Thursday, July 31, 2008

National Night Out - DOJ Weed & Seed Program Partner Events


Victor Salazar, Site Coordinator, DOJ Weed & Seed Program
Silver Spring Regional Center, Montgomery County Government
Voice: (301) 565-5847

August 5th, 2008, marks the 25 year Anniversary of National Night Out. This event commemorates neighbors coming together to take back their communities from the criminal elements that negatively impact their quality of life.

Three communities within the Northwest Park Oakview Weed & Seed area will be hosting events for their residents this Tuesday evening:

a) Our Weed & Seed Partner, Kay Management, is hosting an event for its residents at the Northwest Park Apartment Community. The event will include food, moon-bounce and music. The event is scheduled to run from 4 pm to 7 pm with festivities located near the rental office. For more information contact: Alex Garcia, Community Manager at (301) 439-2121.

b) Our Weed & Seed Partner, The Hamptons Homeowners Association, is hosting an event for members of their community near the intersection of Grey Castle Boulevard and Royal Crest. The event is scheduled to run from 6 pm to 8 pm. For more information contact: Lisa Arrington, HOA President, (301) 613-0397. This will be this community’s first National Night Out event.

c) Our Weed & Seed Partner, The Avery Park Tenants Association, is hosting an event for Avery Park residents. This will be the second year an event will be held in the community. The event is scheduled to run from 6 pm to 8 pm with festivities located near the rental office. For more information contact: Luther Hinsley, Association President, (301) 408-1598.

If you don’t live within a community hosting an event, the following National Night Out events are open to all!

a) The Maryland International Corridor CSAFE is hosting an event for the community at the old Toys R Us near the intersection of University Boulevard and New Hampshire Avenue. This event usually draws a big crowd that will include live music and a candle light vigil. Festivities run from 6 pm to 9 pm. For more information contact CSAFE at (301) 439-0971 or (301) 439-0972.

b) The East Silver Spring Regional Center is hosting an event for the community at The Enclave Apartment Complex located at 11215 Oak Leaf Drive in Silver Spring. Finger printing for children, bike registration, live music, open swimming, crafts, are just some of the festivities in store for families. For more information contact Gwen Haney at (240) 777-8400.

The Weed & Seed Program is a community based multi-agency approach to community revitalization, crime prevention and law enforcement. For more information about this program contact Victor Salazar at (301) 565-5847 or email: Visit the Department of Justice Community Capacity Development Office website at

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

National Night Out in the Takoma-Langley Crossroads

Mark your calendars! The Maryland International Corridor CSAFE, in collaboration with various organizations and agencies, will host "NATIONAL NIGHT OUT" in the Takoma-Langley Crossroads on Tuesday, August 5, 2008 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at 8011 New Hampshire Avenue (in the parking lot adjacent to the McDonald’s and former Toys "R" Us building).

Representatives from Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, the City of Takoma Park, non-profits and local businesses will be in attendance the evening of the event.

National Night Out activities will include music, raffles, games & children’s activities, information for the community, and a candlelight vigil (8:30 pm). Participants will also be able to view the police and public safety vehicles on display from the Montgomery County, Prince George’s County and Takoma Park Police Department. FREE CHILD INDENTIFICATION SERVICES WILL BE AVAILABLE!

Key sponsors of this important annual event will include El-Zol 99.1 FM Radio and local businesses and organizations, including but not limited to McDonald’s and Home Depot. County elected officials, Police Officers, and representatives of County and municipal agencies are also planning to attend. It is expected that up to 500 people will be in attendance.

For more information at this location contact Mary and Gretchen, CSAFE, at 301-439-0971 or 301-439-0972.

For neighbors and police, a ‘Night’ to come together

Annual crime-prevention parties connect cops with communities

by Aaron Kraut | Special to The Gazette

Tuesday will mark the 25th annual National Night Out, and many area neighborhoods will participate in the block party-style event designed to enhance the relationship between police and citizens in order to discourage crime.

Some, like the Eastern Montgomery Services Center, are putting together substantial events open to the public. Gwen Haney, program specialist with the Center, said she is expecting anywhere from 750 to 1,000 people at The Enclave Apartments in the White Oak neighborhood of Silver Spring, where, in addition to swimming and food, there will be activities ranging from fingerprinting kits for children to bicycle registration with county police.

Others will be more narrowly tailored neighborhood gatherings, like the Carroll Knolls Civic Association National Night Out celebration in Silver Spring, which will feature desserts and a moon bounce for people in the McKenney Hills and Carroll Knolls communities, according to Civic Association member Elissa Leif.

‘‘We have had auto break-ins and a little bit of crime, so it’s more of a combination of coming out against crime and people meeting each other,” Leif said.

National Night Out is celebrated nationally and is sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch. All events share the same goals: making local communities safer from crime by getting people comfortable with their police and neighbors.

‘‘Get them comfortable and able to interact so they know they are there for you,” said Ronnie Miller, the operations manager for the nonprofit Safe Takoma, on the purpose of having police present at the event.

Miller and Safe Takoma will be part of the National Night Out event at the Takoma Metro station, where police will provide commuters with safety information and Safe Takoma will introduce its whistle program for safety awareness.

‘‘We’re going to hand out whistles to the commuters,” Miller said. ‘‘If they see trouble or are in trouble, they’ll blow their whistle.”

J’aime Huret, general manager for Riverstone Residential Group, which owns The Enclave Apartments, said hosting National Night Out is a way to give back to the community for supporting The Enclave’s renovations and help repair the area’s reputation when it comes to crime.

‘‘The community has been very supportive and people are just giving us the opportunity to prove this is a great place to live,” Huret said. ‘‘We’re here to contribute as much as we can, and obviously crime awareness is a huge way to do that.”

In addition to the Montgomery County police at The Enclave, there will be representatives from the Citizens Emergency Response Team, arts and crafts for children, self-defense demonstrations and a 911 simulator, which people can use to practice making emergency calls.

Police are hoping to build relationship with community members on National Night Out, said Montgomery County Police Officer Tenesha Jensen. ‘‘We’ve participated in past years and we want to continue fostering that relationship. You can only build upon the groundwork that’s already been laid.”

Council allows taller buildings in Fenton Village - Gazette

by Mike Meno | Staff Writer | Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Montgomery County Council unanimously passed a zoning text amendment on Tuesday that will allow buildings in the Fenton Village Overlay Zone in Silver Spring between Georgia Avenue and Fenton Street to be built taller than recommended limits.

The amendment, which passed 9-0, will allow a maximum height of 90 feet for buildings along Georgia Avenue, a 110-foot building height near Georgia Avenue to accommodate workforce housing and require building heights to taper down at the Planning Board’s discretion, from the highest buildings near Georgia Avenue to the maximum 60-foot heights allowed on Fenton Street.

Mixed-use projects east of Fenton, including hotels and retail spaces, will also be allowed to build as high as 60 feet. The current maximum is 45 feet for developments that do not provide housing.

Members of the County Council’s Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee said in work sessions Friday and Monday that these amendments will give some flexibility to accommodate workforce housing, according to a council memorandum. Supporters hope the new changes will help achieve the objectives of developers and the growing Silver Spring community.

The agreement combined elements of separate proposals previously put forward from County Executive Isiah Leggett’s (D) office and County Council members Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring and Marc Elrich (D-At large) of Takoma Park.

The Montgomery County Planning Board had recommended against one earlier form of the amendment, saying it would have made more sense to change the area’s sector plan rather than amend a zoning ordinance. Some Silver Spring residents were also opposed because they did not want to see larger buildings in the Fenton Overlay Zone.

Longtime merchants hold critical key to black history - Gazette

Historical Society seeks African-American business owners for connection to Silver Spring’s past

by Agnes Jasinski | Staff Writer | Wednesday, July 30, 2008
The Rev. Samuel Myers decided he would open his own business when he was still a teenager, growing up in a small town in South Carolina and learning the dry cleaning trade from his father.

Decades later, Myers, 93, can boast to any doubters along the way that he has run his own shop in Silver Spring for 36 years – Jim Dandy Cleaners and Formal Wear on Bonifant Street.

‘‘You have to stand up and get knocked down, but you don’t lie down,” said Myers of Silver Spring, a black business owner in the downtown area since 1972, when there were few minority-owned shops.

He is known in the area by his ‘‘trade name,” Jim Dandy, which he said is more ‘‘catchy” than his formal moniker, and has also worked as a bellhop, night clerk, farmer and shop steward. ‘‘I was always out there, doing something,” he said.

Myers’ accomplishment is serving as a starting point for the Silver Spring Historical Society in its efforts to gather information on black history in the community’s business districts.

Jerry McCoy, president of the historical society, said it has been difficult to find material on black history in the area. The historical society hoped to speak to black business owners about finding materials and documents of the ‘‘African American presence as it applies to downtown Silver Spring” to eventually compile, learn from and display.

Historically, Silver Spring has been a predominantly Caucasian community, McCoy said, and the minority presence did not become visible until the 1960s and 1970s.

‘‘There was certainly a diversity along that corridor on Ellsworth Drive before the revitalization,” said Andrea Bray, a Silver Spring resident for the last 35 years and owner of Andrea’s Fine Hats on Eastern Avenue for the last 18 years.

Bray, who grew up in segregated Pittsburgh, Pa., in the 1960s, spent most of her life in broadcast journalism, moving from one television station to another, often as the only black woman in the newsroom. By the time she left journalism to open her own business – hats have been a lifelong passion, she said – the community was much more diverse and welcoming to minority business owners.

‘‘I don’t think I ever realized what was happening for me, personally. ... My parents did, and my community did, but it never really hit me,” she said of her experience in majority-white newsrooms.

Roland Dawes, the 80-year-old owner of Roland’s Unisex Barber Shop in Takoma Park since 1986, said when he was working to move up in the barber business, it was inconceivable for a black man to rent a shop, much less buy a building even in an area that was more diverse than most.

He described the Washington, D.C., area as ‘‘breaking loose” since, and the former ‘‘rules” on who was able to buy property became more lax in the decade before he opened the barber shop.

‘‘People may try to discourage you, tell you you can’t do this or that, but you just have to keep moving ahead,” said Dawes, who has run barber shops or refuse businesses since the 1950s, including a hair-cutting business in the Takoma neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Dawes has lived in Takoma Park since he was 3 years old.

In 2002, about 12 percent of the businesses in Montgomery County were black-owned, compared to nearly 16 percent statewide, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest statistics on minority-owned businesses. Jerome Love, vice president of the African American Chamber of Commerce of Montgomery County, said it was not tougher or easier for black men and women to run their own businesses today than it was 30 years ago, just ‘‘different.”

‘‘We’ve still got some work left to do, but it goes in both directions,” said Love, the CEO of Germantown-based AdCast Inc. ‘‘The owners of minority firms, they have to be willing to reach out to the county.”

Silver Spring resident Lisa Hoston, a black business owner of Concierge Transportation Services in Silver Spring for the last three years, said it is now less of an issue of minorities opening businesses, and more about being an entrepreneur in a difficult economy.

‘‘Of course, everyone told me it would be difficult; my parents said it would be hard,” she said. ‘‘But it was more about being able to get a plan together, get your finances in order.”

Myers agrees. The last eight years have been particularly troubling, as rents and utility costs have continued to increase. But Myers, who described himself as ‘‘slow to age,” has no plans to close his shop. Rather, he wants to expand into a larger site where he would be able to take on more customers and offer more services.

‘‘My daughter, she tells me to retire all the time,” he said. ‘‘I tell her, ‘And do what?’ I have no experience in loafing. Not a bit.”

Historical society seeks longtime business owners

The Silver Spring Historical Society is seeking information, artifacts and photographs related to black small independent business owners that were located in Silver Spring’s central business district before 1975. Call Jerry McCoy, the president of the Silver Spring Historical Society, at 301-537-1253, or e-mail Visit for more information.

Officials say goodbye to turf, hello to civic center - Gazette

by Matthew Smith | Special to The Gazette | Wednesday, July 30, 2008

County officials on Friday held a ‘‘farewell” party to downtown Silver Spring’s artificial turf in order to tout the new $19.7 million civic center that will be built on its site beginning in September.

The event, which featured party music, vendors and demonstrations, took place at the corner of Fenton Street and Ellsworth Drive where artificial turf was installed several years ago as a temporary measure while talks and funding for the civic center were finalized.

In the meantime, many residents grew fond of the turf, noting that it served as open space and a gathering place. They lobbied the county to include a grassy area in the civic center’s design, but county officials said grass would not be practical. The public space that the civic center would provide would make up for the lack of green space, and green space could be provided elsewhere in the downtown, officials said.

The Montgomery County Planning Board agreed and approved plans in 2007 for the center, which will include an ice rink, pavilion and a plaza honoring military veterans.

Gary Stith, the director of the Silver Spring Regional Center, which is operated by Montgomery County government, said the project will be great for the community.

‘‘A lot of people don’t understand that the open space isn’t going to go,” he said. ‘‘It’s going to be different. It’s a different kind of project.”

County Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring told onlookers on Friday that the space will serve a variety of uses and was modeled after Italian piazzas.

Ervin added that the civic center will be a new symbol of Silver Spring.

‘‘This is not just a destination for us but everyone in our community, our iconic Silver Spring,” she said.

The civic center has been planned since 1998 when the Silver Spring Armory was demolished to make way for a portion of the redeveloped downtown area. Events such as the Silver Spring Jazz Festival have been held in the open space, and Stith said opportunities exist to hold similar events at the civic center in the future.

While many residents on hand for the event were looking forward to the civic center, some said they liked the open space provided by the artificial turf.

‘‘I’m sad to see the turf go,” said Ana Lopez, executive director of the Community Bridges program that helps disadvantaged girls. ‘‘There are healthy opportunities here, and I’m worried that the construction is going to limit that.”

Ellen Figueron of Silver Spring said she was disappointed to see the field go, which she said was better for children. ‘‘It’s really a nice place, a lot of people can come out,” she said. ‘‘It’s a really safe place. It’s a bad idea [to take this space away]. I come here every day.”

But Aaron Chassy of Takoma Park said the county should ‘‘turn this into the open public space. I don’t like the fake green Astroturf. ... It would be nice to see some real green space.

‘‘If the [new] civic center can achieve a better sense of community, I’m all for it,” he said.

Monica Buitrago of IMPACT Silver Spring, an organization that works to empower minorities in civic affairs, said the new center could really augment Silver Spring’s already diverse community. ‘‘I love the way that the new civic center brings the community together and the ice rink and concert hall will keep the spirit new,” she said. ‘‘People can bring their kids and teenagers to hang out here and feel the same spirit. I’m all for it.”

Alan Bowser, a civic activist who is also president of the Silver Spring Town Center, an organization which will create programming for the civic building, noted that the veterans memorial, dedicated to all county military, is an important component of the project.

‘‘We’ve listened to what the community wants,” Ervin said. ‘‘This is perfectly suited for what we’ve been doing but better. I couldn’t be more excited than I am now.”

Planning Chief Says Deal On Music Hall Is Too Risky - Washington Post

Leggett Disputes Criticism of Fillmore Proposal

By Miranda S. Spivack
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 30, 2008; B02

Montgomery County's planning chief stepped up his criticism yesterday of a proposal to bring a music hall to downtown Silver Spring, saying a deal worked out by County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) is a "blank check" for the developer that could do more harm than good for downtown redevelopment.

Planning Board Chairman Royce Hanson told the County Council that he supports bringing the Fillmore music hall to Silver Spring but believes that Leggett's proposed bill exempting the project from planning agency review poses too many risks. "It doesn't pass the laugh test," he said.

Among the risks are the potential for less public space and unimaginative design as well as the possibility of harming nearby projects, Hanson said.

The legislation also would allow the Lee Development Group to delay construction of other projects on the Colesville Road site for up to 15 years while moving ahead with plans to donate land to the county for the music hall. The council is expected to vote on the project this fall.

Usually, plans for a development with a performance space are approved in tandem, allowing the planning agency to negotiate for plazas, green space and other amenities. Leggett's proposal eliminates that discretion when the county executive accepts a donation of property for arts and entertainment. Leggett's proposal also seeks to at least double the usual life span of approval for construction to 10 years and give Lee the option to seek another five-year delay.

"We have learned from past experience that the things Lee Development Group wants are unreasonable and can have negative consequences for other viable projects" in downtown Silver Spring, said Hanson at a hearing on the measure.

"We see better ways to secure the Fillmore without turning the planning process on its head, and more importantly, there are ways to deliver a better product for Silver Spring," he said, describing the Fillmore project as a "crabbed vision" that limits the site's potential.

Hanson's comments were swiftly disputed by Leggett administration officials and Bruce H. Lee, president of Lee Development Group, who said the Fillmore could provide one of the last pieces to complete the once-struggling Silver Spring business district.

A parade of local business leaders and community activists testified in favor of the legislation, with some accusing Hanson and the planning agency of being more concerned with control than outcome.

Planners should be nimble, said Laura Steinberg, a community activist and former head of Impact Silver Spring, a community group.

When planning "becomes rigid and unyielding," she said, "it is an academic pursuit out of touch with the needs of people. . . . This has more to do with perceived power, authority and control."

Lee said his family's business had no plans to develop the site until it was approached by former executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) to try to bring in a Birchmere music hall. He said he had met with Leggett administration officials and planning officials Monday but has no plans to negotiate further at this time.

Eventually, Lee said, the company envisions a hotel, office or possibly residences. But that is years away, and locking in a design now would not be financially wise, he said.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Montgomery in Grip of Foreclosure Crisis - Washington Post

Heavily Populated Areas Hit Hardest; Germantown, Olney Seen as Next Hot Spots

By Philip Rucker | Washington Post Staff Writer |Thursday, July 24, 2008; GZ01

The wave of foreclosures that has rippled across the Washington region has been centered in Prince George's and Prince William counties. But a recent analysis of real estate data suggests the pace at which some Montgomery County homeowners are losing their homes is quickening.

The Germantown area was identified as an "impending hot spot," where foreclosures have been on the rise, and the Olney area was named a "potential hot spot" because of its particularly slow housing market, according to a regional foreclosure report released last month.

The report says more than 1,400 foreclosures occurred in Montgomery in the 12 months ending in February. The largest numbers of foreclosures occurred in the heavily populated areas of Silver Spring, Germantown, Gaithersburg, Rockville and Montgomery Village.

The report, prepared by the George Mason University Center for Regional Analysis, revealed that the Washington region has one of the fastest-growing foreclosure rates in the nation, outstripping those of most major metropolitan areas. Throughout the region, the study identified other impending or future hot spots, including Centreville, Falls Church, Herndon and Vienna in Fairfax County, the city of Alexandria and Adams Morgan in the District.

Over the past year, the number of foreclosures per 10,000 homes jumped from 23 to 131 in the Washington area, and the national average rose from 58 to 87, the study says. It was commissioned by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and Freddie Mac, the McLean-based mortgage giant.

Montgomery County Council President Michael Knapp (D), who chairs the council of governments, represents Montgomery's upcounty, where analysts predict the number of foreclosures could rise because of the large stock of new housing occupied by young families. Knapp said the report highlights the reach of the foreclosure crisis.

"It quantifies the magnitude, alerts us to the fact that it's not going away and forces us to get together to address the issue," Knapp said.

In Germantown, the number of home sales declined by more than 50 percent between the first quarter of last year and the first quarter of this year, the report found. In Olney, the decline was 71.4 percent. Such a dramatic slowing of the housing markets in those areas indicates that they have not seen the worst of the foreclosure crisis, the report says.

Ralph F. Boyd Jr., chairman of the Freddie Mac Foundation, said the study confirms what he has been witnessing in Montgomery and across the region.

"The study gives some concrete data points from what we all feel and perceive from just living the last year," Boyd said. "It's one thing to perceive things and to believe things, but it's helpful to have some data that shows what really is."

Knapp said the foreclosure problem in Montgomery is so widespread that officials cannot ignore it.

"I still think there's an opportunity, too, for us as local jurisdictions to work with individual families to actually keep the families in their homes," Knapp said. "Then, in the instances where we've missed that opportunity to look for the silver lining, to see if there's a way we can address the affordable housing issue."

The crisis ballooned in part because many new homes were sold to first-time home buyers, some of them immigrants, under loans with adjustable rates. When the rates adjusted upward and the monthly payments increased, many buyers were unable to keep up, which led to foreclosures, said the report's author, John McClain, deputy director of the George Mason center.

Montgomery's Department of Housing and Community Affairs has a Web site with tips for residents on saving their homes and avoiding scams. The county also has been hosting workshops for homeowners at risk of foreclosure.

This comes as the state government is implementing some of the nation's most comprehensive foreclosure legislation. The laws, passed in this year's General Assembly and signed into law in April by Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), toughen oversight of the mortgage-lending industry and establish preemptive measures to help people at risk of losing their homes, such as extending the foreclosure timetable from 15 to 150 days.

In addition, many area nonprofit organizations are expanding their services for at-risk homeowners. The council of governments established an emergency fund with private contributions to support nonprofit groups that provide mortgage counseling and money for shelter, food and utilities for affected homeowners.

The Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington released a report last month, "You Have 10 Days to Move Out," that highlights the work of agencies on the front lines of the foreclosure crisis. Many nonprofit groups reported being inundated by requests for help from people whose lenders were ordering them from their homes.

"Looking ahead, things are going to be tough," said Chuck Bean, executive director of the Nonprofit Roundtable. "I think nonprofits, particularly in those 'hot spots,' are going to require meaningful infusions of resources to meet this escalating demand."

The Latino Economic Development Corp., a District-based nonprofit organization, opened a satellite office in Wheaton in March to provide foreclosure counseling to needy homeowners, particularly immigrants.

Executive Director Manny Hidalgo said he had anticipated having 60 foreclosure cases in the group's first year in Montgomery.

"Now we're looking at having to do at least 300," Hidalgo said. "That's a substantial increase in what we anticipated doing."

Hidalgo said he is concerned that the number of foreclosures could scare some Montgomery renters from buying homes in the future.

"Our concern is: Will this have a chilling effect on people wanting to buy homes, new immigrants coming to the area who instead of seeing this as a land of opportunity see this as losing all of your life savings?" Hidalgo said.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Gallery - Farewell to the Turf!

At the "Farewell to the Turf" event, Montgomery County Councilwoman Valerie Ervin unveiled the sign announcing the construction of the new Silver Spring Civic Building and Veterans Plaza.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Public Safety in Silver Spring: A Message from the MCPD 3d District Commander


Recently I have received numerous correspondences relating to the condition of the Silver Spring Central Business District (CBD) and specifically the area on and near Ellsworth Dr. I would like to take an opportunity to discuss these concerns, review some statistics, and explain the actions that the police department has taken and will take in the future. Lt. Eric Burnett is one of the Deputy Commanders at the Third District and has responsibility for the CBD and surrounding area. Lt. Burnett and I meet and discuss issues related to the CBD on a daily basis.

The substance of the complaints is the “rowdy” behavior, large crowds, and associated criminal activity. Much of the rowdy behavior described involves the indiscriminate use of profanity which certainly takes away from the family atmosphere that everyone would like to see exist. While I am certainly opposed to the use of profanity, it is rarely illegal. We can instruct individuals not to use such language, but in general, we cannot take any enforcement action. I have instructed my officers that when they witness this behavior to engage the individuals and instruct them that their behavior is not appropriate. The same holds true for the large crowds that will often gather; that in and of itself is not a crime. Also, most of the area of Ellsworth Drive is private property owned by the Peterson Group. Lt. Burnett communicates and meets with the Peterson Group on a regular basis to discuss issues that arise.

Here is a breakdown of the crime statistics year to date when compared the same time frame in 2007.
...................................... 2007...........2008
Robberies...................... ... 35............. 44
Aggravated Assaults...........12........... 9
Residential Burglaries............35........... 28
Commercial Burglaries........45........... 26
Vehicle related theft.......108........... 156
Auto theft...................... 106........... 45
Drug arrests................. 102........... 117

In reviewing these numbers you can see that there are some increases and decreases as well. While I am not suggesting that we should tolerate any level of crime, overall there has not been a drastic increase. Of these trends, the most disturbing trend that we have seen in the increase in robberies. This is a crime where a victim is accosted and their property is removed by force or threat of force. The other significant increase is the vehicle related thefts. This is part of a station, county and regional trend. There have been significant decreases in residential burglaries, commercial burglaries, and auto thefts.

I know there is a high level of concern that police patrols in the area have decreased. Let me assure you that they have not. When the budget cuts were announced we did have to cancel the “Ellsworth detail”. This detail was designed to put two extra officers in the Ellsworth area on Friday and Saturday nights. When the detail was cancelled we developed a plan to use officers from other sectors to provide extra patrol and use officers that were assigned to other duties at that time. In addition, we have been able to utilize the Police Community Action Team. This is a group of approximately six to eight officers who will go into an area and make an impact. These officers have been given specific instruction to be visible in the Ellsworth area and while they are not exclusively assigned there, they have made an impact. Last week members of this team made an arrest of two suspects in a stolen car who were armed with a handgun. In addition, the Third District Special Assignment Team has dedicated the majority of their time to the CBD. This team is a group of officers that patrol in undercover cars and plain clothes. You will not notice them as police officers, but they are out there. This team specifically looks for street crimes and robbery is on the top of their list. On Monday of this week the team arrested six subjects for robbery. The subjects were observed by the team in the CBD. Since the arrests, the suspects have admitted to numerous other robberies in the CBD and it is believed that they were a significant part of the robbery increase. We will continue to have both teams focus in the CBD, and in addition we will be restarting the Ellsworth overtime detail next week.

The other major increase in crimes is vehicle related thefts. As I stated earlier, this increase has been seen throughout the district and is prevalent both county and region wide. District wide we have experienced a 36% increase year to date compared to 2007. In the CBD, there are literally thousands of cars parked at any given time. Suspects have a wide variety to choose from and for the most part they will target unlocked cars and where valuables are left in plain view. This is why we strongly encourage everyone to make it difficult on these criminals by securing valuables and locking cars. I am by no means indicating that these criminals are not responsible for their own actions; I am simply stating that when there is an abundance of easy targets-criminal activity will remain active. Here again, we have made significant arrests. The midnight shifts will routinely patrol target rich areas to capture these offenders. In addition, we really need your help to report all crimes and suspicious activities. I have attached an informational brochure which I would like you to review and circulate.

In closing I would like to convey to you that I am committed to making the entire Third District as safe as possible. While we will never be rid of crime, I will also never be willing to accept any level of criminal activity. I am most definitely aware of the efforts that have been made in the CBD and completely support all that has been done to revitalize the area. I know what the condition of the CBD has been in the past and will not allow all the efforts that have been put forth to go to waste. I have to constantly juggle my resources throughout the district and priorities where to devote personnel. I can tell you that the CBD has the highest concentration patrol officers in the district and probably in the county. Lieutenant Eric Burnett shares my same concerns as well. Recently, he has been devoting a tremendous amount of effort into investigating a commercial establishment that has been problematic. Again, his efforts are being done to keep you safe and improve the image of the CBD.

It is my pleasure to serve as the district commander for Silver Spring and I take this responsibility very seriously. I know we share the same concerns and have to continue to work together. Please contact myself or Lt. Burnett at any time on this or any related matter. We can both be reached at 301-565-7740.

Thank you for your commitment to the community.

Captain Donald Johnson
Commander, 3rd District
Montgomery County Police

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Prince George’s, Montgomery move forward on sector plan - Gazette

Community praises development guidelines but raises affordable housing concerns

by Elahe Izadi | Staff Writer | Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Residents praised a proposed sector plan for the Takoma⁄Langley Crossroads that would provide guidelines for improving traffic and safety, but they are worried that affordable housing will not be protected from new development.

Prince George’s and Montgomery county planners on Thursday presented their preferred scenario out of three versions revealed last month. All the options rerouted the intersection of New Hampshire Avenue and University Boulevard and made the area more pedestrian- friendly.

Two plans were rejected because they were too expensive, could not be done in phases or created access problems for businesses, said Prince George’s planner coordinator Aldea Douglas. In one, New Hampshire Avenue would have been rebuilt to run over University Boulevard. That scenario was the most expensive and also created the greatest number of access issues.

The revised selected scenario, Green Links, builds connectors and transit centers to prepare for the Purple Line, a proposed 16-mile bus or light-rail line that would run between Bethesda and New Carrollton.

Green Links also turns University Boulevard into a ‘‘grand boulevard,” with increased green space, sidewalks and store frontage and more lighting to promote pedestrian activity and make the area safer. It also includes plans for an indoor, year-round market.

Most residents, advocates and business owners at the feedback meeting supported the plan, but many expressed concern that low-income residents would be pushed out by increasing property values and rents that could come with redeveloped infrastructure.
Dora Escobar, a Langley Park resident for 15 years who owns a check-cashing and money-exchange business, said increasing transit accessibility through bus lines and the transit center is necessary for residents who may not have driver’s licenses or own cars.

‘‘But everything has its good side and its bad side,” she said in Spanish. ‘‘I don’t want to know that the Latinos can’t live here...I don’t want to change the community.”

Action Langley Park Executive Secretary Bill Hanna said new housing and development could price current residents out of Langley Park.

‘‘To be successful, this plan has to have an absolute guarantee that affordable housing won’t be lost,” he said.

Douglas said the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission is talking with advocates and County Council members on how to secure affordable housing for current residents.

‘‘We do know that’s a concern, and that will be in the plan, but it’s unclear how,” she said.

Montgomery County senior planner Melissa Williams said the county is exploring a number of options, including workforce and affordable housing units.

Resident Ruth Eschaverri said she likes Langley Park because public transportation and shopping are nearby.

‘‘There is a lot of traffic where I live,” she said in Spanish, adding that making the area more pedestrian-friendly is appealing.

Marylander Condominium board member Pedro Rosario liked the idea of large, multiuse sidewalks with retail and performance space, which would connect the Langley Park Community Center to University Boulevard.

‘‘In general, I like the plan,” he said. ‘‘I know when the time of passing the plan comes, they get pressured from people with money, and as the community, we need to take a stand.”

Kathy Porter, a former Takoma Park mayor, said although the plan cannot require private businesses to take part, providing increased pedestrian access could influence businesses to change.

‘‘The shopping areas could be improved. They’re very car-oriented,” she said. ‘‘If it were easier for people to walk, then there would be more of an incentive for property owners.”

Resident Tomasa Largaespada said in Spanish that she worries that the character of the entire area will ‘‘change completely.”

‘‘The one who creates the plan simply draws it, but doesn’t live here,” she said.
Planners anticipate finishing the preliminary plan by October, and holding public hearings beginning in May 2009. Full approval of the plan is expected in March 2010.

The Purple Line - In the News - Gazette

Purple Line’s positive impact

We live off Wayne Avenue, a potential route for the Purple Line. While several neighbors have posted ‘‘No Train on Wayne” signs, we favor an at-grade alignment (‘‘Wayne Ave. residents sign-on to Purple Line opposition,” July 16 article).

A tunnel under Wayne adds significant costs and would render Wayne a construction zone for many months. For all this annoyance, we’d relinquish a station at Wayne and Dale (no underground stations are planned). Overall, light-rail noise is negligible, with the main source of noise coming from cars and buses. As for pedestrian safety, light-rail would observe speed limits; many cars do not (the county recently installed speed cameras on Wayne).

If we forgo the train on Wayne, we slight ourselves. Efficient public transit is an amenity, more so as gas prices increase. If we forgo the train on Wayne, we invite more car traffic, noise and pollution along our residential corridor.
If we require the Purple Line design on Wayne and elsewhere to be of the highest standards — quality street lighting, street furniture, completion of the Green Trail, new sidewalks and crosswalks — the Purple Line will have a positive, not negative, impact on our inner suburban neighborhoods.

Tina and Don Slater, Silver Spring

Take Purple Line underground

A street level Purple Line by bus or light rail completely misses the point. There already are Metro and county buses to take you from College Park to Silver Spring and Bethesda. For almost no cost, you could create an express bus route and call it the ‘‘Purple Line.”

Buying a dedicated, super fancy bus or light rail will not be any improvement. It would still compete with rush hour traffic and get stuck at red lights.

The point of a Purple Line must be to reduce traffic on our roads and the Beltway. It must be faster, more convenient, and cheaper than driving. The only choices are for an underground or an elevated train or express bus route. An elevated route would be like those in Chicago, traveling high above the cars. The disadvantage is they are unsightly. An underground route is the best, but the most expensive.

However, much cheaper and faster than tunneling with a boring machine would be to excavate under the roads or breakdown lanes of the Beltway and then covering back up. Doing a small section at a time would reduce the time each road would be temporarily closed.

Larry Rosen, Silver Spring

Open forum: Purple Line on Wayne spurs reaction

Re: Opposition to the Purple Line in Silver Spring: Wayne Avenue today has too much traffic, is unsafe to cross in many places and lacks ‘‘curb appeal.”

A well-designed Purple Line — with aesthetic and traffic-management improvements to go along with the light rail infrastructure — will make this a more livable area. Doing nothing, which is really what the Seven Oaks-Evanswood Civic Association wants, if tunneling is not affordable, only paves the way for more cars, day and night.

Brent Gilroy, Silver Spring

Regarding the nicely written article by Agnes Jasinski (‘‘Wayne Ave. residents sign-on to Purple Line opposition,” July 16), I refer to the stated desire by some for a well-designed train system running at street-level on Wayne, if underground isn’t an option. It’s an oxymoron to think that a system of two-directional, 180-foot long trains trundling along a sharply curved, fairly steep residential street with several traffic lights can ever be well-designed. The street’s design is already in place, with people’s houses and parking spots, three schools, two churches, a senior center and a busy Whole Foods parking lot entrance already part of the existing design.

The proposed design for the Purple Line on Wayne favored by at-grade proponents takes away front yards, adds left-turn lanes and 200-foot-long train stations, widens much of Wayne to Colesville Road proportions feeding even heavier traffic into the already-clogged bottle-neck at the Wayne-Fenton Street crossroads and downtown and does not, to me, seem well-designed.

Cathy Kristiansen, Silver Spring

Moose Lodge eyes parcel in Fenton Village for new location - Gazette

Zoning change, plans for a park at the site are complicating the proposed deal

by Agnes Jasinski | Staff Writer | July 23, 2008

The Silver Spring Moose Lodge has entered into a contract with a property owner at Fenton Street and Burlington Avenue in Fenton Village to purchase a building, but the proposed project would require a number of concessions before moving forward.

‘‘We’re just trying to work with the community now to see if it’s possible for all of us to get what we need out of the parcel,” said Eric Hensal, governor of the Silver Spring Moose Lodge. ‘‘For a while, it’s going to be up in the air for us.”

The Moose Lodge’s current property on Wayne Avenue was purchased by the county earlier this year for $2.5 million, plus $100,000 in relocation expenses, and will be used as part of the future Silver Spring Library site.

To replace the now county-owned site, the lodge has offered property owner James J. Madden Inc., a plumbing, heating and air conditioning firm at 904 Philadelphia Ave., $1.7 million for a 12,000-square-foot tract where the group would rebuild a new lodge. Enough money would be left over from the sale of the former site to demolish most of the building and construct a new lodge on the property, Hensal said.

The property owner declined to comment on the potential sale.

Preliminary designs show a two-story project with a cellar, a rooftop terrace that could be built out as a third floor and 14 parking spaces. The Washington Area Wheelchair Society would be a potential new tenant.

The Moose Lodge has until the end of September before the contract expires, Hensal said. The next step will be working with residents to build support for the project, which also would require the approval of the County Council in the form of revised zoning in the area.

‘‘It’s an odd situation. ... It’s industrially zoned, but it’s in the central business district,” Hensal said. ‘‘We’re limited in what we can do there.”

Gary Stith, director of the county government-operated Silver Spring Regional Center, said the property, zoned I-4 for industrial use, would require either a special exception to replace the current business with the private club, or an amendment to the zoning ordinance. County Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring said she would sponsor a zoning text amendment if the community supported it.

Karen Roper, a member of the East Silver Spring Citizens Association, an adjacent neighborhood, said her community has voted to support the lodge’s proposal. One of the main concerns of neighbors is how a long-promised park in the area would fit into the project, she said.

The park, meant to serve as a gateway to Fenton Village, is included in the master plan for the community, but has not come to fruition despite attempts by the county’s planning department to purchase property for the green space, Stith said. The county now owns a small landscaped parcel near the Moose Lodge’s potential new site.

Kathy Jentz, who lives near the proposed new Moose Lodge, said the park was the ‘‘primary priority.”

‘‘We’re willing to work with the Moose Lodge if it gets that goal accomplished,” Jentz said.

Hensal said the lodge would like to work with the county to acquire even more land to construct a Moose Lodge ‘‘surrounded by park,” giving the neighborhood more green space than before.

‘‘We want to go in there and help the park happen,” Hensal said. While the group will be able to function without a home for the time being, Hensal said, the lodge will cease to exist if the group does not find a replacement building for ‘‘the long haul.”

‘‘We were relocated because of a county project, and we would really like to be able to work with the county to remain as close as possible to the original location,” Hensal said.

Planning board nixes Fillmore zoning changes - Gazette

All sides have to see a win to make project work, one expert says

News Analysis | Staff Writers | Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hurt feelings. Planning processes. Power struggles.

All have been cited in the aftermath of the Planning Board’s rejection last week of zoning changes proposed by County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) as part of a plan to bring a Fillmore music hall to downtown Silver Spring.

The board, responsible for determining how projects are developed in the county, rejected Leggett’s changes and will recommend that the County Council not approve them. The council, which oversees the Planning Board, has the final say.

Board members argue that the proposals would take away their authority and give some projects unfair advantages. Overall, they support the music hall project, but not Leggett’s suggestions.

‘‘There is a lot of frustration,” said Councilwoman Nancy M. Floreen, a former Planning Board commissioner. ‘‘This is one of the times when the axiom ‘Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good’ comes into play....

‘‘Our rules are so complicated that pretty soon you’re going to have a regulation for anything ... That’s not the way we want creative planning to operate,” said Floreen (D-At large) of Garrett Park. ‘‘The question becomes: Is the process transparent? Is there community understanding and support? And is there political support? And the Planning Board doesn’t get to decide everything and that seems to be the crux of the issue.”

The disagreement between the board — led by Chairman Royce Hanson — and the Leggett administration follows a string of disputes over other projects including the Paul S. Sarbanes Silver Spring Transit Center, the Silver Spring Library and Park and Planning headquarters. In those projects, as with the Fillmore proposal, much of the contentiousness centered on control.

‘‘There is a general concern that we’ve built over the years a strong planning process that is protected from political favoritism,” Hanson said this week. ‘‘We don’t want to get into a situation where a project can get anything it wants based on the decisions of an elected official.”

Under current rules, the Planning Board may accept or reject public use space offered to the county as an amenity by developers at the end of a project in order to increase a project’s density in central business districts. Under Leggett’s proposal, the board would no longer have that discretion when the county executive accepts a property offer for arts or entertainment use. Also, the developer offering the land would receive project and site plan approvals for up to 15 years.

In the Fillmore deal, Lee Development Group, which owns the land on Colesville Road, would give the property to the county as an amenity before nearby land it owns would be developed.

‘‘Of concern first is the circumvention of master plan requirements and almost all requirements in the central business district zones were abandoned, so that the treatment given to this project and to potentially other Bethesda, Wheaton and Silver Spring projects seemed unfair,” Hanson said. ‘‘Also given the way the proposal was structured, it would give them a minimum of 15 years protection and possibly 18 to 20 years.”

The Leggett administration and Lee Development Group said they expected the Planning Board’s rejection.

‘‘The Planning Board, unfortunately, gets caught up in their process,” said Bruce Lee, president of Lee Development Group. ‘‘But there is no process for this because no developer has ever delivered a public amenity before the project.”

Leggett maintains that his proposal is necessary to spur development.

‘‘Our view is that this is a unique project. The space has been vacant because the way the Planning Board has things in place doesn’t facilitate anything happening to it,” said Patrick K. Lacefield, Leggett’s spokesman. ‘‘And if it continues into the future, nothing could happen to [the property] in another 18 years.”

The Planning Board has been willing to review alternatives to Leggett’s proposal, including shortening the length of project approvals, Hanson said.

Leggett and Lee Development Group are pinning hopes on the County Council.

‘‘I think there is a way to work this out, I’m just not sure how quickly and easily this happens,” said Councilman Marc Elrich (D-At large) of Takoma Park, a member of the council’s Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee, which will debate the proposal before the full nine-member council votes in the fall.

‘‘I would hope the Lees understand that they are dealing with multiple parties,” he said. ‘‘Just because you make a deal with the executive, that doesn’t mean the concerns of the planning staff have been met.”

On the other hand, Floreen, who also sits on the committee, warned, ‘‘I think we have to get on with it.”

But to get on with it, all the players have to find some kind of victory, said one expert.

‘‘More than anything, they have to figure out the gains to everyone in this partnership and agree to them,” said Debra Shapiro, a management professor and doctoral program director at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, College Park. ‘‘The only way they are going to is if they ultimately believe they benefit more by doing so than by not doing so. If they can’t agree to [the benefits], I don’t know how they can agree to this project.”

A public hearing on the proposals is scheduled for July 29. Worksessions are scheduled for September.

Legislative, regulatory changes could be used to stem housing violations - Gazette

by Melissa J. Brachfeld | Staff Writer | July 23, 2008

A work group designed to help stem widespread housing code violations in neighborhoods across the county told the County Council on Thursday it is formulating recommendations for legislative and regulatory changes.

Thomas Street, assistant chief administrative officer for the county, said Monday the County Executive Code Enforcement Work Group hopes to present a report to County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) and the council in September.

‘‘We are addressing many of the issues that were raised by citizen and civic associations that we’ve heard from,” he said.

Members of the Aspen Hill Civic Association have long been concerned about what they feel are uneven code enforcement and poor coordination among county agencies when it comes to citing offenders.

Specifically, they have cited unkempt properties, cars parked on front lawns, overcrowded homes and vehicles without license plates among other concerns.

Residents across the county have shared their concerns.

In March, Leggett convened a group of officials from county agencies and invited residents to attend.

Over the last several months, the internal work group, which consists of more than a dozen representatives from county agencies, has reviewed a number of case studies and found similarities, Street said.

He said the proposed solutions to residents’ concerns fall into three categories: legislative changes to chapters of the County Code; improved coordination and cross training for the departments of permitting services, housing, fire and rescue, police and Environmental Protection staff; and educational programs for residents and community associations that inform property owners of their rights and responsibilities.

According to a memorandum from Street to County Council President Michael J. Knapp (D-Dist. 2) of Germantown and Vice President Philip M. Andrews (D-Dist. 3) of Gaithersburg, the work group is considering drafting legislation that would address parking limits for oversized, commercial and recreational vehicles; clarify and limit home occupations; require permit expiration dates and more than one inspection in a 12-month period; and increase fines for various violations.

In terms of regulatory changes, the group is considering implementing a revised abatement program for repeat code offenders and others.

The work group is also addressing reports of overcrowded residences. Already, the memorandum states, real estate professionals have been more closely monitoring and correcting the number of bedrooms advertised in property listings.

In addition, the work group has suggested cross training inspectors from different county agencies to observe and report suspected overcrowding situations to the Department of Housing and Community Affairs.

Street said there has also been increased inspection activity in Aspen Hill.

Knapp said members of the council’s Public Safety and Planning, Housing and Economic Development committees had ‘‘a lot of questions” after the update. He noted some issues would be difficult to address and could not see any ‘‘straightforward” solutions.

‘‘There are no easy right answers on this stuff,” he said. ‘‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

Alan Bowser, president of the Park Hills Civic Association and a member of the Silver Spring Advisory Board, said he was pleased with the group’s efforts and ‘‘encouraged by the scope of the recommendations, but there’s still a lot more work to be done.”

Friday, July 18, 2008

Planners Oppose Two Key Measures For Live-Music Hall - Washington Post

Planners Oppose Two Key Measures For Live-Music Hall

By Ann E. Marimow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 18, 2008; B04

Montgomery County planners yesterday rejected a pair of land-use measures designed to bring one of Live Nation's Fillmore music halls to Silver Spring, dealing a setback to one of County Executive Isiah Leggett's signature projects.

Planning Board members expressed support for opening the Fillmore's doors on Colesville Road, but they took issue with Leggett's approach, which they said would usurp their discretion and provide one developer with privileged status and significant concessions.

"Everyone on this board would like to see this happen," chairman Royce Hanson said of the Fillmore project. But, he added, "if anyone other than the county executive came in with this proposal, we wouldn't spend more than five minutes on it."

The board's decision was a blow to the $13.5 million deal, intended to invigorate a vacant block at the site of a former J.C. Penney building. Although the board's action is only a recommendation to the County Council, its guidance typically carries great weight with council members because planners are their leading land-use advisers.

"This is a disaster," said Bruce H. Lee, president of Lee Development Group, who has agreed to donate the land for the project. "We thought we had this worked out with the county executive. It's a terrible signal."

Leggett (D) resurrected the live-music project when negotiations with the Alexandria-based Birchmere Music Hall collapsed after five years of talks with former executive Douglas M. Duncan. The deal relies on the Lee group providing the land in exchange for protection and flexibility to eventually build on the surrounding site.

The path to building a Fillmore in Silver Spring is unprecedented because the music hall, which would count as the Lee group's public amenity and public-use space, would be built first, before the developers commit to an adjacent project. The land-use measures the planning board considered yesterday are vital to the success of the project.

Leggett's spokesman, Patrick Lacefield, said he does not think that the board's action will jeopardize the music hall.

"This is something the executive wants to do and something the council wants to do. We're going to find a way to do it," he said.

In general, the Planning Board has wide discretion to negotiate with developers for plazas or green space at the end of a project in exchange for the right to develop at a higher density in the county's business districts. Leggett's proposal eliminates that discretion when the county executive accepts a donation of property for arts and entertainment.

Leggett's proposal also seeks to at least double the usual life span of approval for construction to 10 years and give the developer the option to seek an additional five years. For a typical development, there is a five-year expiration date on approval once planners have determined how a project would affect roads, schools and other public services.

Planning Board members suggested simplifying Leggett's proposal, allowing a five-year approval with a five-year extension. That was not acceptable to Lee, who said it would be too great a risk in light of the economy.

Backers of the plan, some wearing "Finalize the Fillmore" stickers to the hearing, said the project requires a creative approach because the Lee group is donating the land upfront.

"If you're going to move forward to the future, you can't get hung up on the rules of the past," said council member Nancy Floreen (D-At Large), who did not attend the hearing.

The debate underscores a power struggle between the executive branch and the planning department for control of land-use decisions, because the measures would put more control into the hands of the executive.

In recent weeks, the Lee group has been spreading the word that the Fillmore is in trouble, and that message has prompted dozens of e-mails and letters of support to the council in advance of a July 29 public hearing.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Council approves more money for civic building - Gazette

Members also say they support more funding that could restore transit center design cuts

by Agnes Jasinski | Staff Writer | Wednesday, July 16, 2008
An additional $2.5 million to move forward with the Silver Spring Civic Building and Veterans Plaza project was approved on Tuesday by the Montgomery County Council, and members expressed support for additional funding needed to break ground on the Paul S. Sarbanes Silver Spring Transit Center project.

The council also heard testimony Tuesday afternoon in favor of both long-awaited downtown Silver Spring projects.

‘‘Our community in Silver Spring has been waiting for many years for both projects, and we look forward to their completion, and their completion at the highest level of excellence,” Kathy Stevens, executive vice chairwoman of the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board, testified Tuesday.

The council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment committee will consider whether to recommend at least $16.72 million in additional funding for the transit center at a meeting on Monday. The council’s Planning, Housing and Economic Development committee recommended unanimous support of the $2.5 million in additional funding for the civic building at a meeting Thursday.

Both funding requests came from County Executive Isiah Leggett’s (D) office. The first, to supplement funding for the more than $91 million transit center, would pay for a number of items that came in over budget, including streetscaping, canopies using glass panels and an environmentally friendly ‘‘green” roof. The transit center, which would consolidate buses, Metro trains, MARC trains and taxis, would include residences and a hotel on the site, which will be constructed by a private developer, Foulger-Pratt.

The second request of $2.5 million, which was approved in a unanimous vote Tuesday, will pay for ‘‘cost escalation of the last several years” in materials that would be needed for construction of the more than $17 million civic building, according to a memo from Leggett. That project would include an ice rink and pavilion located at the corner of Fenton Street and Ellsworth Drive.

Despite design changes and value engineering to reduce costs, bids for both projects came in over budget.

The current design of the transit center reflects about $3.4 million in design changes to lower the cost, said Diane Schwartz Jones, an assistant chief administrative officer in Leggett’s office.

‘‘In a perfect world, we would fund everything,” Jones testified Tuesday.

County Councilman Marc Elrich (D-At large) of Takoma Park said Tuesday that the council should go even further than the $16.72 million and look for additional money to pay for some items on the county Planning Board’s list of what Chairman Royce Hanson had described as ‘‘essential elements.”

Hanson testified Tuesday that the pedestrian-friendliness and attractiveness of the center would be reduced with the design elements proposed to be cut from the project. Those include relocating the transit store to the plaza, eliminating all-glass panels in stairway and escalator enclosures, as well as taking away a canopy at the entrance of the Metro station and stamped asphalt sidewalks that have a brick-like appearance.

‘‘They represent a small fraction of the total cost,” Hanson said Tuesday.

Jon Lourie, chairman of the Silver Spring Urban District Advisory Committee, testified in support of Leggett’s $16.72 million proposal but added that the committee would look at the design elements in the project that had been cut at a meeting Thursday.

If the $16.72 million in supplemental funding for the transit center is appropriated, contractors could break ground on the project by September, with 26 months of construction to follow, Don Scheuerman of the county’s Department of General Services told members of the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board Monday night.

Construction on the civic building will begin by the end of the summer and take up to 14 months, said Gary Stith, director of the Silver Spring Regional Center.

‘‘Silver Spring’s waited a long time for both of these projects. It’s time to put the shovel in the ground and get moving on both the Silver Spring civic building and the Silver Spring transit center,” Jane Redicker, president of the Greater Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce, testified Tuesday.

Board hears more testimony on historic designation of apartments - Gazette

by Agnes Jasinski | Staff Writer |Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Preservationists and affordable housing advocates testified before the Montgomery County Planning Board for more than three hours Thursday to argue whether historic value or new amenities on the site of a 1930s-era apartment complex in Silver Spring better represent the public interest.
A portion of the Falkland Chase Apartments, located on 22 acres at 16th Street and East West Highway, would be up for demolition under a proposal from Home Properties, owner of the site.

The board will vote in the fall on whether to recommend all of Falkland Chase to the county’s Master Plan for Historic Preservation, a move that would significantly limit development on the site. The final decision lies with the County Council.

The board deemed Falkland Chase eligible for historic status last December, a vote that was reinforced by the Historic Preservation Commission several months later. The purpose of Thursday’s hearing was to weigh a historic designation against other factors, such as amenities the project would provide for the community and more affordable housing.

Commissioner Jean Cryor noted after the meeting that there were ‘‘two goods” to be considered.

Testimony at the hearing mirrored information provided to the board last December, Cryor said. But she said it was important to hear both sides again, as the board is now looking at more than just the historic value of the site.

‘‘I deliberately do not have an opinion at this point,” Cryor said. Home Properties’ plan would affect six buildings over nine acres on a section of the complex north of East West Highway, and would include construction of multiple buildings between 60 and 143 feet high, an interior public park and retail space, including a Harris Teeter grocery store. Planning staff presented a report to the board in support of the project, and recommended that the board only designate part of the site as historic to allow for development.

Falkland Chase was built in two phases and in three sections. The first parcel, 178 units completed between 1936 and 1937, was inaugurated by Eleanor Roosevelt in 1937 and was the first example of a garden-style apartment complex in Montgomery County.

Historic preservationists argued Thursday that all the apartments, designed by noted architect Louis Justement during the New Deal, should be looked at as one project.

‘‘The entire Falkland apartments complex is well worthy of preservation,” said Bonnie Rosenthal, representing the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Mary Reardon, preservation chairwoman of the Silver Spring Historical Society, said losing one parcel of the Falkland apartments was not a compromise, but would represent a lesser loss of something already recognized as valuable.

The developers’ side agreed that the south parcel of the complex had historic value, but that the north section, which is targeted for development, did not meet the criteria for designation.

‘‘In the spirit of compromise ... we are willing to have the county designate two-thirds of our property as historic,” said Nelson B. Leenhouts, Home Properties’ co-founder and co-chairman.

Donald Hague, on the development team with Home Properties, listed the benefits that would result from the project — retail, green space, transit-oriented development, space for a potential Purple Line route and affordable housing.

Several representatives of Action in Montgomery, a faith-based community group, testified in support of the project on the basis that the proposal would bring much-needed affordable housing to Silver Spring. Home Properties would provide 282 affordable and work force units at the Falkland apartments and another site in Silver Spring if the company is allowed to proceed with its plan for Falkland Chase.

Planning Board Chairman Royce Hanson stopped testimony with half the meeting room still waiting to speak in order to prepare for another hearing Thursday evening. The board’s staff will now review Thursday’s testimony in preparation for a work session in the fall, when the board will vote on a recommendation to the County Council.

For more information and to hear Thursday’s testimony, visit

Falkland Chase timeline

1985 — Both the County Council and Planning Board vote to place only the Cupola Building at the Falkland Chase Apartments onto the county’s Master Plan for Historic Preservation.

1990 — The Draper Triangle section of Falkland Chase is demolished to make way for the Lenox Park building.

1993 — The north parcel of Falkland Chase is rezoned and identified for redevelopment in the Silver Spring Sector Plan.

1999 — The Maryland Historical Trust finds Falkland Chase as an entirety eligible for listing in the National Register of Historical Places.

2002 — The Falkland Chase Apartments are identified as potentially historic or architecturally significant in the Silver Spring CBD Historic Survey.

2005 — Falkland Chase is placed on the Locational Atlas and Index of Historic Sites for possible inclusion in the Master Plan for Historic Preservation.

2007 — The county’s Historic Preservation Commission and Planning Board find Falkland Chase in its entirety eligible for historic designation.

2008 — The county’s Historic Preservation Commission votes to place all three parcels of Falkland Chase onto the Master Plan for Historic Preservation.

Source: Montgomery County Planning Department

Wayne Ave. residents sign-on to Purple Line opposition - Gazette

Neighbors post placards on their lawns to protest plans for proposed transit line
by Agnes Jasinski | Staff Writer | July 16, 2008

A new kind of lawn accessory has decorated many of the front yards near downtown Silver Spring since late last month — bright purple signs that declare ‘‘No Train on Wayne” in protest of a proposed mass transit route through the neighborhood.

Neighbors say they hope the signs make it clear to state officials that residents in the neighborhood are strongly against an at-grade alignment along Wayne Avenue of the Purple Line, a proposed 16-mile east-west bus rapid transit or light-rail line that would run between Bethesda and New Carrollton.

Officials with the Maryland Transit Administration have listed possible station locations at Wayne Avenue and Dale Drive, and another off Manchester Road or Plymouth Street. A stop is also planned in the area of Bonifant and Fenton streets where the new proposed Silver Spring Library would stand.

‘‘I would be happy if the train went underground. ... Not on Wayne, but under, in the least disruptive way,” said Cathy Kristiansen, who created the sign campaign with a group of neighbors.

The signs have popped up in front of homes not only along Wayne, but down roads like Cedar Street, Dale Drive and Dartmouth Avenue that branch off the residential street. Kristiansen said her informal group has run out of the 200 signs initially ordered. It took about $1,000 from neighbors to pay for the effort.

Wayne Avenue resident Karen FitzGerald, who has a ‘‘No Train on Wayne” sign in her yard, said opposition to the Purple Line grew as residents became concerned about potential effects on traffic, pedestrian safety and noise.

‘‘We believe in transit. ... But the more we learned about the potential impacts on the neighborhood, we just couldn’t support the street-level route,” said FitzGerald, chairwoman of the Seven Oaks-Evanswood Civic Association’s Purple Line Task Force, which is independent of the sign effort.

Last February, the neighborhood’s residents group took a vote to determine where residents stood on the issue. About 70 percent voted to oppose a Purple Line at grade level along Wayne Avenue, but about 70 percent also voted in favor of an underground alignment. Such a route would add to the system’s projected $420 million to $1.63 billion in capital costs. Proponents of the Purple Line fear that additional expenses would work against Federal Transit Administration funding and approval.

Jonathan Elkind, chairman of the Silver Spring Advocates, a pro-Purple Line group, said many of the concerns neighbors have about the transit system could be handled by the state and county as they built it.

‘‘I would personally love to see an underground passage. But if that’s not in the cards ... then it’s much more important, essential, to get a good, well-designed Purple Line, even if it’s at street level in my neighborhood,” he said.

Webb Smedley, a member of the board of directors for advocacy group Purple Line Now!, said Wayne Avenue residents need to consider the potential for traffic growth in their neighborhood. If a mass transit system is not chosen to run down Wayne, the negative impacts could come from more vehicles, he said.

Maryland Transit Administration project manager Mike Madden said an analysis of traffic for the year 2030 if the Purple Line were built showed a reduced number of car trips not only along Wayne Avenue but throughout Silver Spring, due to an increased number of transit users.

But Mark Gabriele, president of the Seven Oaks-Evanswood Citizens Association, said the state’s models failed to assume that more cars would drive down Wayne after construction was completed because the road would be wider and faster for motorists.

‘‘It’s going to be a really busy residential street,” Gabriele said.

More information on what lies ahead for both Purple Line advocates and opponents will be available in September, when an analysis of alternatives and draft environmental impact statement will be completed. Public hearings will be scheduled in November. For more information, visit

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Planning staffers: Split the Falkland baby - Gazette

By Jennifer Deseo on July 14, 2008

While the county’s planning board is still on the fence, its staff thinks part of the Falkland Chase apartment complex should be redeveloped.

During a two-hour public hearing Thursday afternoon, planning analysts told the board that the complex’s northern parcel — sandwiched between East-West Highway and the CSX railroad tracks — should be either partially or completely demolished to make way for more densely packed housing.

“The public benefit that full development can provide outweighs the benefit of preservation only,” Rollin Stanley, the director of planning, testified. The complex’s other two parcels — both of which straddle 16th Street on the south side of East-West Highway — can go to the history buffs, he suggested.

Most preservationists argue all three parcels should be saved as a package deal, most often citing the complex’s architectural and historic significance as garden-style apartments. “Losing part of the Falklands is not a compromise,” Mary Reardon, of the Silver Spring Historical Society, testified.

“I’m offended that the demolition of 140 housing units at Falkland Chase is considered a triumph for affordable housing,” Reardon threw in. According to her, current rents at the complex are at workforce-housing levels, and are lower than average for Silver Spring’s central business district.

And it’s the additional housing that redevelopment supporters are after. “I realize that access to affordable housing is of utmost importance,” Megan Moriarty, a three-year resident of Falkland Chase’s northern parcel, testified through a spokesperson. Moriarty said straight up that she was not in favor of preservation.

If all three parcels are preserved, some of the buildings on the northern lot may still be in danger of demolition. A proposed Purple Line route could run the mass-transit project right through a couple of buildings on the site.

But if development gets the green light, planning staffers can see it swinging one of two ways. The first option would save some of the northern parcel’s existing buildings while tossing up a couple of mid-rise apartment buildings along the CSX tracks. Each of those buildings would be no more than 143 feet in height, staffers reported (below).

Plan B would knock down all of the existing structures, set up 60-foot-tall buildings along East-West Highway, and 143-foot-tall buildings along the tracks. The shorter buildings would contain street-level retail spaces, though perhaps nothing big enough to contain a supermarket (below).

In a previous life, the property owners hoped to construct a set of interconnected high rises surrounding a large courtyard, plus enough retail space to house a Harris Teeter. It’s unclear whether those plans are still on the books.

The planning board will take the rest of the summer to digest all of the testimony and staff reports, and will get back to everyone regarding its stand on preservation in the fall, they said.

Neighborhoods Committee - Agenda - July 21, 2008

Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board
Neighborhoods Committee
Co-Chairs Anita Morrison and Alan Bowser
Staff Support: Mel Tull (Silver Spring Regional Services Center)
SSRC: 301-565-7300

The Neighborhoods Committee handles matters pertaining to the quality of life in neighborhoods, including, but not limited to, public safety, public health, housing, community redevelopment, education, the Arts, and the natural environment in the Region.


July 21, 2008, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Silver Spring Regional Center
8435 Georgia Avenue

7:00 Greeting and Introductions
-- Summary of June Committee and July SSCAB Meetings
-- Updates – Silver Spring Civic Building and Veterans Plaza; Silver Spring Transit Center; Silver Spring Library

7:10 Public Safety Update
-- Lt. Eric Burnett, Montgomery County Police Department
Northwest Park/Oakview Weed & Seed Program Update
-- Martha Waddy

7:30 Community Prosecution in Silver Spring
Maura Lynch, Assistant State’s Attorney
Montgomery County State’s Attorney Office

8:15 Takoma Park & Silver Spring Issues
Seth Grimes, President, Old Town Residents’ Association
Takoma Park, Maryland

8:55 Historic Preservation Update

9:00 Adjourn

Next Meeting: Monday, September 15, 2008
(no meeting in August)

Check out the Neighborhoods Committee’s new blog at

Friday, July 11, 2008

New Hampshire Estates Civic Association

Pictures from the July 10, 2008 meeting of the New Hampshire Estates Civic Association in Silver Spring, Maryland, Martha Waddy, President.

Guest speakers included Congresswoman Donna Edwards, Valerie Whitby, Department of Housing and Community Affairs, and Alan Bowser, Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board. View other pictures on Flickr!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center...coming soon!

A new Cultural Arts Center (located at the intersection of Georgia Avenue and East-West Highway) will support the newly created Silver Spring Arts and Entertainment District. This center will establish the College as a center for the performing arts in the down-county area and fill a longstanding void in the community. It will provide an excellent venue for county and metro area arts patrons to attend unique professional public performances and also a venue for events sponsored by community organizations. The Cultural Arts Center will contain two performance spaces. The 500-seat music and dance theatre with a state of the art stage and acoustics will be used primarily as a rental space/booking house by organizations from outside the College. The 100-seat theatre will be used by the Communications and Performing Arts Department for performances and as a classroom space for speech, theatre, film, and dance classes. In addition, regional theatre groups and community organizations will use the theatre.

To celebrate and acknowledge the vibrant and diverse student population and the surrounding communities, the Center will offer concerts and events for all ages. Music and dance from various cross-cultural backgrounds will be a major element in the offerings. Weekend performances will be scheduled throughout the year and bring in regional and national groups. The College will pursue partnerships with area performing groups to offer enriching educational activities and maximize the use of the center by the community.

The campus community looks forward to a time when students, faculty, and staff can come together for large special events important to campus life. However, even more significant are the education and enrichment opportunities for students. For many students, it will be an opportunity to see live professional performances for the first time. For faculty in a wide variety of disciplines, it will be an opportunity to supplement and enrich their teaching through the inclusion of concerts, theatre, or dance performances that students can conveniently attend.

Inclusion of the arts in any major urban district can tremendously impact its economic climate. The diversity of Montgomery College’s student population alone will serve to enhance and stimulate the city’s revitalization effort as it promotes unification of diverse cultures and provides entrepreneurial and family-based business opportunities for immigrant, disadvantaged, and other emerging business owners. In addition, a vibrant arts district generates employment, tourism, non-profit revenue, commercial revenue, tourist spending, and capital spending. Montgomery College is pleased to be a major anchor of the Silver Spring Arts and Entertainment District and we will continue to provide cultural and educational opportunities for this community and region.

Planners urge county to scale back traffic project - Gazette

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Some residents had lobbied for less expensive solution for Dale Drive intersection
by Agnes Jasinski | Staff Writer

County transportation officials should listen to residents and explore less expensive ways of improving traffic flow at Dale Drive and Colesville Road, the Montgomery County Planning Board said Thursday.

Improvements costing about $2.5 million have been planned at the intersection to address problems, transportation planners have said. The changes would add two turn lanes to the intersection on both the east and west approaches of Dale Drive.

Planning Board staff supported those upgrades, but the board itself unanimously voted to reject them, although the vote only serves as a recommendation. Some residents have been calling for a turn signal and improved traffic light instead, a $200,000 expense they said would make the roads safer and save the county money.

‘‘The point here is, we want to try a simple solution,” Larry Mitchell of the Woodside Forest Civic Association testified Thursday. Three others supported the idea. Barbara Ditzler of the Woodside Park Civic Association said the widening of the intersection could actually have a harmful effect on the community, where speeding is already a problem.

‘‘The problem with traffic is at rush hour only,” Ditzler testified Thursday. Most of the hours of the day, there were no backups, she said.

Planning Board Chairman Royce Hanson questioned whether any changes were needed, adding that improving the flow of traffic may not do much to improve the quality of the area. The commissioners said that they were inclined to support the recommendations of a community that used the intersection every day, and that the traffic there was less problematic than in other areas of Silver Spring.

‘‘I’m not prepared to say that traffic on Colesville should be given such a priority,” Commissioner John Robinson said.

Dan Sheridan, a senior engineer on the project with the county’s Department of Transportation, said Thursday that the project was a ‘‘comprehensive look at the intersection,” and included pedestrian safety aspects both planning staff and the community had requested, such as new sidewalks.

Sheridan added that one of the improvements, adding a right- turn lane on Dale Drive going south on Colesville Road, was part of the master plan for the central business district and improved a ‘‘dangerous situation.” Transportation officials at the meeting said they had also heard residents who were supportive of the project and had the opposite viewpoint of those testifying.

The Planning Board’s recommendation to pursue other options at Dale Drive and Colesville Road will be sent to the county’s Department of Transportation. Spokeswoman Esther Bowring said the department was waiting to receive that letter before determining the next step. At some point, construction money would need to be allocated by the County Council, she said.