterward.
Finally, there’s the Town of Kensington’s 46th Annual Labor Day Parade and
You can expect a lot of community organizations to take part, as well as a number of county lawmakers looking to build support for next June’s Democratic primary.
The festival portion of the event, which includes food, vendors and kids activities, will run at Kensington’s Town Hall (3710 Mitchell St.) until 3 p.m.
The show ill run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on both days at 3710 Mitchell St. This year’s show includes free train whistles for the first 1,000 kids, a “train doctor” to answer repair questions about model trains and railroad songs and train tales.
The event, sponsored by the Town of Kensington and Gary and Diana Ditto of Long & Foster Realtors, benefits the Noyes Children’s Library Foundation and the Kensington Historical Society.
The National Capital Trackers club is a group of enthusiasts who set up “O” Gauge electric trains in layouts around the area. Tickets are $5 for adults, $2 for children and $10 for families.
Police spokesperson Angela Cruz said the incident was called in just before 12:30 p.m. on Monday from the Library, at 4201 Knowles Ave. in Kensington.
Cruz described the suspect as a a black man in his 60s with a tall to medium build, beard, red top and red pants. Cruz said a preliminary report on the incident classified it as indecent exposure.
The police lookout was for a man seen masturbating next to a patron inside the library.
Flickr photo via Montgomery County Public Libraries
UPDATE 8:56 a.m. Leonard Stone has been located, according to Montgomery County Police. According to police scanner traffic, Stone was brought to a local hospital by a good samaritan on Monday.
ORIGINAL Montgomery County Police are looking for a missing Kensington man who suffers from dementia and other medical issues.
Leonard “Rob” Stone, 65, of the 4500 block of Everett Street was last seen at about 9:30 a.m. on Monday at his home. Family and police are concerned for him. In a press release on Monday, police said Stone does not have prescribed medications with him.
Stone walks extremely slowly and with a limp and may have a cane with him. Police believe he has his ID and a small amount of cash with him.
Police described him as a white male, 5-foot-8 tall, who weighs about 155 pounds. He has a gray beard, blue eyes and wears rimmed glasses. He was last seen wearing a long-sleeved, navy blue, crew neck shirt, a white undershirt and baggy, khaki pants.
Police are asking anyone with information on Stone’s whereabouts to call the Montgomery County Police Department’s non-emergency number: 301-279-8000.
Photo via MCP
The Montgomery County Department of Transportation is replacing a pipe on Beach Drive at Old Spring Road, just north of the Beltway near the LDS Temple. Motorists should expect minor delays during the construction period, which is scheduled to last through Aug. 1.
Montgomery Parks announced to expect the road to be closed from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on or about July 17.
The rest of the project will include more temporary closures from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Photo via Google Maps
The United States Postal Service has started its search for a new site for the White Flint Mall post office.
That’s about all that is certain after a public meeting on Wednesday with USPS real estate specialist Rick Hancock, who is tasked with finding possible sites for a 1,200-square-foot retail post office.
Also certain is the post office, which is in the White Flint Mall, must move from its existing location. Lerner Enterprises wants to tear down the mall and redevelop the site. Hancock said the agency’s lease with the mall ends May 31, 2014.
The remaining details are unclear.
The post office today is in the 20895 zip code, a Kensington zip that is split in two parts around the incorporated town of Garrett Park (20896). The smaller, westernmost part of the zip code reaches to the area around White Flint Mall, which also happens to be part of the White Flint Sector as designated by Montgomery County and the Planning Department.
The rest of the White Flint Sector is in Rockville/North Bethesda zip code 20852.
Before Hancock began his presentation, the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee decided to pursue a separate zip code for the White Flint Sector, similar to how Fairfax County won approval from the USPS in 2011 to combine two zip codes of McLean and Vienna into one for redeveloping Tysons.
A staff member from Rep. Chris Van Hollen’s office said it should be possible to set up a meeting with USPS officials.
Hancock made it clear from the start he wasn’t the official to talk to about redrawing zip codes. It’s unclear if USPS is aware of the boom in housing units, office space and retail planned in the next 20 to 30 years for the White Flint Sector and if that would even effect the process of finding a new post office location.
Hancock couldn’t say whether the newly located post office would still be in the 20895 zip.
“As close to where we’re at now as economically viable,” said Hancock, when asked if the post office could change zip codes.
He said White Flint Mall indicated it would like the post office out sooner than next May. Francine Waters from Lerner Enterprises said that isn’t true and the mall wants the post office to remain on its property.
But Hancock said USPS isn’t looking for any sort of temporary set-up for the new location. USPS and its real estate contractor are looking for a five-year lease with a five-year extension option, which could provide some flexibility for the post office to move back to the redeveloped White Flint Mall site when it’s complete.
Image via Zip Code Map