Showing posts with label Veirs Mill Road. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Veirs Mill Road. Show all posts

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Randolph Crossing Rite Aid becoming Walgreens

The Rite Aid store at 12222 Veirs Mill Road is being converted into a Walgreens. Walgreens acquired Rite Aid in 2015, and has taken three approaches to its stores: keep the Rite Aid brand, but convert the store's pharmacy into a Walgreens; convert the store into a full-blown Walgreens location; or close the store entirely.
Here we are getting an actual Walgreens. I'm still a Drug Fair man, the chain whose D.C.-area stores were acquired by Rite Aid in 1987. The more things change...






Thursday, August 8, 2019

FM Karaoke building fenced off in Rockville (Photos)

The old FM Karaoke building at 2131 Veirs Mill Road has been fenced off, but the reason is unclear. No plans have been filed with the City of Rockville (or, at least, no plans that have been made public on the City website) for this address. But some demolition work has taken place already.
The property owner had suggested a building addition or redevelopment of the site were in the cards for the future last year. At that time, the Mayor and Council relinquished to the property owner a public right-of-way that ran in front of it to facilitate such an expansion, at the request of the owner.





Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Montgomery County Council unanimously approves Veirs Mill sector plan

Pro-developer plan will increase
commuting time, destroy affordable 
housing, demolish homes & businesses

The "new" members of the "new" 2018 Montgomery County Council faced their first test of loyalties Tuesday, as they voted on the controversial and unpopular Veirs Mill sector plan. Well, as I warned everyone during last year's election, the "new" Council proved to be just like the old Council, but worse. Without Marc Elrich on the body, all nine councilmembers voted for the pro-developer plan.

Gabe Albornoz, Evan Glass, Will Jawando and Hans Riemer all received thousands of dollars in developer contribution in 2018. And their "Yes!" votes yesterday were a thank-you to their developer sugar daddies for the hefty election help.

The plan will allow demolition of single-family homes and businesses along the Veirs Mill corridor between Wheaton and Rockville. Changes to the layout of Veirs Mill Road, reduced speed limits, reduction of left-turn lanes, and longer stoplights are estimated to extend travel times for commuters up to 35 additional minutes on the already-congested road. Single-family home and public recreation properties are rezoned for mixed-use, "town-center" urban-style development in the plan.
The developer-driven plan will allow
clearcutting of this wonderful green space...

...and demolition of several homes behind it on
Robindale Drive, Adrian Street and Weiss Street,
replacing them with a steel-and-concrete urban
town center development
A fake "no net loss" program devised by Riemer's staff will allow demolition of naturally-occurring affordable housing such as Halpine View. While it purports to create just as many new MPDUs, most people who will lose their homes in Halpine View and other properties make too much in salary to qualify for MPDUs, creating a net-loss in affordable housing in the plan area. And even the MPDUs soon expire and revert to market-rate housing permanently.

This is the same thing the Council is allowing to happen on Battery Lane and Bradley Boulevard in Bethesda, where many people who can't afford market-rate single-family homes and newer apartments - but who make too much to qualify for MPDUs - currently live. They've already done it in Glenmont, where many residents of apartments like the wonderful Privacy World were forced out never to return to Glenmont.
The Council-approved plan allows this
tree-lined green Montgomery County-owned
property at 4010 Randolph Road to be redeveloped
as a steel-and-concrete urban town center - and
you can bet the Council will sell it to one of their
developer sugar daddies at a sweetheart price!
Halpine View, Rock Creek Woods, Halpine Hamlet, Parkway Woods and other apartment complexes are now rezoned to encourage demolition, and replacement with urban-style, luxury apartment "town centers."

Even while failing to defend the interests of current homeowners, business owners and commuters who are paying record high taxes, the Council bizarrely found time to add a racially-charged political diatribe to the plan. To score political points, and create division among residents, the Council added a section that falsely claims racial covenants ensured the communities around Veirs Mill Road were white-only. In fact, enforcement of such covenants was banned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1948.

The Veirs Mill sector plan as passed will displace thousands of residents, greatly increase traffic congestion, and radically transform the existing green, suburban character of Veirs Mill Road to a stifling corridor of vehicle exhaust and boxy steel-and-concrete Soviet apartment blocs. It was hard to believe that even some civic groups were fooled that the "new" Council would bring back residents' role in planning decisions, and not vote for this kind of pro-developer sector plan. Now it's just plan laughable.

You got steamrolled again.

You can't say I didn't warn you. And while media outlets like the Washington Post colluded with the Montgomery County cartel to prevent candidates like me from getting our message out, I certainly did notice the sheepish smiles of some "woke" voters who knew it was morally wrong to vote for Albornoz, Glass, Jawando and Riemer, who clearly did not represent the change they were claiming to seek in the planning process. Voting simply to ensure a sweep of all nine Council seats by one monopoly party was a really bad idea, now with tragic results for yet another Montgomery County community with this sector plan.

Next up: Aspen Hill. Fasten your seatbelts, folks.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Rockville Mayor & Council vote to return public right-of-way to private landowner

Rockville's Mayor & Council voted unanimously last night to abandon a right-of-way easement at 2131 Veirs Mill Road. Running parallel to the busy route, the easement could have been a future service road, but is now returned to the landowner for private development.

The easement was granted to the city in 1976 for use as a public street or service road. Abandonment of the property comes just as Montgomery County is threatening to demolish dozens of homes and businesses along Veirs Mill to create a wider right-of-way for a $10 billion Bus Rapid Transit boondoggle, and additional bike and pedestrian facilities. That made the idea of handing back a significant piece of property already in public possession an intriguing one at this time.

City staff told the Mayor and Council that no public comment on the abandonment proposal was received.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Veirs Mill Corridor master plan meeting December 13, 7:00 PM

The next Veirs Mill Corridor master plan public meeting will be held on December 13, 2017, at 7:00 PM at Albert Einstein High School, located at 11135 Newport Mill Road in Kensington (note the venue change). Montgomery County planners will present their preliminary recommendations for land use and zoning; urban design; transportation; parks, trails and open spaces; sustainability and community facilities. They will also take your feedback on those recommendations.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Veirs Mill corridor master plan meeting tonight

The next public meeting in the Veirs Mill corridor master plan process will be held tonight, Tuesday, October 24, 2017 at 7:00 PM at Newport Mill Middle School, at 11311 Newport Mill Road in Kensington. At the last meeting, planners and residents identified and discussed community needs and challenges along the corridor.

Tonight, a consulting firm hired by the Montgomery County Planning Department will present their own list compiled after they conducted a study themselves. Residents and other stakeholders will be able to offer feedback on the consultant's report.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Planners ponder widening Veirs Mill Rd. right-of-way, increasing congestion, and lowering speed limits; mum on property seizures

Ready or not, here they come. Montgomery County planning officials say no decisions or firm proposals have been formulated yet in the development of a Veirs Mill Corridor master plan. But analysis of the most-emphasized talking points at last night's community meeting give us an early hint of what they have in mind. Pedestrian and bicycle improvements were stressed the most, but achieving those may be a source of stress for home and business owners - and commuters - along the busy state highway.
Planners showed an existing Veirs Mill right-of-way that is constrained to as narrow as 100' along stretches near Wheaton. They said a new 120' width would be needed to accommodate all of the pedestrian and cycling amenities they hope to add to the road. That would require taking of property in at least some places. For that reason, planners said they are looking at ways to shrink lanes and the center median instead. Asked if business owners in the commercial areas along Veirs Mill would be threatened by any specific project, planners said it was too early to answer. But, they added, that they would try to use the same alternative methods of creating more space within the existing curbs as they will in residential areas.
Haven't seen many front lawns
this long along Veirs Mill
One problem last night was the graphics which show homes tremendously set back from the road, as you might see in a rural area with front yard septic tanks. In reality, the proposed widening idea would have bicycles whizzing past living room windows in spots where homes are already perilously close to traffic. There would also be a massive loss of mature trees that currently process the exhaust emitted along the road. Utility poles would be another significant challenge. A future 120' right-of-way was first proposed by the latest Kensington-Wheaton master plan.
Among the projects planners want to shoehorn in on Veirs Mill are Bus Rapid Transit lanes, separated bike lanes, and shared-use paths. They also want to install sidewalks where there are none, shown in the red lines in the photo at the top of this article. And like BRT proponents in County government, they're also entertaining the possibility of seizing one traffic lane in each direction for use as BRT lanes.
Losing 33% of vehicle capacity along often-slow-moving Veirs Mill was strongly opposed by attendees at last night's meeting.  "Taking out a lane on Veirs Mill, you're just causing a problem," one resident said. Likewise, homeowners right on the road were displeased to hear about big plans for their already-short front lawns. "That's my house!" declared one 60-year resident of Veirs Mill Road upon seeing her home in a photo planners probably now regret including in the Powerpoint. "How do you get that? That's my property! You're taking my property and reducing the value of my house by a pile!"

While new sidewalks, paths and bike lanes are being sold as needed safety features, the plan remains one actually driven by development interests more than safety interests. As urban planner Jessica McVary acknowledged at the outset of the meeting, this is the first master plan to be a roadway corridor plan. To be realistic, the main reason this plan exists now and the process is underway, is to benefit property owners such as Halpine View.

The fact is that the more paths and bike lanes there are, the larger scale the redevelopment of shopping centers and garden apartments along the corridor can be. That's because the latest way County officials have cooked the books for developers is to count all forms of transportation as capacity, instead of just vehicular capacity. So bike and transit facilities, even if they are lightly used, count fully the same as road capacity. This would allow developers projects of greater density than would be possible if roadways actually received the failing grade they otherwise would.

Impacts on automobile commuters already enraged by traffic congestion appear to be low on planners' priorities. McVary said they will actually make "a decision whether more congestion could be handled" by drivers on Veirs Mill, suggesting that making traffic jams even worse would improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians. A County transportation official in attendance promised the plan would also contain recommendations for lower speed limits, and new speed and red light cameras, cash cows for the corrupt County Council.

The only hope drivers and those who could be impacted by property takings have are that a different County Council will have been elected by the time this plan would be implemented, and that the capital budget costs of installing these improvements will be especially high. Most of Veirs Mill is single-family homes, cutting out the possibility of developers picking up the tab as they would in a totally-redeveloping urban area. And the County Council, facing massive debt loads they've created (debt service would be the third-largest government department in the County if it was a department - yikes!), just moved to slightly reduce how much additional debt the County can take on in the future. That will be a major drain on many capital projects.

"We need a constituency" to get these sidewalks and lanes for bikes and buses, Master Planner Supervisor for Area 2 Nancy Sturgeon said, and residents will have to lobby their elected officials to get it done if they want them. "This is going to end up being a large public-sector project," she predicted.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Veirs Mill Corridor master plan meeting October 4

The Montgomery County Planning Department will host its next Veirs Mill Corridor master plan meeting on Wednesday, October 4, 2017 at 7:00 PM at Newport Mill Middle School, located at 11311 Newport Mill Road. Topics for the session will include pedestrian and bicycle safety, connectivity, access to transit and community facilities, improvements to the streetscape and sidewalks, and bike paths.

There's substantial evidence that the driving force behind the plan is the financial interest of one or more property owners along the corridor, who are seeking upzoning and increased density for their properties. That, combined with the developer-fueled Bus Rapid Transit plan for Veirs Mill, will lead to the demolition of several homes and apartment complexes.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Rockville BRT choice will require demolition of at least 2 homes on Veirs Mill Road

The claims that Montgomery County's bus rapid transit boondoggle would not require demolition of homes and businesses were, well, demolished last night. Rockville City Councilmembers voted 3-0-1 to approve BRT Alternative 3, with Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton abstaining. The City's preference will now be considered by the State of Maryland as it makes a final recommendation on a BRT alternative in the coming months.

Alternative 3 will require the demolition of at least 2 homes, as well as 41 other property takings of various sizes, along the proposed Veirs Mill Road route of BRT. These are the numbers before the project even gets into the design phase, and station locations are not yet determined, either. Those later decisions, and issues that inevitably arise in any transportation project, could further impact property beyond what we know today.

Councilmembers Mark Pierzchala, Beryl Feinberg and Julie Palakovich Carr voted in support of Alternative 3; Councilmember Virginia Onley was absent. Newton was dissatisfied with the options presented, saying, "I don't think we're right yet." With homes threatened by the project, Newton called the decision a "rush to judgement," and a threat to naturally-occurring affordable housing in the Veirs Mill corridor.

Pierzchala said you can't have a major transportation project without having some negative impacts. He argued that the affordable homes lost would be more than replaced by future redevelopment of the Twinbrook Shopping Center, which would require affordable units. Pierzchala also said the affected homeowners would be "handsomely recompensed" for the value of their homes.

Newton countered that the money the homeowners will receive will not be enough to afford a similar home in Rockviille under current market prices. "Where are you going to buy another home for that price," she asked.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Cost, impact on residents top concerns on Veirs Mill BRT options

Rockville's Mayor and Council were briefed on the options for bus rapid transit service on Veirs Mill Road between Rockville and Wheaton at their meeting last night. The project options range from doing nothing, to a "Cadillac" option (Alternative 5B) that would give BRT dedicated lanes in the center of the state highway - but carry a price tag of $289.4 million.

Councilmember Mark Pierzchala, a BRT supporter, was not convinced that option would be worth the money for the modest transit ridership boost the Maryland Department of Transportation claims the line will produce.

The loss of left-turns at many intersections was another concern for Pierzchala, as that would impact residents trying to get around their own neighborhood. Given the cost and disruption of the Cadillac option, Pierzchala said he is more comfortable supporting Alternative 3, which would provide dedicated curb lanes for BRT "where feasible."

Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton suggested that cutting corners with BRT would fail to produce world-class results for passengers, and for economic development. She warned against trying to "nickel and dime around the edges" of a major project. At the same time, Newton said she was very concerned about the impact on residents and homes along the route. Houses and businesses along Veirs Mill are threatened with demolition to various extents, depending upon which alternative is chosen.

Newton also urged that any extension to Montgomery College of the service reflect the actual hours classes are held on the Rockville campus.

MDOT is scheduled to make its final BRT recommendation by the end of this year.

Photos via MDOT

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Veirs Mill BRT would seize property, cripple traffic in Rockville and Wheaton (Photos)

Don't tell BRT proponents, but
parts of Veirs Mill Road actually
do have 3 lanes; in those
spots, one lane would be
seized for BRT and closed
to automobiles except at right
turns
Rockville's Mayor and Council were briefed on the Maryland State Highway Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Study study for the Veirs Mill Road corridor last night. All of the options most likely to be considered for final selection by the SHA will have impacts on private property, and could end up worsening traffic congestion rather than easing it.

The driving force behind the BRT push? Certain (not all) commercial property owners along Veirs Mill, who would be able to redevelop their land into mixed-use town centers with transit-oriented height and density. Ironically, most of the future "growth" cited as justification for BRT will only be possible with the addition of BRT. And, like the placeholder schools that never get built, BRT will be counted under ever-more-laughable MoCo traffic studies as phantom capacity to reduce fees and restrictions on developers. In fact, the County Council is on the verge of weakening traffic standards yet again. Under a system that allows an empty bus to count as though there is now capacity for 50 additional cars, God help us.

While the main route is between the Rockville and Wheaton Metro stations, consideration is also being given to extending the BRT to Montgomery College. The SHA will hold a public meeting on the study on September 28, at 6:30 PM, in the Montgomery County Executive Office Building cafeteria at 101 Monroe Street in Rockville. Feedback from residents at that meeting will factor into the final SHA recommendations, which will be presented to the Mayor and Council at their October 10 meeting.

Beyond the no-build Alternative 1, the first option is Alternative 2, which would not provide dedicated lanes for BRT, but would give the buses signal and position priority at certain intersections.

Dedicated queue jump lanes that would be added at some intersections "may require additional right of way with impacts to property in Rockville," according to the report. With queue lanes, Metrobus Route Q9 would get signal priority at those intersections, but otherwise operate in mixed-traffic along the entire route. The report does not give a detailed explanation of how lights can be properly synchronized (already a weakness in Montgomery County) if buses are forcing the lights to change at random intervals.

For Alternative 3, the third through or turning lane of each side of Veirs Mill (where they currently exist) would be seized from automobiles, and turned into a dedicated lane for buses only. The report is deceptive about this fact. It shows Veirs Mill as a two-lane-per-side road only, and purports that "a lane is added" for BRT use. That is simply not true for the entirety of Veirs Mill Road. Yes, they will add a BRT lane where there are only two lanes. But on parts of Veirs Mill, they will be seizing a lane. Eastbound, a through or turning lane would be seized "in the vicinity of Atlantic Drive and the Twinbrook Shopping Center and continue...all the way to Wheaton." A significant portion of the last stretch between Connecticut Avenue and Wheaton currently has three through lanes open to cars in one or both directions today.

Traffic congestion caused by reduced capacity in those spots would have a referred impact up and down the road, as any traffic jam does, worsening congestion in the corridor. Add in the new high-density development BRT would permit, and the thousands of new cars that would bring, and you have a recipe for disaster.

It is also unclear how a third lane - and a bike lane, and a multi-use path, based on the diagrams shown here - could be added on the outside of two-lane stretches where access roads today exist for residential homes on Veirs Mill. The report doesn't detail what will happen in those cases, which are numerous along the road.

Loss of a third lane will reduce vehicular capacity on the affected parts of Veirs Mill by 33%. The highest, rosiest claim for how many drivers would "get out of their cars" and switch to BRT was 16%. When you simply do the math, you find that BRT will not only not improve traffic flow (other than getting oft-stopping buses out of the second lane where Veirs Mill is only two lanes), but will actually leave drivers with a net loss in total road capacity.

A Cadillac option, Alternative 5b, would mostly solve the problem of reduced capacity by creating new, separate lanes for BRT in the center of Veirs Mill, rather than taking existing traffic lanes. The dedicated center lanes would have to drop to a single lane between First Street and Atlantic Avenue. Not solved with this option is the eminent domain threat to private property. Rebuilding the entire length of Veirs Mill Road and adding bus lanes would require condemnation of property along the corridor. The report also ignores the potential need to relocate utility poles along Veirs Mill, a very costly proposition.

At the high price and low ridership forecasts for BRT, there appears to be no sensible argument in favor of it.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Rockville bicyclist killed in Aspen Hill collision

A 19-year-old Rockville resident died from injuries he sustained when his bicycle was struck by a truck in Aspen Hill last night. Frank Lawrence Towers, of the 13100 block of Beaver Terrace in Rockville, was crossing westbound Veirs Mill Road at Turkey Branch Parkway around 7:25 PM Monday night when he was struck by a silver 2000 Toyota 4Runner.

Towers was transported to a local hospital, but later died from his injuries. Juan Francisco Orellana, 39, of the 12100 block of nearby Selfridge Road in Silver Spring, was the driver of the 4Runner.

The cause of the accident is now under investigation. Investigators are asking anyone who witnessed this fatal collision to contact the Collision Reconstruction Unit at 240-773- 6620. Callers may remain anonymous.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

ABANDON ASPEN HILL ROAD EXTENDED? HOLD ON A MINUTE...

The Montgomery County Planning Board will take up a landowner's request to have the county abandon its right-of-way through the Halpine View apartment complex, originally planned as an extension of Aspen Hill Road from Veirs Mill Road to Twinbrook Parkway, this Thursday afternoon.

A perfunctory planning staff report is recommending the board vote to abandon the right-of-way, citing the North Bethesda-Garrett Park master plan recommendation to do so.

The ramifications of the abandonment are far more complicated than the staff report would suggest, however.

First, and foremost, the main driver of the abandonment is neither sound transportation policy, nor concern for the environment (an Aspen Hill Road extension would cross Rock Creek). Rather, it is to promote and facilitate urban redevelopment of the Halpine View garden apartment complex. Halpine View is one of a dwindling number of affordable and spacious housing developments in the county. Its design, much like Privacy World in Glenmont, emphasizes a suburban scale setting, and well-maintained trees and green space. Certainly, the buildings are aging. But to preserve existing affordable units, renovation would be far better than turning the site into another "town center" for rich people. Current rents at Halpine View range from $1000-$1600 a month, and only about two blocks from the Twinbrook Metro station. This makes the complex a valuable one for working families in Montgomery County.

But much like Privacy World and other models for suburban, multi-family housing development, Halpine View is now sought after by developers for dense, urban-style development. Such "town center" density is entirely inappropriate at this location, literally across the street from single family homes in Twinbrook and Aspen Hill. Furthermore, the lure of redevelopment - dangled by developer-beholden council members for decades in front of landowners in Wheaton, Glenmont, Aspen Hill, Rockville, Bethesda, Long Branch, etc., has discouraged routine renovations and maintenance at some properties. After all, why spend money to upgrade your building(s) if you think you're going to be tearing them down in a few years? Remember that when supporters of redevelopment try to convince you that this or that shopping center or apartment complex is "shabby," or obsolete for "the modern amenities young professionals demand today." Any such amenities can be added to any building.

Rather than giving massive tax giveaways to developers, the county would be better off using those funds to assist property owners - as necessary - to finance such renovations and improvements. That would be a far better use of $72 million than just giving it away to White Flint developers, as the county council did a few years ago.

Beyond the crisis of affordable housing we continue to experience in Montgomery County, Aspen Hill Road extended is a potentially vital transportation facility. Current county leaders have no intention of completing the Rockville Freeway/Rockville Facility (a.k.a. Montrose Parkway, in part) all the way from Falls Road to the Intercounty Connector. Therefore, lateral traffic movement remains severely constrained in the county.

Should the Rockville Facility never be extended to Connecticut Avenue, Randolph Road and other local roads remain the only routes between White Flint and Aspen Hill. In that case, Aspen Hill Road Extended would be an important transportation facility.

There is also great potential for inappropriate use of "rapid transit" to upzone retail centers in Aspen Hill to high-density urbanization. Again, Aspen Hill Road Extended would certainly be a necessity under those circumstances.

Finally, a potentially high-traffic redevelopment is going to occur at the intersection of Aspen Hill Road and Connecticut Avenue - as a Walmart, or otherwise. Yet again, Aspen Hill Road would be a major route for patrons of that site.

In conclusion, there is no immediate need to abandon Aspen Hill Road Extended, other than private profit by a developer. The Planning Board should table this request indefinitely.

Retaining the Aspen Hill Road Extended right-of-way is in the best interests of the public, public safety, transportation needs, and vital to maintaining existing affordable housing units.