Van Hollen Gets Endorsement From Prince George’s Executive — Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker on Wednesday endorsed Rep. Chris Van Hollen for Senate. That invited questions about why the black leader of a majority-black county wouldn’t support Rep. Donna Edwards, who is black and who represents Prince George’s. County Executive Isiah Leggett, who endorsed Van Hollen just days after he announced, defended the choice. [Washington Post]
SMOB Bill Looks Likely To Pass — A bill that would let the Student Member of the Board on the county’s Board of Education vote on things such as budgets, collective bargaining and boundary changes looks likely to pass in the General Assembly. Some have criticized the idea of letting the SMOB — typically a 17- or 18-year-old high school student — weigh in on certain MCPS issues. [Bethesda Magazine]
Kensington Car Show — The 2nd Annual Kensington Car Show is set for Sunday, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on Howard Avenue. Besides the cars and motorcycles, there will be music from “The Nighthawks,” face painting, a monster truck and food from the Corned Beef King. [Kensington Car Show]
Tax Day Chips And Queso — California Tortilla (4871 Cordell Avenue) is offering free chips and queso to anyone who uses the secret password “Taxes Shmaxes” on Wednesday, April 15. [California Tortilla]
Photo via Mike Landsman
Things have gotten testy between planners and MCPS officials who disagree about how to best protect trees at the site of a planned middle school in Kensington.
The middle school, which MCPS says it badly needs to ease overcrowding in the Bethesda-Chevy Chase cluster, has been at the center of controversy and litigation since at least 2010.
A discussion at the March 26 Planning Board hearing also illustrated the apparent rift between planners and school officials when it comes to designing new schools on smaller-than-preferred school sites.
At the hearing, MCPS Facilities Management director James Song and construction direction Craig Shuman argued that an alternate design for the school pushed by Planning Department staff to save more trees actually would result in more tree loss, more retaining walls, more impervious surfaces and the loss of four or five parking spaces.
While the Planning Board can issue only an advisory opinion on the overall school design, it does hold legal authority over the project’s forest conservation plan. Planners made clear that they would deny the original forest conservation plan submitted by MCPS. MCPS officials said that decision would delay the construction of sorely needed school space.
Planning Department Director Gwen Wright claimed MCPS staff had contacted PTA representatives in the days before the hearing “and told them that Park and Planning is trying to delay the project and that they should speak up.”
“That’s a very disappointing outcome to what started as a collaborative effort to solve a difficult problem to try to achieve a plan that would meet the law,” Wright said.
Song said the approaches suggested by planners since they started talking almost a year ago just wouldn’t work. Both sides had different ideas of the impact various designs would have.
“I wish this was able to be solved last May, but I think we have demonstrated that we have been working collaboratively over the last 10 months,” Song said before Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson interrupted.
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.”
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.
With 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.”
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.
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.
One 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
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.
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
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
The 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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
Photo via Colleen’s BA 5K