Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Car stolen in Pike District, theft from vehicle on Wisconsin Ave. + more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on October 4, according to crime data:

Theft from vehicle. 8200 block Wisconsin Avenue at 3:12 PM.

Vehicle burglary. 4700 block Merivale Road.

Stolen car. Metro Pike Center at 6:13 PM (Pike District).

Assault. Montrose Road at Evelyn Drive at 5:26 PM.

Drug arrest. 10300 block Strathmore Hall Street at 1:17 AM.

Theft from vehicle. 12300 block Carroll Avenue (Pike District).

MoCo Council passes weak food truck bill; Riemer admits trucks were "driven out"

The Montgomery County Council passed a weak food truck bill Tuesday, which "expands" the hours during which trucks can operate from today's 9:00 AM to "sunset" hours, to 5:00 AM to 10:00 PM. This was hyped to you as a major step, but in reality, it doesn't even restore the hours to what they were just a few years ago.

Such trucks had been known to serve breakfast to day laborers at dawn in some parts of the county, or Jamaican fare to Bethesda bar patrons in the middle of the night. So 10:00 PM is still hours short of when trucks were operating in the county just a few years ago.

One interesting moment in yesterday's discussion was Councilmember Hans Riemer's acknowledgement that the County has actually driven food trucks out. Usually, the Council PR suggests that they are going to bring us this new thing called "food trucks", which we don't have now because we taxpayers are stodgy and not as forward-thinking as our hip and enlightened councilmembers. And they're going to give 'em to us.

In referring to perceived problems caused by food trucks, Riemer said, “You don’t see a lot of problems with food trucks in the county right now, because we really don’t have many, because the way that the rules have been enforced has driven them out.”

So true. But those supposed rules weren't being enforced prior to Mr. Riemer's election to the council. What Riemer didn't acknowledge was that his own political operative, Dan Hoffman, was part of the County effort that was marketed to the public as "improving food truck locations". In reality, by the end of that effort, food trucks had vanished from the streets of downtown Bethesda. Workers seeking their favorite food trucks in lunchtime hot spots like the Veterans Park area of the Woodmont Triangle, or Bethesda Avenue at Woodmont Avenue, or 7700 Wisconsin Avenue, were coming up empty.

In fact, whereas my @BethesdaRow Twitter account was usually being tagged by dozens of food truck operators eager for me to share their locations that day, I instead began to get panicked messages from truck owners saying they were in the process of being booted from the spot where they had parked. 96% of food trucks either went out of business, or fled back to friendlier places like the District.

For a County political machine that rips off almost every one of its initiatives from places like Berkeley, CA and New York City and Portland, OR, it's remarkable that it doesn't subscribe to the overwhelming consensus among new urbanists that food trucks help make urban areas vibrant.

Of course, this same political cartel supports Barwood Cab over more recent transportation innovations, so it maybe isn't that surprising. But I digress.

When Council President George Leventhal says food trucks are one way to "make Montgomery County friendlier for young people, more interesting and dynamic," I couldn't agree more.

So why did they drive out those very food trucks, which can be found steps over the County line in DC on Wisconsin Avenue every day at lunch?

No trucks are coming back to the public streets of MoCo just because they have longer hours to operate - they can't park in profitable hotspots, so what's the point?

Carluccio's future Pike & Rose location identified (Photo)

You'll soon be able to dine out like Sherlock Holmes himself, and here's where you're going to do it at Federal Realty's Pike & Rose development in North Bethesda. Back when I broke the story about Carluccio's leasing at Pike & Rose, where it physically fit into the development hadn't been identified.

Here in this photo you can see, at the top of the stairs to the right, the first storefront where Benedict Cumberbatch's favorite Italian restaurant will be. This area is beyond the outdoor patio at Summer House Santa Monica on Grand Park Avenue.

Other British fans of Carluccio's, an Italian restaurant and market, include actor Tom Hiddleston and Pippa Middleton.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Disorder on St. Elmo Ave., vehicle burglary on Ogden Rd. + more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on October 3, according to crime data:

Disorderly conduct. 4900 block St. Elmo Avenue.

Theft. 7100 block Woodmont Avenue.

Drug arrest. Southbound Wisconsin Avenue at Bethesda Avenue.

Theft. 4400 block Montgomery Avenue.

Drug arrest. East-West Highway at Edgevale Street.

Vehicle burglary. 5700 block Ogden Road (Springfield).

Vehicle burglary. 5300 block Wakefield Road.

Vehicle burglary. YMCA.

Theft. 12000 block Rockville Pike (Pike District).

Demolition update: Thyme Square/Blu Lounge on Bethesda Avenue (Photos)

The Blu Lounge, Thyme Square - whatever you know it as, it's gone. Contractor Coakley-Williams has demolished the building, to make way for a more modern and larger retail building that is being developed by The JBG Companies. There's still some work to finish up, and debris removal to be completed.

Here's another panoramic
view of the destruction:

4990 Fairmont Avenue condo project seeks increase in density

Developer Duball, LLC just celebrated the grand opening of its latest Montgomery County project last night in Rockville. Now it turns its attention to the start of a new one, the long-awaited 4990 Fairmont Avenue luxury condo tower. Duball will ask the Montgomery County Planning Board to increase the residential density of the project by 2459 SF at its October 15 meeting.

The project's previous approval also included up to 7000 SF of non-residential uses. If the residential increase is approved by the board, all other conditions from the earlier approvals will remain binding on the developer.

Planning staff are recommending approval of the request. The request does not specify a change in the number of units, which were set at 72 condos up to this point. Certainly more is better this close to Metro.

Duball has already requested demolition permits for the existing structures on the site, which includes the most recent home of Eastham's Servicenter.

Rendering courtesy Duball, LLC.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Assaults on Fernwood Rd., Wisconsin Ave.; drug bust on Westbard Ave. + more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on October 2, according to crime data:

Assault. 10400 block Fernwood Road at 12:24 PM.

Assault. 7300 block Wisconsin Avenue at 5:39 PM.

Theft from vehicle. 4400 block East-West Highway at 3:12 PM.

Drug arrest. 5400 block Westbard Avenue at 1:16 AM.

Theft. 5300 block Westbard Avenue at 10:21 PM.

Theft. Macy's at Westfield Montgomery Mall.

Theft. 6000 block Montrose Road.

Theft. 6100 block Montrose Road.

Assault. 11200 Chase Crossing Circle (Pike District).

Drug/weapon arrest. 12000 block Rockville Pike at 4:50 PM (Pike District).

Theft. 12500 block Village Square Terrace (Pike District).

Drug arrest. Winston Churchill High School.

Death. 8600 block Woodbrook Lane at 11:06 AM.

TD Ameritrade short circuited by switch, Nava coming soon at Pike & Rose (Photos)

TD Ameritrade's new branch at Pike & Rose, expected to open in October, was short-circuited by a switch in their Montgomery County Department of Permitting Services inspection.

The county inspector determined a missing sign-disconnect switch was a code violation. I've nevernheard of a sign disconnect switch myself. This should not hamper the opening, however.

Meanwhile, neighbor Nava Health and Vitality Center has posted Coming Soon signage ahead of its January 2016 opening.

Developer of downtown Bethesda senior housing project seeks extension

Shelter Development, LLC is asking the Montgomery County Planning Board for an extension for its Brightview Bethesda senior housing project. Several issues were raised when the project went before the Development Review Committee, an inter-agency body that includes several utilities and government departments, on August 17.

Pat Harris, attorney with Lerch, Early & Brewer, filed the request on behalf of the applicant. Shelter says the primary issues are related to the configuration of the open space at the site, and the need to coordinate site access issues with the Montgomery County Department of Transportation.

The extension request would allow the Sketch Plan Review period to be extended until no later than December 21, 2015.

Planning staff is recommending approval of the request.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Sex offense at Walter Johnson HS, car stolen in Westmoreland Hills + much more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on October 1, according to crime data:

Theft. 7300 block Wisconsin Avenue.

Vehicle burglary. 8200 block Maple Ridge Road.

Vehicle burglary. 5300 block McKinley Street.

Vehicle burglary. 5200 block Chandler Street.

Vehicle burglary. 5200 block Danbury Road.

Theft. 5100 block Elsmere Avenue.

Vehicle burglary. 5900 block Anniston Road.

Vehicle burglary. 5900 block Anniston Road.

Vehicle burglary. 5900 block Anniston Road.

Vehicle burglary. 6000 Henning Street.

Vehicle burglary. 5300 block Duvall Drive (Westmoreland Hills).

Vehicle burglary. 5200 block Duvall Drive.

Vehicle burglary. 6400 block Tulsa Lane.

Stolen car. 4500 block Tournay Road at 3:52 PM (Westmoreland Hills).

Vehicle burglary. 9800 block Singleton Drive.

Stolen car. 10500 block Rockville Pike at 10:39 PM.

Other sexual offense. Walter Johnson High School at 7:22 AM.

Assault. 7100 block Democracy Boulevard at 9:50 PM.

Assault. 7100 block Westlake Terrace at 10:06 PM.

Outdoor TVs at Mussel Bar at Bethesda Row (Photos)

Have you seen this addition to the patio dining outside of Mussel Bar at Bethesda Row? No more missing the game when you want to dine al fresco in Bethesda.

Mussel Bar
7262 Woodmont Avenue
(301) 215-7817

Haunted House opens at American Plant in Bethesda

American Plant has opened a Haunted House for the Halloween season at its 5258 River Road location in Bethesda. You can get a preview of the house in their video of it.

The haunted attraction will be open 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM daily until November 1.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Palisades Eye Surgery Center reopens in new Bethesda location (Photos)

Palisades Eye Surgery Center has completed its downtown Bethesda move, and has reopened in the front courtyard area of the Palisades apartments at 4831 Cordell Avenue. They've moved around the block from their previous location on Del Ray Avenue.

Prior to opening, they made over $60,000 in renovations to the new space.

Assault on Wisconsin Ave., car stolen from Nicholson Ct. + more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on September 30, according to crime data:

Assault. 8200 block Wisconsin Avenue at 3:38 PM.

Vehicle burglary. Grafton Street at Cedar Parkway (Chevy Chase Village).

Theft. Wisconsin Avenue at Western Avenue.

Vehicle burglary. 5200 block Duvall Drive (Westmoreland Hills).

Vehicle burglary. 5400 block Albemarle Street (Westmoreland Hills).

Burglary. 5300 block Tuscarawas Road at 9:19 PM.

Theft. 6100 block Valerian Lane.

Stolen car. 4900 block Nicholson Court at 9:12 AM (Pike District).

Theft. Westfield Montgomery Mall.

Assault. 7400 block Arlington Road at 11:26 PM.

Death. 4700 block Willard Avenue at 9:03 PM.

Hoamgar temporarily closed at Westfield Montgomery Mall

Chinese apparel boutique Hoamgar is temporarily closed for renovation at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. No reopening date has been announced. This would ordinarily raise suspicions, but a few other merchants at the mall have recently closed and successfully reopened after similar renovations.

The Westfield Montgomery location is Hoamgar's first outside of China, Mongolia and Singapore.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Theft on Bethesda La., disorder on Wisconsin Ave. + more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on September 29, according to crime data:

Theft. 7100 block Bethesda Lane.

Theft. 4700 block Willard Avenue.

Disorderly conduct. 8300 block Wisconsin Avenue at 5:40 PM.

Drug arrest. 10700 block Potomac Tennis Lane at 2:51 AM.

Disorderly conduct. 10100 block River Road at 3:18 PM.

Construction of new 2nd District Police Station set to begin in Bethesda

Developer StonebridgeCarras has requested the initial construction permits from Montgomery County to start work on the new 2nd District Montgomery County Police station in downtown Bethesda. Located at 4823 Rugby Avenue, the new station has been designed by the architecture firm of Michael Baker International.

The station will replace the aging one at the corner of Wisconsin and Montgomery Avenues, where StonebridgeCarras will have a prime transit-oriented property to redevelop right near the Bethesda Metro station.

New view from above downtown Bethesda shown at 7770 Norfolk party

Here's what downtown Bethesda might look like to you from your new luxury condo at JBG's 7770 Norfolk condo tower. The newest addition to the Woodmont Triangle neighborhood was celebrated at a packed party atop one of the neighborhood's newer restaurant additions, Urban Heights, Thursday evening.

Guests were able to preview floorplans, and the building's sales office at the corner of Norfolk and St. Elmo Avenues opens today. Learn more about the 17-story building's amenities and prices on its official website.

Westfield Montgomery Mall hosting wine event October 24 in Bethesda

Westfield Montgomery Mall continues to trend in an upscale direction, after the retail center's multimillion-dollar makeover and expansion. The latest example is Uncorked, a wine event the mall is hosting on Saturday, October 24, from 1:00 to 4:00 PM, in partnership with DC Modern Luxury and Wine Channel TV.

Wine Channel TV's Jessica Altieri has selected more than 40 wines that guests will be able to sample at retailers around the mall, including Ann Taylor, Art of Shaving, Bonobos, Cleo’s Oil Bar, Godiva Chocolates, Kiehl’s, Liligenquest & Beckstead Jewelers, Lilly Pulitzer, Macy’s, Michael Kors, Stuart Weitzman, the Tesla store, and Wentworth Gallery. Altieri is CEO of Wine Channel TV, and a certified sommelier.

Attendees will also have a chance to meet Altieri in the mall's Center Court, and enjoy samples from some of the mall's many new dining tenants paired with wines, including Naples Ristorante, Crave American Kitchen & Sushi Bar, Wicked Waffle, and LobsterMe.

But wait, there's more. An exclusive after party from 4:00-6:00 at Nordstrom will feature a private wine tasting with Altieri, a fall fashion showcase, a David Yurman Jewelry preview, and the opportunity to create personalized scents at an exclusive Jo Malone scent bar.

Upscale comes with a price, but in this case, it is an extremely-reasonable price. Tickets for Uncorked are $15, and $25 for the exclusive after party. Tickets are available online, but become final only after you furnish ID proving you are 21 or older at the event.

Ahead of the event, you can take a quiz on the mall's Facebook page that will match your "style personality" to a specific wine selection for you.

The event is Bethesda-centric in more ways than its location. It will benefit downtown Bethesda's Imagination Stage, and one of the event partners is Bethesda's own Honest Tea.

Photo courtesy Wine Channel TV

Taste of Bethesda canceled for 2015

For the first time in the history of the event, the threat of heavy rains and wind this weekend has resulted in the cancellation of the Taste of Bethesda this Saturday, October 3, 2015.

Associated event Come Back to Bethesda, a car show, has been cancelled as well, according to Ken Hartman, Director of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center.

This is bad news not only for the restaurants that had planned to participate, but also for the retailers who are located within the event area in the Woodmont Triangle.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Disorder on Elm St., vehicle burglary on Battery La. + more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on September 28, according to crime data:

Vehicle burglary. 4900 block Battery Lane.

Vehicle burglary. 8900 block Hempstead Avenue.

Vehicle burglary. 4600 block Sangamore Road.

Theft. 10200 block Old Georgetown Road.

Disorderly conduct. 5000 block Elm Street.

Theft from vehicle. 6700 block Renita Lane.

Spotluck to host beer garden at Taste of Bethesda

Local dining app startup Spotluck will host a beer garden on Norfolk Avenue between Woodmont and Wisconsin Avenues this Saturday during the Taste of Bethesda. Assuming the event goes forward despite the heavy rains expected, stop by the Spotluck tent near Tastee Diner for $5 beers from local brewery Jailbreak.

All proceeds will benefit The Children's Inn at NIH. If you've been to a Spotluck party before, you know there'll be games and prizes as well. If you haven't, Saturday, October 3 is your chance, from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM.

TD Bank posts Coming Soon signage at future Wisconsin Avenue location (Photos)

The troll commenter who asked why my preview of the TD Bank in North Bethesda was relevant now sounds twice as foolish. TD Bank has posted its first public promotional signage for the first of two banks it is opening in downtown Bethesda in the next year. This one is at the famous former location of Bethesda's "last gas" prior to the Beltway heading northbound on Wisconsin Avenue.

Looking toward the
DoubleTree hotel
across Wisconsin from
the future bank site

MoCo residents on ITA at public hearing: "This is a lunatic idea"

Residents opposing the proposed Independent Transit Authority at last night's Transit Task Force public hearing again heavily outnumbered proponents of the unelected taxing authority, and Bus Rapid Transit.

What stands out is how the Montgomery County political machine is starting to sound more desperate as the ITA battle rages on. As Silver Spring resident Larry Dickter noted in his testimony, the ITA has "little if any public support." Even County Council President George Leventhal has suggested that the ITA bill not be submitted to the state legislature at this time. It's unclear what support the ITA has on the County Council or among Montgomery County legislators at this point, following 3 public hearings at which said public has overwhelmingly slammed the idea.

How desperate are ITA proponents? They're criticizing opponents for being white. You can't make this stuff up folks. Tom Liderto of Takoma Park, an ITA and BRT proponent, said that whites now make up less than half of the population in the county, but were the vast majority of the citizens testifying. He advised the task force that they might be hearing "a lot of loud voices from a minority."

A sure sign of desperation is when you have to pull out the race card. Your initiative has no public support, and a majority turns out to oppose it? Start attacking the crowd on the basis of race, age, etc. "I wanted to testify. But I'm white. So, I'd better do the right thing and stay home."

Likewise, it's intriguing to hear a particular faction of the County's Democratic Party adopt the talking points of Richard Nixon and Donald Trump. The so-called silent majority Liderto was referring to is gaining popularity as a talking point among that group. County Planning Board Chairman Casey Anderson and former Leventhal staff member and blogger Dan Reed are among those who have cited a silent majority, who they say fervently favor the urban density, urbanization of the suburbs and war-on-cars transportation policies Anderson and Reed are advocating for.

Perhaps in the same county where Councilmember Hans Riemer takes a $500 campaign check from Mitt Romney's Bain Capital and $4000 from Mitch Rales, two Wall Street pioneers in outsourcing American jobs to China, this shouldn't be all that surprising, I guess.

Does a millennial telling older residents in the room that they should stop opposing BRT because he'll be alive in the coming decades and they won't sound kind of desperate? Yep. Cold, but desperate.

You'd be pretty desperate, too, if you were in their position.

The hearing wasn't all that far along, when task force Chair Mark Winston felt compelled to engage Montgomery County Civic Federation President Paula Bienenfeld in a back-and-forth exchange over how she should testify. Bienenfeld had already shown up the task force for its hypocrisy when asking who among them took transit to the hearing. Only Delegate Marc Korman (D-District 16) raised his hand. Do as we say, not as we do.

"We're not here to respond to questions," Winston advised Bienenfeld. "I believe you can answer questions," Bienenfeld responded, noting that taxpayers are funding the task force.

Do as we say, not as we do. It was a bit of a theme last night. Another proponent of BRT recalled that he and wife quit working at Montgomery College's Rockville campus "twenty years ago," because the drive from Takoma Park each morning was too stressful. Wait a minute. The Red Line runs from Takoma Park to Rockville. Even in 1995. If they didn't use transit then, why would they use an even-slower kind of transit now?

A very expensive kind of transit, in fact, especially when you break the cost down per rider and there's no indication there will be many.

Resident Kevin Harris, who is also a former planner with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, said there has been "no data presented to show that BRT would solve the problems we're facing. We still have not been presented with the most basic traffic data" to justify BRT. The economic development numbers cited by Sage Consulting were "completely implausible," Harris said, terming Sage's work "wildly irresponsible modeling."

Harris questioned the task force's objectivity and and accuracy, "if you've already made your recommendations without data." "Performance metrics have never been established," Michael Pfetsch of Pinewood said.

Jerry Garson, resident and MCCF Treasurer, also questioned the task force's numbers. "I'm a CPA," Garson marveled, and "I can't figure it out." He pointed out that the task force calculations show "no administrative costs in the first five years of operation," an impossibility.

Silver Spring resident Carole Ann Barth took a creative approach in skewering the ITA's political and developer allies, casting them as "greedy piggies" in a fable-style tale, whose grand plan for pulling one over on residents doesn't end well.

Another resident, Harold McDougall, said he and his neighbors are "afraid of losing our homes" to an eminent domain grab by a future ITA for BRT. "We're tired. We're just depressed," he said. He noted that BRT was ginned up by a small interest group of developers and "Rockefeller-funded advocacy groups. There's big shots on one side, and little people on the other."

Many felt the task force has failed to consider any other solution but BRT and the ITA. Harriet Quinn of Silver Spring said the task force approach "excludes a comprehensive look at our overall transportation needs." Dickter argued the County would be better off improving existing roads and Ride On, "instead of obsessing over [BRT]."

A large number of speakers promoted similar alternatives: free Ride On service (which would cost a fraction of what is proposed to be spent on BRT, has none of the administrative or personnel costs BRT and the ITA would add, and has proven successful on Metro, where diehard riders are those who receive free or heavily-subsized fare on the system), completing unbuilt master plan highways like the M-83 Midcounty Highway Extended (and shamefully tabled recently by the Leggett administration), car sharing services like Uber and Lyft, Bridj, Express Metrobus and RideOn Plus services (these are existing proposals), autonomous vehicles (in the future), and using technology to make roads and transit systems more efficient as Houston has done successfully, without spending billions or even millions.

Robert Nelson of the Goshen area said, "I see very little benefit to our area" in the Upcounty, noting that the M-83 would be far faster for Goshen residents trying to reach the Shady Grove Metro station than the BRT system.

Jean Cavanaugh of Silver Spring was one of many who cited residents' "rapidly-rising tax burden." That burden is increasingly a regressive one, and four of the five task force report's revenue proposals would tax residents.

Do we need four new taxes to pay?

The League of Women Voters thinks we need five. Barbara Ditzler, representing the LWV, argued for new income, property, vehicle, development and fuel taxes.

This, on top of an already-looming property tax increase warned of by Leggett for next year.

Putting the ITA on the ballot to be decided by voters was suggested by several speakers, including James Williamson of Silver Spring. "Doesn't he trust the voters," Williamson asked of Leggett.

Eric Hensal termed the ITA debacle "red light district politics" by developer-funded elected officials who "cannot build a parking deck in Silver Spring." The ultimate goal of the ITA scheme, Hensal predicted, is to "socialize cost and privatize gains for the developer community."

Cherrywood HOA President Paul Jarosinski similarly described the ITA and BRT as a "bonanza for developers." The ITA sounds like "a good script for a crime movie," Jarosinski observed. "A parallel shadow government agency where you handpick five stooges."

Robin Ficker of Boyds, the man most responsible for the successful passage of the charter limit on property taxes approved by voters on the 2008 ballot, testified as well. "The Council is made up of a group of scaredy cats," Ficker said, delivering his remarks standing at the table as he does in court as a prominent attorney. "They're scaredy cats, because they know they can unanimously vote to exceed the charter limit," Ficker said, and would prefer an elected ITA take the heat from taxpayers instead. "They can never get enough money. That's all this is about."

Ficker also ripped the county's delegation to the state legislature for their failure to return sufficient transportation dollars to the County. "They're not doing their job in Annapolis," Ficker declared.

Stephen Poor summed up the feelings of most in the room, telling the task force, "You should just stop."

Pinning the future on BRT ignores the reality that cars are, and will continue to be, the dominant mode of transportation well into the future. Todd Solomon, who actually favors BRT, noted that - according to the Federal Highway Administration - a record number of vehicle miles were traveled by Americans in the first 6 months of 2015. And that a monthly record was just set this summer.

It doesn't sound like mass numbers of Americans will be "getting out of their cars" anytime soon. But will Montgomery County's elected officials be getting their hands out of our wallets?

Same answer.

The next move by the task force will be to begin their final review of the public draft report at their October 7 meeting.