Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Japong Bakery to open in Rockville

Japong Bakery is coming to the Ritchie Center at 785 Rockville Pike. The bakery is scheduled to open September 30 in the former Mr. Banh Mi space.

Japong will offer the top-selling pastries from across Asia, but the selections include some familiar in the West, including cream puffs, cheesecakes and gourmet cakes. Their breads and pastries are made fresh with their exclusive Sourdough recipe. Among the Asian selections are Egg Tarts, a baked pastry crust filled with egg custard.

In related news, Pho 95 in the same shopping center is currently renovating their space.

Councilmember wants to clarify relationship between Mayor & Council and Rockville Sister Cities Corporation

Rockville City Councilmember Mark Pierzchala wants the Mayor and Council to discuss and clarify the relationship between that body and the Rockville Sister Cities. It is unclear what the full purpose of the proposed discussion is, but Pierzchala mentioned that he would like to know what input the Mayor and Council have in terminating Rockville's relationship with a sister city, and the establishment of new ties with a different one.

"It's very unclear in my mind when the Mayor and Council should be chiming in," Pierzchala said at Monday night's Mayor and Council meeting. He said he wants to "define the relationship" between the Rockville Sister City Corporation and the Mayor & Council, and explore the evolution of that relationship and their respective roles over the last 30 years.

The Rockville Sister City Corporation, as it is officially known, was founded as a non-profit in 1987. Rockville's current sister cities are Pinneberg, Germany and Jiaxing, China.

A discussion item has tentatively been added to the next meeting's agenda. That agenda had not been posted on the City website as of this writing.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Mayor wants to know why Rockville election board is defying request to appear at City Council

Rockville Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton and Councilmember Beryl Feinberg are seeking answers as to why the Board of Supervisors of Elections is refusing to appear before the City Council to brief them on the switch to voting-by-mail, that will occur with the next City election in 2019.  Newton and Feinberg queried Deputy City Clerk Sara Taylor-Farrell and City Attorney Debra Yerg Daniel about the delay in updating officials on their plans and progress on the new voting system.

"I'm a little concerned, because this is a huge deal," Newton said. Feinberg too expressed concerns over the delay given the enormity of the task ahead, calling the new system a "sea change" for the city. She said she wanted to know where exactly the Board is in implementing voting by mail.

Daniel said the Board technically does not have to appear at the request of the Mayor and Council, because they are a separately-chartered body in charge of elections. Staff and Councilmember Virginia Onley said the Board is understaffed, and that their request for additional staffing funds from the Mayor and Council may have to be acted upon before the Board will agree to appear.

Onley suggested discussing the staffing problem with the Board, even if the conversation must be held out of public view. "If it's offline, then let's discuss it offline," Onley suggested. Daniel said an offline discussion could be held in closed session. The Mayor and Council have a closed session today at 4:00 PM at the Cottage at Glenview Mansion, at 603 Edmonston Drive, where the matter may now be discussed. That closed session is, of course, closed to the public.

They will also be discussing something related to the Office of the City Clerk, the original reason for the closed session.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Golden Samovar closed in Rockville after flood

Golden Samovar is closed at Rockville Town Square. The restaurant says the closure is due to repeated flooding of its space from the apartments located upstairs, and that it will not reopen "until the issue is resolved."

However, the restaurant's website is currently down, as well. I know there is a basis in truth for the flooding explanation, because the restaurant indeed closed temporarily in late May, due to water from the apartments upstairs. They then reopened.

We will have to stay tuned here. It would be truly sad to lose Golden Samovar, as we are in great need of Russian and Eastern European restaurants in Montgomery County.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Derwood man missing

Montgomery County police are seeking the public's help in finding a missing Derwood man. Marvin Darnell Obrien, 33, lives in a group home on Granby Road. He was last seen by caretakers there on September 7, when police say he left the home on foot.

Police describe Obrien as an African American male, approximately 5’9″ to 6’ 1” tall and weighing 160 pounds. He has short black hair, brown eyes, and a tattoo located on his forehead.

Anyone who has information regarding the whereabouts of Marvin Darnell Obrien is asked to call the police non-emergency number at 301-279-8000 (answers 24-7).

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Mayor and Council to consider abandonment of easement along Veirs Mill Road

Rockville's Mayor and Council will hold a public hearing on the potential abandonment of a City right-of-way easement located on the property of 2131 Veirs Mill Road. According to 1976 documents, the easement was granted to the Mayor and Council of Rockville at that time "for use as a public road or 'service road' to facilitate the interior flow of traffic along Viers (sic) Mill Road.

It's intriguing that an abandonment could occur prior to final decisions being made about the impact and needed right-of-way for the Bus Rapid Transit boondoggle planned for Veirs Mill. Quite a few homes and businesses will be partially or entirely condemned if that plan goes forward as generally described now. There is currently a bus stop in front of the subject property.

The current property owner is seeking the abandonment of the easement because it would hinder a building addition, and future redevelopment of the property, according to the applicant's attorney. A public hearing on the abandonment will be held at the Mayor and Council meeting on Monday, September 17, 2018 at 7:00 PM at City Hall.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Sprint proposes adding new cell tower on Rockville water tank

Sprint has applied to construct a new telecommunications tower on an existing water tank in Rockville. The tank is located at 13890 Glen Mill Road. In addition to the tower, related equipment would also be located on the ground nearby.

The only public comment being accepted at this time is on potential effects you feel the tower would have on any existing historic property that is either on, or eligible for, the National Register of Historic Places.

Comments on that issue can be received by Andrew Smith at 260-385-6999. The site is located across from Lakewood Country Club, and is down the road from Lakewood Elementary School. It is also surrounded by single-family homes.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Hogan declares state of emergency ahead of Hurricane Florence

Potomac River at 
flood stage at
Little Falls, 
White's Ferry closed,
National Guard alerted

Will Hurricane Florence hit Maryland hard? We don't know yet, but Gov. Larry Hogan isn't taking any chances. "While we're hoping for the best, we are preparing for the worst," Hogan said at a press conference, where he announced he has declared a state of emergency. The governor said the declaration would allow the state to mobilize the resources and personnel potentially needed in the areas expected to be hardest hit.

Hogan warned of the strong possibility of "historic, catastrophic, and life-threatening flooding," in coastal and low-lying, flood-prone areas. "At my direction, the state is currently taking action to activate all available resources," he told reporters, "including alerting the Maryland National Guard."

Sporting a yellow-trimmed polo shirt, Hogan said he is in constant contact with the National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center, to obtain up-to-the-minute briefings on the storm's track. He said the state's Emergency Management Center is "fully-staffed" at this hour, at that emergency shelters around the state are now standing by to receive displaced residents.

Pepco will face its first real test of its "new" system. The utility will have no excuse to be short on personnel, because Hogan explicitly mentioned that he has personally alerted the state's electrical companies to mobilize now.

The governor urged residents to "start now to prepare your families and your homes for potential heavy rains, wind and possible flooding." He recommended citizens "have water, batteries, and flashlights at the ready in case of power outages."

Hogan said he expected to know more about the storm's potential impacts by later today.

Suburban News Network
Storm Center Update

The National Weather Service has put a Dense Fog Advisory into effect until 10:00 AM this morning. A Flood Warning remains in effect until noon Wednesday. The many preceding days of heavy rain have put the area behind the 8-ball before Florence even arrives near the end of the week.

Already, the Potomac River is above flood stage at Little Falls, and high water has closed White's Ferry for now.

Current temperature in Rockville is 69 degrees. It is 67 in Darnestown, and 68 in Derwood.

The high today will be 81, with a shower or thunderstorm expected this afternoon. Winds are from the west at 1 MPH, gusting to 6 MPH.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Coalition relaunches effort to declare MoCo a sanctuary county

A group calling itself the Montgomery County Trust Act Coalition is again urging the County Council to officially declare Montgomery County a sanctuary county. The County is already unofficially a sanctuary jurisdiction, as it has repeatedly released prisoners from the County jail on whom U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has placed detainers, so that federal agents can arrest and deport those individuals.

ICE reprimanded County officials in 2017 for forcing them to chase down an individual the County let go, despite a retainer being lodged. A second man was released despite a detainer last December, and was shot and killed in Takoma Park by another gang member.


The sanctuary effort may have been revitalized by the Trump administration's failure to follow through with any sanctions against existing sanctuary jurisdictions, including threats to cut federal funds. Despite tough talk, Attorney General Jeff Sessions quickly backed down from publishing lists of prisoners with detainers that jurisdictions like Montgomery had released, when County officials cried foul after the inaugural list was published. And public outrage over the separation of families at the border earlier this year may have created a more-favorable environment to raise the issue in progressive Montgomery County.

Montgomery County Trust Act Coalition is asking community groups to sign onto its letter to the Council by noon today. It plans to send the letter on September 13. Members of the coalition include the ACLU of Maryland, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Jews United for Justice, Progressive Maryland, and Showing Up for Racial Justice - Montgomery County.

Friday, September 7, 2018

First Baptist Church seeks to add addition in Rockville

The First Baptist Church at 55 Adclare Road has submitted plans to the City of Rockville for a 4800 multi-purpose addition to its existing church structure. It is needed to better serve the church's congregation, according to documents filed with the city. A public meeting on the project is scheduled for Tuesday, September 18, 2018 at the church. Strangely, no time is given in the announcement. Until I hear further, I can only advise that these meetings are usually held at 6:30 or 7:00 PM in the evening.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Riemer a no-show at Council debate

Coward of the County

Montgomery County Council President Hans Riemer continued a historic streak of not showing up for major candidate forums yesterday, when he blew off a morning debate sponsored by the Clarksburg Chamber of Commerce. A packed house of business owners turned out to hear from the candidates for Montgomery County Council At-Large. But Riemer was a no-show, leaving myself, Gabe Albornoz (D), Evan Glass (D) and Shelly Skolnick (R) to have a substantive discussion of the issues our business community faces in our moribund economy.

Riemer has not attended a general election debate since I destroyed him in a forum televised live by Montgomery Community Television/MyMCMedia in 2014. He did not show up to the next and final debate that year, which was hosted by the Greater Olney Civic Association. Riemer's action was a historic first in Montgomery County politics - the first time a sitting councilmember had skipped a formal general election debate hosted by a prominent community group. After Wednesday in Clarksburg, his record streak is now up to two.

No Council sessions were scheduled yesterday; in fact, the Council's lazy, endless summer doesn't end until next Tuesday, September 11. But you can understand why Riemer would be hiding. He has failed to deliver any of the priorities the residents and businesses in Clarksburg have sought. And Riemer vehemently opposes their top two priorities - building the M-83 Highway, and widening I-270.

Hans Riemer's failure to show up was an insult to the taxpayers who pay his $137,000 salary, and to the democratic process. Once again, Hans has demonstrated he doesn't care about his upcounty constituents.

But again, it's understandable Hans would be hiding - he has a lot to hide, with so many controversial questions about him still unanswered, and to be investigated by the press:

- Why does so much of his campaign cash come from outside the County, and largely from Wall Street crooks who caused the Great Recession, and their K Street lobbyists?

- Why has he accepted campaign checks from Mitt Romney's Bain Capital and Mitch Rales' Danaher Corporation, two pioneers in outsourcing American jobs overseas, while claiming to be a "progressive Democrat?"

- Why did he fail to disclose illegal activity in the County Department of Liquor Control he was aware of in October 2014 until after Election Day, when he was safely reelected, a violation of his oath of office?

- Why did he vote to create a $360,000,000 federal tax shelter for his sugar daddy Mitch Rales, after receiving at least $4000 in campaign contributions from Rales?

- Why has he repeatedly touted his role as "Obama's Youth Vote Director" in Barack Obama's 2008 victory, when a source from the Obama campaign has said Riemer was actually out of that position in the spring of 2008 - long before Mr. Obama had even clinched the nomination, much less his general election victory?

It's astonishing that Hans Riemer was able to win election, and serve two full terms, without any scrutiny by local media on these and other controversies. With at least two debates remaining, it's time for Hans Riemer to man-up and face the music on his scandals and utter failure in office. For now, he's earned his title as the "Coward of the County."

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Fogo de Chão Brazilian Steakhouse to open in Rockville

Federal Realty has found a winning tenant to take over the just-vacated Nike Factory Store space at Pike & Rose. Fogo de Chão Brazilian Steakhouse will open in the prominent corner at Old Georgetown Road and Grand Park Avenue in early 2019.

This lease really hits the target in two ways. First, it again bolsters Pike & Rose's status as arguably the top self-contained dining destination in Montgomery County, particularly once all of the pending new restaurants have opened by early next year. Second, Fogo de Chão is a brand well-known to the young, creative class professionals Federal Realty has sought to attract to the development. That demographic knows Fogo de Chão, because they are already dining at the other Fogo de Chão locations in the area.

For those not familiar with the chain, Fogo de Chão was founded in the great country of Brazil in 1979. Diners take an edible tour of the traditional churrasco roasted meats of Southern Brazil. Meats are sliced tableside by servers, but there are also many vegetable and fruit dishes to try. In fact, the company touts the health benefits of the Brazilian diet on its website.

Se Acostumando!

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

T-Swirl Crepe to open in Rockville

T-Swirl Crepe, a Japanese crepes chain, is coming to Rockville. Founder Andy Lin is actually from China, but discovered Japanese crepes while watching a television broadcast from Taiwan. Their first location was in Queens, NY, and they are now spreading across the country. T-Swirl Crepe will be located at 313 N. Washington Street.

Monday, September 3, 2018

UNIQLO opens in Rockville (Photos)

Japanese apparel retailer UNIQLO opened its first Maryland store at Pike & Rose on Saturday morning. Here's an exclusive sneak preview of what you will see when you visit. As you will notice in some of the pictures, the store carries some items that are exclusive to this store, and to this region. UNIQLO is located at 11853 Grand Park Avenue, right outside the Trade Street garage.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Roll by Goodyear to open at Rockville Town Square

Roll by Goodyear is coming to Rockville Town Square. The store is a new retail and service concept by the world-famous tire company. There is no website for the new brand; Goodyear applied for a trademark for this name only three months ago.

The store will offer sales and mobile installation of tires, and tire service. A mobile van will come to customers, or employees will drive customers' vehicles to another location for service and then return it. This is certainly an unusual new retail entry at the Square. Roll by Goodyear will be located on Gibbs Street, next to Lebanese Taverna.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Riemer advances zoning scheme that would quadruple MCPS overcrowding

Montgomery County Council President Hans Riemer is quietly advancing his long-term scheme to implode zoning in single-family home neighborhoods in the County, when the Council returns from its endless summer of idle vacation. On Tuesday, September 11, 2018, a public hearing will be held on a bill to loosen the approval process of accessory apartments in the County. The proposed changes will weaken protections regarding street parking for existing homeowners, speed the approval process for accessory apartments in residential neighborhoods, and greatly reduce the opportunity for public input and objections to accessory apartments in your neighborhood.

What is Riemer's goal in expanding the number of accessory apartments in established SFH suburban neighborhoods? His plan is to subdivide every existing SFH lot in the County into 4 new housing units. Riemer has been caught on Facebook discussing his plans to allow every SFH lot to be rezoned for duplexes. Each of those duplexes would then be allowed to have an accessory apartment.

Accessory apartments have been sold to the public with the idea of one person living in a rental room, or as "granny pods," for families who apparently can't stand to be inside the same home with Grandma in her declining years. How heartwarming. In reality, the County's accessory apartment code - and the new language - openly acknowledges there could be children in these accessory units.

So each lot could ultimately have two new homes with families, and each of their accessory units could generate additional students for Montgomery County Public Schools. A potential of four families on each site that today can hold only one. Importantly, Riemer's duplex and accessory apartment scheme does not, to this point, provide any new funding to cover the surge in school construction costs it would cause. Kind of like the sector plans Riemer voted to approve, come to think of it.

Like many housing schemes advanced by Riemer, his developer sugar daddies, and his developer-funded Greater Greater Washington fellow travelers, the duplex/accessory apartment gimmick is presented under the banner of "affordable housing." But like all of the other schemes, that promise is false. After two decades of unrestrained development, with a brief Great Recession pause, home prices and rents in Montgomery County have increased, not decreased.
Riemer has made no secret of his
contempt for Montgomery County's
suburban and rural character
The duplexes proposed by Riemer would not be any more affordable than the existing large houses on those suburban lots. If townhomes in those neighborhoods currently sell for over $1,000,000, what do you imagine a larger, new-construction duplex home would go for in 20816? Certainly not for the "affordable" price that Riemer and GGW would ask you to believe.

Embarrassingly, carpetbagger Riemer was unaware that duplexes are already scattered around the County in places like Rockville, Layhill and Glenmont. They are not a new idea at all, but are now non-compliant structures not permitted in SFH neighborhoods, much like high-rises that were built in low-rise areas in the County's past Wild West zoning era. 

Riemer apparently is still closing his ears to his constituents' anger over overcrowded schools and congested roads. Instead of advancing plans to require tighter staging or higher impact taxes, Riemer is finding new ways to increase crowding. This fall, accessory apartments. Next Council term, duplexes.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Sunday Morning Bakehouse to open in Rockville next summer

Chef Caroline Yi's baked goods have been such a hit at Pike & Rose's weekend farmers market that landlord Federal Realty is bringing her officially on-board with a bricks-and-mortar location. Sunday Morning Bakehouse, a bakery and cafe, will open at the development in Summer 2019.

Yi is a Montgomery County native who went to Rockville's Wooten High School, and is a graduate of the University of Maryland at College Park. She has been baking almost as long, starting with Christmas cookies at the age of seven.

With seating for up to 35 people, Yi is looking forward to making the transition from take-out farm market sales to sit-down dining next summer. “It’s a different experience when we can plate the meal, rather than a grab and go at the farmer’s market," she said. "We are excited to create a beautiful space where our guests can sit down and enjoy their food with a leisurely cup of coffee.”

What might you expect to enjoy in that space? Yi's French butter croissants that are three days in the making, homemade jam-filled brioche donuts with seasonal flavors, her favorite grilled cheese or tuna salad sandwiches, baked eggs or French-style omelettes, and my personal favorite, twice-baked Elvis croissants filled with roasted peanut butter, fresh bananas and bacon.

Opening up shop just down the Pike from her Rockville stomping grounds is just the icing on the cake for Yi. “I knew if and when I opened my first business it had to be in my hometown," she said. "After visiting Pike & Rose for the first time, I fell in love with it and knew it was the only place I could picture my bakery and café,”

Federal Realty's VP of Leasing, Stuart Biel, said the feeling is mutual. “Having grown up just down the road from Pike & Rose, Caroline is a neighbor," Biel said Tuesday. He predicted Sunday Morning Bakehouse will be "a wonderful addition to the neighborhood, bringing the perfect blend of innovation and comfort with pastries that have delighted patrons at the farm market since it first appeared.”

Photos courtesy Sunday Morning Bakehouse

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

City Perch adds ground floor patio dining at Pike & Rose

I first noticed tables set up on the sidewalk outside the entrance to the iPic Theaters when I visited Pike & Rose on August 18. It turns out that City Perch Kitchen + Bar, located upstairs in the theater, has now added outdoor dining. The new ground floor patio seating on Grand Park Avenue is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Also available are new al fresco menu items, as well as an al fresco bar list. The new items take advantage of ingredients from the Up Top Acres rooftop farm, that is literally above the restaurant at the Federal Realty development.

Featured items include a Shrimp Cocktail with green goddess dressing and lemongrass cocktail sauce; Crab Cakes with Old Bay remoulade, frisée and citrus salad, yuzu vinaigrette; a Summer Heirloom Tomato Salad with roasted peaches, burrata, smoked sea salt, passionfruit vinaigrette, aged balsamic, toasted pistachio and basil; a 1924 Caesar Salad with romaine hearts, garlic croutons, Parmigiano-Reggiano and chives; Steak Frites made with a dry-aged striploin, "shoooo-string" fries and béarnaise sauce; and personal 10-inch Margherita, Smoky BBQ and Meatza pizzas.

The new outdoor patio can also be reserved for private events. To make reservations or schedule a private event, visit the City Perch website.

Monday, August 27, 2018

OurBus to launch Rockville-NYC bus servicde

OurBus, a crowdsourced tech company operating intercity and commuter bus routes, plans to soon offer service between Rockville and New York City. The company plans to perform a pilot test of the route over Labor Day weekend.

A test of the OurBus website finds an available trip to New York City on Labor Day for $25.00. The departure stop is really on the far edge of what is considered "Rockville," in the Norbeck Road area at the Georgia Avenue Park & Ride at Georgia Avenue and the InterCounty Connector.

OurBus notes that buses will not always be branded "OurBus" (Worldwide Tours & Travel is listed as the charter company for next Monday's trip). The service offers passengers free WiFi, reclining seats, charging ports, free water, "sanitized" on-board restrooms, and no rescheduling fees. Tickets must be purchased online.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Frosh loses police endorsement to Republican Wolf in AG race

Republican attorney general
candidate Craig Wolf
Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh has lost the endorsement of the Maryland State Fraternal Order of Police he had in 2014. Maryland's police instead chose to endorse Republican Craig Wolf of Howard County in the attorney general race, Wolf announced Thursday.
MD Attorney General Brian Frosh (D)
Craig has been a federal prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice, and Assistant State's Attorney in Allegheny County. He has also been President & CEO of the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America for more than a decade. Craig enlisted in the U.S. Army at age 40 after the 9/11 attacks, and counts the Meritorious Service Medal and Bronze Star Medal among his commendations, after serving in Operation Enduring Freedom.

It's unusual for a sitting Attorney General to lose the support of law enforcement officials. Wolf suggests the reason may be that Frosh is "more focused on partisan politics in Washington than he is on the public safety issues in our state." Frosh has attempted to take a leading role in the "resistance" to President Trump since 2016, joining or filing multiple legal actions against Trump and his administration.

Rockville construction update: Funeral home turning into retail center (Photos)

Construction workers continue their effort to put the fun back in funeral home. A remodeling of the former funeral parlor at 1170 Rockville PIke aims to bring new life to the old building, by turning it into a retail center with some office space. Bassett remains open during the construction.