Thursday, June 30, 2016

Burglary on Hatherleigh Dr., theft on Westpath Way + more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on June 27, according to crime data:

Theft. 7700 block Wisconsin Avenue.

Vehicle burglary. 4500 block Avondale Street.

Vehicle burglary. 7000 block Arlington Road.

Theft. 5100 block Westpath Way.

Burglary. 10200 block Hatherleigh Drive.

Growing consensus on Montgomery County's moribund economy

Regular readers - and struggling businesspeople, entrepreneurs and job-seekers across Montgomery County - already know our County's private sector economy is moribund. I've been writing about it for years, and our impotent County Council has been in denial about it just as long. But in recent weeks, my message is finally being amplified by the mainstream media and...the County Council's own former staff members.

Recently, Washington Post reporter Bill Turque wrote about the County's "economically moribund eastern sector." Now, remarkably, that assessment is being reinforced by the former Chief of Staff for Councilmember Hans Riemer, Adam Pagnucco. The Post editorial board withdrew its 2014 endorsement of Riemer after considering the councilman's non-existent record of legislative accomplishment (although educated voters still await the newspaper's thorough review of Riemer's heavy donations from Wall Street and pioneers in outsourcing jobs overseas, like Mitt Romney's Bain Capital and Danaher Corporation).

Writing for The Seventh State this week, Pagnucco details the County's "stagnant economy" and "weak economic performance." He notes that per capita income in the County plunged during the Great Recession (which was caused by many of the same banks and Wall Street interests whose lobbyists donated to Riemer's 2010 and 2014 campaigns). And remarks on the County's "sluggish growth."

Pagnucco backs that up with devastating job numbers that show just how poorly Montgomery County has performed in relation to its rivals in the region. Listening to the Council that presided over this mess, you'd never imagine that MoCo actually has less private sector jobs today than it did in 2001. Ouch.

The rest of the region during that time? Their private sector job numbers actually grew at an average of 9.5% as we were declining, Pagnucco writes.

How many jobs did we gain during that time? None. In fact, we went into the negatives, losing 3885 jobs!

How did our rivals do during that same period?

Loudoun added 42,929 jobs. Double ouch.

D.C. added 78,011 jobs. Triple ouch.

Who else whipped Montgomery County under the leadership of this Council, the core of which has been in their seats since 2002?

Many rural Maryland counties including Frederick and Charles. And little dudes like Rappahannock in Virginia and Jefferson in West Virginia. That's right, the MoCo cartel had their [briefcases] handed to them by the backwoods of the region. Humiliating.

So much for Councilman George Leventhal's bizarre 2014 secessionist primal scream that "the people are in the big counties!!"

Of course, regular readers also are quite familiar with the reality that our County's lack of direct highway access to Dulles Airport, via a new Potomac River bridge, is one of the major reasons corporations don't want to locate here (along with the terrible business climate and high taxes). Would you believe that Pagnucco acknowledged this also in his piece? Yep.

These are major steps forward.

The Post editorial board has consistently told us this Council is wise and highly-qualified, and that their challengers are novice fools. But let's look at the facts.

If you ask the Council, they'll tell you business is booming. I've said it's moribund all along. Just the facts: Not a single major corporation has moved here in nearly 20 years. Not a single Chamber of Commerce in Montgomery County endorsed any sitting councilmember in the 2014 election, an unprecedented vote of no-confidence by business leaders. And now an actual Post journalist, and a former chief of staff for a sitting councilman, are sharing my assessment.

The Council has told us for years that we need massive residential development in order to reap the additional tax revenue. During all of that time, I've written that new development alone doesn't cover the costs of the new services and infrastructure it requires. Just the facts: Our ongoing structural budget deficit after a decade of massive residential development (such as Clarksburg growing in population by 800%) proves that the revenue simply doesn't cover the costs. If it did, we'd have a budget surplus. We don't. That's why the Council raised your taxes to a historic new level last month. And now several of these same councilmembers are admitting for the first time that development revenue is not covering the costs that same development creates.

The Council thought it could regulate free speech in crisis pregnancy centers. The Council was destroyed in court. It thought it could target one company's power plant to make it shut down. It was crushed in court again. It thought it could criminalize homelessness and panhandling. A non-profit condemned their efforts as "cruel and unusual punishment," in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Are these the wise men and women of law and letters of whom we've been told?

Not quite.

The emperor has no clothes, and the well-honed Council message is starting to sport some really nasty cracks in its cheap facade.

Montgomery County's private sector economy is indeed moribund. The word is out on the street.

Pagnucco is right. Turque is right. The Chamber of Commerce is right. The more than 10,000 people who have signed the petition for term limits are right. And I think the Council now has to admit, I've been right all along. 

Who is more qualified to serve on the Council? The guy who has been consistently right, or the impotent, incompetent people who have been consistently wrong, wrong, wrong?

Speaking of wrong, I do have to strongly disagree with Pagnucco's repeated assertion that the only people providing coverage of news in Montgomery County are Turque and Bethesda Magazine publisher Steve Hull. Again, if you're a regular reader here, you'd have to agree that's a bizarre and ridiculous statement.

Not only does this blog cover Bethesda and local government seven days a week, but my media company Suburban News Network has news sites that report on Rockville and Silver Spring/Wheaton/Takoma Park.

Rockville Nights is the leading Rockville news site, extensively covering government happenings in both the City of Rockville and the County, as well as dining, real estate and more. Check it out for yourself, and you'll find in-depth coverage of Rockville not available anywhere else.

And East MoCo reports on all of our "moribund eastern sector" of Montgomery County. Every weekday.

What makes Pagnucco's assertion about the supposed lack of local news outlets especially embarrassing, is that he himself commented on a lively discussion about my East MoCo blog on Facebook on February 24, 2014, and stated that I was "very active across a number of media platforms."

It takes some gall by Pagnucco, and old media gatekeepers like the Post and the Washingtonian (who both regularly promote websites more friendly and obsequious to Montgomery County elected officials) to continue to somehow deny I exist. This blog just turned ten years old last month. Ten years.

And guess which site reported our economy was moribund first?

Bold Bite to juggle hours as owners gear up for TapaBar opening in Bethesda (Photos)

The owners who brought you Bold Bite on Fairmont Avenue are changing the hours of operation there, as they prepare to launch their newest concept, TapaBar. Bold Bite will be closed today and tomorrow, as they convert their kitchen operations to serve both establishments (TapaBar will be right next door at the corner of Fairmont and Norfolk Avenue).

Bold Bite is scheduled to reopen Saturday, July 2, with new hours from 7:30 AM to 3:00 PM.

In special tasting dinners, diners have gotten a sneak preview of TapaBar dishes like watermelon and tuna crudo, gazpacho and vieiras a la gallega. The new restaurant is also hiring, with job fairs scheduled for July 5 and July 7 from 1:00-5:00 PM. If you are interested, contact jobs [at] TapaBarBethesda [dot] com.
TapaBar under construction

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Coming soon signage for European Wax Center in Bethesda (Photos)

European Wax Center has posted Coming Soon signage for its future location at 7804 Norfolk Avenue in Bethesda. This is a new storefront being constructed in the old BlackFinn nightclub building.

Beefsteak opens today in Bethesda; here's a review (Video+photos)

 Beefsteak opens today in the Dining Terrace at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. Is it worth a trip?

Watch my review and find out. Check out the menu on the Beefsteak website.
I created my own bowl with
broccoli, edamame, rice,
spicy tomato sauce, cherry tomatoes,
mozzarella cheese and
lemon honey dressing
The plastic spoon is heavier
than the typical disposable cutlery
Along with the bowl, I got potato chips,
house-made gazpacho and
Bethesda's own Honest Tea
Honey Green Tea
Made from the finest
potatoes in Spain

Kenwood Club fireworks 2016 this Thursday night

The best fireworks display in the D.C. area will once again be held by the Kenwood Golf and Country Club on River Road in Bethesda tomorrow night, Thursday, June 30, 2016 after dark (usually around 9:15 PM or thereafter, but it wouldn't hurt to be ready as early as 8:45, even though they've never gone off that soon). As always, the club and the event are private and not open to the general public. But for those who live nearby or in a high-rise facing the club's direction, or who scout out a nearby parking lot, one can still enjoy the spectacle for free.

Smart residents know the drill: Plan a backyard party modest or grand, and then gain the cachet of The Great Gatsby himself when an expensive fireworks display suddenly erupts in the sky above, and caps off the evening.

Savvy Bethesdans (a.k.a. readers of this blog) who aren't part of the landed class can still partake of the fireworks - if they know where to go. The smart spot is in the church parking lot across River Road from the club, where those-in-the-know converge on foot or by car.

I haven't bothered to go into D.C. or out to Rockville for fireworks since Kenwood began their fireworks displays over a decade ago. The Kenwood display is superior, and gets better each year.

Impress your friends, avoid getting your pocket picked or purse snatched downtown, and take in the best fireworks in the D.C. area. Gracious toast and "I'm Gatsby" line are optional.

Rain caused flooding on River Road in Bethesda last night (Photos)

A reader sent in photos of flooding on River Road during the torrential downpour early last night, the most significant rainfall event in Bethesda in several months. This was near Willard Avenue, where a branch of the Little Falls Stream passes under River Road. At least one vehicle was stuck in high water, which was higher than it was in these photos at one point.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Drug bust on Old Georgetown Road, assault in Randolph Hills + more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on June 25, according to crime data:

Vehicle burglary. 7700 block Woodmont Avenue.

Drug arrest. Old Georgetown Road at Moorland Lane.

Assault. 4800 block Ertter Road (Randolph Hills).

Brutal new speed bumps make parking even more of pain in Bethesda (Photos)

The Montgomery County Council just raised your taxes to the highest level in County history, absurdly pleading poverty in justifying raiding your wallet or purse and bank account. But here's what they can afford to spend on: making parking in downtown Bethesda even more of a pain than it is already - literally.

New speed bumps installed on every level in the Capital Crescent Trail Garage at Bethesda and Woodmont Avenues aren't the flat-topped "speed humps" used by the County on residential streets. They are the brutal kind that give your neck and suspension a workout even crawling over them at 1 mile per hour.

The Capital Crescent Trail Garage was initially a big success, as many drivers didn't know it was there. Anyone who has spent twenty minutes making the climb from ground level to the top of the other nearby public garage (exacerbated by people who think they are entitled to hold up traffic on the ramps just so they can park on a lower level, apparently unaware that they will be using the same elevator to reach the street as those they block) would consider the CCTG a major improvement. It also has much wider aisles.

Now drivers who don't speed in the garage, and even hesitate or stop at the pedestrian crossing/elevator areas in case someone is going to step out without looking both ways, are being slowed down and their vehicles unnecessarily damaged. Send your repair bill to Montgomery County.

Thank you to our nanny state overlords for your inspired idiocy. #MoCoTermLimits #ThrowTheBumsOut

Max Brenner closes at Bethesda Row (Photos)

Max Brenner has closed at Bethesda Row. This development is not a complete shock, as the business had been seeking a sublease tenant for well over a year. Bethesda-based real estate firm Streetsense had ultimately advertised the space as outright available for lease two months ago.

The shop was packing up yesterday, but store management says that you can send a farewell message to employees by emailing bethesda [at] maxbrenner [dot] com. Max Brenner opened in July 2013.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Burglary on Beech Hill Dr., drug bust on Elm St. + more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on June 24, according to crime data:

Drug arrest. Elm Street at Wisconsin Avenue.

Vehicle burglary. 5100 block Wilson Lane.

Vehicle burglary. 7800 block Aberdeen Road.

Theft from vehicle. 5600 block Huntington Parkway.

Theft. 5300 block Western Avenue.

Theft. 5200 block Pooks Hill Road.

Drug arrest. 10200 block Rockville Pike.

Theft. 6700 block Democracy Boulevard.

Vehicle burglary. 5500 block Nicholson Lane.

Theft. Westfield Montgomery Mall.

Burglary. 9200 block Beech Hill Drive at 2:46 PM.

Theft from vehicle. 8600 block Grimsby Court.

Delay sought for review of Pooks Hill project

The developer of the project at the Bethesda Marriott hotel property is asking for a 30-day extension for Montgomery County Planning Board review of its site plan and a site plan amendment. Heather Dlhopolsky, attorney for the applicant, says in a letter to the planning department that revisions are being made to the project based on recommendations of the planning staff.

Staff is recommending approval of both extensions. The board is expected to take up the request at its June 30 meeting. A pair of luxury apartment towers will be added to the hotel site on Pooks Hill Road under the proposed plan.

Chevy Chase Lake on the verge of transformation (Photos)

Chevy Chase Lake rivals Westbard as one of the places in Montgomery County that will be leveled and completely rebuilt with new development, thanks to plans recently passed by the County Council and Planning Board. What is mind-blowing about comparing the two, however, is how much the difference reveals about the ineptness of those two bodies.

Here at Chevy Chase Lake, the planned Purple Line light rail station gave some justification for taller building heights and greater density. But heights at Westbard, where there is no rail transit, will actually exceed the heights allowed at Chevy Chase Lake, which is right at a rail station.
Note building heights:
120' right at the Purple Line
station here; 122' and counting
at Westbard, where there is
no rail transit

Plaza and open space
locations; grey spaces
within building B3 at right
are interior courtyards

Aerial view of Phase 1

Elements designed to activate
the civic open space right
off of Connecticut Avenue
A couple of other things stand out in the plans unveiled by the Chevy Chase Land Company and Bozzuto, partners in the redevelopment of the initial phase of construction here.
Purple Line Plaza. All of that
grey space below the green in
the center? That's how massive
the Purple Line facility
will be
First, get a load of just how wide the Purple Line facility is going to be, with the two tracks, trail and buffers. It is completely different in scale from its earliest days as a one-track train or trolley line. It's commendable that they have planned a Purple Line Plaza, as opposed to just building right up against the station all the way along the facility.
I particularly like
the buildings on the left
and top center of this
slide. Very grand designs
that impart a residential
Second, I like the approach the developers have taken to the architecture here. Putting the controversial question of how tall and dense Chevy Chase Lake should have been aside, they are taking inspiration from some of the kinds of residential buildings you would find much further down Connecticut Avenue in the District.

Like many of the great, older apartment buildings in D.C., these sample designs are not only grand and traditional, but have architectural elements that emphasize they are residential in nature. So they have more ornamental rooflines, as opposed to just being a box. I think that is a positive in spots like this and Westbard, where the surroundings are squarely suburban and residential.

While the designs shown in the developers' recent presentation to the community make a few contemporary concessions, they do have elements that capture some of the grand designs you'll find in the District. It's certainly going to help make the final product stand out. Massachusetts Avenue N.W. is another thoroughfare where you can see many older apartment towers in D.C. that, thanks to their architects, haven't lost any of their luster.

What's the timeline here? The developers are hoping for approval from the Planning Board by March of 2017. Shovels will go into the dirt in the first quarter of 2018, if the schedule holds, and delivery of these three buildings is anticipated in the third quarter of 2020.
View from Manor Road
into the new development
down a yet-to-be-named
new street
Some nice architecture of the past will be lost here for sure. The arched openings in the facades of the Chevy Chase Supermarket, and the even-taller ones in the Chevy Chase Lake Centers across the street, come to mind.

Jos. A Bank and T.W. Perry have already cleared out (T.W. Perry has moved to its new location on Brookville Road in Silver Spring). Here's a look at the waning moments of a vintage "last gas" commercial district, which like Montgomery Hills east of here, will soon head into the sunset:

Photos: Robert Dyer
Renderings courtesy Chevy Chase Land Company, Bozzuto, David M. Schwarz Architects, VIKA, Martin Architectural; All rights reserved