Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Sazon Inka, a new restaurant serving Peruvian-style chicken and grilled specialties, has opened in the Courthouse Center at 6 N. Washington Street in Rockville. Here are pictures of the Sazon Inka menu (click on photos to enlarge for greater detail):

Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Hair will remain the theme in the former Hair Cuttery space at Rockville Town Square. The haircut chain's vacant spot will be filled by Hair Design Zone. Nothing is known about HDZ at this time (such as, is it a notch upscale or downscale from Hair Cuttery?), but it appears to not be a national chain.

Monday, December 29, 2014


The architecture of the future La Madeleine at Pike & Rose is taking on the distinctive design of the French cafe chain's other locations. It should definitely be fireplace weather when it opens this winter.

Friday, December 26, 2014


A house fire in the unit block of Marcia Court early this morning around 1:35 AM was extinguished by Montgomery County Fire and Rescue services. The fire was in the recreation room of the house, according to MCFRS spokesperson Pete Piringer. All residents managed to escape, but one was evaluated for injuries by EMS personnel. The street is located near the natural boundary of Rock Creek Park in Twinbrook Forest.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


In a scene reminiscent of Hardware Wars, giant baking utensils have landed at Pike & Rose, and attached themselves to the side of the PerSei apartments. Actually, these are just the latest design additions to the building's facade that recall a legendary area baking equipment company.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


Artisanal pizza and California cuisine will arrive at Federal Realty's new Pike & Rose development next month. Stella Barra, a pizzeria concept by Chef Jeff Mahin, and Summer House Santa Monica (also created by Mahin) will open on January 15, 2015, at 11825 Grand Park Avenue. Both restaurants are part of the Lettuce Entertain You restaurant group, of which Bethesda Row's Mon Ami Gabi is a family member, as well.

Construction continues on the interior, but as you can see, a lot of work has been done on the exterior facade. Already popular in Southern California and Chicago, Stella Barra will be a must-try for pizza fanatics in the DC area. Red and white pizzas will join 40 bottles of wine and some unique menu additions created just for this location. Summer House will be centered around a wood-fired grill, and will employ locally-sourced ingredients and simple preparation of American food in a beach house-themed setting.

Monday, December 22, 2014


Borden Egg Nog certainly brings back fond memories of childhood Christmases past. It's been missing in recent years, but I found it in a new, resealable container this year at Giant. No more punching holes in the top of a metal can, and now it will stay fresher. Unlike other egg nogs on the market, Borden's can stay off ice for many months until you open it.

Elsie the Cow, Borden's famous mascot, is still on the package, as well. During my review, you'll also learn a bit about her history, and about the history of egg nog.

Does Borden's egg nog still taste as good as it did decades ago? Watch my review to find out!

Friday, December 19, 2014


The Rockville Historic District Commission wants more information before rendering its decision on whether or not the office building at 5 Choke Cherry Road merits historic designation. At the outset of last night's meeting, Commission Chair Robert Achtmeyer asked if this matter was essentially a rubber stamp action for the body (the property is part of The JBG Companies' Upper Rock development, which received initial approval from the Mayor and Council, and a housing component has already been constructed). It quickly became apparent that that would not be the case.

Ironically, the commercial structure in question had previously been slated for a retrofitting by JBG, to transform it into a mixed-use, live-work housing development. That would have preserved the arguably-historic exterior. More recently, JBG determined that there was no market for additional housing in that immediate area, and has now asked for permission to demolish 5 Choke Cherry Road to make way for a retail development.

The building was designed by highly-regarded local architect John "Jack" Sullivan, who was responsible for many notable buildings in Rockville, including the County Council building. Now many of them are threatened with demolition, which concerned Commissioners Craig Maloney and Jessica Reynolds. Reynolds said she was still lamenting the demolition of the Suburban Trust Building (a.k.a. The Pink Bank), and the commission's decision last month to allow demolition of the Gillette Building.

Nancy Pickard, speaking on behalf of Peerless Rockville, testified that the building deserves consideration for historic designation on several of the criteria required to meet current preservation standards. 

While the staff report found 5 Choke Cherry Road did not meet any of the criteria for historic designation, Reynolds and Maloney disagreed. Maloney noted that the Brutalist architecture element of the 1973 structure predated the height of that style's popularity, making it an early example ahead of its time. There was also a sense during the discussion that the importance and prominence of Sullivan's work in Rockville met the criteria for having been designed by a master architect.

Ultimately, the commission voted to postpone the question. Reynolds asked city staff to provide more information on Sullivan's buildings, how many remain in unaltered form and which ones have been demolished already. She said that information would help the commission begin to reckon with which Sullivan buildings it should prioritize preservation of. The commission also felt that it would help to discuss the matter with JBG at a future meeting, to determine if there is any viable way for the developer to utilize the existing building, such as removing floors to allow higher ceilings for contemporary retail.

Given that the ground floor currently houses individual retail such as a credit union, it seems that retrofitting this building for retail would be possible. It also has prime placement along Shady Grove Road, giving it - and future tenants - high visibility.

The two single-family homes, whose owners were seeking a finding to allow demolition last night, were both found to not meet historic designation criteria by the commission.

Thursday, December 18, 2014


The future, eponymous Peter Chang restaurant in Rockville Town Square has applied for its liquor license. It will replace Taste of Saigon at the retail center. In an update from the initial announcement, the name appears to have added "China Bistro" to the end of it. Peter Chang's license hearing will be held today at 9:00 AM in the auditorium of the County Council building at 100 Maryland Avenue.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014


The Rockville Historic District Commission will examine requests for demolitions of two homes and one office building at its next meeting, Thursday, December 18, at 7:30 PM, in the Mayor and Council Chambers at City Hall.

Property owners of homes at 417 Park Road and 515 Crabb Avenue are asking for a determination of historic significance, as they seek to demolish the structures. The JBG Companies seeks the same ruling for an office building it wants to demolish at 5 Choke Cherry Road.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


The man pictured is wanted by police in connection with a stabbing Monday morning at 6:08 AM by the Rockville Metro station. An earlier altercation led to two adult males being stabbed, and the assailant is still at-large.

The attack took place at a Ride On bus stop, and both victims were transported to local hospitals with non-lifethreatening injuries.

If you recognize this person of interest, please call Metro Transit Police Detectives at (202) 962-2121, and reference case #2014-62731. Tips also can be sent via text message to "MyMTPD" (696873). There are no current warrants for the arrest of the wanted man.


Roy Rogers made a triumphant return to Rockville yesterday, and was on the scene. The Fixin's Bar takes center stage inside the restaurant, just as it did in the old days. One feature not found at the old Congressional Plaza Roy's? Two new Coca-Cola Freestyle soda fountain machines, from which I dispensed myself a refreshing Mello Yello. Just remember that the soda jet is slightly forward from the ice-dispensing cup position, or you'll get more soda on your hand than in your cup.
If you can't trust Roy Rogers,
who can you trust? Great to
see a tribute to Roy Rogers on
the wall, keeping his memory
alive for future generations
Another nice touch was the prominent image of Roy Rogers himself on the wall, with his now-legendary Promise to customers. Some menu items have been tweaked to be more premium, such as the use of brand-name Hormel Cure 81 ham atop the Double R burger, and Edy's ice cream in the milkshakes. The flavors of the Double R, famous Roy's fried chicken, and french fries - I ordered the Holster Fries version, of course - were reassuringly familiar and delicious. Roy's veterans like myself will have to get over the fact that the fry holster is now red, instead of the faux-leather, realistic brown gun holster design from the 1970s and 80s. At first, I thought they'd given me the wrong fries, but realized my mistake when I saw the words, Holster Fry, on the side.

What was my verdict on the 2014 Double R Burger? Watch my review to find out, and get all the details. For those who were more familiar with Roys in the mid-to-late 90s, you'll be glad to find the Gold Rush Chicken Sandwich is still on the menu.
Never thought I'd be strapping
on a pair of these again...
They've got side dishes you'll remember, like cole slaw - and new ones you wouldn't expect to find at Roy's, like macaroni and cheese. For dessert, I can never pass up a brownie sundae. Roy's had a brownie in the old days, but not a brownie sundae. The new Roy's has the sundae, and I'm looking forward to trying that on a future visit.

Double R Burger
With the addition of Roy Rogers, Rockville Pike between Montrose Parkway and N. Washington Street now offers a smorgasbord of some of the top fast food restaurants in America: Chick-fil-A, McDonald's, Taco Bell, Wendy's, Popeye's, and now Roy Rogers. It's a shame that A&W left College Plaza, because they have no other location in the Montgomery County area. Fortunately, Roy's has brought a another classic American burger to the Pike to take its place.
How can you not like
this guy's enthusiasm?

No grand opening is complete
without balloons
Fixin's Bar

Roy Rogers rides again
in Rockville!

Monday, December 15, 2014


A stabbing attack left 2 people injured this morning near the Rockville Metro station. Montgomery County emergency medical personnel arrived to the scene at Park Road and E. Middle Lane to find two men with lacerations. One victim had serious injuries; the other's were non-life-threatening, according to Montgomery County Fire and Rescue spokesperson Pete Piringer. Both adult males were transported to an undisclosed hospital. Police are investigating.


A new restaurant is coming to Federal Realty's Courthouse Center in Rockville. Sazon Inka will be the newest tenant in the retail center perhaps best known for the Apollo restaurant. Courthouse Center is across from Federal Realty's Rockville Town Square property, and two blocks from the Rockville Metro Station.

Sazon Inka will serve the popular Peruvian-style chicken, pollo a la brasa, as well as parrilla grilled selections. Stay tuned for an opening date.

Friday, December 12, 2014


Yeehaw! Yahoo! Roy Rogers fans, your prayers have been answered. The new Roy Rogers in Rockville, located at 718 Rockville Pike (across from Marlo Furniture) is opening this Monday, December 15, at 10:30 AM!

The first 50 guests in line will receive a year's supply of free Roy Rogers food. Monday's opening marks a historic return for the legendary Roy Rogers chain, which had operated decades ago in Rockville. Started by the Marriott Corporation, Roy's is now owned by Plamondon Company, which was founded by a Roy's franchisee.

Get ready to grab those fry holsters, Pilgrim!

Thursday, December 11, 2014


The Rockville Planning Commission voted 5-1 Wednesday night to recommend the Mayor and Council drop a proposed Zoning Text Amendment regarding self storage businesses. Commissioner Charles Littlefield cast the lone dissenting vote.

Self Storage facilities have been a hot button issue in recent months, as neighbors of a potential such facility fought plans to build one near Maryvale Elementary School. The attorney representing that EZ Storage project, Bob Dalrymple, warned commissioners that his client would pursue other avenues if they approved of the ZTA.

The sense that the ZTA was targeting the EZ Storage project ultimately led to its dismissal by the commission. A majority of commissioners found that the ZTA was too narrowly targeted, was arbitrary, and did not provide an adequate public process to sort the matter out.


The Rockville Planning Commission voted unanimously last night to oppose proposed changes in the city's Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance regarding school capacity standards. Some on the city council are in favor of replacing the current school standards with those used by Montgomery County. The changes would include averaging school populations over a cluster, rather than measuring overcrowding at each individual school, as the current Rockville standard does.

Commission Chair Don Hadley reiterated his previous remarks that the recent legal opinion handed down by Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler suggests the Mayor and Council lack the authority to change the APFS school standards. Hadley said they and the commission "need to find out what the rules of the road are," before changing the standards. Commissioner John Tyner said the recommendations of the city's APFO Committee a couple of years back - to implement no changes to the Rockville school standards - were forwarded by the Planning Commission to the Mayor and Council. "My opinion has not changed on that," he added.

There was a sense among some commissioners that something fishy is going on, and that the proposed changes are being pushed behind the scenes for an unstated purpose. "I'm fearful something non-transparent is going on that should be made transparent," Commissioner David Hill said. Commissioner Jack Leiderman said the demand for changes is certainly not coming from the city's residents. "Whenever there has been a proposal to weaken the APFO, this room has been filled to capacity" with citizens opposing the change, Leiderman noted. He said the January 5 date for the APFO public hearing - during holiday vacations - appeared to have been "frankly, chosen to minimize" public input.

Hill said he welcomed a "vibrant public debate" on school standards, but agreed that January 5 was not particularly conducive to having one. He reiterated Tyner's point that the commission had already spoken to the school matter by forwarding the committee report to the Mayor and Council. "I am not ready to change" school standards, Hill said. He said other jurisdictions in the state have used Rockville's 2005 APFO standards as a model, and therefore, the authority issue is very appropriate for Gansler to address at this juncture. Commissioner Anne Goodman concurred that the city should get a legal opinion from Gansler before acting on the APFS. "We have a legal uncertainty," Hadley said. "It leaves us in a very tenuous position."

Leiderman suggested the commission go on the public record regarding the controversial January 5 public hearing, and send a formal letter to the Mayor and Council. Hill said he agreed "it's the Planning Commission's place to make a recommendation."

Hill prepared language for a commission resolution that would reiterate the body's support of the 2012 APFO committee recommendations. He said they should emphasize to the Mayor and Council that those recommendations were "the product of a citizen committee that spent many hours" studying the complex issues related to adequate public facilities. Leiderman argued the commission should add one element missing from the committee recommendations, namely, to affirm that 110% of capacity is the maximum allowable in a particular school. He also said that passing the proposed changes would not be a mere alteration of regulations, but a de facto repeal of the APFO - an act that would require a text amendment. Leiderman warned that the county has even considered raising its weaker standard to a higher level of acceptable overcrowding - which would leave Rockville's schools well over the 120% county standard.

Ultimately, the commissioners came to a unanimous recommendation that the Mayor and Council should not change school standards at this time. 

Meanwhile, former mayor Larry Giammo posted a second article on his blog regarding the APFO controversy. Giammo was mayor when the city passed the original ordinance, which several commissioners argued last night is clearly working to prevent further school overcrowding. This latest post is devoted to debunking the stated rationales for loosening school standards in Rockville.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Two-term former Rockville City Councilman John Hall testified before the Mayor and Council Monday evening that adopting Montgomery County's weaker policy on school overcrowding would be a "death blow" to the city's Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance. Currently, Rockville measures overcrowding at each individual school, and once a school is termed overcrowded, development in that school district is halted.

The proposal by some councilmembers to adopt the county standard, by contrast, would allow an averaging of schools by cluster. Hall pointed to data that suggested averaging would provide a much looser school capacity standard than the current city rules.

Under Montgomery County's APFO, "the most lax and least effective apfo in the entire region," Hall added, individual schools can exceed the supposed 120% overcapacity cap without triggering a development moratorium. At this time in the county, Hall said, 8 public schools exceed 150% of capacity, and 1 is at 180%. "That’s absurd, it’s almost criminal," Hall argued, but it's allowed by cluster averaging methods.

Adopting such a plan, while representing it as a 120% cap on overcrowding, "misleads our parents and residents," he added. Hall urged the council to not act hastily under pressure from developers, and to rely on guidance from the city's Planning Commission.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


Rockville's Mayor and Council approved changes to the Duball project for 198 E. Montgomery Avenue last night. The developer had sought an increase in residential units for the proposed second tower in Town Center, but also asked for a 25% parking reduction.

The seemingly incongruous requests did not sit well with some. Councilmember Virginia Onley, a resident of nearby Americana Center, said parking was a mess already. Some frustrated parkers try to use Americana Center spaces as it is, she noted. Ultimately, Onley, Mayor Bridget Newton and Councilmember Beryl Feinberg voted 3-2 to reduce the parking waiver to 15%.

Councilmember Julie Palakovich Carr then offered an amendment to eliminate the valet parking requirement for Duball, arguing that the increased parking space requirement negated the need for that service. Councilmember Tom Moore seconded the amendment, which ultimately passed.

Moore said he disagreed with the parking increase, but still believes the project will be a boon for the city's town center. The Rockville Planning Commission had previously recommended against permitting the unit increase and parking decrease. Duball's first tower is nearing completion next to the municipal parking lot where the proposed tower will be built, in front of the Regal Rockville theater.


Rockville Planning Commission Chair Don Hadley dropped a bombshell in the heated debate over the future of the city's Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance/Standards last night. During his annual presentation on city planning and development, Hadley touched on the APFO issue. Just as some councilmembers are prepared to loosen school overcrowding restrictions on development, Hadley cited a recent legal opinion by Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler that suggests they lack the authority to do so.

The opinion resulted from a 2011 request by the Mount Airy Town Council to settle the question of whether the council could amend or change a comprehensive plan or plan element formulated by the town's planning commission. The council and its attorney believed it could. "Respectfully, we disagree," Gansler wrote back in his November 18, 2014 opinion.

Based upon Sections 3-202 and 3-205 of the Maryland Code’s Land Use Article, the 2012 Code Revision notes, and his review of legislative history, Gansler concluded the council lacked the legal authority to change a planning commission plan or plan element without receiving a new recommendation from the planning commission. Gansler's opinion argued that the council could only approve or disapprove of a plan, not alter it.

The opinion does not apply to counties or Baltimore City, but does apply to municipalities like Rockville.

Accordingly, Hadley suggested at last night's Mayor and Council meeting, the APFS changes proposed by some councilmembers are in conflict with both the current Rockville Master Plan, and also state land-use laws.

Councilmember Tom Moore, an advocate for changing the APFS school standards, vigorously disagreed. "You made a pretty bold claim," Moore charged, saying that Rockville City Attorney Debra Yerg Daniel had concluded the opinion did not apply to the APFS change "because it's not a Master Plan item." 

But Daniel's legal opinion has not been made public, and - under Mayor and Council privilege - must remain secret unless the Mayor and Council waive their right to confidentiality. Hadley asked if the city attorney's decision would remain "under a rock" where the public cannot review it.

Mayor Bridget Newton and a majority of the council said they were willing to waive their legal right to confidentiality, although Moore raised the question of whether there were any negative implications for the city in doing so. The APFS issue "is on a fast train, and four of us have asked you" to make the decision public, Newton said to Daniel.

Daniel agreed to make her opinion public, but it is not known how soon it will be released as of this writing.

An extra dash of intrigue has now been added to the debate, which had tensions high all evening. Near the meeting's end, Newton and Moore clashed on a labor relations item being added to a future agenda. Moore opposed the item, interjecting repeatedly. "Councilmember Moore, you are out of order," Newton said firmly, as Moore continued to protest.

Hadley said that, as chair of the commission, "I'm a dummy if I sit here and watch" the APFS matter be resolved by the council, if it has no legal authority to do so. He pointed to the city's master plan language and state land use rules, both of which explicitly emphasize that school capacity must be provided to support new development. The Mayor and Council should ask Gansler for an opinion on their authority to tamper with the APFS before doing so, Hadley suggested.

"I wouldn't mess with the APFS until the Attorney General rules," Hadley advised. "The city doesn't want me to do this, but we've got to do it."

Monday, December 8, 2014


Rockville Councilmember Tom Moore is hosting a public meeting on December 17 at City Hall at 7:00 PM, regarding the proposed changes in the city's Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance and Standards that would alter how school overcrowding calculations are made. This is another chance to have your voice heard on this contentious issue that has great implications for the future of the City.

Friday, December 5, 2014


The Fisher House Foundation operates a network of homes nationwide where military spouses and families can stay free of charge, while family members are being treated at medical facilities. Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda has 5 Fisher House homes.

Two of the smallest homes still need to be decorated for the holidays, and that's where you can help.

Donations of Christmas decorations are greatly needed to accomplish this task, and bring the holiday spirit to families staying there this month. Help families far from home who are enduring an often-stressful situation in Bethesda have some semblance of a normal Christmas, by giving extra decorations you have, or purchasing some to donate.

Items that would be most helpful include tree ornaments/tinsel/holly berries (they already have the trees to put them on), small wreaths so they can put one on every door (8) in each house, reindeer, stockings for the fireplaces, and Santa hats and scarves.

If you have items to contribute, please email Megan Jones A.S.A.P. They are hoping to have all of the supplies by December 15. 

Share this article on Twitter and Facebook if you can, to help spread the word. For more information about the Fisher House Foundation, visit their website.

Thursday, December 4, 2014


Two current hot-button issues will come up during the next Rockville Planning Commission meeting on Wednesday, December 10, at 7:00 PM. Commissioners and staff members Jim Wasilak and Deane Mellender will discuss the Adequate Public Facilities Standards changes proposed by the Mayor and Council. The commission will also take public testimony on a Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) that would prohibit the construction of self-storage facilities on land within 250 feet of a public school.

This comes during a major controversy over an EZ-Storage facility that is proposed to be built near Maryvale Elementary School in Rockville.

Two townhome projects that would add a total of 129 housing units to King Farm will also be reviewed. Those project sites are located at 900 and 901 King Farm Boulevard.

The meeting will be held in the Mayor and Council chambers at City Hall, and also broadcast live on Channel 11.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


No, we're not talking about free parking at Rockville Town Square. This Friday is the 81st anniversary of the end of Prohibition in the United States. Bar Louie in Rockville Town Square will be celebrating the occasion on Friday with 3 special cocktails, period jazz, and a costume contest for those who arrive in 1933-era style.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Leaders of Rockville and Gaithersburg will hold a discussion Wednesday night at City Hall with Montgomery County officials, regarding the county's Bus Rapid Transit plan. Much about BRT remains sketchy in detail, with no funding source yet identified, no credible ridership forecasts, and the potential for extensive property condemnations throughout the proposed network.

A photo op event at the Montgomery County Fair last summer backfired when the bus on display turned out to look like any ordinary, articulated Metrobus in service today in the DC area - not the futuristic, railcar-like vehicle BRT boosters promised. And there's no getting around the fact that the current plan to take lanes from cars on Rockville Pike will reduce automobile capacity on that already-congested road by 33%.

Wednesday night's meeting will be held at 7:00 PM in the Mayor and Council chambers, and also will be broadcast live on Rockville Channel 11.

Monday, December 1, 2014


Rockville City Councilmember Tom Moore's push to change the city's Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance/Standards is generating controversy among residents, and the former mayor who ushered in the ordinance in 2005. Moore has referred to the status quo rules regarding schools as "failed," and tweeted last month that "Our schools & City deserve standards that work." 

Former Mayor Larry Giammo, widely credited for guiding the construction of the city's town center, is urging residents to turn out in force at the January 5 Mayor and Council Public Hearing on the APFO, and oppose the changes. The changes under consideration include adopting a weaker school capacity test similar to Montgomery County's, which would allow more overcrowding (120%) than exists today. They would also use an average across school clusters that could mask specific schools' severe overcrowding issues, and change the school capacity test period from 2 to 5 years. 

Moore proposes charging developers a fee for their projects when school overcrowding reaches 105-120% of capacity, and says the current mechanism to request funds when overcrowding hits 110% hasn't generated the construction money necessary.

Giammo rebuts Moore's assertion that the APFO has failed Rockville on adequate school construction, arguing that the APFO was never intended as a solution to begin with; only to prevent overcrowding from getting even worse. "Why propose to loosen controls which are keeping the problem from getting worse, if you actually care about the problem?" wrote Giammo on his blog ten days ago.

Residents are organizing around a petition to keep the current standards in place, and are also urging concerned citizens to attend the January 5 hearing, or email their testimony if they cannot attend to speak in person. East Rockville resident Peter Wizler, who recently helped lead citizen efforts to prevent a self-storage facility from being constructed near Maryvale Elementary School, wrote on his blog that "I am sure we can all agree that school over crowding compromises the education of our kids." Loosening standards would lead to a rapid increase in development and overcrowding, many residents fear. Such development has been restrained by the current APFO standards.

The diverging opinions on the APFO/APFS have been a constant source of debate in City politics in recent years, and in the past election. Equally on the front burner has been the push to get more funding for school expansion and construction across Rockville. Mayor Bridget Newton and Councilmember Julie Palakovich Carr recently testified before the Montgomery County Board of Education about the need for funds, and more accurate planning for future student populations.

The January 5 public hearing will be at 7:00 PM in the Mayor and Council chambers at Rockville City Hall. A vote on the APFO changes is currently scheduled for January 26, 2015.