Thursday, January 31, 2019

6th Congressional District gerrymandering commission public hearing TONIGHT at Montgomery College in Rockville

Gov. Larry Hogan's Emergency Commission on Sixth Congressional District Gerrymandering will hold a public hearing tonight, Thursday, January 31, 2019 at 7:00 PM at the Theatre Arts Center building in the center of the Rockville Campus. This is your chance to weigh in on a potential redistricting that affects not only the voters who live in the 6th district, but also the 8th district. There's been much said about making the 6th more competitive for Republicans, but very little about how that is achieved without making the 8th an even-more-gerrymandered district for Democrats than it is already.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Rockville Target store updating electronics, entertainment departments

One whole department is cleared out at the Target store in Rockville, and other shelves are bare or sparsely-stocked. While these signs often precede yet another business closure in moribund Montgomery County, that's not the case here.

Target is updating its electronics and entertainment departments. The amount of floor space dedicated to physical media like music CDs, movies and video games is being reduced. However, the changes are described by Target as "upgrades." One thing they could definitely upgrade is their weak magazine section.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Rockville Council tables proposal to allow more school overcrowding until next week

There's still no compromise solution with majority support on the proposal to allow more overcrowding at Montgomery County Public Schools in Rockville. A majority of the City Council voted to table the discussion last night, when the body had been expected to vote on the matter. Developer B.F. Saul had warned that if the city failed to loosen its Adequate Public Facility Standards to avoid a development moratorium, it is possible that their Twinbrook Quarter anchor tenant Wegmans could back out of the project.

B.F. Saul had said if the vote was postponed beyond last night, the Wegmans deal could be in jeopardy. The Mayor and Council will take up the matter again at their February 4 meeting, postponing a high-stakes, election-year "Wegmans vs. schools" vote by seven days.

Monday, January 28, 2019

AutoZone coming to Rockville

AutoZone Auto Parts is coming to Rockville. They will be opening in the former store space at 824 Rockville Pike. Renovation of the building for the new store is now underway. Currently, the closest AutoZone is in Aspen Hill.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Montgomery College-Rockville water main break closes several campus buildings

A water main break this morning at the Rockville campus of Montgomery College has shuttered several buildings, and forced the cancellation of some classes today. The Counseling and Advising (CB), Music (MU), South Campus Instruction Building (SCIB), Parilla Performing Arts Center (PAC), and Art (ART) buildings are closed. All classes and activities in those buildings are canceled today, the college has announced.

Parking Lot 11 is also closed, which should make parking even more difficult in other lots later this morning.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

You could be the next member of the Rockville City Council

Tired of shouting at the TV during Rockville Mayor and Council meetings? Now you can trade your recliner for a seat on the Rockville City Council. The Mayor and Council are now accepting applications from Rockville citizens interested in filling the just-vacated seat of Councilmember Julie Palakovich Carr, who was elected to the Maryland General Assembly last November.

If chosen by the Mayor and Council, you would serve out the remainder of Palakovich Carr's term until this November. You would then have the advantage of incumbency running in the November 5, 2019 Mayor and Council election.

It's easy to apply, by following the steps on the official city webpage for candidates interested in serving on the Council. The Mayor and Council will then hold candidate interviews on Saturday, March 2; and Tuesday, March 5. The interviews will be conducted in the Mayor and Council chambers at City Hall, 111 Maryland Ave, and will be broadcast live on Channel 11 and the internet.

Here's your chance to take on the criminal Montgomery County cartel, with actual power as an elected official. The deadline to apply is 5:00 PM on Friday, February 22, 2019.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Rockville public hearing on school overcrowding sets up dramatic vote next week

Rockville's Mayor and Council are no closer to a consensus on changing the city's Adequate Public Facilities Standards test for school overcrowding despite postponing the matter until after the holidays. Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton expressed disappointment that the extra time was consumed with "more finger-pointing," rather than solving the dilemma. The dilemma is shaping up as a vote on Wegmans as much as about schools, which is also the way it was framed prior to the holidays.

"I don't want this to be a 'Wegmans or schools' issue," developer B.F. Saul's Todd Pearson told the Mayor and Council at a packed meeting that continued past 11:00 PM last night. But Pearson added that he had "serious concerns" as to whether or not B.F. Saul could meet the requirements of its lease with the grocery giant if elected officials punt the decision past next Monday night. In December, Pearson had warned that Wegmans might back out of the deal if their timeline for the Twinbrook Quarter development is not met. Wegmans is currently expected to be the retail anchor of that development at the northeast corner of Rockville Pike and Halpine Road.

Councilmember Virginia Onley noted that Wegmans had already ended negotiations with Lerner at their former White Flint Mall site when that property became entangled in a prolonged court battle. The news of the store's lease at Twinbrook Quarter has been the main generator of excitement about the development among the public. But based on resident and civic association testimony last night, the public also largely opposes the proposed allowance of 150% of capacity school overcrowding.

"I'm not wedded to 150%," Councilmember Mark Pierzchala said after all testimony had been heard, expressing a willingness to "go lower" to reach a deal. Pierzchala was the one who proposed the changes now on the table last year. The changes were put forward after Pierzchala realized that existing 120% overcrowding standards would trigger a development moratorium, freezing the Twinbrook Quarter project until Montgomery County Public Schools provide new capacity (although some residents have pointed out that this was known over a year ago). Resident Brigitta Mullican suggested that the city entirely drop any school test from the APFS, arguing that MCPS has total control over the matter and the city has none.

With no new compromise proposals yet emerging, a dramatic showdown is set for next Monday night at 7:00 PM, when the Mayor and Council are scheduled to vote on the matter. The drama will not only be from the potential for an elected official to be blamed for losing Wegmans or worsening school overcrowding, but also from the fact that the body is short a member. The recent resignation of Councilember Julie Palakovich Carr, who was elected to the General Assembly last November, leaves an even number of voters on the Council. Newton and Councilmember Beryl Feinberg could counterbalance the "Team Rockville" votes of Onley and Pierzchala, resulting in deadlock.

Newton held out some hope for a mutually-beneficial compromise to be worked out in the next five days. "It's not a one-person decision. It's not a two-person decision. It's a city decision," she said.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Construction wall comes down at Drybar in Rockville

The construction barrier in front of the future Drybar at Pike & Rose has been taken down. While the salon's interior is still hidden from view, "coming soon" window screens are now installed. Drybar will be located on Grand Park Avenue, next to UNIQLO.

Meanwhile, there are similar window screens announcing the future arrival of Olive & Loom, also on Grand Park Avenue by Francesca's. Olive & Loom is a brand from the owner of Sabun Home at Bethesda Row. Its product line was originally was sold online and through Sabun Home's bricks-and-mortar location on Bethesda Lane, but now will get its own storefront here at Pike & Rose.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Rockville banking firm wins national award

Capital Bank N.A., a Rockville-based national commercial banking association, has received a national award for its innovative services in the small-and-medium size business sector. The company accepted an Impact Innovation Award at Aite Group's recent "Innovation in Cash Management and Payments Forum" in New York City.

"This recognition is a great validation of the consultative approach we take at Capital Bank in deploying client-facing technology, and extending the capabilities of the products we offer beyond its generic use," Capital Bank's VP of Product Development Nikhil Bijlani said yesterday. Bijlani has been invited to speak at the Deluxe Exchange conference next month in Miami. Capital Bank is located on Church Street, directly across from the Rockville Metro station.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Rockville biotech firm gets green light for testing of treatment for high-risk skin cancers

Rockville biotech firm NeoImmuneTech has received approval from the Food and Drug Administration to evaluate the effectiveness of a new combination treatment for high-risk skin cancers. With partner Genexine, NeoImmuneTech will try the combination of Hyleukin-7 (IL-7-hyFc) and atezolizumab (Tecentriq ® ) to tackle these cancer cases.

Hyleukin-7 is NeoImmuneTech's flagship product. The multi-center, open-label trial will be conducted in the United States, the company announced yesterday.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

City of Rockville offering assistance to resident federal employees

The City of Rockville is offering several forms of assistance to federal workers who reside in the city during the current government shutdown. Delayed payments for some city services and utilities are available to eligible residents. The city is also helping connect those affected to government and nonprofit assistance programs and resources, such as food banks and emergency funds for those facing eviction. For full details and contact information, visit the City website.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Rockville snow update + more storms later this week

Montgomery County will attempt to get back to business today, after crews spent Monday finally plowing residential streets. The County government will be open. Montgomery County Public Schools will open two hours late.

All County recreation and aquatic centers will open on-time this morning, except senior centers, which will open at 10:00 AM. However, if your aquatic lesson is before 9:30 AM, it is cancelled for today. In fact, any program, class or activity that was scheduled before 10:00 AM this morning is also cancelled for today, as are senior nutrition and transportation programs.

Recreation programs for children five and under (tiny tots) that begin before noon are cancelled.

Metrobus, Metrorail, MARC trains and Ride On buses are all operating on normal weekday schedules today.


Rockville's Mayor and Council meeting that was postponed last night has been rescheduled for tonight, January 15, 2019 at 7:00 PM at City Hall, 111 Maryland Ave. Tonight's meeting agenda still includes:

A vote on a resolution to extend the moratorium on the filing, acceptance and receipt of applications for special exceptions, plans and plan amendments for certain uses in the mixed-use employment (MXE) zone, until July 1.

A report from the Adequate Public Facilities Standards (APFS) Work Group on Schools, regarding options to address a potential residential moratorium.

A presentation and discussion of the Planning Commission’s draft of the North Stonestreet Avenue Comprehensive Master Plan amendment.

A public hearing on the plan for the Shady Grove Neighborhood Center, a proposed mixed-use center with commercial, office and residential uses at 15825 Shady Grove Road, 2 and 4 Choke Cherry Road, and 2092-2098 Gaither Road.

A consent agenda that includes authorization for the city manager to execute a contract to purchase 6 Taft Court.

Takoma Park

The City of Takoma Park's offices will open at 10:30 AM this morning.

Montgomery Village

The Montgomery Village Foundation office will be open today. All Village recreation classes scheduled before noon are cancelled, except Seniors in Action, still meeting at 10:00 AM this morning.

Suburban News Network

Two other potential snowstorms are approaching the area later this week. Snow showers are possible Thursday afternoon, and a second storm could hit Sunday, a day that will have a low temperature of 10 degrees, according to The Weather Channel.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Rockville snow update

Woodmont Avenue at Norfolk Avenue
near Veterans Park in Bethesda
Montgomery County was hit hard by Winter Storm Gia over the last 48 hours. Snowfall totals ranged from 9.5-10.5" in parts of Bethesda to 11" in White Oak, 11.5" in Rockville and 12" in Germantown and Damascus.

Suburban News Network

A Snow Emergency is in effect. The federal government is closed.
Conditions are poor on Massachusetts Avenue
at Cromwell Drive in Bethesda, a state road
Montgomery County Public Schools are closed today, as is the Montgomery County government. All County facilities except for police and fire stations are closed, as well.

Metrorail subway lines and MetroAccess are operating on a normal weekday schedule, but Metrobus is on a Severe Snow Plan, meaning service is mostly limited to main thoroughfares. Ride On bus is operating on a normal weekday schedule. MARC train is operating on an R schedule. Northbound I-270 just south of Montrose Road is in bad shape, with multiple collisions reported in that area this morning, including one involving a police cruiser.
Route 355 at Mannakee Street
in Rockville
Rockville city government and city facilities are closed today, and tonight's Mayor and Council meeting has been cancelled. City trash collection won't take place today, and will be delayed one day for all customers the rest of this week.
Route 29 at Randolph Road
in East County
Takoma Park's city government announced last night it would be closed today if the federal government closed, as it has. City-operated child care is also closed today. City Manager Suzanne Ludlow claims that trash will be collected on-time today, and for the rest of the week. Takoma Park does have its own snow removal service, so perhaps they will be able to clear streets enough to do this.
Georgia Avenue at
Aspen Hill Road

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Rockville snow accumulation forecast revised upward as Winter Storm Gia path changes

Suburban News Network

Winter Storm Gia's path has drifted northward as it approaches the D.C. area, and forecasters have adjusted their snow accumulation totals accordingly. Montgomery County is now expected to receive between three to six inches by Sunday evening. The start of the snowfall is now expected to begin two hours later today - 4:00 PM instead of 2:00, indicating the storm has slowed slightly. Gia is currently advancing over the I-81 corridor. A slower storm could mean totals would be at the higher end of the forecasted spectrum.

County Executive Marc Elrich appears to be taking a proactive approach to the storm. Major and secondary County roadways had been pretreated by Friday night, while the state was behind schedule in treating highways they control within the County. "I ask all Marylanders to put safety first by staying off the roads during the storm, following your local weather forecasts, and heeding all warnings,” Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said Friday.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Safeway issues "storm alert," crews treat roads ahead of Rockville snowstorm

The first winter storm of 2019 is about thirty hours away, and preparations have been a mixed-bag, particularly as forecasters scale back the expected accumulation numbers for the D.C. area. Some Safeway stores in the county have posted signs outside declaring a "Storm Alert," exhorting customers to "Be Prepared! Stock up on supplies today!" But there was no apparent rush on supermarkets as of last night. The Safeway store at the Shops at Sumner Place in Bethesda was fully stocked with milk, bread and paper goods inside, and snow shovels and firewood outside. Other grocery stores visited last night were equally well-stocked.

Montgomery County's Department of Transportation was a bit more busy. Trucks were pretreating roads from Bethesda to Burtonsville Thursday night into Friday morning.

Suburban News Network

Winter Storm Gia is expected to hit Montgomery County around 2:00 PM tomorrow. Temperatures should be just above freezing at that time, but will drop below 32 degrees over the next few hours after that. Expect a snow accumulation of around 2 inches by Sunday night. Low temperatures will make for dangerous travel conditions.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

One person riding $2 million Ride On bus in Rockville

Montgomery County launched Ride On Extra Route 101 with great fanfare two years ago, promising the express bus would "move more people" on "one of the most heavily used corridors in Montgomery County." The route costs taxpayers $2 million a year to operate between Lakeforest Mall and Bethesda Medical Center along Route 355. Last night around 6:50 PM during the evening rush hour, northbound and southbound Ride On Extra buses passed each other on Rockville Pike near Edmonston Drive. Despite being at the midpoint of the trip during a peak rush hour time, each bus was carrying only one person.

Route 355 is just as crowded as it was before the service launched, and taxpayers are being soaked for another wasteful transit program. Next up: the $10 billion Bus Rapid Transit boondoggle. Meanwhile the County Council is facing another budget shortfall, and hinting at further tax increases in the years ahead. Heckuva job, Brownie!

Photo via Montgomery County

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Raskin, Van Hollen, Cardin not on list of Congresspeople forgoing pay during federal shutdown

Jamie Raskin
UPDATE: Wednesday afternoon, January 9, 2019, Senator Chris Van Hollen announced he has instructed the Financial Clerk of the U.S. Senate to withhold his paycheck until the government shutdown has ended, and federal employees have received back pay they are owed.

"For thee, but not for me:" Congressman Jamie Raskin (D - MD-08) is all over the press lambasting the federal government shutdown, and will even be hosting a "Trump Shutdown" rally tonight in Silver Spring. But one thing Raskin isn't doing is forgoing his own Congressional paycheck during the shutdown. Many of his Democratic colleagues in Maryland and Virginia - including David Trone, Dutch Ruppersburger and Jennifer Wexton - are refusing to accept their paychecks until the shutdown ends, in solidarity with federal workers.
Chris Van Hollen
The two senators representing Montgomery County aren't declining their paychecks either. Chris Van Hollen (D) and Ben Cardin (D) will each continue to accept his $174,000 salary during the shutdown. While Raskin raged about the "shutdown nightmare" when the furloughs began, his own $174,000 salary is a dream he's determined not to wake up from.
Ben Cardin
"Americans are suffering," Cardin declared this past weekend, as he continued to accept his $3346 weekly paycheck. All three men represent a state that has the fourth-highest number of federal employees in the nation, making their failure to sacrifice even more conspicuous as the shutdown drags on.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Research Row seeks parking reduction

Rockville's newest shopping center isn't even complete yet, and the owner is already seeking to eliminate 96 of the parking spaces required under city code. Research Row argues that they are currently overparked, given that the research building on-site operates with fewer employees than a general office building would. In a filing with the city, the developer notes that Montgomery County offers a lower parking requirement for such research laboratory office buildings than for general office uses.

The developer also wants to convert some of their approved office space to restaurant use, including a full-service restaurant and a carryout restaurant. There is already a Chik-fil-A operating on the property.

City zoning chief Jim Wasilak is recommending the Planning Commission grant the parking reduction, noting that while there's no guarantee the office building will not someday convert to general office use, that its laboratory floorplans make it highly unlikely. Commissioners will take up the parking reduction request at their meeting tomorrow night, January 9, 2019 at 7:00 PM at City Hall.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Lebanese Taverna, Chico's moving at Congressional Plaza

Lebanese Taverna and Chico's are moving at Congressional Plaza on Rockville Pike. Both stores have new spaces under construction at the shopping center, while the original locations continue to operate. The new Lebanese Taverna space will be by Modern Market..

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Man disappears from Dorothy Day Place in Rockville

Montgomery County police are searching for an adult male resident of Dorothy Day Place who hasn't been seen since December 27. James Schenk, 40, had recently been living in the transitional housing there at 5320 Marinelli Road in Rockville.

Police describe Schenk as a white male, 6’ 01” tall and weighs 265 pounds. He has black hair and brown eyes. Anyone who has information regarding the whereabouts of James Schenk is asked to call the police non-emergency number at 301-279-8000 (24 hours).

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

OneLife Fitness opens in Rockville

Rockville's newest gym has opened west of I-270 at the new Research Row shopping center. OneLife Fitness is located at 1407 Research Boulevard. The facility features 65000 SF of fitness space on two floors, with state-of-the-art equipment. There are swimming pools, a whirlpool and indoor salt water pool, and full basketball courts. Group classes in a variety of fitness disciplines are available.

OneLife joins Chick-fil-A as the first tenants of the new shopping center, which overlooks W. Montgomery Avenue.