Friday, October 30, 2020
Montgomery County police responded to a report of a pickpocket at a Rockville grocery store on Sunday. The victim's pocket was picked at a supermarket in the 9700 block of Traville Gateway Drive around 12:00 PM. There is a Giant grocery store in the shopping center on that block. Watch your wallet!
Thursday, October 29, 2020
Rockville Mayor & Council to discuss City Clerk, City Attorney positions in closed session on November 5
Rockville's Mayor & Council have scheduled a closed session meeting to discuss the City Clerk and City Attorney positions at 10:00 AM on Thursday, November 5, 2020. Under Maryland law, such sessions can be used to confidentially discuss "the appointment, employment,assignment, promotion, discipline, demotion, compensation, removal, resignation, or performance evaluation" of these city offices.
The position of City Attorney is currently vacant; Deputy City Attorney Cynthia Walters is currently serving as acting City Attorney. Former City Attorney Debra Yerg Daniel resigned at the end of the summer. Sara Taylor-Ferrell is the current City Clerk, and has served in that office for two years.
I note that a file name at the bottom of the agenda document includes the term, "performance review."
Photo courtesy City of Rockville
Wednesday, October 28, 2020
Montgomery County Council passes massive developer tax cut, now wants to cut pay for cops, firefighters
The Montgomery County Council voted 7-2 yesterday to approve a massive property tax cut for developers, estimated to cost taxpayers from $400 million to upwards of a billion dollars over the next 15 years.After overturning County Executive Marc Elrich's veto of the developer tax cut, the Council is now seeking to cut hazard pay for police officers, firefighters, Ride On bus drivers and other frontline essential employees who are at high-risk of contracting Covid-19 daily during the coronavirus pandemic.
Yesterday's vote continues two disturbing trends by the Montgomery County Council: a continued shift of the tax burden from developers (who contribute to all nine councilmembers' campaigns) to workers and homeowners, and the ongoing practice by the Council of breaking labor agreements.
While property taxes on homeowners have risen each year except 2014 (in which the average homeowner got a $12 tax cut - gee, thanks!), large developers have enjoyed tax cut after tax cut on property and impact taxes over the last decade. It started with a $72 million developer tax cut in 2010. Remember how your energy taxes were hiked, and an ambulance fee levied, around the same time to make up for that developer giveaway? Yep.
Combined with the County's failure to attract high-wage jobs or a single major corporate headquarters in over 20 years, outsize spending by Council, and the flight of the rich due to record-high tax burdens, the developer pay-days have blown an atomic bomb-size hole in the County budget. The result is a structural budget deficit as far out as the forecasts go.
So we've known by the last decade that massive residential development results in a deficit, as the costs this new housing creates for services like schools, infrastructure and social spending far outstrips the revenue it generates.
We also know there's little demand for luxury apartments, as a large percentage of the new units delivered since 2010 are filled with airbnb hotel guests, college students and corporate contract residents, none of whom pay full-freight rent. In fact, the Council admitted there's no demand for high-rise housing atop Metro stations when introducing the new tax cut - and they're going to bust the budget and hike your taxes to build something nobody wants, just so they and their developer sugar daddies can still make a profit on it.
And we've learned that the affordable housing "crisis" isn't actually a crisis, because the Housing Opportunities Commission was able to move hundreds of people out of The Ambassador apartments into vacant units elsewhere and demolish the building, while the owners of affordable Halpine View said they have no takers for their vacant units in Rockville. Whoops!
The shift in revenue burden has also moved from the large, international development firms that contribute to the Councilmembers' campaigns to the mom-and-pop developers who live in the community and build or expand single-family homes. Not only did the Council hit them with new regulations and tax hikes like the recordation tax, but they've recently sought to levy an all-new "teardown tax" on these small building firms. When you know that the Council's long-term goal is to change zoning to allow urban development in existing single-family-home neighborhoods, you can understand why they're trying to clear the construction field for the big guys.
But the Council isn't done spreading the unfairness around!
Now it wants to take hazard pay away from first responders and frontline employees that is in already-negotiated labor agreements. While the Council hides at home on Zoom meetings, these police officers and firefighters are responding to calls and speaking with often-unmasked citizens on a daily basis. Ride On drivers are helping similarly-essential personnel get to work, and low-income residents get to medical appointments, while exposing themselves to the virus on every shift.
The same Council didn't even give our police officers a sufficient supply of PPE and hand sanitizer. How interesting that the same councilmembers - Hans Riemer (D - At-Large) and Andrew Friedson (D - District 1) spearheading the $1 billion tax cut for developers yesterday are also leading the charge to cut hazard pay for cops and firefighters.
Now, even as the councilmembers' own $140,000 paychecks increase year after year, they want to again renege on labor agreements. County employees are counting on these agreements when planning the financial future of their families. The Council wants to take food off their tables during a pandemic, and turn it into cash for their campaign donors - and into future campaign checks for themselves.
Tuesday, October 27, 2020
|Rockville City Council member|
The City of Rockville will officially join the American Cancer Society's annual Great American Smokeout nationwide event on November 19, 2020, to discourage smoking and usage of vaping products. Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton and the City Council will issue a proclamation to this effect, and residents are being directed to ACS smoking cessation advice and resources.
Rockville has already banned smoking in bars and restaurants, and in recent years on outdoor dining patios and on all City-owned property, including city parks. “While there is so much that is out of our control in this unprecedented moment, we can make individual decisions to improve our lives and the lives of those around us,” Rockville City Councilmember David Myles - who is also a physician - said in a statement Tuesday morning. “In addition to wearing a facial covering, stopping smoking has been shown to improve one's health and the health of those around you. Be a good neighbor and be good to yourself.”
Photo courtesy City of Rockville
Monday, October 26, 2020
Montgomery County voters who want to vote in person, but cast their ballots before Election Day, are heading to early voting centers like this one in Rockville starting today. Early voting here in Maryland runs through Monday, November 2, 2020, from 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM daily.
|Executive Office Building early voting|
site in Rockville
|Early voting sites with the longest|
wait times on the first day of
One other tricky hurdle for voters besides the lines is matter of the ballot questions. Voters wishing to support the citizen questions on the ballot that would prevent the Montgomery County Council from voting to exceed the annual cap on property taxes, and change the structure of that County Council to nine smaller districts (and eliminate the four At-Large seats) will want to vote "Yes" on Questions B and D.
A Rockville man has died after a collision on Norbeck Road Friday night. Detectives with the Collision Reconstruction Unit of the Montgomery County police say Christian Richardson, 24, of Dumbarton Drive in Rockville, was riding a 2014 Yamaha FZ-09 motorcycle heading west on Norbeck Road approaching Llewellyn Manor Way around 8:20 PM. A 2007 Toyota Prius on Llewellyn Manor Way attempted to cross Norbeck Road to enter Northwest Branch Recreational Park, and the two vehicles collided.
Richardson was transported to an unidentified local hospital, where he later died from his injuries. The driver of the Prius, identified as Tatiana Ogundeko, 22, of Waldorf, and an adult female passenger were not injured in the collision. They remained on the scene and are cooperating with police. Anyone with information regarding this collision is asked to contact the Collision Reconstruction Unit at 240-773-6620.
Montgomery County police responded to a report of a strong-arm robbery in Rockville on Thursday morning. The robbery was reported along the street in the 11400 block of Rockville Pike around 7:15 AM, according to crime data.
Friday, October 23, 2020
Rockville planning staff recommends removing "substantial retail" requirement for Rockshire Village Center in master plan
|Rockville Planning Commission|
Chair Charles Littlefield
Residents in the Rockshire community of Rockville have long asked the Rockville Planning Commission to preserve the retail-only use of the Rockshire Village Center property in the update of the city's Comprehensive Plan. Developers seeking to redevelop the property are asking for retail use to be minimized or deleted altogether, asserting that there is no market demand for retail at that location. The Planning Commission will consider the competing arguments at its 7:00 PM, October 28, 2020 virtual meeting. City planning staff has now weighed in with recommendations.
Thursday, October 22, 2020
German grocery chain Lidl is proposing a Rockville store in the King Farm-Derwood area. The store would be on the former CarMax property at 15931 Frederick Road, near the Shady Grove Metro station. As part of the proposal, an affordable housing development with 200-250 units would later be constructed on another part of the property. The grocer is also promising to upgrade the streetscape along the Frederick Road side of the property, to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists.
Wednesday, October 21, 2020
Rockville "undercover billionaire" finds Camaro Z-28 he drove while student at Richard Montgomery High School
Billionaire Glenn Stearns is best known as TV's Undercover Billionaire, and as the founder of Stearns Lending. Lesser known are his Montgomery County days, when he attended Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville. Stearns never forgot his 1969 Chevrolet Camaro Z-28, but never expected to find it again after being forced to sell it later.
But, as he tells Hot Rod magazine, Stearns incredibly found the car while attending a Barrett-Jackson auto auction with football legend John Elway. The Glacier Blue Z "was a known fast car on the streets of Rockville, Maryland, and among fellow students at Richard Montgomery High School," Hot Rod reports.
Now Stearns is once again behind the wheel of the car that once cruised the streets of Rockville. Bidding by phone when he had to leave the auction early for business, the billionaire reclaimed his long lost car. As sports car aficionados know, it's hard to stay "undercover" for long driving a Camaro Z-28.
Tuesday, October 20, 2020
Kanye West has officially qualified as a write-in candidate for president on the 2020 Election Maryland ballot, the Maryland State Board of Elections announced. West's name does not appear on the list of presidential candidates on the ballot, but it can be written in by voters in the "Write-in" box in that race.
The significance of his qualification is that the state will tally the numerical total votes West receives, and they will appear in the election results. Write-in names that have not been qualified by the SBE, while still counting, will not appear in official result tallies.
West is running on a ten-point platform that includes reform of the justice system, fair trade, restoring prayer in schools and reducing household and student debt. Having spent some of his childhood in Montgomery County, West has said the area gave him his forward fashion sense, and he has given Rockville and Takoma Park shoutouts during his D.C.-area concerts in the past.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) released a draft of the state's Covid-19 vaccination plan this morning. Like all states, Maryland must submit a plan like this to the federal government for how it will store, distribute and administer any future approved vaccines for the coronavirus.
|Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R)|
Monday, October 19, 2020
Metro station also to be discussed
A long-term goal of Rockville Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton, the undergrounding of MD Route 355 where it passes through Rockville Town Center, will officially come before the Mayor and Council for the first time tonight at its 6:00 PM virtual meeting. The idea has been floated for decades, such as the above rendering from the 2001 Rockville Town Center master plan.
Newton revived the idea in recent years, with a goal of creating more public space for city events, and a calmer traffic environment for the town center. The space could replace the lost town center parking lots where events like Hometown Holidays formerly hosted concerts and carnival rides, but with less asphalt. City staff estimates the potential cost of such a project to be in the $200-300 million range.
|This 1990s concept drawing of the|
undergrounding of MD 355 created by
a city-hired consultant envisioned the
future redevelopment of the
Rockville Metro station surface areas
There is potential to combine such a project with development or redevelopment of the Rockville Metro station surface lots, and the Rockville Mall-era structure across MD 355 from it. Coincidentally, the Mayor and Council will also be discussing the former topic at tonight's meeting, as well. The staff report notes that the city's Rockville 2040 comprehensive plan draft calls for "a blend of moderate-density housing and neighborhood-serving retail" on the station site, and at the edge of East Rockville.
Images via City of Rockville
Dokiya Ramen has closed at 785-H Rockville Pike. Its space in the Ritchie Center has been cleared out. The restaurant had enjoyed a solid four-star rating on Yelp prior to closing.
Rockville's Mayor and Council will consider a revision to the city's Covid-19 face covering policy tonight. The proposed change would no longer allow face shields as a substitute for a mask, and also forbid the wearing of masks or face coverings that have exhalation valves or vents.
According to a staff report, face shields are no longer considered effective enough in preventing the spread of the coronavirus, and masks that have valves or vents may actually contribute to the spread of the illness. The revision would still allow face shields to be worn in lieu of a mask by by those who are hearing impaired, and by those who care for or communicate with them. Otherwise, a mask would have to be worn under the face shield.
Staff are recommending approval of the revised policy. The Mayor and Council will discuss the proposal at its virtual meeting tonight at 6:00 PM. Montgomery County adopted a similar revision to its mask policy last month.
Photo courtesy City of Rockville
Friday, October 16, 2020
A purse-snatching was reported at a Rockville grocery store on Wednesday afteroon. Montgomery County police responded to the theft at a supermarket in the 12000 block of Rockville Pike around 1:00 PM. No force was used against the purse's owner in the snatching, according to police data.
The lights are now on at the future Twinbrook Laundromat at 2131 Veirs Mill Road in Rockville. There is still paper over the windows, but the roadside sign is now lit at night. No opening date has been set yet.
Thursday, October 15, 2020
Athleta will open its first Montgomery County location at Congressional Plaza in Rockville next spring, property owner Federal Realty announced this morning. This will be the performance and lifestyle apparel brand's third regional location, with existing stores in Georgetown and Tysons. Targeted toward active girls and women, the store is positioned to align with the same consumers as Federal Realty's new FITRow-branded fitness area at the shopping center.
FITRow will include CorePower Yoga and Orangetheory Fitness when it debuts. Athleta will be located by The Fresh Market at Congressional. “Federal Realty always seeks exceptional brands to complement our merchant mix at Congressional Plaza,” Kari Glinski, Director of Asset Management at Federal Realty. said in a statement. “With the opening of FITRow, featuring CorePower Yoga and Orangetheory, we are confident that Athleta will be a sought-after retail destination.”
Wednesday, October 14, 2020
|October 13 email sent from Montgomery County Council|
government email system urging recipients to vote against
citizen-proposed ballot questions
Montgomery County residents have been receiving frequent emails from County Council members in recent weeks urging them to vote against ballot questions proposed by County residents. Just one problem: these spam political campaign emails are paid for by you, the taxpayer. If a politician wishes to campaign against a ballot question, they can form a new campaign entity or use their own campaign funds, but they cannot use taxpayer funds. This use of taxpayer-funded government email systems for political campaigning should be reviewed by the Maryland Board of Elections, and the Inspector General's office.
|The October 13 County government-sent email illegally urges|
recipients to vote a certain way on ballot questions
|Fine print at bottom of email confirms it|
was sent "on behalf of Montgomery County, Maryland Government"
|Fine print also declares the email "is part of|
the Council's newsletter software," a taxpayer-funded
government communications platform
Tuesday, October 13, 2020
Montgomery County police responded to a report of a robbery and assault at a restaurant in the Derwood area Saturday night. An unspecified weapon other than a firearm was utilized in the robbery, which occurred at a restaurant in the 15800 block of Frederick Road around 10:06 PM, according to crime data.
Monday, October 12, 2020
City of Rockville police responded to a report of indecent exposure in the Wootton Oaks neighborhood of Rockville Saturday morning. The incident took place in the street in the 100 block of Wootton Oaks Court around 10:55 AM. According to crime data, the victim in the incident was a minor.
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Carmen's Italian Ice temporarily closes Rockville, Olney locations after employee tests positive for Covid-19
Two Montgomery County businesses announced they were temporarily closing yesterday due to employees testing positive for Covid-19. Carmen's Italian Ice said it would temporarily close both of its locations after one of its employees tested positive. Because some employees work at both locations, Carmen's is closing both the Rockville and Olney locations.
Patisserie Manuel also announced it would close its Westfield Montgomery Mall location until further notice, after one of its employees tested positive for the coronavirus.
Both businesses have received positive feedback on their decisions from customers, a number of whom said they appreciated the honesty and openness about the situation.
Friday, October 9, 2020
Some Montgomery County voters are hitting the panic button as the mail-in ballots they requested weeks or months ago have not yet arrived. The panic is not only due to the high anxiety about election fraud this year, but more so because these voters have seen friends' and family members' ballots arrive, while theirs haven't - even though in many cases the requests were mailed the same day, or even together.
CM Chicken, short for Choong Man Chicken, is coming to Rockville. The restaurant is putting the finishing construction touches on its future space at the Ritchie Center on Rockville Pike. It's a Korean concept, and some online reviews are calling it even better than Bonchon.
Specialties at CM Chicken include its signature Snow Onion Chicken and Tikkudak chicken. Snow Onion Chicken is fried chicken topped with a copious amount of mayonnaise and raw onions. Tikkudak chicken varieties all benefit from being baked in an oven after frying for extra crunch. Spice levels range from mild to super hot.
Thursday, October 8, 2020
Next Level Studio, a dance studio with a competitive dance program and a variety of classes, will open a new facility at 15811 Frederick Road in Derwood, across from King Farm. Classes are currently being held in a space at the rear of the building, while construction on the new studio is being completed at the front.
Wednesday, October 7, 2020
Here's a look at the progress on the new Ourisman Mazda dealership facility at 801 Rockville Pike. The dealership remains open during the construction.
Tuesday, October 6, 2020
Rockville Town Square has suffered another round of business closures over the last year, but the development is going to hold on to one of its biggest tenants. Gold's Gym is going to renew its lease at the Federal Realty property, according to an agenda item for the October 5 meeting of the Mayor and Council.
This is good news for several reasons. First, it is one of the largest spaces at the development. Second, it is a major traffic generator for the other businesses in the Town Square. And it is an important amenity for residents in the Town Square and immediate area around it, where there is not a huge number of other gym options.