Wednesday, May 04, 2016
According to the MDE, the topic will be the relocation and restoration of that tributary, which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has previously said cannot have a new structure built within 100 feet of it. A mysterious developer, 6789 Goldsboro, LLC, plans to construct 19 townhomes on the site, which currently is home to the supposed ruins of a mansion where actress Ilona Massey lived until 1974. She was a star of Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman. That mansion will be razed.
Attendees will be able to comment on the impacts of the so-far-unspecified changes on the waterway and 100-year floodplain. It sounds like this is being done to facilitate development and private profit, rather than for an environmental benefit. Along with the stream, a significant stream buffer of green space runs along the rear of the 5.5 acre property.
The changes planned will affect 7921 SF of the stream, and 12007 SF of the 100-year floodplain. If you have a property near this site, you will definitely want to attend, as would watershed advocates. The Minnehaha is a significant feeder into the Potomac River. The stream already has flooding issues along Goldsboro during storms; one driver self-rescued from rising water Monday night south of River Road.
Minnehaha Branch also has a significant historical value. It once ran under the now-gone amphitheater at the Glen Echo Park site and was used to power a pipe organ and speaker system there, when it was a Chautauqua from 1891 until 1900, when it was leased to build an amusement park on the property.
I can't comment on the environmental impacts of the proposed stream changes yet. But the loss of the mansion itself is another failure of historic preservation in Montgomery County. This property has always been an impressive vista making the climb up from MacArthur Boulevard by car or bicycle.
|MoCo Planning Board|
Chair Casey Anderson (L) and
Westbard developer EYA shake
hands minutes after plan passes
Anderson should have headed for the exits early, to avoid yet another gaffe that simply reinforces the growing realization that planning in Montgomery County is being controlled by councilmembers who approve plans and projects that benefit developers who write them checks - and a Planning Board now becoming equally cozy with development interests.
A "mission accomplished" handshake was the last optic Anderson needed, after it was revealed just last week that he had met privately with EYA partner Equity One during the sector plan process. Such meetings should have been disclosed under ex parte communications rules. They were not.
There was much for developers to celebrate yesterday. But the battle won may be a pyrrhic victory for developers countywide, and their friends on the Council and Planning Board.
The arrogance of the Council emanates from the dais, and can be felt several rows into the audience. Highly-paid councilmembers, and their even more highly-paid staff, repeatedly laughed about their reluctance to ever deal with the Westbard sector plan in their careers again. It's not funny, guys.
Giddiness only added to the palpable smugness at the front of the room. Alas, even as our elected officials smirked and pontificated their way through the afternoon, the political ground was shifting beneath the Montgomery County political cartel.
Even as the Council defeated their own constituents who pay their six-figure salaries yesterday, other communities across the County announced they were joining the Save Westbard resident group to battle the corrupt planning process going forward.
They include Rosemary Hills, Lyttonsville, the Luxmanor Citizens Association, and Keep Damascus Rural. All are in some stage of a sector plan or controversial development project. In Damascus, residents have sued to stop an urban-style, low-income apartment building approved by Anderson & Company for the small rural town that has only one, weekday-only, bus line. Lyttonsville is currently in a sector plan process that threatens many small businesses and needed services currently located there.
In a letter to the Council, the groups stated that, "we, the undersigned communities, are united in our opposition to the Montgomery County planning process, and we invite other communities to join us in opposition."
"Communities across Montgomery County are equally dismayed by a County-wide planning process that favors developers over communities, and that consistently results in outcomes that communities do not want. The County Council and Board, in apparent partnership with major developers, are now engaged in a full-fledged effort to urbanize rural, sub-urban, and local communities through overbuilding and commercialization of public space, at great profit to developers, but to the detriment of our public schools, the environment, traffic congestion, community diversity, and social services. This will not stop until we unite."
As yesterday's vote and media coverage proved, it will take a Herculean effort.
The local media is also in the back pocket of the same developers. I witnessed at least four Westbard residents being interviewed by Chris Gordon of Channel 4. Only one of them made the final report, which was dominated by Councilmembers congratulating themselves on what a great plan it was, and a patron of the Westwood Shopping Center who was clearly responding to the typical misleading question of "wouldn't you like a new shopping center?" Great, everybody does, but how about the big buildings across the street that are coming with it? Hello? Hello?
I thought there was trouble when the promo for the NBC4 piece used Equity One renderings. But then it got worse - the voiceover proceeded to say, "Coming up next, find out why residents say new shops and restaurants will destroy their neighborhood."
That is a well-established talking point of the development interests at Westbard - that citizens who oppose the plan oppose updating the shopping center.
Developers and the Council also have developer-funded choruses who hang out at the Greater Greater Washington blog, and who were mobilized to comment in droves on a Washington Post article about the Westbard controversy. GGW's founder, David Alpert, was asked what the sources of funding are for his expensive-to-operate, pro-developer website. Alpert pointedly declined to answer that question from a Post reporter. But he and his site are relentlessly promoted by the Post.
In fact, GGW posted a rosy endorsement of the Equity One plan and expected Council approval on Monday. It was written by a former staff member of George Leventhal, who failed to disclose that connection in his piece.
One reporter was doing his homework. Bill Turque of the Washington Post fact-checked Councilmember Hans Riemer's outright lie, Riemer's claim that Westbard is "just a mile from two Metros." As Turque noted, the Equity One site is 2.2 miles from the Friendship Heights station, and a whopping 3.3 miles from the Bethesda station. Whoops! Even a prepared text laboriously read aloud couldn't help Riemer keep the facts straight, as he delivered a rambling monologue that covered presidential politics, Maoist ideology, and "social justice." Did somebody write it for him?
Why flat out lie to your constituents like they're preschoolers who can't figure it out? It's that arrogance again. That supreme overconfidence that comes from a one-party system that doesn't even let large factions of that one party get into office. This sense of invincibility may now be misplaced given the increasing number of their constituents who, through the cartel's breakneck speed to update zoning all over the County, have had a chance to witness how the sausage is made. And how corrupt the sausage makers are.
This battle over approval of the Westbard plan has ended. But something new has started as a result. A citizen uprising that is growing in scope and volume. The 2018 election could be reminiscent of the last citizen revolt against development in 1990. Count on this website to continue to bring you "the rest of the story" on development in Montgomery County. We're all in this together.
Nighttime work, expected to take place between now and June 2, 2016 from 9:00 PM to 6:00 AM, will involve jackhammering of concrete slabs and foundations, and generate vibration, noise and dust.
For those reasons, the dealership says the work cannot be done during business hours due to the potential health impact on customers and Ourisman employees.
The contractor is proposing to place sound attenuation walls and "sound blankets" against the exterior wall that faces the very lucky tenants of the Flats at Bethesda Avenue luxury apartments. A sign indicating the location of the contractor's field office is the only current indication that work is beginning.
Tuesday, May 03, 2016
(Rockville) - The Montgomery County Council, as expected, passed the controversial Westbard sector plan today. The only surprise was that the vote was unanimous, with plan critic Councilmember Marc Elrich voting in favor.
Elrich paired his vote with a strong rebuke of the County planning department and Planning Board. He called for the return of citizen advisory panels with some voting power on master plan decisions such as this. His comments echoed community complaints that they were shut out of a process driven by planning officials and councilmembers cozy with developers.
Council President Nancy Floreen noted that the vote was delayed to give the community more time to comment. Yet none of the many comments submitted over the last few weeks were addressed in the plan that was passed this afternoon.
Councilmember Hans Riemer strongly endorsed the plan, taking a bizarre detour into talking about "social justice" and progressive values. What those have to do with private developer profit is unclear. Moreover, a councilmember who supported stripping the public option from the Affordable Care Act, opposes rent stabilization for low income residents in older apartments countywide, votes to demolish that existing housing, presides over a steep increase in the achievement gap since he took office, and whose campaigns are funded by Wall $treet pioneers in outsourcing like Mitt Romney's Bain Capital and Mitch Rales, has some nerve claiming the title of "progressive."
Stay tuned for further Westbard coverage and reaction from the community.
Samples of menu items will be available between 4:00 and 6:00 PM, and Tapp'd signature drafts will be $4 all day. Many of those beers are from the state of Maryland.
A pre-Civil War reclaimed wood bar top caps off decor designed to recall "the golden age of Bethesda and the nation," according to a press release. While dropping the DJ and dancing of predecessor Union Jack's, Tapp'd is keeping the state-of-the-art sound system and televisions for sporting events.
The target audience has shifted from college and recent graduates to "playful adults," with skee-ball, air hockey, foosball and pool providing entertainment. Late night happy hours will occur nightly, and live acoustic music will liven things up on weekends.
Tapp'd's logo incorporates the colors of the Maryland flag, and that is part of the establishment's branding. "We are excited to blend Maryland and Bethesda pride with great brews and food," general manager Robert Cousins said Monday. It will be one of the few nightspots to take advantage of the new 3:00 AM closing time in Montgomery County on Friday and Saturday nights; Tapp'd will close at 2:00 AM on all other nights of the week. 11:00 AM will be the opening time daily.
ANGER! MEAN! NASTY! RESENTMENT! TRUMP! These are the takeaways from named and unnamed sources among the tiny group of supporters of the Westbard sector plan who spoke to Washington Post reporter Bill Turque. The resulting article has been endorsed by developer Equity One, which is now using it in its PR campaign (see photo above). Opposed by the vast majority of residents, the plan is scheduled to be voted on by the Montgomery County Council this afternoon.
I commend Mr. Turque for giving this topic the coverage it deserves in the final weeks of the debate, and thought the article had many strong points. But since the loud voices of those representing the developers are being amplified by those developers after the article's publication, I have to make a few points to balance the scale. (Many of the anti-resident comments you see on the Post are coming from a developer-funded cadre based in the District who hang out daily at the Greater Greater Washington blog, a pro-developer blog whose owner has declined to reveal who funds his website; and the Coalition for Smarter Growth, another developer-funded entity)
While the article noted that 70 protesters marched outside the Council office building last week, it did not mention that hundreds of residents had marched at previous protests. While the (justified and appropriate) "boos and jeers" were mentioned, left unmentioned was that Equity One called in 4 police cruisers, hired security "muscle" and a tow truck to threaten protesters, and chase children and grandparents from the shopping center at a previous protest.
Also unmentioned were the nasty, personal attacks and anonymous threats directed at me on this blog, and toward other opponents of the plan online by its supporters. Yet, Councilmember Roger Berliner is portrayed as a weak victim of angry, nasty constituents. "The vitriol that has been expressed is the most I've ever experienced," Berliner is quoted as saying in the article.
While the nasty attacks against plan opponents have been very public here and elsewhere online, I have yet to see a shred of evidence of the "vitriol" Berliner claims to have received from opponents. Where is it?
Booing at a protest, when you come out and basically tell your constituents to "get over it" - while they are paying your six-figure salary, and their wishes are being completely ignored by their elected officials? To quote Gene Simmons, "Look at my little violin." It seems that "nasty vitriol" has about as much physical evidence as the "support" for the plan.
Those willing to go on the record to attack plan opponents included Timothy Tutt, senior minister at the Westmoreland Congregational United Church of Christ. Taking the side of out-of-state developers over his own neighbors, he lumped opponents of a development plan in with "the Trumpification of America - that it's okay to be mean and nasty to each other."
First of all, Mr. Tutt, show us evidence of any opponent of the Westbard plan being "mean and nasty." Please show us, sir. Second, do you condemn the "mean and nasty" attacks that people on your side actually have made publicly? I haven't heard you disavow those "mean and nasty" attacks and threats, sir. The absurdity of using "Trump" to attack a majority-Democratic neighborhood is only exceeded by the irrelevance of partisan politics to a land-use debate. Period.
Out of left-field comes an attack from Jeffrey Slavin, the mayor of the Town of Somerset, who calls those of us who oppose the plan "Johnny-come-latelys." I'm a life-long resident, Mr. Slavin, as are quite of few of those opposing the plan, and many more are longtime residents.
The Post article described Slavin merely as "a veteran neighborhood activist." It did not mention he is a real estate broker. It also did not mention that he put big money into a City of Rockville election to back a slate of candidates who favored a particular set of development projects. One of the development firms with a project endorsed by that slate was - EYA, Equity One's partner at Westbard! In fact, members of that slate voted to change Rockville's school capacity standards to permit the EYA development, over resident objections (sound familiar?).
I am shocked. Shocked! to hear that Mr. Slavin supports EYA's Westbard plans. He also made a completely false statement that "most of the communities are 'very pleased'" with the plan. Only 3% of residents favored the plan in a poll released yesterday, and opposition has been overwhelming in every form of public comment, testimony and email to County officials.
The article also omits that Slavin has been a NIMBY himself, attacking the Bethesda Fire Department's plan for a development closer to his home than the Equity One project. His "mean and nasty" attacks included calling the BFD board "tone deaf."
At least those two were willing to go on the record.
Many talking points in the article are clearly coming from Councilmembers, developers and planning officials. But they are not named. "County officials," "veteran neighborhood activists," "planners and lawmakers." But too scared to go on the record.
"Smart growth"? "New urbanism"? The Westbard plan is neither of those things. "Westbard" is nowhere close to being walking distance to Metro. Transit is nearly non-existent. There isn't even direct bus access to downtown Bethesda!
Contrary to the article's statement that emails between planning officials and developers "show nothing improper," the emails in fact reveal a secret meeting between Planning Board chair Casey Anderson and developer Equity One. In violation of ex parte communication rules, Anderson (and potentially other commissioners) failed to disclose that meeting at the next public business of the board.
The bottom line? The County political machine is having a temper tantrum, faced with an unprecedented resident uprising that is spreading countywide - Westbard, downtown Bethesda/Chevy Chase (CBAR citizen group), Luxmanor and the Walter Johnson cluster, the Carver coalition vs. the County Council over the wacky bus depot plan, Lyttonsville, Rockshire in Rockville, Keep Damascus Rural, the Belward Farm battle, the list goes on and on. The electoral consequences are clearly underestimated by the Council, just as Sid Kramer and other Election Day losers didn't know what hit them in 1990.
As the Council votes today, remember what I said back in 2014: "We need a Councilman who doesn't get all weak in the knees when a developer walks in the room." Get ready for a weak-kneed vote this afternoon from the Montgomery County political cartel, suffering from a "mean and nasty" case of Westbard Derangement Syndrome.
Monday, May 02, 2016
Theft. 7700 block Woodmont Avenue.
Drug arrest. Bradley Boulevard at Wellington Drive.
Drug arrest. 4700 block N. Palmer Road.
Theft. 3700 block Dunlop Street.
Theft. Macy's at Westfield Montgomery Mall.
Drug arrest. 11700 block Old Georgetown Road.
Stolen car. 11700 block Old Georgetown Road.
Assault. Old Georgetown Road at Executive Boulevard.
Other sexual offense. 11400 block Hounds Way.
Poll: Westbard sector plan has only 3% support among residents; 79% want to keep existing zoning; Luxmanor joins fight
|Nearly 80% of residents who|
took a Save Westbard poll oppose
the Westbard sector plan
Only 3% said they want the Montgomery County Council to approve the plan, which is expected to be voted on Tuesday. The survey required respondents to provide their name and full address, which ensured the results were representative of actual residents. Other recent "polls" produced by development interests have had responses from outsiders everywhere from the District to the United Kingdom (you can't make this stuff up, folks).
In response to the survey results, Save Westbard, the citizen organization that conducted the survey, wrote to the Council:
79% of residents said they prefer the Save Westbard organization (which conducted the survey) to represent their interests after Tuesday's Council vote, rather than existing citizen associations. Some opponents of the plan have criticized the endorsement of the "Berliner" amendments to the plan by the Citizens Coordinating Committee on Friendship Heights, which did not reflect an actual vote by any of the neighborhoods it represents. The changes, which are not yet official, were proposed by Councilmember Roger Berliner. The Berliner Alternative, as he called it, has been soundly rejected by residents, only receiving support from developers and the CCCFH.
73.79% said the sector plan process was "obscure and confusing, dominated by developer interests rather than the affected constituents, and a reproach to the principles of representative government." 66% pledged they were willing to support (financially or by volunteering time) legal action against the Westbard vote.
702 actual, verified residents took the survey. Springfield, Wood Acres, Sumner, Kenwood and Westmoreland Hills were among the most active in taking the poll. Twenty-nine communities participated in all, including Westgate, Mohican Hills, High Point, Crestview, the Town of Somerset, Westbard and Westwood Mews, Green Acres, Spring Hill, Glen Cove, Glen Mar Park, Brookdale, Westhaven, Kenwood Forest and Park Bethesda.
The survey results, as well as the community petition signed by over 200 residents who attended a Save Westbard meeting on April 3, will be hand-delivered to the Council offices this afternoon. Save Westbard's letter concludes by warning the Council that a vote to approve the plan "directly contravenes the will of the people."
Meanwhile, the number of citizen groups across the County backing Westbard residents in their fight against urbanization grew over the weekend. On Friday, the Luxmanor Citizens Association called on the Council to freeze development proposals at Westbard, the WMAL tower site, Rock Spring, Wildwood, and White Flint 2 until adequate public facilities and infrastructure can be provided to support such growth.
Abbe Milstein, President of the LCA, wrote to County officials that Luxmanor has "watched with interest as the County prepares to move ahead with a proposed Westbard sector plan despite overwhelming opposition from residents in that area. We too are dismayed by the County's irresponsible development plans."
Criticizing the County's attempt to urbanize the suburbs, Milstein wrote, "Families in our neighborhood have paid premium prices to live primarily in detached single-family homes on quiet streets under a leafy, tree-covered canopy where our children can attend world-class public schools. And we’d like it to stay that way. Recently, however, it seems that our elected representatives and various developers appear to want to take all of that away from us. Against our will, these forces have apparently decided that our area should be more urban."
In regard to the Council's suggestion that schools such as Walter Johnson and Whitman can be "super-sized" (with no explanation as to where the magic money will come from to do so, by the way), Milstein cites data that indicates large schools negatively impact the quality of education.
Residents and small business owners in Lyttonsville, also facing an urbanization push from the Council and Planning Board, have already joined the Westbard fight. Several marched alongside Bethesda residents in last Tuesday's protest at the Council building in Rockville.
Sunday, May 01, 2016
Assault. 4800 block Cordell Avenue.
Assault. 5500 block Clipper Lane.
Theft. 5500 block Wisconsin Avenue.
Rape. 10400 block Montrose Avenue.
Vehicle burglary. 5500 block Nicholson Lane.
Theft. 11800 block Grand Park Avenue (Pike & Rose).
The work hours are supposed to be 9:00 PM to 7:00 AM, and the project is expected to be finished sometime in July. Work on E. Jefferson Street is also covered by the waiver.
Saturday, April 30, 2016
Here's a sneak peek at the interior and seating:
Friday, April 29, 2016
A final piece that could create the largest possible parcel for redevelopment next to 8200 Wisconsin Avenue is 8227 Woodmont Avenue, currently owned by Woodmont Properties of Bethesda. It's unknown what their level of interest - if any - would be in selling, however.
At a lot size of 12,800 SF, I'm trying to calculate what the maximum height and density could be on the Monocle site, if it were to be redeveloped alone instead of joined with any adjacent property. If you have an idea, post in the comments below.
I've been inside the Monocle Building many times. Outside, it is an unusual combination of a quite nice 1980s glass facade office wing raised over a parking lot, and a ground-level half that - frankly - resembles a jail, with its tiny windows and vast facade of drab bricks. Overall, I've always had a positive impression of the building, and the surface parking is probably a selling point for a buyer who just wants to keep it as is for a revenue stream.
Let's just hope TD Bank doesn't find out it's available...
Among the brews in stock right now are Dogfish Head Romantic Chemistry, Boulevard Unfiltered Wheat, RavenBeer The Cask, Oskar Blues Old Chub Scotch Ale (Nitro), Jailbreak Big Punisher, Denizens Macadocious Maibock, Manor Hill IPA, Orkney Skull Splitter and Terrapin Rye Cubed. As you can tell, local craft beers are well-represented on the list.
Interesting menu items include the Old Bay-seasoned Chesapeake Brat, horseradish-stuffed and bacon-wrapped Bayou Shrimp, and Beer Can Chicken Pie. Finish your meal with a Bourbon Peach Cobbler or Spiked Root Beer Float.
Sounds like a good beginning for a fresh start at the former home of Union Jack's, at 4915 St. Elmo Avenue.
Thursday, April 28, 2016
Stolen car. 4300 block East-West Highway.
Assault. 7100 block Fairfax Road.
Assault. 7100 block Fairfax Road.
Theft. 6400 block Offutt Road.
Vehicle burglary. 6700 block East Avenue.
Vehicle burglary. 6600 block Radnor Road.
Theft. 5900 block Aberdeen Road.
Burglary. 5400 block Wisconsin Avenue.
Assault. 5400 block Westbard Avenue.
Other sexual offense. 3700 block Jones Bridge Road.
Vehicle burglary. 6900 block Millwood Road.
Vehicle burglary. 7000 block Whittier Boulevard.
Vehicle burglary. 7600 block Newmarket Drive.
Vehicle burglary. 6200 block Clearwood Road.
Arson. 8200 block Thoreau Drive.