Tuesday, November 15, 2016

New name, new management for longtime Rockville gas station (Photos)

The sign says it all: "Under new management." So does the sign that disappeared. The longtime Exxon station at 200 N. Washington Street in Rockville has a new name, after decades under its original. Hickman's Exxon is now Town Center Exxon.

The switch in ownership actually happened over the summer, but the official rebranding is only happening now. That may be because original owner John Hickman passed away on October 17. I like the retro font on the "town center" signs.
The original J.C. Hickman
sign, from Google Maps
Same wall, now with
"Town Center Exxon"

Monday, November 14, 2016

Wingstop opening Wednesday in Rockville (Photos)

Wingstop is planning to open this Wednesday, November 16, at 891-E Rockville Pike. The popular chicken wing chain has already had a location in Fallsgrove. This new location is in Wintergreen Plaza. As you can see, the interior looks ready to go here, including the Coca-Cola Freestyle machine.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Americana Centre seeking historic designation in Rockville

One of the most visible properties in Rockville could be one of the most protected, if the Historic District Commission and Mayor and Council approve. Americana Centre's Board of Directors has filed a request with the City seeking historic designation for the venerable condominium property.

Very much an icon of the "urban renewal" phase of the later-mid 20th century in Rockville town center, Americana Centre is now surrounded by a landscape of change, however slow its pace.

Carl M. Freeman and Associates was chosen by the City of Rockville to design the complex, which opened as a rental property in 1972. Quickly converting to condominium, the property was the first residential high-rise in the city. But the complex also includes many garden-style and townhome units, as well.

Folks with Delaware beach property may be familiar with another Freeman property, Sea Colony in Bethany Beach. The firm also has several other Americana-branded developments in the area, including one now known as Glenmont Forest. That garden apartment community is now in danger of demolition and redevelopment, thanks to our corrupt County Council's passage of a destructive Glenmont sector plan.

Americana Centre may be spared from such an ignominious fate - staff is recommending approval of historic designation for the property. The HDC will review the request at its November 17 meeting at City Hall, scheduled for 7:30 PM.

Meanwhile, the staff report is very much worth a read if you are interested in midcentury modern Rockville, including an extremely rare aerial photo of the Rockville Mall.
Staff report photo of
Rockville Mall

Thursday, November 10, 2016

New Montgomery College parking garage expected to deliver by Spring 2017 semester

The new parking garage at the Montgomery College Rockville campus is expected to be completed and ready for vehicles in time for the Spring 2017 semester start in January, according to a spokesperson from the community college.

Photo by Marcus Rosano/Montgomery College

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Term limits win big in MoCo as voters throw the bums out

Montgomery County voters delivered a powerful repudiation of the County Council at the ballot box yesterday, with a whopping 69% voting YES on Question B, in favor of term limits. At least four councilmembers, Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich, Nancy Floreen, and George Leventhal, will be barred from running again for their seats in 2018. Councilmembers Nancy Navarro, Hans Riemer, and Craig Rice will be able to run for a final term in 2018, but cannot run again in 2022. Navarro received a save from voters yesterday, who voted by 79% on Question C to allow her partial term in 2009 to not count as a full term.

The vote was a major victory for neighborhoods across Montgomery County, whom the Council had thumbed their nose at violently in the last year. In Damascus, where councilmembers supported an urban-style low-income apartment building in a part of the small town that already has a disproportionate amount of low-income housing and a high crime rate, term limits won 88% of the vote in early voting.

Councilmembers had also unanimously approved construction of bus depots at the Carver Education Center and WINX property on Westmore Avenue in Rockville, only to be hit by a tidal wave of blowback from residents who found out they'd be awakened by 400 blaring truck horns as early as 4:00 AM each morning.

Lyttonsville residents and business owners found themselves being pushed out by potential urban-style high-density development. And, perhaps most controversial of all, the Westbard sector plan found the Council voting unanimously in favor of urban-style growth in a Bethesda neighborhood nearly two miles from the closest Metro station - despite vehement opposition by over 90% of their Westbard-area constituents.

Most ironically, the Floreen-led Council boldly voted unanimously again yesterday to approve the Westbard sectional map amendment, that will make their high-density Westbard plan formally the new zoning across 44 acres of currently low-rise suburbia, just feet from single-family homes. At the same time, voters were ending the careers of four of them at voting booths around the county. How sweet it is.

A 69% vote against the County political machine was a rare primal scream from the normally staid, obedient and docile MoCo electorate. How did it happen?

Give civic activist Robin Ficker his due. The attorney worked tirelessly to collect far more than the number of required signatures, and debated opponents in numerous forums to promote Question B. For all of the criticism directed at Ficker, he has now scored some of the largest political victories in County history with the property tax cap and term limits. 

One may have led to the other. The 9% tax increase, which supposedly raised $90 million for public schools without a radically-new strategy to justify it, ended up being 10% or larger for many homeowners. At the same time, the Council voted themselves a massive raise while claiming we were cash poor, personally enriching themselves at taxpayer expense. Politicians in Bell, California went to jail for the same circumstances.

Aggrieved communities coming together was the other factor. Neighborhoods targeted at the same time by the Council for the bus depot ended up supporting each other, instead of trying to push the depot to the other's neck of the woods. Lyttonsville supported Westbard in testimony and numerous events.

And yesterday, the citizen group Keep Damascus Rural endorsed term limits. In its announcement, its leader, Seth Gottesman, wrote:

Why should we in the up county care? Because our leaders count on specific communities not being able to significantly impact an election result. If other communities stand by or are uninformed while this sort of leadership occurs to another because it doesn't impact them directly, it will come to us as well and the culture of rejecting the desires of the community will continue and that affects everyone. When our leaders are held accountable, the culture can start to change and that takes all of us from all communities. We have to support each other.

Powerful stuff. Ironically, it was through a Council agent's compulsive trolling on my blog that it accidentally became public that the Council was indeed calculating the number of votes they would lose if they supported the Westbard plan. And that they had concluded those votes alone were not enough to cost them the 2018 election.

How wrong they were.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Montgomery County 2016 election results

With 112 of 267 precincts reporting, 67% of Montgomery County voters have voted FOR term limits on ballot Question B. Voters are also supporting the Question C that would allow Councilmember Nancy Navarro to run again in 2018 with 79% of the vote.

Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump by 77% to 18%.

Chris Van Hollen (D) is leading for U.S. Senate with 77% of the vote.

Jamie Raskin (D) is blowing out Dan Cox for the 8th Congressional District House seat by 78% to 18%. Incumbent John Delaney (D) is blowing out Amie Hoeber in Montgomery County by 71% to 25%.

Jeanette Dixon, Rebecca Smondrowski and Shebra Evans continue the lead they established in early voting for the 3 Board of Education seats.

Montgomery County early voters went big for term limits

Early voting results have been released by the Montgomery County Board of Elections, and those voting early through last week were big fans of term limits. 64% voted "Yes" on Question B, in favor of term limits; only 36% were opposed. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the vote today goes.