Monday, October 19, 2020

Rockville Mayor and Council to discuss undergrounding MD 355 in Rockville Town Center

Redevelopment of Rockville 
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 closes in 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 to consider revising Covid-19 face covering policy

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

Purse snatching at Rockville grocery store

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.

Twinbrook Laundromat construction update

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 opening location at Congressional Plaza in Rockville

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

Montgomery County Council using taxpayer funds to campaign against citizen ballot questions

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.

I personally have received two of these emails in just the last two days from Councilmembers Andrew Friedson (D - District 1) and Hans Riemer (D - At-Large). I've previously received several emails from their same government accounts, which also urged me to vote against Questions B and D. The shady and illegal tactic is simply one more reason voters should vote FOR Questions B and D, and AGAINST Questions A and C.
The October 13 County government-sent email illegally urges
recipients to vote a certain way on ballot questions

The taxpayer-funded spam email blitz is only the newest unethical tactic the Council has deployed against citizen efforts to chip away at its authoritarian power. While the citizen-petitioned ballot questions each received the support of nearly 20,000 Montgomery County residents who signed the petitions, the Montgomery County Council placed its own deceptive ballot questions with no public, democratic process. 

Content in years past to wage expensive campaigns against citizen ballot questions, the Council upped the ante and the corruption this year. With no advance warning or public process, the Council simply gaveled two identically-worded poison pill questions onto the ballot at a virtual online meeting. The scheme is intended to fool voters into voting "Yes" on all four. Legal experts have advised that if all four ballot questions are approved, they will cancel each other out, and none of the changes citizens sought will take place.
Fine print at bottom of email confirms it
was sent "on behalf of Montgomery County, Maryland Government"

Question B would eliminate the Council's ability to override the existing property tax cap, as they did in 2016 to slam homeowners with a 9% property tax increase, to cover for their mismanagement of the County budget. Question D would eliminate the At-Large seats on the Council, and reorder the Council into 9 smaller districts. Questions A and C are the Council's poison pill questions that mimic the language of B and D. 
Fine print also declares the email "is part of
the Council's newsletter software," a taxpayer-funded
government communications platform

Making taxpayers fund their corrupt schemes is nothing new for the Montgomery County Council. My investigation in 2018 found that Councilmember Hans Riemer was charging taxpayers to fund both a political website (even though each councilmember already gets a free, taxpayer-funded website on the Council's website), and to pay for his gas when he traveled to private meetings with his campaign donors.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Robbery and assault at Derwood restaurant

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

Indecent exposure in Rockville

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 haven't received their mail-in ballots

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.

The Montgomery County Board of Elections told one voter who requested his ballot over a month ago that, if he doesn't receive it by the end of this week, to request a "second-issue ballot." This can be done by visiting the Board of Elections in person (Monday-Friday, 8:30am-5pm) at 18753 N. Frederick Avenue., Suite 210, in Gaithersburg; emailing your name, date-of-birth, address, mailing address (if needed), and second ballot issue request to; or by reapplying online by texting VBM to 77788 or using this form.

Another big question for some voters is why their ballot isn't shown as received days after mailing it back, or placing it into a dropbox. BOE says that it can take up to two weeks for a ballot to be collected and processed.

Voters are correct to be concerned. I lost my voting rights in the primary earlier this year when my completed ballot was "lost in the mail" on its way back to the BOE, making it the first election I ever missed participating in since I was old enough to register. I personally have received my mail-in ballot. But I will be using a dropbox to return it this time.

CM Chicken opening Rockville location (Photos)

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 opening new studio in Derwood

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

Rockville Ourisman Mazda construction update (Photos)

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

Gold's Gym renewing lease at Rockville Town Square

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.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Rockville to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples' Day

Days before Columbus Day 2020, the City of Rockville will give Cristóbal Colón the boot. Tonight, the Mayor and Council will officially proclaim October 12 as "Indigenous Peoples' Day," replacing the city's celebration of Columbus Day. According to the agenda item about the proclamation that will be read near the beginning of tonight's meeting, the change will "avoid celebrating Columbus and the European colonization of the Americas."

Image via U.S. Library of Congress

Friday, October 2, 2020

President Trump taken to Walter Reed less than 24 hours after testing positive for coronavirus (Video+Photos)

President Donald Trump was taken by helicopter to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda tonight, less than twenty-four hours after he tested positive for the coronavirus. White House representatives had maintained through the day Friday that Trump's Covid-19 symptoms were mild. 

Many observed on social media that Trump was not posting on Twitter on Friday since his virus announcement tweets. Trump did enter the hospital under his own power upon arriving from the White House. Curious observers joined a rapid media deployment across MD 355 from Walter Reed. 

Some Trump supporters - including a pickup truck flying a Trump flag - tried to be visible to the president as he disembarked from Marine One. Traffic was stopped in both directions on 355 throughout the president's arrival, and while Marine One took off again.

Trump supporters drive past
Walter Reed as president disembarks
from Marine One

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Trump will be admitted to Walter Reed for at least several days. No medical details about why the president is being moved there have been released, but McEnany said it was under the advice of White House physicians that Trump would transfer his work to offices available for presidential use at the hospital.

Lego Store opens at Montgomery Mall

What has been the most-anticipated store opening of 2020 at Westfield Montgomery Mall has happened. The Lego Store is now open. You'll find it on Level 1 near Forever 21 and Build a Bear.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Yi Fang Taiwan Fruit Tea opening Rockville location

Yi Fang Taiwan Fruit Tea
is coming to Rockville. The shop will be located at 777 Hungerford Drive, near 7-Eleven and Flagship Car Wash north of Rockville Town Center. Yi Fang has a fascinating history going back prior to World War II in Japanese-occupied Taiwan. The founder's grandmother one day added water to pineapple jam to make a cool drink for her husband, who was working in the hot weather on a pineapple farm, and ended up being credited for the invention of Taiwanese fruit tea.

All Yi Fang beverages use seasonal fruit ingredients, and jams are boiled without chemical concentrated juices. The company says their flagship fruit tea drink uses the founder's grandmother's exact recipe for a genuine Taiwanese fruit tea experience. This location will be in the space vacated by Dunkin' Donuts/Baskin Robbins late last year.