Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Sex offense on Nebel St., 3 drug busts + more - Bethesda crime update

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

Drug arrest. Old Georgetown Road at Glenwood Road.

Drug arrest. 4900 block St. Elmo Avenue.

Drug arrest. East-West Highway at Connecticut Avenue.

"Other sexual offense." 11600 block Nebel Street.

Assault & battery. Apartment in 11900 block Parklawn Drive.

Assault. 5400 block Randolph Road.

Demolition update: Connor Building (Photos)

You can now see through the Connor Building, and you can also see into the interior and central arcade corridor. The commercial building is coming down to make way for the new Marriott headquarters and hotel, which are scheduled to deliver in 2022.

Medium Rare installs sign in Bethesda (Photos)

One sign has been installed at the soon-to-open Medium Rare on Fairmont Avenue, in the 7770 Norfolk luxury apartment tower. This is the third location of the restaurant, and the first outside of the District. For more details on the Bethesda Medium Rare, see my exclusive report.
Medium Rare will be
next door to upscale diner
Community (left)

MoCo Council quietly using loot from recordation tax hike for Silver Spring Transit Center debacle

When the Montgomery County Council raised taxes to an all-time record level last May, the heist included a hike in the recordation tax residents pay when selling their homes. This increase was broadly sold as a "school construction funding" mechanism. And a hike in the Recordation Tax Premium was ostensibly to provide funds for County capital projects, and $40-50 million for affordable housing and rent assistance, according to then-Council President Nancy Floreen.

Instead, the County Council now plans to spend at least $4,210,000 of the Recordation Tax Premium on legal fees for the infamous Silver Spring Transit Center debacle. You know, the overblown garage that took nine years to construct, and still wasn't built right?

When running for reelection in 2014, the Council repeatedly insisted that taxpayers would not be on the hook for any more SSTC-related money, beyond the massive $47,000,000 over-budget spending by that point. They immediately broke that promise only a month after election day, by appropriating another whopping $21 million for a slapdash patching of serious structural weaknesses in the transit center. Those fixes were only effective in the minds of the Council, as the building itself lacks the slip joints needed to handle the loads of buses. By the time these weaknesses become fatal flaws, of course, the current Council will be out of office.

But not before ripping off taxpayers again this year.

Instead of spending on needed transportation and facility projects which have been postponed, money is being taken from this specific funding source for the transit center legal costs.

The County is unlikely to win this lawsuit, primarily because neither the executive branch nor the County Council with oversight authority took action when flaws were first discovered. Only after the structure was essentially complete in 2012 (it would not open until 2015) did the County begin to press contractors about the flaws. And it remains to be determined if the County's contracts even allow for recovery of legal fees, including this new $4.2 million.

After witnessing the Council's approval of an illegal use of funds by the Parks Department, and a $900,000 cost overrun for a Bethesda drainpipe that puts the Pentagon's $640 toilet seat to shame, you may want to follow this latest (ab)use of your money by the County Council.

The Council will hear public testimony on the proposed appropriation on February 7, at 1:30 PM at the Council Office Building, at 100 Maryland Avenue in Rockville.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Robbery on Westport Rd., burglary on Ridgewood Ave. + more - Bethesda crime update

Remember when I warned you an armed robber was on the loose just over the D.C. line? Well, on Friday a robbery was reported on Westport Road here on our side of Western Avenue. You can refresh your memory of the gunman's description and vehicle now. Here's a roundup of all crimes reported across Bethesda on January 27, according to crime data:

Robbery. 5000 block Westport Road (Wohlshire) at 5:00 PM.

Burglary. 7400 block Ridgewood Avenue.

Burglary. Residential alarm triggered in 7500 block Arrowood Road.

Theft. 5700 block Grosvenor Lane.

Theft from vehicle. 5800 block Edson Lane.

Theft. 11300 block Rockville Pike.

Theft. 5700 block Bou Avenue (Pike District).

L.L. Bean to open at Pike & Rose

L.L. Bean is coming to Pike & Rose in North Bethesda's Pike District, the Maine-based company announced this morning. This is the second major outdoor sporting goods tenant to come aboard at the Federal Realty development; REI has a large store currently under construction there.

The L.L. Bean store will open this fall, in a 2-level, 22700 SF space, and employ around 75 people. Merchandise offered will include active and casual apparel and footwear, as well as outdoor lifestyle gear including hiking, fly-fishing, and kayaking, plus winter gear and camping products. As with every L.L. Bean store, the Pike & Rose location will offer L.L.Bean’s Outdoor Discovery Schools, with demonstrations, clinics and introductory hands-on courses for all kinds of outdoor recreational and fitness activities.

L.L. Bean said that the heavy use of the many trails and parks in the area factored into their decision to open a store here. “The North Bethesda location is going to be a great home for us," L.L. Bean senior VP and GM of retail Ken Kacere said. "This is a lively, active area with some great outdoor recreational opportunities nearby like paddling and fishing on the Potomac, or cycling along the extensive network of local trails."

Stu Biel, VP of leasing at Federal Realty, said he is "thrilled" to score the Maryland flagship store of L.L. Bean at the development, which is in the midst of Phase II construction. “This 105 year iconic brand focused on outdoor living is a perfect fit for Pike & Rose," Biel said." Both LL Bean and Pike & Rose aim to inspire and connect others with a deep commitment to community and challenging the status quo. Together, our neighbors, residents, office workers and beyond will benefit from educational programs, on and off site events and a tried and true product line and place that will serve to inspire for decades and generations to come.”

Elm Street Pepco project update (Photos)

A section of Elm Street between Wisconsin Avenue and Woodmont Avenue has been closed for a week now in downtown Bethesda. Pepco is relocating utilities in preparation for construction of a south entrance to the Bethesda Metro station at Elm and Wisconsin. 
Wisconsin Avenue in front of
the vacant gas station that will be
redeveloped by Bainbridge

Lines designating Pepco
underground utilities along
Wisconsin Avenue sidewalk
Digging up the infrastructure extends beyond Elm, though. Part of it is along the sidewalk on Wisconsin Avenue north of Elm Street. The work is expected to take another seven months and three weeks to complete.

Downtown Bethesda's future
in the hands of pharmacists

Best Buy Mobile, Freddy, Naples close at Westfield Montgomery Mall, Fashion Time is next

The closures keep on coming at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. Just this weekend, Best Buy Mobile closed permanently. Unlike the other closures this weekend, this was unexpected.

Also not previously known: Fashion Time, a watch sales and repair kiosk on Level 1 in the Old Navy wing, is closing. They are currently having a 40-90% off closing sale. Future watch sales at the mall may involve a term-limit-ousted County Councilmember opening his or her jacket to display a variety of timepieces on the sidewalk outside the building, shortly before being removed from the premises by security while screaming, "Do you know who I am?!?!"

Naples Ristorante e Pizzeria closed Saturday night, the news of which I was the first to report last week. The closing not only generated questions about the future of the Dining Terrace at the mall, but also several plagiarized versions of my story in unethical local media outlets, which failed to attribute the scoop to me. Shameful.

American Classic Clothes shut down this weekend, too. According to a commenter on my original report that it would be closing, the company is planning to continue sales online until it can find a new bricks-and-mortar location with lower rent.

Finally, Bethesda apparently wasn't ready for Freddy, as the closure I already reported came to pass. Like ACC, you can still order Freddy apparel online.