Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Car stolen in King Farm

A car was reported stolen from the King Farm neighborhood of Rockville on Tuesday morning. The vehicle was parked in a residential parking lot in the 400 block of King Farm Boulevard. According to crime data, the car was taken sometime between Monday evening and early Tuesday morning.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Windsor reopens at Montgomery Mall

Women's fashion boutique Windsor is the latest tenant at Westfield Montgomery Mall to reopen. They are celebrating with a 20%-off sale.

Armed robbery at Thomas Farm Community Center in Rockville

Second armed robbery in
a week in Fallsgrove

Rockville police responded to a report of an armed robbery at the Thomas Farm Community Center in the Fallsgrove community early Sunday morning. The victim was threatened with a knife in the parking lot of the facility in the 700 block of Fallsgrove Drive around 3:22 AM.
This was the second armed robbery reported in one week in Fallsgrove. The first robber wielded a gun in a wooded area off Casey Lane the previous Sunday.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Hogan issues emergency order prohibiting blanket closure of private schools by Montgomery County

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has issued an emergency order prohibiting Montgomery County from closing private schools this fall. The order, which applies to all counties, states that opening and closing decisions during the pandemic are to be made by local education authorities. Hogan's order asserts that private and parochial schools have the same authority to determine their ability to open, and that Montgomery County Health Officer Travis Gayles exceeded his authority in issuing his order late Friday evening.

"Over the last several weeks, school boards and superintendents made their own decisions about how and when to reopen public schools, after consultation with state and local health officials," Hogan wrote in a statement accompanying his emergency order. “Private and parochial schools deserve the same opportunity and flexibility to make reopening decisions based on public health guidelines. The blanket closure mandate imposed by Montgomery County was overly broad and inconsistent with the powers intended to be delegated to the county health officer."

After initially stating his opposition to Gayles' order over the weekend, Hogan has now taken action, entering what has become a contentious fight between private school parents and Montgomery County. The Republican governor, who has had to navigate a majority-blue state political sphere for two terms, is widely expected to be a candidate for president in 2024.

Montgomery County health officer reportedly set high bar for Covid-19 positive tests before ordering private schools closed

Holton-Arms School in Bethesda
Montgomery County Health Officer Travis Gayles reportedly said a major decline in positive coronavirus tests would be necessary to allow private schools to open this fall, prior to releasing his controversial order prohibiting private schools from opening through October 1. A person who was on a call between Gayles and a private school advisory group earlier last week recalled Gayles seeking daily positive Covid-19 test results to be in the single digits or teens before giving private schools the green light to reopen. Based on current case trends in the county, that is unlikely to happen this fall, much less by October 1.

Many are seeking answers as to what the specific data metrics behind the private schools order were, in part to discern whether or not the standard is one that could be met by October 1, or if the County is simply seeking to stanch an outflow of students from the public school system this fall. Gayles did not make himself available to the media over the weekend after releasing his order late Friday. More than 3000 private school parents have organized to oppose Montgomery County's order in the three days since it was issued.

Patisserie Manuel, Godiva Chocolatier reopen at Westfield Montgomery Mall

Patisserie Manuel, a French bakery that also offers Chilean specialties, has reopened in the Dining Terrace food court at Westfield Montgomery Mall. Clear plastic shields have been installed at the counter as a coronavirus safety measure for staff and customers. Their hours are now Monday-Saturday, 11:00 AM to 7:00 PM, and Sundays, 12:00-6:00 PM. Also reopening at the mall is Godiva Chocolatier.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Montgomery County private school parents mobilize to challenge closure order

Holy Redeemer School in Kensington
Montgomery County parents of children in private schools have moved quickly this weekend to counter a Friday county government order preventing those schools from opening through October 1. As of this morning, I am aware of two legal challenges to County Health Officer Travis Gayles' order being prepared. At least one Facebook group was started, and quickly grew to over 2000 members. And an online petition has begun gathering signatures.

In addition to challenging the legal authority of the County to shutter private schools, some parents have also questioned the blanket nature of the order, rather than having the County review the specific plans of each school by set standards. For example, a member of the Holy Redeemer School advisory board noted that the school's classrooms all have exterior doors, and that the school has no buses or cafeteria, and argued that such circumstances would allow it to operate with a greater degree of safety. 

Advocates of keeping instruction online-only for now counter that it is the enclosed classroom environment that will put students, teachers and the at-risk populations they interact with outside of school in danger of contracting Covid-19. Some private school teachers had lobbied for a closure in recent weeks, saying they want the same protection that Montgomery County Public School employees are getting with the closure of public schools for the fall semester.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Montgomery County prohibits private schools from opening through October 1

Sidwell Friends Lower School in
the Edgemoor neighborhood of Bethesda
Montgomery County Health Officer Travis Gayles issued an order prohibiting private schools in the county from opening through October 1, 2020. A statement from the County says Gayles will consider extending or terminating the order prior to October 1. Gayles said "the data does not suggest that in-person instruction is safe for students or teachers. We have seen increases in transmission rates for COVID-19 in the State of Maryland, the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Virginia, particularly in younger age groups, and this step is necessary to protect the health and safety of Montgomery County residents.”

The order came as many parents with the financial means to do so were scrambling to transfer their children out of Montgomery County Public Schools into private schools for the Fall 2020 semester. MCPS has already announced it will not offer in-class instruction, continuing an all-online instruction method begun this spring. A number of MCPS student athletes were also counting on transfers to private schools in order to play sports, so that they can be considered by colleges for scholarships.

As such transfer plans are now possibly moot, some are suggesting the County's move was political, to discourage a mass exodus from MCPS. If MCPS loses a significant number of students, it will also lose funding in the future. Some also questioned the legality of the order, calling for a legal challenge.

A few critics of President Trump cheered the move on social media, noting that the order would prevent his own son, Barron Trump, from receiving the in-classroom instruction the president has advocated for the nation. Barron Trump attends St. Andrews Episcopal School in Potomac.

Montgomery County says that any private school official who knowingly disobeys the ban on in-class instruction will face a one-year jail term, or a $5000 fine, or both.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Rockville planning commission to review Wegmans, Twinbrook Quarter Phase 1 site plan

The Rockville Planning Commission will review the Phase 1 site plan for B.F. Saul's Twinbrook Quarter mixed-use development at 1500-1616 Rockville Pike, which includes a Wegmans grocery store, at its August 5, 2020 virtual meeting. If approved, Phase 1 will include up to 460 apartment units, 270,000 square feet of office space, a 92,000 square foot Wegmans, 12,000 square feet of restaurant use, and 17,000 square feet of retail use.

One new element in the plan is a potential daycare facility within the structure, with a capacity for up to 135 children. Phase 1 will also include construction of Festival Street and another extension of Chapman Avenue, including its intersection with Festival Street.

Planning staff is recommending approval of the site plan. The project is adjacent to the Twinbrook Metro station at Halpine Road.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Main Street Apartments virtual ribbon-cutting scheduled for today at 5 PM

The official opening of the Main Street Apartments at 50 Monroe Place in Rockville will be marked with a virtual ribbon-cutting online today, July 30, 2020, at 5:00 PM. Guests of honor who will appear on the webcast will include Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen (D), U.S. Representative Jamie Raskin (D - Maryland District 8), Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich (D) and Main Street Connects founders Jillian and Scott Copeland.

You can register to join the virtual ribbon-cutting online now. Main Street Apartments is a unique development, in that 25% of the apartments have been set aside for adults with disabilities, and 75% of the overall units are reserved for low-income residents at below-market rates. A community center on the building's ground floor is designed to be a welcoming gathering space for residents and non-residents alike.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Armed robbery in Rockville; two cars stolen in 24 hours

An armed robbery was reported to Rockville police Sunday night, July 26, 2020. The robbery took place in a wooded area in the 400 block of Casey Lane in Fallsgrove around 11:30 PM. A gun was the weapon used in the robbery, according to crime data.

In other Rockville crime news, two cars were reported stolen in one 24-hour period on July 27. The first was taken from a commercial parking lot in the 1400 block of Research Boulevard. A second vehicle was stolen from a residential parking lot in the 10800 block of Antigua Terrace.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Bagel City contents to be auctioned off in August

Bagel City has permanently closed at the Pike Center on Rockville Pike. Now the contents of the shuttered bakery and deli will be auctioned off online next month. Items available for bid will include a 2-barrel Triumph mixer, a convection oven, bakery display cases and a cappuccino machine. Bidding will take place online on August 6, 2020.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Subway closes at Federal Plaza

No more $5 Footlongs at Federal Plaza. Subway has closed, their signage is gone, and their space has been totally cleared out. Usually we can blame the moribund Montgomery County economy or - more recently - the coronavirus, but the struggling sub chain has been closing an average of three locations a day according to Restaurant Business Online.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Rockville speed camera lit on fire

A Montgomery County speed camera that issues tickets to drivers was vandalized and lit on fire on July 17, 2020, Montgomery County Fire and Rescue spokesperson Pete Piringer said today. Anti-law-enforcement words were spray painted on the camera, the lenses were covered, and then the camera unit was lit ablaze.

The camera was located in the 400 block of Hurley Avenue, near Wootton Mill Park, in Rockville. Piringer asked that anyone with information related to this incident contact the MCFRS Arson Hotline at 240-777-2263.

Photo via Pete Piringer/MCFRS

Thursday, July 23, 2020

7-Eleven opens at Montgomery Mall

7-Eleven has opened at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. The store is located at the entrance to the Dining Terrace on Level 2.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Richard Montgomery football coach, others speak out on MCPS cancelling fall, winter sports

Montgomery County Public Schools announced Tuesday that all sports for fall and winter have been cancelled, due to the coronavirus pandemic. The announcement was one line in a larger announcement that no on-site instruction will take place in MCPS for the fall semester. Many coaches and athletes' reactions ranged from resigned disappointment to devastation and anger.

One common theme among those opposed to cancelling sports was to question why fall and winter sports could not be either postponed or rescheduled for a different part of the school year, rather than have a lost season. Randy Thompson, head coach for the Richard Montgomery High School varsity football team, summed up these matters - and the short-shrift the sports decision was given in the MCPS statement - in one tweet.

"The announcement from MCPS to cancel fall and winter sports instead of to postpone and reevaluate, seems unjust to our student athletes, certainly given the fashion in which it passed over in a single sentence," Thompson tweeted. "Why not [reevaluate] 1 month from now, two months from now?," tweeted Quince Orchard High School head football coach John Kelley.

An online petition has been started to play fall and winter sports in the spring. At the same time, some MCPS parents expressed relief at the announcement, believing that having students gathering for practices and games would have put the larger community at risk for Covid-19 transmission.

Thompson, Albert Einstein High School football defensive coordinator Joe Bruneel, and other MCPS coaches vowed to do what they could to salvage some benefit for their student athletes this coming school year. Bruneel proposed football coaches across the system organize for a spring football season. Thompson said he would try to get his players on film to showcase their talents for colleges.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Outdoor seating at Silver Diner in Rockville

The outdoor seating at Silver Diner at 12276 Rockville Pike at Federal Plaza is among the most upscale in Montgomery County. Compared to scattered tables - sometimes with umbrellas - plunked down in parking spaces at other shopping centers, Silver Diner's is more like a garden party. A full-size tent covers the outdoor seating, and it even includes plants for decoration.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Barnes & Noble sets opening date for Congressional Plaza store in Rockville

Books arriving on shelves
at relocating store

Last week the Nook e-readers arrived at the new Barnes & Noble at Congressional Plaza on Rockville Pike. This weekend, books began being put on the shelves. The Starbucks BN Cafe is ready, and now I have the opening date for the store: Wednesday, August 5, 2020. Barnes & Noble is relocating here from Montrose Crossing down the Pike.

Friday, July 17, 2020

BN Cafe completed, Nook readers arrive at Barnes & Noble at Congressional Plaza

The Starbucks BN Cafe at the future Barnes & Noble bookstore at Congressional Plaza is complete, minus potential wall artwork. It's sure to stir cafe-envy in Bethesda residents stuck with the small and cafe-less Amazon Books as replacement for the shuttered Barnes & Noble at Bethesda Row.

First to hit the shelves at this relocating Rockville location? Nook e-readers. I'll take a hard copy book over one of those any day of the week, though.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Crumbl Cookies opening in Rockville

A cookie shop? This brings back memories of an age when Mrs. Field's was a ubiquitous mall tenant like Auntie Anne's and Cinnabon. Let's pretend to return to a golden age of warm cookies when Crumbl Cookies opens later this year at Federal Plaza.
This will be the first northeast location of Crumbl Cookies, which also sells ice cream. They've chosen a good location on busy Rockville Pike, and which is also walking distance from Pike & Rose, another Federal Realty property.

They've started construction inside. But the signs are already up outside. I'm a little bit triggered by the name of the Utah-based company, though - fresh, soft cookies shouldn't crumble!