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by Aaron Kraut — March 23, 2015 at 3:25 pm 1,205 7 Comments

A developer hopes to build 16 townhomes between the Capital Beltway and Rock Creek in Chevy Chase.

Nova-Habitat, Inc. is proposing the three- and four-story townhomes for 9213 Kensington Parkway and three single-family home lots on the adjoining Glenmoor Drive.

The site is sandwiched by the Beltway off-ramp to Connecticut Avenue, Rock Creek and the WSSC’s Water Tunnel Shaft project to the west of Kensington Parkway.

The project would be called Creekside. On Thursday, the Planning Board will consider weather to recommend the rezoning the project requires.

A county hearing examiner will take up the zoning change on April 13. Nova-Habitat hopes to change the zoning from single-family residential to the new Townhouse-Floating Zone included in the new county zoning ordinance that went into effect last October.

The County Council would have to approve the zoning change.

“The Applicant proposes to redevelop the entire site under the new (TF-12) zoning category, in order to allow flexibility in residential development, including site layout, lot size, and placement and to provide residential development that is compatible with the surrounding neighborhood,” wrote Planning Department staff in their recommendation to allow the zoning change. “Their stated goal is to develop a project that will balance the natural settings and recreational amenities of adjacent Rock Creek Park with the site’s close proximity to employment centers and transit infrastructure.”

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by Aaron Kraut — March 17, 2015 at 12:35 pm 752 14 Comments

Planners' proposed alternative for B-CC Middle School No. 2 entrance

The design for a new Bethesda-Chevy Chase cluster middle school would take out too many trees, according to Montgomery County planners.

The Planning Board is set to review the school system’s preferred design for the yet-to-be-named Bethesda-Chevy Chase Middle School No. 2 next week. In their report, planning staff says they’re working with MCPS on a new entrance and parent drop-off loop that will mean fewer trees are removed for the project.

The four-story school, set for the former Rock Creek Hills Local Park in Kensington, will help ease overcrowding in Westland Middle School, the only current middle school in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School cluster.

The existing curb cuts at the site (3701 Saul Road) are more than 30 feet below the proposed school building entrance. That means MCPS would have to remove 31 trees and impact two others, mostly because of a retaining wall needed to support the drop-off loop along the steep hill.

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by Aaron Kraut — March 9, 2015 at 11:30 am 0

A swastika spray-painted on an inflatable Santa decoration, via MCPWith no further leads, police have closed their investigation into a series of swastikas spray-painted on an inflatable Christmas decoration, signs and other pieces of property in a Kensington neighborhood.

While police were able to make arrests in two other high-profile hate crimes in 2014, the Kensington spray-painting incident will only be reopened if new information comes in, according to the department’s annual bias and hate crime report released last week.

The department reported 33 incidents with a bias or hate component. Police said 18 of those incidents were criminal, an unofficial number that will be confirmed when the FBI publishes its annual report.

It was the second straight year the number of hate crimes in Montgomery County increased, though the number of hate crimes remained down significantly compared to the 10-year peak of a little more than 40 in 2006.

“Each of these criminal acts represents more than just a statistic to us. Each carries with it a victim, and some harm to our community. That harm to our community is never more visible than when we respond to and investigate a hate crime,” Police Chief Thomas Manger wrote in the report. “A swastika spray painted on a car, or a racial slur etched into the front door of a home would not be merely examples of vandalism cases. These crimes, motivated by bias, can send shockwaves throughout our community. The potential for harm to our residents’ sense of safety and well-being underscores the importance of responding appropriately to these kinds of acts.”

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by Aaron Kraut — January 6, 2015 at 7:10 am 552 0

Downed pole leads to power outage in Kensington/Chevy Chase, via Pepco

Updated at 8:35 a.m. – A downed utility pole and wires along Connecticut Avenue have almost 600 Pepco customers without power on Tuesday morning in Kensington.

The downed wires also have southbound Connecticut Avenue and all but one northbound lane closed.

The wires came down near Connecticut Avenue and Dunnel Lane, according to MCFRS spokesperson Pete Piringer.

According to Pepco’s outage map, 597 customers are affected by the outage and power should be restored by 9 a.m. Tuesday.

The outage has a number of traffic lights out along Connecticut Avenue just north of the Capital Beltway. According to police, only one northbound lane is open north of Beach Drive.

Al Carr, District 18 delegate, reports a car traveling northbound on Connecticut Avenue hit a Pepco pole and the wires then got caught up in a snow plow.

Via Pepco

by Aaron Kraut — December 27, 2014 at 2:35 pm 735 1 Comment

Hate crime on Brookfield Drive in Kensington

Residents in one Kensington neighborhood woke up on Saturday to swastikas spray-painted on an inflatable Christmas decoration, signs and other pieces of property.

Police said that officers have documented eight instances of swastikas, racial slurs and profane language written with blue spray paint on three nearby streets just off Summit Avenue.

A swastika spray-painted on an inflatable Santa decoration, via MCPOne includes a swastika painted on an inflatable Santa decoration. Another includes a swastika and a Star of David symbol with lines drawn through it on a contractor’s sign in front of a Brookfield Drive home under construction.

Police said they believe the vandalism, which “rises to the level of a hate incident,” happened overnight from Friday to Saturday.

The vandalism happened in the 4200 block of Matthews Lane, the 4200 block of Brookfield Drive and the 13400 block of Summit Avenue.

Anyone with information regarding this event or the suspect or suspects involved is asked to call the Montgomery County Police at 301-279-8000.

Inflatable Christmas decoration photo via MCP

by Aaron Kraut — December 12, 2014 at 11:40 am 0

Suspect in three local bank robberies, via MCPMontgomery County Police say a suspect in a Tuesday bank robbery in Kensington could be the same person who robbed a Bethesda bank earlier this year.

Police released surveillance camera photos of the suspect during the Tuesday robbery, which the department said happened at the M&T Bank branch in the town’s Antique Row area (10420 Montgomery Avenue).

Police said the man entered the bank, approached the teller, showed the teller a handgun and requested money. He got an undisclosed amount of cash and fled the bank.

Suspect in three local bank robberies, via MCPBecause of a similar clothing style, investigators think the same suspect robbed the Capital One Bank on Westlake Terrace on Jan. 8 and the M&T Bank on River Road in Potomac on Dec. 27, 2012.

Anyone with information regarding the identity of the suspect involved in the bank robberies is asked to contact Crime Solvers of Montgomery County toll-free at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477) or leave a Crime Solvers tip. Crime Solvers will pay a cash reward of up to $10,000 for information provided to them that leads to the arrest and, or the indictment of this suspect. Tipsters will remain anonymous.

Information can also be provided to the FBI-Baltimore Field Office at 410-265-8080. The FBI is offering $5,000.00 for information that leads to an arrest in this case.

Photos via MCP

by Aaron Kraut — October 3, 2014 at 9:00 am 205 1 Comment

Flickr photo by ehpien

Students Eat Free At ShopHouse – ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen (4820 Bethesda Ave.) is offering all students with a valid student ID a free bowl and soda from 4 p.m. to close on Wednesday, Oct. 8. It’s part of the Chipotle spin-off’s month-long study break promotion. Students will get a free soda all October with the purchase of a bowl. [ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen]

Westbard Survey Time – The Planning Department has put out an online survey looking for what issues residents are most interested in during the Westbard Sector Plan rewrite, which could mean new development patterns for the area near River Road and Westbard Avenue. [Planning Department]

Pancake House Takes Walk & Ride Challenge – The team from The Original Pancake House won this year’s Walk & Ride Challenge with members walking an average of 273,814 steps during their commutes over a three-week period. The event is meant to encourage the use of alternative transportation modes. The winners will get a prize package including a $125 Amazon gift card and gift basket donated by Bradley Food & Beverage. [Bethesda Transportation Solutions]

West Antique Row Sidewalk Sale – A group of design and antique shops along Kensington’s Howard Avenue will have an outdoor sale from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday (4228 Howard Ave.). [On the Purple Couch]

Flickr photo by ehpien

by Aaron Kraut — September 23, 2014 at 9:00 am 330 6 Comments

One of the early site plans for the proposed middle school at the Rock Creek Hills Local ParkThe state’s highest court on Monday declined to hear an appeal from opponents of a second middle school in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase School Cluster, likely clearing the way for the new school in a Kensington park.

Members of the Rock Creek Hills Citizens’ Association are against the school system’s plan to to build the yet-to-be-named middle school at the Rock Creek Hills 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 in April 2013, 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 in July 2013.

The Rock Creek Hills group appealed the Circuit Court decision. In April 2014, the state’s Court of Special Appeals likewise threw out the suit. A few weeks later, RCHCA President Jim Pekar and member John Robinson said they considered the Court of Special Appeals’ findings to be “erroneous,” and they filed another appeal to the Court of Appeals, Maryland’s highest court.

On Monday, the Court of Appeals declined the group’s petition for certiorari, which means the Court of Special Appeals finding will be upheld.

“Your RCHCA Board of Directors will consult with legal counsel regarding what steps may be available to us at this point,” Pekar wrote.

He also asked for donations to the group’s litigation fund, which has an outstanding balance.

Construction for the unnamed middle school is slated to start in July 2015.

by Aaron Kraut — August 29, 2014 at 11:45 am 737 2 Comments

Town of Kensington Labor Day Parade

Monday will mark the 47th Annual Kensington Labor Day Parade and Festival.

The parade starts at 10 a.m. at the corner of St. Paul Street and Plyers Mill Road and will include local school marching bands, equestrian show groups, floats, people from local religions and nonprofit organizations as well as a bevy of political officials reminding you to vote in November’s Gubernatorial election.

The event is more than just the parade — food and arts vendors will set up on Armory and Howard Avenues during and after the main festivities.

Northbound Connecticut Avenue traffic through Kensington will be diverted into southbound lanes during the parade.

by Aaron Kraut — July 17, 2014 at 8:10 am 370 1 Comment

The Margherita pizza from Frankly...Pizza

A mobile pizza operation that frequented a number of local farmers markets will open a brick-and-mortar restaurant next week in Kensington.

Frankly…Pizza! began in 2011 with a wood fired oven on the back of owner Frank Linn’s truck. The Neapolitan-style pies will now have a permanent home at 10417 Armory Ave., behind the Kensington Safeway grocery store.

After some permitting and build-out delays, Linn announced via Facebook on Wednesday that the restaurant will open Wednesday, July 23. The shop will start out with a limited menu before adding more selections in the first few weeks.

It will be open from 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

No word if Linn will maintain the mobile operation. It became a hit at markets including the weekly Rock Spring Park Market in a Bethesda office park.

by Aaron Kraut — July 10, 2014 at 10:40 am 479 1 Comment

Drone videography is all the rage these days, so one local hobbyist recently got permission to capture scenes from above the famous temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints just north of the Beltway in nearby Kensington.

Tony Collins got footage of the structure’s six spires (the tallest reaches 288 feet), angel Moroni statue and grounds below.

In less than three days, the video has got more than 47,000 views.

The temple opened in 1974, and famously inspired a series of “Surrender Dorothy” graffiti messages on a nearby Beltway overpass. The tops of four spires were knocked off during the earthquake that shook much of the Washington area in 2011. Repairs were made later that year.

Video via Tony Collins

by Aaron Kraut — June 24, 2014 at 12:10 pm 691 1 Comment

Jose Mercedes, via MCPMontgomery County Police said the bank robbery suspect they found hiding in a backyard shed on Monday admitted to robbing two banks in Potomac and one in Bethesda.

Police said Jose Mercedes, 45, of Hyattsville, entered the M&T Bank at 10420 Montgomery Ave. in Kensington around 4:39 p.m. on Monday. Police said Mercedes then passed a note to the teller demanding money and implying he had a weapon.

Mercedes was given cash, police said, before being tracked down with the help of K9 officers to a backyard shed in the 3200 block of McComas Avenue. Police said the cash from the bank was in Mercedes’ pockets. Police said they also found the money bag and other evidence nearby.

Police said Mercedes then admitted to committing a Dec. 21 bank robbery at the M&T Bank at 10100 River Rd., the Dec. 26 robbery at the M&T Bank at 7920 Norfolk Ave. and the March 1 bank robbery at the Wells Fargo at 9812 Falls Rd.

Police have charged Mercedes with four counts of armed robbery.

He is being held without bond and has a bond review hearing at 1 p.m. on Tuesday at District Court in Rockville.

Photo via MCP

by Aaron Kraut — May 29, 2014 at 11:45 am 212 0

Colleen Mitchel, photo via Colleen's BA 5KA local family whose daughter died last year awaiting a liver transplant is holding a 5K fundraiser to help discover the cause of a form of liver disease.

Colleen Mitchel was born with biliary atresia (BA), a serious liver disease affecting infants and children. Mitchel had a liver transplant at seven months old and went through six months of chemotherapy to treat a form of lymphoma at 22 months old.

Throughout middle school and high school, Mitchel battled infections and medical complications but still played field hockey and enjoyed her time at Walter Johnson High School. She graduated from Walter Johnson in 2011 and started at the University of Michigan that fall.

Her health declined in her sophomore year and after spending a month in intensive care awaiting another liver transplant, she died in March 2013, a week shy of her 20th birthday.

Colleen’s BA 5K is set for June 7 at Grace Episcopal Day School (9411 Connecticut Ave.) and will travel along Beach Drive in Kensington and Chevy Chase.

The Colleen Mitchel Memorial Fund was set up by the Mitchel family and the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region to fund research into biliary artresia at the Johns Hopkins Pediatric Liver Center. It’s at Johns Hopkins where Mitchel received much of her care — there are more than 190 medical entries in her file there, including 15 operations and 41 hospital admissions.

“Many admired her strength and resilience, knowing all that she went through as an infant and toddler — the liver transplant, lymphoma, chemotherapy, blood transfusions, and hospitalizations,” reads the race website.

The family is also accepting donations for the Memorial Fund. For more information, visit the race website.

Photo via Colleen’s BA 5K

by Aaron Kraut — April 14, 2014 at 9:20 am 599 11 Comments

One of the early site plans for the proposed middle school at the Rock Creek Hills Local ParkUndeterred 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.

by Aaron Kraut — January 15, 2014 at 4:40 pm 300 2 Comments

MCPSThe Kensington public charter school that became Montgomery County’s first will go back to operating as a private school next school year.

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.

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