Thursday, February 28, 2019

Stein Sperling moving to more-prominent Rockville location

The law offices of Stein Sperling Bennett De Jong Driscoll will soon be moving to a much more high-profile location in Rockville. Currently located on W. Middle Lane, the firm is about to relocate to a newer office building on Wootton Parkway. Their sign was just installed atop the building, and I can report it could be seen heading southbound on I-270. It's now one of the sharper and more prominent signs along the interstate in Montgomery County.

Photo via Stein Sperling

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Rockville's Supernus Pharmaceuticals announces record quarter and full-year financial results

Despite a December stock drop, Rockville's Supernus Pharmaceuticals found 2018 overall to be the best year in the company's history. Supernus announced Tuesday that it had its best full-year financial results ever, and 2018 also saw the firm's most successful single quarter results in history, as well.

For the year of 2018, Supernus enjoyed $408.9 million in total revenue, and full-year operating earnings of $144.4 million. Their record 4th quarter reported $115.9 million in total revenue, and operating earnings of $39.9 million. Last month, the company capped off the hot streak with their launch of Oxtellar XR, a partial seizure therapy product.

Biotech continues to be the rare exception in an overall moribund Montgomery County economy. Firms like Supernus and Silver Spring's United Therapeutics - which is completing an ambitious Unisphere campus expansion - have been the only bright spots as Northern Virginia continues to deliver a bruising beatdown in the competition for major corporate headquarters, of which Montgomery County has attracted none in two decades. Until voters force a change in the County's leadership direction on economic development, all we can do is cross our fingers and hope one of these smaller firms can make the leap to the Fortune 500.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Yext Rosslyn announcement pounds final nail into MoCo's tech job coffin

Northern VA declared
"next Silicon Valley"
after tech firm follows
Amazon's 25000 jobs
into the Old Dominion

There's nothing new about Northern Virginia destroying Montgomery County when it comes to economic development, nor about tech firms choosing the "birthplace of presidents" and D.C. over moribund, high-tax-and-regulation MoCo. But Montgomery's sad role as pinata in our regional rivalry just got weaker than ever last week, when New York-based tech firm Yext announced it would open a new office in Rosslyn with 500 high-wage jobs. On the heels of Virginia's victory in the nation's biggest job sweepstakes - Amazon's HQ2 that will open in Crystal City - the Yext move now has national power brokers officially declaring Northern Virginia the "next Silicon Valley."

Rosslyn's latest big "get" follows other new arrivals to Arlington's business hub with monumental views like the world headquarters of Nestle, Corporate Executive Board, Gerber and Deloitte. Not to mention all the other HQs NoVa has nabbed in recent years, including Hilton Hotels, IntelSat, Volkswagen and Northrop. Yext has leased the top three floors of 1101 Wilson Boulevard, a Class A tower with breathtaking views of the Potomac River and Capitol dome, among other landmarks, according to the Washington Post. Most embarrassing of all, the Yext deal wasn't even a deal - Virginia is paying them no tax incentives, Yext founder Howard Lerman tells the Post. Meanwhile, Montgomery County hasn't attracted a major corporate headquarters in two decades.
Capital One tower in Tysons,
the tallest office building in
the D.C. region
Montgomery has a national reputation as being hostile to business, a high-cost location to do business from, and having an ideological aversion to completing its master plan highway system - or adding Express Lanes to jammed interstates (unlike Virginia). How bad is it? Bethesda-based Donohoe Companies' CEO Chris Bruch had to chastise Montgomery politicians, who are furiously trying to block Gov. Larry Hogan's Express Lanes proposal for I-270 and the Beltway, in a letter published by the Post last weekend.

In other counties and cities, local officials are usually allied with business leaders like Bruch to complete major infrastructure projects. Here? Welcome to Clowntown, U.S.A.!

But our horrible reputation has compounded many past defeats with a major one. All major local jurisdictions have been competing for some time to be seen as a national tech hub. The Amazon and Yext victories have now led to that contest ending with the official recognition that Northern Virginia has won: game, set, match: Virginia.

"Northern Virginia's status as an East Coast tech hub got a major lift last week," wrote the Post's Aaron Gregg of the Yext announcement. "Northern Virginia is a reservoir of untapped talent," Lerman told Gregg. "I think it's the quiet next Silicon Valley." Gregg notes that the hits taken by Pentagon contractors in the Obama-era knucklehead budget battles on Capitol Hill led Virginia officials to turn to the private sector. "They have succeeded with a string of influential corporations setting up offices and headquarters in places such as Rosslyn and Tysons."

How much did we lose when the Montgomery County Council fumbled the Amazon golden ticket last year? 25,000 new jobs, $4 billion in lost wages, and $12 billion in collateral economic growth that Amazon would have provided. None of that even includes the tax revenue that would have accrued to Montgomery and Maryland.

Although it's unclear if our corrupt elected officials are capable of being embarrassed, particularly when they are being coddled and protected by an obsequious local press and surrounded by "Yes Men," we now know that Amazon was watching and listening to their public statements and actions very closely last year. Anti-Amazon and anti-business sentiments made by councilmembers last year were topped off by the capstone of the Council canceling the biggest infrastructure project near our proposed Amazon site in White Flint - while the Amazon executives were touring White Flint. It doesn't get any dumber than that, folks.

"For Amazon, the commitment to build a new headquarters requires positive, collaborative relationships with state and local elected officials who will be supportive over the long-term," Amazon said in its official statement announcing they were withdrawing their New York proposal. Yes, the comments and behavior of our "local elected officials" were indeed given heavy weight by Amazon. Anti-business sentiments and a bizarre, radical opposition to needed new roads were clearly not the winning message.

“A small group of politicians put their own narrow political interests above their community," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said after Amazon's pull-out there, but he could have been talking about the Montgomery County Council, too. Nobody knows Montgomery's reputation for being hostile to business better than Yext founder Lerman, who grew up in Vienna. That irony echoes the Amazon decision as well, where one of the key decision makers for Amazon in the HQ2 search was Holly Sullivan, former President of the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation. Sullivan knew our elected officials very well, and was very familiar with our business climate and failing infrastructure and traffic congestion. After all, she had to drive around it herself for several years! She knew exactly what Amazon would get by selecting Montgomery County, and...egads!!! Yikes!

Fortunately for New York City, at the end of the day, they're still New York City and an economic powerhouse even without Amazon. At the end of the day, Montgomery County is still...moribund.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Derwood, Shady Grove residents want MCPS bus depot out of neighborhood as promised

"Derwood deserves better
- now!" residents say of 
issue County officials swept
under political rug

Former Montgomery County executive Ike Leggett, the County Council and Montgomery County Public Schools managed to sweep the highly-flammable hot potato issue of the MCPS Shady Grove school bus depot under the political rug ahead of the 2018 election season. But residents nearby the depot are growing impatient, having been told over a decade ago that the facility would be gone by now. Many are residents who bought or rented new homes built right around the depot itself in the first phase of "smart growth" construction, as Leggett termed the development due to its proximity to Metro and MARC rail service at Shady Grove.

At least 340 of those residents have signed a MoveOn online petition asking new County Executive Marc Elrich to take action on the relocation of the depot. Residents in Aspen Hill and Rockville were up in arms just a few years ago, when it was revealed that the County Council had approved the plan and agreement with developers at Shady Grove without actually identifying a new site for the bus depot before doing so.

This led to protests and tense community meetings, including one where former Councilmember George Leventhal admitted to the crowd that he had voted "Yes" on the Shady Grove scheme without actually reading the text of the bill first. The County tried to move it to a historic African-American site in Rockville on Mannakee Street first. When that triggered outcry from the community, they secretly purchased another site in East Rockville where there are a large number of African-American residents. That caused a second round of protests.

Avery Road property owned by MCPS was also considered, with the idea of moving a juvenile education facility to the former English Manor site in Aspen Hill to make way for a depot, reigniting a firestorm of opposition in that community. Councilmember Hans Riemer advocated studying a former landfill site in Olney, before the whole issue was tabled as election season neared. Rockville, Aspen Hill and Olney residents emphatically stated the depot should remain where it is, putting them on a collision course with the interests of residents around the existing site. Most elected officials realize that any vote on either keeping the depot where it is, or moving it, could be a career-ending one.

With the new advocacy effort from Shady Grove and Derwood, County officials may be forced once again to reopen this "third rail" issue. The County is facing not only angry constituents who live near the current and potential bus depot sites, but also legal action by the developers with whom they had made the agreement years ago. Riemer famously stated almost three years ago that he and the Council "taken ownership of the problem."

Friday, February 22, 2019

M&T Bank to open branch in Upper Rock

M&T Bank has leased a ground floor retail space at the new 77 Upper Rock Circle office building in the Upper Rock area of Rockville off Shady Grove Road. The Buffalo-based firm intends to open a new bank branch there.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

MoCo fumbles three more: Blackboard, HalioDX, Idemia headed to Virginia

Montgomery County officials have blown it yet again. Just three months after failing to bring 25,000 Amazon jobs to our moribund County, they fumbled the ball on three more corporate headquarters sweepstakes. Blackboard, a high-profile education technology firm, will relocate its Washington, D.C. global headquarters to Plaza America in Reston. Biotech firm HalioDX chose Richmond over North Carolina, in its final North American headquarters decision. And Paris-based Idemia, a biometric augmented identity firm, is relocating its North American headquarters from Boston to Reston, as well.

The moves will bring hundreds of additional high-wage jobs to Fairfax County, and Idemia has promised to add 90 new high-wage jobs to the new HQ. Why did both firms choose Reston over Montgomery County? The answers are the same as usual: lower business costs, and superior infrastructure access in Virginia.

Blackboard CEO and President Bill Ballhaus cited their new location's proximity to Dulles International Airport, which as I've been noting for years, has the variety and frequency of international flights and destinations international businesspeople require. Unlike Northern Virginia, which has implemented several infrastructure projects to speed travel, Montgomery County has refused to build the new Potomac River crossing that would provide direct and quick access to Dulles Airport. In fact, the Montgomery County Council is actively trying to further sabotage our outdated and incomplete transportation system, refusing to build the M-83 Highway and Montrose Parkway East, and promising to lower speed limits on all major commuter routes to 25 MPH - and secondary and neighborhood roads to 15 MPH.

The failure to attract Idemia's HQ was a humiliating defeat for a County Council that has claimed it would make Montgomery County a cybersecurity hub. Instead, Virginia's Secretary of Commerce Brian Ball was the one crowing about the Old Dominion bolstering its dominance in that field with the addition of Idemia. "We rely on innovative companies like Idemia to maintain Virginia’s position as a U.S. leader in this industry,” Ball said in a statement.

HalioDX will join almost 70 biotech firms, laboratories and manufacturing facilities at the VA Bio+Tech Park in Richmond. It's a sad reminder that Virginia is now not only handing our County Council their [briefcases] in every other economic sector, but are rapidly reaching parity with Montgomery's biotech sector. Thanks to past County leaders who served before our elected offices were seized by the Montgomery County cartel in 2002, we had a promising biotech niche in the region. Now, it's only a matter of time before even those firms begin to relocate to Virginia, once they have the critical mass of qualified workers and government incentives.

The canary in the Montgomery County economic development coal mine has been deceased for some time. Our Council not only doesn't know anything about how to attract high-wage jobs and corporate headquarters, but couldn't act even if they did. Their developer sugar daddies, who fund the campaigns of every Council member, don't want corporate headquarters taking up valuable land they could use to profit from luxury apartments.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam hasn't had much reason to smile in recent weeks, and I reckon he appreciates Montgomery County turning his frown upside down reliably several times a month. His two immediate predecessors were legendary for openly mocking Montgomery County officials for their pro-tax, anti-business ideology. By all indications, comedy hour is just getting started at 100 Maryland Avenue.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Rockville construction update: Funeral home converted to retail center (Photos)

It's taken a long time, but the redevelopment of the vacant funeral home at 1170 Rockville Pike into a retail center is now very close to putting the fun back in "funeral." As you can see, the building has a finished appearance to it, and even the individual unit numbers are now installed on each available space. The more-welcoming lighting has really improved the prominence of the property to the 40,000 drivers who pass by it each day. KNLB is handling the leasing.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Congressional Plaza Lebanese Taverna temporarily closes ahead of move

Future home of Lebanese Taverna
at Congressional Plaza
Lebanese Taverna has temporarily closed at Congressional Plaza, as the restaurant prepares to move to the other wing of the shopping center on Rockville Pike. Its new location is a bit smaller, and the menu will be a bit simpler, featuring a condensed selection of their most popular items. The new Lebanese Taverna will be next to Modern Market. Their Rockville Town Square location at 115-A Gibbs Street remains open for business if you can't wait for your favorite Lebanese Taverna meal.
Current construction status of the
new Lebanese Taverna location
Their current spot in the shopping center,
now closed

Heavy snow and ice Wednesday could fell trees, power lines in Rockville

The weather forecasters got it wrong yet again, and we are facing a much more serious winter storm Wednesday than we were told last week. Heavy snow is expected to begin falling sometime after 3:00 AM Wednesday, most likely toward 5:00 or 6:00 AM. Accumulation of 3-6" is possible before precipitation switches over to freezing rain and ice mid-afternoon. Locations in the northern half of Montgomery County could see totals rise to 10". The storm is expected to end by 10:00 PM Wednesday night.

The combination of heavy, wet snow and a coating of ice will create conditions favorable to trees and limbs falling, and power outages. Temperatures will be the critical factor in the ultimate accumulation totals by nightfall Wednesday. This will be another serious test of the "new" Pepco system. With 48 hours of advance notice, the utility will have no excuse to not have called in backup workers from out of state. As a multi-state operation, Pepco parent Exelon has even more resources within its own nationwide workforce than the old Pepco did, so again, there will be no excuses.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has urged residents to check their home emergency kit, and to prepare a plan for power outages.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Rockville McDonald's closes for renovations (Photos)

The McDonald's at 1390 Rockville Pike has temporarily closed for renovations. It's a major project that required the restaurant to close, unlike some of the makeovers the chain rolled out earlier this decade. Customers are being referred to the Derwood McDonald's location during the project. There are also McDonald's further down the road at 11564 Rockville Pike, and at 2101 Veirs Mill Road in Rockville.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Mass layoffs announced at Rockville company

Centerra Group, LLC, a government safety and security contractor located at 11555 Rockville Pike, has informed the state of Maryland it will conduct mass layoffs of its employees March 31, 2019. The firm filed a WARN notice with the state regarding the layoffs yesterday.

Eighty-seven employees are slated to lose their jobs, according to the notice filing. This is another blow to the anemic job activity in the White Flint area, which was capped off by the humiliating loss in the Amazon HQ2 sweepstakes. Montgomery County's economy grows more moribund with each passing hour, yet our County Council hasn't taken a single action to address the economic development crisis in the first two months of its term. Heckuva job, Brownie!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Federal Realty exceeds revenue forecasts for Q4 2018

Federal Realty, which owns several major retail centers in Rockville including Rockville Town Square, exceeded analysts' forecasts for revenue in the fourth quarter of last year. The real estate trust took in $235.4 million in revenue in the quarter, compared to the $$234.2 million the Associated Press reports analysts had forecast.

Funds from operations, which adds depreciation and amortization to a firm's net income, exactly matched forecasters' estimate of $1.57 per share, the AP reports. Federal Realty's stock has climbed 23% over the last year. The City of Rockville recently began subsidizing anchor Dawson's Market at the struggling Rockville Town Square, where multiple large tenants closed in 2018, including Mellow Mushroom pizzeria, Pandora Seafood, and - briefly - Dawson's Market, until the city subsidy enabled it to reopen.

Federal Realty is headquartered in Rockville.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Public hearing February 25 for N. Stonestreet Ave. Plan amendment

The public can weigh in on the proposed amendment to the N. Stonestreet Avenue master plan at a hearing scheduled for Monday, February 25, 2019 at 7:00 PM before the Mayor & Council at City Hall. You can see the draft of the amendment online.

To testify, call 240-314-8280 by 4:00 PM the day of the hearing, or submit testimony in writing to or City Clerk’s Office/Director of Council Operations, City Hall, 111 Maryland Ave., Rockville, MD 20850.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Giant ends Senior Tuesdays discount

Senior Tuesdays usually find an increase in shoppers at local Giant stores. That was because of the 5% discount for seniors. About two weeks ago, however, some seniors discovered the popular promotion is ending.

While the 5% discount was honored that Tuesday, the shoppers were informed that they could sign up at the customer service desk for a new promotion where coupons would be mailed to them at home. I asked the corporate office at Giant, and they confirmed that the Senior Tuesday promotion is being axed.

Giant said they are introducing a new plan for seniors, a personalized monthly mailer with targeted coupons and nutrition advice. As store employees told shoppers two weeks ago, you can sign up for the mailings at the customer service desk using your Bonus Card and mailing address.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Collingswood Nursing Home acquired by private equity firm

Collingswood Nursing Home has been a landmark at 299 Hurley Avenue in Rockville for almost 50 years. Now its family ownership has sold the nursing and rehab center to Tryko Partners, a New Jersey-based private equity firm. Tryko has put the facility under the management of its Marquis Health Services firm, Skilled Nursing News reports.

The nursing home also sits on a prime piece of real estate, which makes it a very valuable investment for the long-term, as well. Potential redevelopment of the shopping center property up the street has already caused much consternation in the Rockshire neighborhood, so this is something to keep an eye on. However, the nursing home was recently renovated, suggesting it isn't going anywhere in the near future.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Rockville Planning Commission to hold public hearing on Twinbrook Quarter/Wegmans project plan

The Rockville Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on B.F. Saul's project plan for its Twinbrook Quarter project on Wednesday, February 13, 2019 at 7:00 PM in the Mayor & Council chambers at City Hall. The project will be anchored by a Wegmans grocery store at the corner of Rockville Pike and Halpine Road near the Twinbrook Metro station.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Rockville biotech firm's stock soars after successful study results

Rockville biotech firm MacroGenics enjoyed a spike of over 100% in its stock price yesterday, after it received positive test results for its Margetuximab antibody treatment for breast cancer. The Phase-3 clinical study, code-named SOPHIA, found the antibody was 24% more effective than trastuzumab in progression-free survival of test participants. 85% of those in the study had a factor that had not responded to other antibody treatments prior to Margetuximab, MacroGenics reported in a press release Wednesday.

The company believes the antibody also has potential to be effective against gastroesophageal cancer. “We are pleased with the SOPHIA clinical results and are especially grateful to the patients, their caregivers, trial investigators and site personnel who participated in the study. I would also like to thank the entire MacroGenics team and our business partners who worked diligently to bring margetuximab to the clinic and execute the SOPHIA study,” said Scott Koenig, M.D., Ph.D., MacroGenics’ President and CEO.

In moribund Montgomery County, biotech is the only real economic bright spot. With Fortune 500 and other major firms showing no interest in locating in Montgomery, our only hope at this point - barring an election defeat for our corrupt political cartel - is for an existing company like this to someday achieve such status. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

MCPS caught without surveillance cameras again in Richard Montgomery incidents

Twenty years after Columbine and two years after the Rockville High School rape scandal, Montgomery County Public Schools' leadership has been caught again without adequate security cameras and surveillance at its facilities. Two recent incidents in as many months at Richard Montgomery High School proved that once again. And along with a horrible record of school violence and fighting, teachers and staff sexually assaulting children, massive cybersecurity flaws revealed in a state audit, and a failure to even perform basic background checks on security employees, children attending MCPS schools remain unsafe under the system's current failed leadership.

The RM incidents - rearrangement of cups spelling seniors to instead spell a racial slur in December, and a swastika being painted on the school last month - should have been easily resolved using security camera footage. Police and school officials seem to know the general timeframe in which the incidents occurred. If cameras were in place, it would be a simple matter to look at all movements on the campus between those reference points. The fact that no photos of suspects or vehicles have been released by police by now speaks for itself.

How can this be, in the age of terrorism and mass shootings? The County Council and Board of Education clearly do not have student safety as a top priority, An examination of some of the truly frivolous expenditures by MCPS over the last two years proves that. So, too, did the 2017 County Council security camera procurement scandal, in which taxpayers unwittingly picked up the tab for a 4-camera security system worth less than $1000 for a whopping $22,000, putting the Pentagon's famous toilet seats to shame. Those cameras were for a County government building, not a school, to boot.

We can do better. Leadership, like the bad example and behavior of MCPS-employed adults that filters down to impressionable children in their charge, starts at the top.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Mayor & Council approve school test waiver for B.F. Saul's Wegmans-anchored Twinbrook Quarter project

Feinberg opposes;
Farmland parents turn
out in force

Rockville's Mayor and Council voted 3-1 to approve a school test waiver for developer B.F. Saul's Wegmans-anchored Twinbrook Quarter project last night, after delaying the controversial decision for nearly two months. Councilmember Beryl Feinberg was the sole dissenter casting a "No" vote. The waiver concept won support from Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton, who had opposed Councilmember Mark Pierzchala's original proposal, which would have amended the city's Adequate Public Facilities Standards to allow schools in targeted areas of Rockville to have student populations at 150% of capacity.

The meeting's regularly-scheduled Community Forum became another public hearing on the question, with the vast majority of residents again opposing loosening student overcrowding standards. A large number of parents of students attending Farmland Elementary School turned out, as that already-overcrowded school is currently slated to receive a portion of the students who would be generated by the Twinbrook Quarter project, and others in that area.

Many parents became emotional as they described existing conditions at the jampacked school. "We are in a crisis mode at Farmland," one said with tears in her eyes. A father who brought his Farmland first grader to the meeting told the Mayor and Council of a "heartbreaking" conversation he had with his son just before the meeting started. He asked his son what his school environment was like, and his son "just looked at the ground and said, 'It's so crowded.'" The father noted that the boy's large class size prevents him from getting the extra help he needs with reading.

Among those favoring loosening standards were a millennial seeking more housing, and representatives of the Twinbrook neighborhood, which B.F. Saul has worked with for several years as the project moved forward.

In the end, there would be no across-the-board 150% standard, as a new waiver alternative was developed over the last week. But the full impact of the waiver and the new precedent on school overcrowding were not immediately clear. Newton and Feinberg complained that important elements of the proposal were left out of the documents given to the Mayor and Council Monday by staff, such as the stipulation that any additional units proposed for the project in future amendments would have the school test applied to them.

Newton announced at the outset of the discussion that the city would be forming a committee or work group to avoid a rushed process like this in the future. She said that among her goals were to avoid increasing the overcrowding standard above the current 120% of capacity, to seek boundary changes that would direct new students generated at Twinbrook Quarter to the Rockville High School cluster, and to remove the Town Center as a zone where weaker school capacity standards might apply.

Feinberg was not placated by this, and the meeting featured a rare disagreement between her and the Mayor that became mildly pointed at times. Noting that the waiver didn't require anything additional beyond what B.F. Saul was already required to provide for a "Champion Project," Feinberg said, "They are not doing anything extra." She disputed Newton's citation of a potential $70 million in revenue from Twinbrook Quarter to city coffers, arguing that "we have never received any documentation validating those numbers. Ever. " B.F. Saul's Todd Pearson said the documentation was submitted to the Mayor and Council, but Feinberg said it was never forwarded to her.

Lowering the boom on the deal when it was apparent it would pass, Feinberg blasted it on several fronts. Approving the waiver "sends the message that Rockville prioritizes development over our children's education," she said. Feinberg noted that Richard Montgomery High School has run out of extra classrooms it can convert to science labs, which will hurt science learning among the 1100 new students that could be added to the school in the coming years, if development could avoid moratorium.

Turning back to the issue that residents were getting nothing extra in exchange for the waiver, Feinberg asked, "What are we getting for this?" She then asked Pearson if B.F. Saul would provide 20,000 SF of public space as a condition for the waiver, but he was unable to make such a commitment last night.

Feinberg also raised potential legal issues. "This is clearly a carve-out for a developer, and one developer only," she said, adding that the city was now giving B.F. Saul "most-favored developer status." Now other developers will seek similar "gimmees" in the future, she predicted, and sue if they don't get them.

A potential candidate for mayor this November, Feinberg made clear she would vote no on the waiver, closing her speech by declaring, "Not with my vote, not on my watch."

Seeking to correct the record on a few points as the question was called, Feinberg was cut off by Newton, leading to another testy exchange as officials faced arguably the most unpleasant vote of this term. "I don't appreciate being cut off," Feinberg said. "You cut off all of us last Monday," Newton replied, "so I resent that comment."

When the vote was taken, the waiver was approved 3-1, with Newton, Pierzchala and Councilmember Virginia Onley voting in favor, and Feinberg opposed. Newton said at her victory party in 2015 that she did not plan to run for mayor again. While a solid supporter of more-responsibly-managed growth, as evidenced by her appointments to the Planning Commission, Newton has long supported the Twinbrook Quarter project.

Beneath the apparent drama on the surface, last night's events made sense politically for each elected official. Newton achieved a compromise, was able to advance a project seen as an accomplishment of her tenure as mayor, and won't have to face voters angry about the impact on schools this fall. Feinberg made it abundantly clear she was the defender of students and parents in this battle, while Pierzchala and Onley retained their pro-development bonafides. This sets up another election of contrasts this fall, even as speculation swirls about who will run for Mayor and Council.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Nighttime noise ahead on Aqueduct Road in Rockville

WSSC water tank on Aqueduct Rd.
in Rockville
The WSSC will be upgrading its water mains along Aqueduct Road in Rockville between Chilham Place and Old Canal Road this winter. To reduce the impact of water loss on residents, the utility will be performing the work at night, between 9:00 PM and 5:00 AM.

The project will take several nights to complete, and will take place this month or possibly into March, depending on weather conditions. As you may know, the WSSC has a large standpipe water tank on the next block, at 8505 Aqueduct Road, so these are likely large and important water connections underneath the road.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Rockville bank robbery suspect photos released in search

Montgomery County police have identified a suspect in the January 27, 2019 SunTrust Bank robbery inside the Shady Grove Road Safeway store around 4:05 PM that afternoon. Detectives have released surveillance camera photos of the suspect, and are seeking your help in identifying and locating him.

Anyone with information about the suspect or this bank robbery is asked to contact the Montgomery County Department of Police – Major Crimes Division at 240-773-5100.  To be eligible for a reward, tipsters may call Crime Solvers of Montgomery County toll-free at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).  Crime Solvers will pay a cash reward of up to $10,000 for information provided to them that leads to the arrest and/or indictment of this suspect.  Tipsters will remain anonymous.