Friday, July 21, 2017

MoCo Council bodyslammed by regional leaders on new Potomac crossing

Regional leaders delivered a stinging rebuke to the Montgomery County Council this week, approving a new Potomac River crossing study over MoCo councilmembers' objections. The County Council had unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday opposing a new bridge, or even a study of a new bridge. On Wednesday, the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB) of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) met to consider the crossing and 9 other items for study.

In addition to delivering the resolution to the board, Councilmembers Roger Berliner and Marc Elrich participated in the meeting, expending political capital to try and stop a bridge that would provide an economic boon to Montgomery County. The politically-suicidal move left many on the Board scratching their heads. It also again proved that the Council is impotent, even among their Democratic colleagues at the state level, and across the region. Elected officials on the TPB from the cities of Rockville and Gaithersburg, including Rockville Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton (who chairs the TPB) all backed studying the bridge.

Even one of the Council's war-on-cars fellow travelers, Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette, was perplexed as to why MoCo councilmembers would oppose objective study of a new bridge. Fisette said he too opposed the bridge, but thought it should be studied like the other projects. COG's own 2012 study showed that 25% of traffic on the American Legion Bridge during rush hour is traveling to, or from, the Dulles area. In addition, 27% of Virginia drivers crossing into Maryland are heading to I-270.

During discussion of the Council resolution earlier this week, Elrich had stated a new crossing was "not in the County's economic interest." This is simply not true, as many CEOs whose firms chose Virginia over Montgomery County have cited our county's lack of direct access to Dulles Airport as one of the deciding factors. Elrich said he wanted to prevent competition with BWI Airport, but BWI - like National Airport - doesn't offer the frequency and scope of international business flights that Dulles does. The largest and most-luxurious aircraft can't even land at BWI and National, but can be accommodated by runways at Dulles.

Councilmember Craig Rice said there was "not any benefit for the upcounty" in building a new bridge. Damascus, Clarksburg and Germantown residents who work in the Dulles area, and parts of Fairfax County, would vehemently disagree. Not to mention that offloading a quarter of the traffic on the American Legion Bridge benefits everyone using I-495 and I-270 during rush hour.

Another false impression was given by Councilmember Sid Katz, who declared, "the reality is, there's no money for this." With a private firm building the highway and bridge as a toll facility, the beauty of it is, very little taxpayer money would be needed. Since the road would most likely be an extension of the ICC/Sam Eig Highway, the private operator could also take control of the ICC, and lower tolls along the length of the route within Maryland.

Of the ten projects approved for study by the TPB, the Potomac River crossing would move the most people in the shortest time, for the least dollar amount per-person. In opposing it, the Council not only again declared war on their own constituents, but are actively trying to prevent congestion relief and job creation within Montgomery County, at the behest of their developer masters who want to use office zones for residential development. Protecting BWI, which can't compete on business flights with Dulles, at their constituents' expense? It sounds like Berliner, George Leventhal and Elrich are running for Baltimore mayor, not Montgomery County Executive.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Noise, traffic, dust, lack of community engagement top concerns about proposed East Rockville asphalt crushing plant

About forty Rockville residents, community leaders and City officials attended a public hearing last night, regarding the asphalt crushing plant proposed for 14900 Old Dover Road in East Rockville. Natalia Luis, Chairman and COO of applicant M. Luis Products, Co., and company President David Slaughter said locating the plant in Rockville would eliminate 5000 annual truck trips through the city. Nearby residents expressed concerns about noise, dust, odors, traffic and a lack of notification of the proposed plant.

The crushing plant recycles asphalt, which can be up to 30% of the material mixture M. Luis uses as road surfacing. Luis said the firm limits recycled asphalt to 30% because using much more than that would produce weaker material that would not meet the company's high standards for durability. She said that as a small, family-owned firm, M. Luis has difficulty obtaining a steady, sustainable supply of recycled material, so it is "better to do it ourselves." M. Luis is currently the only women-owned, minority-owned asphalt business in America, and has received recognition from Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump in recent years.

Slaughter told attendees that M. Luis currently has to either crush asphalt in a cramped space at their property on Southlawn Lane, or send it as one of those 5000 truckloads to a crushing plant in Laurel. He said they leased the Old Dover Road site from the current junkyard tenant, and have cleaned it up, getting rid of tractor trailers, cars and auto parts languishing on-site. Slaughter added that M. Luis would like to buy the property in the future, if possible. Luis expressed pride in the appearance of the company's other properties and promised this one would be held to the same standards.

The plant would have two full-time employees, and crush about 60,000-70,000 tons of recycled material annually, Slaughter estimated. A new crushing machine has been purchased by the company. He and Luis said they will make every effort to require trucks coming and going to use Gude Drive instead of N. Horners Lane through the adjacent residential neighborhood.

Residents were most concerned that they, and their civic associations, had not been alerted by the company about the proposed plant. Alexandra Dace Denito, VP of the Lincoln Park Civic Association, said she and the association received no notice of last night's hearing, nor of a previous meeting in March. "I find it disturbing there has been no outreach to the community," resident Susan Clemons said.

Rockville Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton suggested to the Maryland officials presiding over the hearing that the state add a new requirement that future industrial applicants contact City officials including the City Manager, appropriate department heads, and all residents within a 2-mile radius of a proposed site. She noted that over the decades, the City has "not done a good job protecting this neighborhood. There's more we can do."

One Lincoln Park resident criticized the company for not considering what else is around a site they plan to operate on. She discounted the promised reduction in truck traffic, saying they would still have to contend with trucks cutting through the residential neighborhood to reach the site. Slaughter and Luis both promised to do everything they could to enforce the Gude-only access policy. Newton urged them to not only forbid trucks to use N. Horners, but to stipulate that in their subcontracting contracts, which would help the City enforce the ban.

Another resident said her main concern was seeing or hearing the plant. Slaughter said there is no odor from a crushing plant, only from an asphalt manufacturing plant. Luis explained there is no dust issue, because the liquid asphalt has already bound and encased the solid material in the mixture. She said dust complaints at the company's former Baltimore site were actually caused by an adjacent concrete plant, which a City Councilman mistakenly blamed on them.

Dace Denito said she lives just slightly over 1000' from the proposed plant site, and already suffers from the daily impacts of other industrial businesses nearby. She asked the company to consider that there is an elementary school nearby, as well as a heavily-used community center.

"What is the worst case scenario?" asked Suzan Pitman, President of the East Rockville Civic Association, regarding potential air pollution disasters at the future plant. She gave a fire as an example. Many scientists live in the neighborhood, Pitman said, and they have been warning of potential air pollutants in such a scenario. 

An air quality specialist with M. Luis said that while vapor can be emitted from burning asphalt, scientists currently do not consider such emissions as a cancer-causing agent. She added that the EPA recently delisted asphalt plants from the federal "major sources of air toxins" list.

Since some objections and concerns were raised during the hearing, the state will now review those comments and produce a report responding to them. Parties of record will be notified of the report, and it will also be announced in a local newspaper. If the resident concerns are found to be legitimate in the state's view, the permit will not be issued. If the state finds the concerns without merit, they will issue the permit for the plant, and residents can file a legal challenge to the permit in Montgomery County Circuit Court.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Rockville mayor to lead Maryland Municipal League next year

Rockville Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton has been elected the next president of the Maryland Municipal League, and will serve as president-elect until her term of office begins in June 2018. Newton has served on the organization's Board of Directors since 2012, and was previously the president of MML's Montgomery County chapter from 2012 to 2015.

The league represents Maryland’s 157 towns and cities at the state government level. "I’m humbled to represent municipalities across our great state,” Newton said in a statement. “This is a wonderful opportunity for the City of Rockville to champion local government in Maryland.”

Newton also serves in leadership roles at the regional level, on the Board of Directors at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, and as the current elected chair of the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Fresh Baguette sets opening date in Rockville

Fresh Baguette, an authentic French bakery located at 804 Hungerford Drive in Rockville, will open next Tuesday, July 25. The bakery has taken over the old Banner Glass space. It's not very visible from the street, but they have a well-placed sign out front. Fresh Baguette has a popular existing location in Bethesda.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Police seeking man who assaulted Ride On bus driver in Rockville (Photos)

Montgomery County police are asking the public to help identify the suspect in a brutal assault that left a Ride On bus driver hospitalized on July 11. Police say the suspect got into a verbal argument with the driver as the bus got underway from the Shady Grove Metro station around 1:00 AM that morning.

The suspect then began to physically assault the driver, who attempted to call the police as he was being attacked. He did not stop his assault until the driver stopped the bus and opened the doors in the 15900 block of Frederick Road. The suspect got away on a bike he had brought with him on the bus.

Anyone who recognizes the suspect, or who has information about this assault, is urged to contact the 1st District Investigative Section at 240-773-6084.  For those who wish to remain anonymous, Crime Solvers of Montgomery County is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for any information that leads to the arrest of the suspect. Tipsters can call Crime Solvers of Montgomery County toll-free at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

Friday, July 14, 2017

Rita's Italian Ice grand opening this Saturday in Derwood

Rita's Italian Ice will celebrate its official grand opening at 7211 Muncaster Mill Road tomorrow, Saturday, July 15, 2017 in Derwood. Buy one treat, get one free all day long. There will also be a custard-eating contest, t-shirt unraveling contest, and taste-testing contest, along with other activities. Find out what their flavors of the day are each day by liking their Facebook page.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Rockville construction update: The Metropolitan at Rockville Town Center apartments (Photos)

Construction continues at the Kettler mixed-use project called The Metropolitan at Rockville Town Center at 255 N. Washington Street. This is part of Phase 2 of redeveloping the Town Center area.

275 apartments will range from one-bedroom lofts to three bedrooms on the former site of the historic Suburban Trust Building. Amenities will include a fitness center, a yoga room, a pet grooming station, bike storage, two courtyards with outdoor grills, a swimming pool, and a two-story entertainment lounge and terrace.

A two-level, 303-space underground parking garage and 6000 SF of ground floor retail round out the project. Delivery is expected in the fall of 2017.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Asphalt crushing plant proposed for Rockville

M. Luis Products Company has proposed constructing and operating a reclaimed asphalt pavement (RAP) crushing and screening plant at 14900 Old Dover Road in Rockville. The Maryland Department of the Environment, Air and Radiation Management Administration (ARMA) has completed a review of the company's application, and is tentatively set to approve it.

But first, ARMA is hosting a public hearing to get community feedback on the proposed plant. The plant will crush 220 tons of reclaimed asphalt per hour, and be powered by two diesel engines. A public hearing will be held on Wednesday, July 19, 2017 at 6:30 PM, at the County Council Office Building, at 100 Maryland Avenue in Rockville, in the 7th floor Hearing Room. You will be able to speak at the hearing.

The closest homes to the plant are on Moore Drive - a fair distance away, but the ARMA announcement does not state the decibel level of the crushing machinery. You can read the M. Luis application, and ARMA's report, at the Rockville Memorial Library at 21 Maryland Avenue, Suite 310. Ask for "Docket #02-17."

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Mark Keshishian & Sons moving to Rockville

Mark Keshishian & Sons, a 110-year-old business currently located at 4507 Stanford Street in Bethesda (officially Chevy Chase), is moving to Rockville. Their new address will be 12264-D Wilkins Avenue. The Oriental rugs and carpet store says they expect to complete the move by late July.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Signage installed at Lab Cafe in Rockville (Photos)

The sign and new awning are up outside the new Lab Cafe at Rockville Town Square. Replacing Ev and Maddy's, the bubble tea cafe is expected to open in mid-July. Lab Cafe will be at 101-C Gibbs Street, right next to Little Dipper Hot Pot.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Rockville construction update: Brightview West End senior apartments (Photos)

A new development that will put seniors right in the middle of Rockville Town Center is nearing delivery at 285 N. Washington Street. Brightview West End will include 195 units of independent and assisted living, 6568 SF of ground floor retail, dining facilities and a fitness center, a landscaped courtyard, and a "therapeutic" roof garden.

Alzheimer's care will also be a specialty at this residential building, and services will include transportation to medical centers, museums and galleries, and local events. A movie theater, library and "upscale pub with billiards and TV" round out the leisure options.

A rental office Welcome Center is now open at 401 N. Washington Street.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Nighttime noise ahead in Fallsgrove

A Nighttime Noise Waiver has been requested for road milling patching and resurfacing in the vicinity of Fallsgrove Village Center in Rockville. Work will be performed between 8:00 PM and 5:00 AM, and is scheduled to begin next week, weather permitting.

The resurfacing will be on Fallsgrove Boulevard, between Shady Grove Road and Fallsgrove Drive. Residents in the adjacent apartments may want to stock up on earplugs and fire up the white noise machine.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Rockville construction update: Upper Rock retail center (Photos)

Existing small retail spaces in Rockville's
Upper Rock District
Is Upper Rock becoming a hub for the "creative class" in Rockville, as was promised during the development's planning process? The jury may still be out on that, but what is known is that several retail additions are coming soon to the district off of Shady Grove Road. Among them are MOM's Organic Market, and the ubiquitous CVS Pharmacy.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Rockville fireworks 2017 tonight at King Farm

Fireworks return to King Farm tonight in Rockville for the City's annual Independence Day celebration, hosted by the Mayor and Council. The fireworks display, and live music by the Rockville Concert Band and country artist Shane Gamble, will be at Mattie J.T. Stepanek Park, located at 1800 Piccard Drive.

Music will begin at 6:00 PM, and the fireworks display will begin at 9:15 PM, and last about 20 minutes. Plenty of free parking will be available in lots on Shady Grove and Gaither Roads and Piccard Drive, all near the park. Attendees are encouraged to approach the site via main roads, as some smaller routes will be blocked off by police.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Lab Café aiming for mid-July opening in Rockville

The bubble tea shop concept coming to Rockville Town Square has changed its name. Originally going under the moniker "Corner Bubble," it will now be called Lab Café. Not to worry, bubble tea fans, boba tea is still central on the menu. Lab Café' says they are hoping to open in mid-July, and are currently hiring staff.