Monday, September 25, 2017

The Beer Junction to open in Rockville

Residents of The Galvan will soon have a short trip to buy booze. The Beer Junction, a beer and wine store, will open in the ground floor of the apartment building at 1800-C Rockville Pike. With the old Pie 360 sign still up, one wonders how many hungry drivers have pulled off the Pike thinking they're going to get a pizza at this place, only to find it's closed.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Gov. Hogan proposes massive traffic congestion relief plan

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan proposed the largest traffic congestion relief plan in the nation on Thursday, which would widen the entire Capital Beltway (I-495) within Maryland, I-270 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway (MD-295). The $9 billion plan would add tolled Express Lanes to each road, but not charge for use of existing lanes.

To expand capacity on the B-W Parkway, the state would have to be given control of the road by the federal government. Hogan has begun preliminary discussions with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke regarding this issue, he said. A private partner will be solicited by the state to construct and operate the new Express Lanes on all three highways. Because of the public-private nature of the plan, Hogan can largely move forward on his own to implement it, another plus in what is sure to be a contentious election year legislative session in Annapolis.

In a press conference yesterday, Hogan called his plan "unprecedented" and "absolutely transformative." The popular governor predicted that the congestion relief would assist the entire region, not just Maryland residents. Aside from the clear practical benefits, the highway plan is a brilliant political move, as many of Hogan's rivals have already taken the bait and come out opposing traffic congestion relief(!).

Other politicians, even those not in Hogan's party, smartly endorsed the plan. Robin Ficker, a Republican candidate for Montgomery County Executive who has called for such a plan for I-270 for years, praised the governor's proposal. "We say thank you to Governor Larry Hogan for putting forth a plan to widen the 495 beltway and I 270," Montgomery County Young Republicans VP Dan McHugh said in a statement. "This will help alleviate the terrible traffic problems we have here in Montgomery County!! This is what happens when you elect Republicans - we get things done!!" Patricia Fenati, a GOP candidate for the House of Delegates in District 14, recalled the many hours she has spent over the years driving from the upcounty into the District for work. "Finally, a hero has come along to look at that problem, and come up with a solution," she said of Hogan.

Predictable criticisms and the old "induced demand" canard came from organizations engaged in the War on Cars in our region following yesterday's announcement. "Induced demand" theory has never been proven, as missing pieces of our regional freeway system have been to blame for growing congestion on our few highways. For example, there is no second Potomac River crossing, and no M-83 Midcounty Highway Extended, to relieve traffic on the American Legion Bridge and I-270. And the Capital Beltway was doomed to be jammed when anti-car forces foiled the original plan to run I-95 through Washington, D.C. That dumb move sends East Coast traffic around our Beltway 365 days a year, creating massive traffic jams.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

First debate for Montgomery County Executive candidates this Saturday, 10:00 AM

The 2018 election season is getting an early start this weekend. Five months before the candidate filing deadline, the men who have already thrown their hats in the ring for the open Montgomery County Executive office will square off in a forum hosted by the Montgomery County Muslim Council. The debate will be held this Saturday, September 23, from 10:00 AM to 1:30 PM at the Potomac Community Center, located at 11315 Falls Road in Potomac.

Expected to participate are Republican Robin Ficker and Democrats Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich and George Leventhal. Democrat Bill Frick of Bethesda just entered the race yesterday, and I will update this article as soon as I can confirm his participation.

The event is free to attend and open to the public. From the schedule, it appears Congressional candidates will speak first, and the County Executive candidates will go on at noon. However, you will have the chance to "work the room" and speak one-on-one with the candidates between 10-10:30, and between 1-1:30. This is the first real chance to hear the platforms and positions of the candidates in their own words.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Veirs Mill Corridor master plan meeting October 4

The Montgomery County Planning Department will host its next Veirs Mill Corridor master plan meeting on Wednesday, October 4, 2017 at 7:00 PM at Newport Mill Middle School, located at 11311 Newport Mill Road. Topics for the session will include pedestrian and bicycle safety, connectivity, access to transit and community facilities, improvements to the streetscape and sidewalks, and bike paths.

There's substantial evidence that the driving force behind the plan is the financial interest of one or more property owners along the corridor, who are seeking upzoning and increased density for their properties. That, combined with the developer-fueled Bus Rapid Transit plan for Veirs Mill, will lead to the demolition of several homes and apartment complexes.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Starbucks reopens at Rockville Town Square

Starbucks has reopened at Rockville Town Square after an extensive interior renovation. The renovations went beyond the cosmetic, with major upgrades to the kitchen and plumbing system. Look for new fall items on the menu, including Pumpkin Spice Chai, pumpkin scones, and - of course - the Pumpkin Spice Latte.

Georgia Tech student killed was Rockville native

Scout Schultz, a Georgia Tech student shot and killed by a campus police officer Saturday night, was a native of Rockville, according to The Washington Post. Schultz was killed in what authorities lay out as a "suicide by cop" scenario, in which Schultz allegedly threatened officers with a knife and shouted, "Shoot me!" A Georgia Bureau of Investigation spokesperson said detectives found 3 suicide notes in Schultz's dorm room. They also alleged that Schultz himself made the 911 call that drew a police response, and described a person resembling himself who was armed and dangerous. Family members of Schultz have questioned the details of the this account, according to the Associated Press.

Schultz was president of Georgia Tech Pride Alliance, which describes itself as "a student organization for LGBTQIA students and their allies." The organization's board released a statement crediting Schultz with the group's advancement and success over the last two years.

Violent protests spurred by the fatal encounter led to Georgia Tech urging students to remain indoors last night. At least two police officers were injured, and Schultz's parents urged demonstrators to remain peaceful in their protests. Classes at Georgia Tech are resuming this morning as scheduled, the university said in a statement.

Monday, September 18, 2017

162 new housing units proposed for King Farm, more Rockville jobs would be lost (Photos)

"Triplex" homes proposed for
King Farm Boulevard
King Farm could lose more future jobs if the Mayor and Council approve yet another request to convert planned office space in the development to residential. Developer Penrose Group is seeking the change, to allow construction of a condominium building and a series of "triplexes" on sites currently reserved for office space. The Mayor and Council will hear testimony on the proposal during a public hearing at tonight's meeting, which begins at 7:00 PM at City Hall.

120 of the housing units would be in a condo building at Piccard Drive and Choke Cherry Road, and 42 more would be in triplex homes on King Farm Boulevard. The units would be within the total number allowed by the King Farm master plan; 3,329 housing units have been constructed in King Farm so far, and 3600 units is the total permitted.
5-story condo building proposed
for Piccard Drive
However, the provision for office space in King Farm was designed to reduce traffic congestion by creating more job opportunities for residents of the development and the city. Swapping those for residential keeps all of the current commuters on the road, and adds the new residents who will commute in the morning.

While claiming that the revenue will help the City or County is perhaps the oldest canard in the developer PR handbook, the reality is that office developments create more net revenue for governments than residential. Not only does residential generate students for already-overcrowded public schools, but also requires the delivery of government services. In contrast, people working in the kind of offices you find in a place like King Farm are less likely to require government services. They not only may live outside of the jurisdiction, but also are probably making a decent white-collar wage and can support themselves.

The proposed change has been endorsed by the King Farm Citizens Assembly, and by a number of nearby landowners and developers.