Friday, June 22, 2018

Rockville Audi to add 2 more surface parking lots

Rockville Audi is preparing to submit a plan to the City of Rockville for the addition of two lots west of the current dealership building at 1125 Rockville Pike. It will improve those lots for surface parking. From the Google satellite image of the G-shaped dealership property, it's not immediately clear where those lots will be carved out.
The existing lot and dealership, with its
current G-shaped layout (it abuts apartments
behind, and Woodmont Country Club to the south
A required public meeting will be held by the dealership on Thursday, June 28, 2018 at 7:00 PM in the Black Eyed Susan Conference Room at City Hall, which is located at 111 Maryland Avenue.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Rockville construction update: Five Guys at Montrose Crossing (Photos)

Five Guys is not new to either Rockville or Bethesda, but this new one at Montrose Crossing on Rockville Pike will split the difference. The familiar checkered tile, counters and even the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine are in place. No furniture yet, though.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Trump administration declares Rockville Pike an opportunity zone

President Donald Trump speaks with a
business owner during a press briefing on
the Opportunity Zones initiative
The Trump administration has declared downtown Wheaton, two parts of downtown Silver Spring, parts of Long Branch and White Oak, four parts of Gaithersburg - including Montgomery Village, Montgomery College's Germantown campus, and Rockville Pike (between Rockville Town Center and Twinbrook) as Opportunity Zones. Created under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed into law by President Donald Trump, the zones encourage capital investment in underserved communities through federal tax incentives. The designation comes as media and business leaders express increasingly agree that Montgomery County's economy has become moribund.
Wheaton opportunity zone
Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett said the County will launch an outreach program to notify investors of the new investment opportunities. "Creating the incentive to bring capital into communities that are currently being overlooked is just a tremendous opportunity," Ivanka Trump said at a press conference on the initiative. "And the fact that this was integrated into the tax bill, which is already proving to be so beneficial for people all over this country, is just another element as we start to rebuild those distressed communities." The tax act reduced taxes for 72% of Maryland residents.
Opportunity zones in Montgomery Village
and Gaithersburg

Rockville Pike opportunity zone

Opportunity zones in downtown Silver Spring,
Long Branch and New Hampshire Estates areas

White Oak has two of the
Trump opportunity zones

Photo courtesy

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Rockville construction update: Research Row shopping center (Photos)

There has been significant progress in the construction of Rockville's newest shopping center, Research Row. The retail center, which is next to the Best Western hotel on Route 28, will include a Chick-fil-A restaurant and Onelife Fitness. It is very rare - particularly in the downcounty area - to find a retail-only development in Montgomery County these days, but it is yet another example of how smarter Rockville land-use planning decisions helped make the city the "Best Place to Live in Maryland" (according to Money magazine) this year.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Pike Chicken and Beer first confirmed tenant at future Rockville Asian food hall

The first confirmed vendor at the Pike Kitchen Asian food hall at 1066 Rockville Pike is Pike Chicken and Beer. They tentatively expect to open in September. The food hall is located in the Edmonston Crossing shopping center, next to Taco Bell.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Slapfish Rockville opening mid-July

I have a couple of updates on fast-casual seafood shack Slapfish. Their grand opening at the Montrose Crossing shopping center on Rockville Pike is now scheduled for mid-July.
Slapfish offers at least one region-exclusive item at its locations, and they have announced the menu here will feature a Clobster Cake, made with half Maryland crab and half New England lobster. That will be in addition to the standard menu, with popular favorites like Clobster Grilled Cheese, the Ultimate Fish Taco, and Chowder Fries.

The rapidly-growing chain expects to open ten locations over the next six months. It currently operates 13 restaurants.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Rockville construction update: Starbucks at Pike & Rose

Here's a look at the progress inside Starbucks at Pike & Rose. The current store at the corner of the property will relocate into this space at 11860 Grand Park Avenue this summer.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Slight changes to new cell tower proposed for Derwood

NB+C, LLC proposed building a new cell tower in Derwood last August, which would be at an unspecified property "near Derwood Road." While the exact spot they plan to erect it remains secret, a couple of new details have emerged.

The tower is now proposed to be 5 feet shorter at 150' tall. They also now say it is not expected to have any aircraft warning lights on it. Many homes are located in the vicinity of the proposed site.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Demolition permit issued for Mr. Banh Mi space in Rockville

The Ritchie Center has requested and received an interior demolition permit for the space vacated by Mr. Banh Mi at the shopping center on Rockville Pike. This suggests they may be making it more appealing for a prospective retail, rather than restaurant, tenant. Mr. Banh Mi closed at the end of 2017.

Monday, June 11, 2018

VisArts VisAbility Art Lab takes over Toy Kingdom space at Rockville Town Square (Photos)

VisArts once again steps in to fill an empty storefront in Rockville Town Square. VisArts VisAbility Art Lab is now open at 36-C Maryland Avenue, formerly home to Toy Kingdom. There was a lot of construction going on there, so it was somewhat unexpected that it was not for a major new retail or restaurant business.

Daily Kos exposes MoCo "covert Republican/developer Council slate" in Democratic primary

A cabal of developers and Republicans is spending big to determine the winners of the Democratic primary election in Montgomery County on June 26, according to an investigation published by the Daily Kos. "There is a covert Republican/developer slate for Council," author Eric Hensal writes. He identifies the covert GOP/developer slate as Democrats Gabe Albornoz, Marilyn Balcombe, Evan Glass, Hans Riemer (in the At-Large race), Andrew Friedson (District 1), and Sidney Katz (District 3).

Hensal says these are the "candidates Republican/Developer donors in Montgomery County want elected in its Democratic primary." He also cites David Blair as the covert group's Democratic choice for County Executive, and says campaign donations show developers abandoning Blair's rival Roger Berliner for Blair and Rose Krasnow.

Hensal notes the covert financing effort is a change from 2002's overt developer effort that successfully elected the laughably-named "End Gridlock" slate to the Council. The "End Gridlock" slate infamously went on to double and triple the amount of traffic gridlock, by allowing unlimited development without providing the highway capacity needed to support it.

To reach his conclusions, Hensal examined patterns of donations, and connections among donors contributing to the same candidates. He determined that many of the donors who are supporting the covert slate are also donors to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. Hensal also concluded that simply using public financing did not eliminate developer influence on candidates doing so - they still receive donations from developers, and can leverage those developer donations for more public money.

In identifying the covert slate of candidates, Hensal concludes that, "The most generous view is that these candidates are simply a consensus of the Republican/Developer community. However, an ongoing coordinated effort to elect them is very possible."

Friday, June 8, 2018

Former Rockville mayor Phyllis Marcuccio dies

Two-term Rockville mayor and two-term city councilmember Phyllis Marcuccio passed away on Tuesday, June 5. A graduate of Rockville's Richard Montgomery High School, she served as Mayor from 2009-2011, and was reelected to a second consecutive term for 2011-2013. Very active in the community before being elected to public office, Marcuccio kept those close connections with neighborhoods and community leaders as a public servant.

Marcuccio's impact as mayor was significant. Her selections to the Rockville Planning Commission, - along with those of her successor, current Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton - curbed plans for high density urban growth beyond the redeveloped Town Center. The Rockville Pike plan was slowed in its approval process by commissioners, and ended up a much better document than the City's original expensive consultant had proposed.

Decisions made by both mayors were among the factors that led to Rockville being named the Best Place to Live in Maryland this year by Money magazine. The city has become a rival to Annandale for the title of best Asian dining hub in the D.C. region, and recently was chosen for the site of a coveted Wegmans store in B.F. Saul's Twinbrook Quarter development.

Marcuccio was a past president of the East Rockville Civic Association, a board member of the Rockville Housing Authority, and served on multiple commissions and task forces within the City of Rockville. She was among the founders of the Rockville Science Center, and a member of the Kiwanis Club of Rockville.

Mayor Newton released the following statement yesterday:

"Mayor Marcuccio was a deeply devoted public servant throughout her life and career. A longstanding Rockville resident, she prided herself as a grassroots activist and was an outspoken advocate for the city, always keeping the best interests of her community close to her heart.

“She was a stalwart champion for accountability, putting Rockville residents first when it came to making decisions as a member of the Mayor and Council.

“Whether planning for growth, keeping residents safe, wisely spending taxpayer money or protecting the environment, her commitment to protecting our quality of life and neighborhoods, was first and foremost.

“The City of Rockville is in a better place for her leadership. It was an honor to have known and worked with her.”

According to the City of Rockville, a Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10:00 AM Friday, June 22 at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 520 Veirs Mill Road, followed by a reception. The burial will be private.

Photo courtesy Rockville Channel 11

Thursday, June 7, 2018

State collecting soil samples in Rockville for Hogan's I-270 Express Lanes plan

Maryland is collecting preliminary soil samples near I-270 in Rockville, alarming some on the City Council who feel that Gov. Larry Hogan's Express Lanes plan for the severely-congested interstate is moving forward too quickly. Montgomery politicians have tended to favor either a transit-only solution for the corridor, or a pair of reversible lanes in the center of the highway. Hogan's plan would widen 270, and add tolled Express Lanes at little cost to the taxpayer, as they would be built and operated by a private firm.

"They're actually taking soil samples. They're trying something. They're looking for information. This tells me they're not just looking at reversable lanes. And so they have something in mind beyond what they said, so that's upsetting," Councilmember Mark Pierzchala told colleagues Monday night.

Pierzchala asked what options the city has to fight Hogan, and what the County Council and other local bodies could do to help the city. Councilmember Julie Palakovich Carr said she was told by residents of Regents Square that the development's management had told them to expect state inspectors to be collecting soil samples around the townhomes there. Pierzchala urged city staff to seek partnerships with the City of Gaithersburg and local HOAs along the highway.

Hogan, whose popularity has reached the highest numbers recorded by the Washington Post in a quarter century, has picked another winning issue in his Express Lanes plan. To counter him, his opponents are forced to publicly stand in the way of traffic congestion relief, a position unlikely to be popular among angry highway drivers in an election year. Hogan's plan can move forward over the objections of local officials because it requires no funding from County or federal sources.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Candy-throwing in Rockville parade could be "potential disaster"

Some members of the Rockville City Council expressed concern this week about the future of candy-throwing in Rockville's annual Memorial Day parade. "So many children running close to the cars, just to grab a couple of pieces of candy," Councilmember Virginia Onley said at Monday night's Mayor and Council meeting.

"I like throwing the candy," Onley added, "but it has become a real hazard. I think maybe we should just stop it altogether. All jokes aside, it has become a hazard, and there could be some potential disaster if we continue." She said the driver of her parade vehicle would refuse to return next year if the problem wasn't addressed.

Councilmember Beryl Feinberg said candy has been thrown for years without incident, but that a change to throwing it from moving vehicles this year led to errant candy pieces going astray. Turning to Onley, she added, "You're right, [this year] there were children who were running into the street. But I don't want to take the fun out of the parade. That's part of the fun of the parade. I'd like to explore options that would perhaps satisfy everyone."

"This year, it was absolutely not safe for children," Onley concluded.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Will Montgomery County government adopt the Starbucks policy?

Montgomery County Planning Board chair
Casey Anderson surrounded by armed police
officers, called in as members of
Macedonia Baptist Church attempted to deliver
a petition during a peaceful protest last year
Montgomery County government has a Starbucks problem. County officials in the executive office, County Council, Planning Board and Housing Opportunities Commission have repeatedly called the police to confront black church leaders and protesters exercising their First Amendment rights in County government spaces. Now that the question of white people calling the police on black people has become a national hot topic, will Montgomery County government address one facet of its institutional racism by adopting the Starbucks policy of no longer calling the police?
Police confront Macedonia Baptist Church Pastor Segun Adebayo
and Social Justic Director Marsha Coleman-Adebayo at the
HOC in October 2017
Wait, did this really happen? Did white County officials really call the police on African-Americans who were simply exercising their First Amendment rights? Take a look for yourself in the following reports, for just a few of the instances:

Planning Board, February 2017

Office of the County Executive, April 2017

County Council office, May 2017

Housing Opportunities Commission, October 2017

As an activist in the County for over a decade, I have attended many public meetings and hearings, and the police were never summoned to confront or remove a white speaker or protester.

In "progressive" Montgomery County, the peaceful struggle over the Moses African Cemetery has proven to us "just how low the bar is for white Americans to sic law enforcement on black people," in the words of Mother Jones magazine. "Getting law enforcement involved is an extreme response that tends to escalate conflicts," Brandon E. Patterson wrote for the magazine in May. "For black people, that call to law enforcement can have dire consequences. That’s why it’s especially egregious when white people use 911 like a personal grievance hotline, summoning officers for something as minor as a black person arguing with restaurant staff—or because our behavior makes the caller uncomfortable, or because they think we might be up to no good."

Such frivolous calls to police are "rooted in an effort to preserve racial hierarchy by showing that black people can be removed at any time," Vox reported, quoting writer Tressie McMillan Cottom: “'At millions of places, in a billion different interactions across the country ... a white person is doing all the daily management of white spaces and places,' she wrote."

Callers may "feel that the police are there to work as their personal racism valets and remove black people from the situation," Morgan State University professor Jason Johnson told NPR last month.  "The role of the police is as law enforcement. They're supposed to be the last resort. You're supposed to ask questions, attempt to communicate and resolve things as a functional citizen. So of course, we shouldn't be calling the police on a regular basis."

Johnson, and others, have advocated the idea that callers in such cases should be fined. That may be called for, when our fabulously qualified and talented Democratic, "progressive" officials are unable to "communicate and resolve things as functional citizens."

Can we expect the County Council to adopt a Starbucks policy that County government should no longer call the police simply because African-Americans are peacefully protesting or attempting to deliver a petition? And one that would fine County officials who violate it? 

Don't bet on it. The Council has yet to even acknowledge or condemn the calls to law enforcement that came from their own, and multiple other, County government officials in the Moses African Cemetery controversy. They also have not criticized Anderson, or asked him to step down as chair of the Board.

Monday, June 4, 2018

11-year-old charged after allegedly threatening Parkland Middle School

Montgomery County police responded to Parkland Middle School at 4610 West Frankfort Drive Friday around 12:34 PM, after a school faculty member reported someone had called the school and made a "general threat" to Parkland students. Detectives investigating the incident determined the phone call had allegedly been made by an 11-year-old male who does not attend Parkland.

The juvenile was charged with one count of disrupting school activities and one count of making a threat of mass violence.  After being charged, the juvenile was released into the custody of his parents.  The case will be handled by the Department of Juvenile Services for adjudication.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Chapman Row townhomes coming soon signage in Rockville

The Escher at 1900 Chapman Avenue didn't have a name until the new apartment building was on the verge of delivery. But we now also know the name of the future townhome community that will share the former Syms site with The Escher. Banners announcing Chapman Row have gone up along namesake Chapman Avenue. The townhome development was approved by the Planning Commission over two years ago.