Saturday, October 25, 2008

Community Service Day at Broad Acres

October 25th was Community Service Day in Montgomery County, Maryland. Here, nearly 60 volunteers from throughout the County help clean up the parks, woods and the Northwest Branch near the Broad Acres School in Silver Spring. Organized by the Northwest Park Weed and Seed Committee, with major assistance by the Montgomery County State's Attorney Office, Montgomery County Police Department and the Park Police, the event was a tremendous success.

More Community Service Day pictures here.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Montgomery Council Blocks Ambulance Fee Plan - Gazette

By Ann E. Marimow | Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 23, 2008; 2:56 PM

The Montgomery County Council this morning blocked County Executive Isiah Leggett's (D) proposed ambulance fee legislation after an outpouring of opposition from residents and the county's volunteer firefighter organization.

The Public Safety Committee voted unanimously to postpone action on the measure, which was intended to raise about $14 million a year to fund fire and emergency services.

Leggett had stressed that his plan was designed to charge health insurance companies -- not residents -- for ambulance transport. Montgomery's neighboring jurisdictions, including the District and Fairfax and Prince George's counties, already charge for ambulance service.

But Leggett's proposal encountered resistance from Montgomery's well-organized volunteer firefighters, who waged an aggressive campaign with yard signs and phone-banking. Leaders of the volunteer organization, who say that charging for service is at odds with their mission, declared victory yesterday after the council's action.

"The council is listening, not only to the volunteers, but to the citizens," said Marcine Goodloe, president of the Montgomery County Volunteer Fire & Rescue Association.

The proposed fee, which ranges from $300 to $800, depending on service, plus $7.50 per mile traveled, would raise an estimated $13.8 million in its first full year.

Under the legislation, county residents would not be billed, regardless of whether they have health insurance, and they would not be responsible for a co-pay or deductible. An insured patient who does not live in the county would be billed a co-pay or deductible, but could seek a waiver.

Leggett's spokesman Patrick Lacefield said the administration was "okay with delaying action to get people more information."

But some council members were less certain about the bill's future.

"They've had the chance to make their case, and they haven't been persuasive," Andrews said. "It may well not be over, but I think it is dead."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

New nonprofit to launch community indicators project - Gazette

Initiative seeks to address problems in Takoma Park and Long Branch

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer | Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2008

A new nonprofit hopes to help residents in Takoma Park and Long Branch secure grants and establish new programs to solve problems in those communities through a report that will collect data on major areas of concern.

The Silver Spring/Takoma Park Community Indicators Project will measure data collected against other communities and report the findings to government officials. The first area the group will examine is housing in Long Branch and Takoma Park.

The first public meeting to discuss the housing indicators project is 7 p.m. today at Columbia Union College, 7600 Flower Ave. in Takoma Park.

"An indicator is a number or statistic that is selected to be the best example of what is going on in the community," Bruce Baker, one of the project's board members, said Monday at Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board meeting of its Neighborhoods Committee.

The housing indicators project will include 15 people, Baker said, seven of whom will be renters in the community; the rest will include property managers, developers and homeowners. Support in research and data collecting will be provided by Montgomery College and the University of Maryland and local data collectors like the Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Affairs.

Baker said about five to 10 indicators will be chosen for measurement for the housing project, which will be followed by similar projects on education and economics.

Examples of potential housing indicators are the number of foreclosures, housing sale values or the number of rental units at $1,000 or less, Baker said. He said the data could be categorized by individual neighborhood or housing complex.

"It's an attempt to measure the quality of life at the community level," Baker said.

Once the data is collected – the housing project report could be finished by January 2009 – it can be used to benchmark Long Branch and Takoma Park against other communities and transmitted to county agencies for budgeting purposes. It also can be useful for organizations seeking grants.

"Things that don't get measured don't get attention, they don't get fixed," said Anita Morrison, a Long Branch resident who was familiar with a similar project in Baltimore, which Baker said has raised more than $5 million in grants.

The report will also be made available to the public at the Long Branch and Takoma Park libraries and online.

Tonight's meeting will be the first of three open to the public where the project team will determine what the indicators will be. Baker said the data collection could include surveys, focus groups and examination of existing census data.

Alan Bowser, chairman of the Neighborhoods Committee, said he hopes the housing indicators would include code violations, landlord and tenant disputes, and measurements of rent increases.

"If this can guide policy, it's a wonderful project," Bowser said.

The project requires additional funds after receiving $25,000 from the city of Takoma Park and $2,000 from private donors. Both Baker and the Neighborhoods Committee showed interest in bringing the program to other neighborhoods in Silver Spring and elsewhere in the county after Long Branch and Takoma Park have been served.

The program began in March after the Long Branch Citizens Committee and Long Branch Task Force had mentioned interest. Baker developed a relationship with the Montgomery County Community Foundation, which helps establish nonprofit organizations, and a partnership with IMPACT Silver Spring.

"It is going to be a tremendous benefit," said Frankie Blackburn, executive director of IMPACT, which will help the program form the data collecting teams. "One of the things we rare lacking in the Silver Spring community is information that informs us about how people are living and surviving."

To protect and listserv - Gazette

Civic association uses Internet postings to help police catch criminals in Silver Spring neighborhood

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer

A series of crimes in a quiet Silver Spring neighborhood last week forced residents to act quickly to ensure safety. But instead of heading to the streets, they logged on to their Internet and used the neighborhood listserv to share information that was relayed to police and resulted in three arrests.

Beginning Oct. 9, posts regarding a suspicious red van parked near the corner of Woodland and Highland drives appeared on the Woodside Park Civic Association listserv, a private message board and e-mail thread on

That day, several residents on the listserv responded, cautioning neighbors to look for the van, giving advice on how to handle the situation and dispersing contact information for the officers investigating the incident. By that night, Montgomery County Police had been contacted. Residents were told to call police if they saw the van again.

Residents had previously seen the van parked in an unlit area of the neighborhood but did not know the owner. They had seen different men going in and out of the van and one of them had a camera. A post on the morning of Oct. 10 reported that a man was seen taking photographs of houses on nearby Midwood Road.

Later that morning, the van was gone but neighbors had posted a license plate number on the listserv and the number was sent to police. Later that day, residents were informed the van was owned by a registered sex offender.

That night the van reappeared, prompting another slew of posts on the listserv. After police surveillance was conducted on the van, the owner, Maurice Lamont Moore, 37, of the 11900 block of Maple Avenue in Rockville, was arrested Oct. 13 on an outstanding warrant stemming from a traffic violation. On Oct. 9, 2007, Moore had been convicted of five counts of possession of child pornography. He was also convicted earlier this year of failing to register as a sex offender.

"[The police] wouldn't have been aware of the vehicle unless the community called," said Officer Melanie Brenner, a police spokeswoman. "It was extremely helpful to police that the community was aware of what's going on in the neighborhood."

On Oct. 11 posts on the listserv announced that the van had been towed and has not reappeared in the neighborhood since.

"We have a very alert community," said Barbara Ditzler, president of the Woodside Park Civic Association. "When someone sees something suspicious … they post what they see on the listserv and that puts the antennas up for everyone else."

An arrest was made Oct. 13 in the 1300 block of Woodside Parkway after residents reported a male walking down the street shooting a pellet gun at vehicles and other targets. Woodside Park resident and former civic association president Marilyn Seitz said her husband was working at their house that afternoon when he heard a popping noise. She said he went outside and saw the male shooting at street signs.

The arrest was made shortly after, Brenner said. Reports of the arrest were posted on the listserv the following day, lauding the police response.

"It was a soap opera on the Internet," Seitz said. "But [the listserv] serves to alert people."

A post on the listserv 7 a.m. Oct. 14 also praised police for responding to a man who had been breaking into cars along Burton Street and Woodland Drive. An arrest was made on the 1200 block of Burton Street early that morning and a male was charged with fourth-degree theft, theft under $500 and resisting arrest after he fled from police and hid under the deck of a home on Burton Street, Brenner said.

The listserv post also included information on how to assist police when they arrive on a scene and credited toys in the backyard of the residences for tripping up the suspect.

In response to the suspicious van, Woodside Park resident Roy Lykes posted about an incident last year in which residents learned of a burglary through the listserv, located a license plate number using binoculars and helped police make an arrest in the case.

"We do have this wonderful listserv and in a matter of minutes it was popping," Lykes said in a phone interview. "… I keep my eyes peeled for something that doesn't look right and if I see something, I mention it."

The listserv on Yahoo! dates back to 2000 with the first posts regarding robberies. Since then, there have been nearly 20,000 posts, and there are currently more than 700 people registered.

But by the middle of last week, it was back to business as usual with requests for kitchen renovation advice and how to improve Internet speed, which can helpful too, Ditzler said.

"People are connected and by being connected you can be heard," Ditzler said.

Residents urge officials to protect the character of Fenton Village - Gazette

With projects under development and others proposed, forum offered chance to voice concerns over density, aesthetics, rent and infrastructure

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer | Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2008

Residents and merchants in Fenton Village urged county officials and builders last week to protect the neighborhood's small businesses and residential character as developers look to revitalize the area through new zoning that allows for greater density.

More than 40 residents and county officials attended a forum Oct. 15 at the Nora School on Sligo Avenue to voice concerns about future projects planned for the neighborhood. While most agreed that revitalization was needed in Fenton Village, residents were concerned about possible negative impacts on the neighborhood.

"We do not have enough police, road capacity, recreation, electricity, water or sewers for the people who are here now," said Karen Roper, a member of the nearby East Silver Spring Citizens Association. "We want to know how we are going to accommodate this density."

Fenton Village is defined as the neighborhood just south of downtown Silver Spring, bordered by Fenton Street to the east, Georgia Avenue to the west, Wayne Avenue to the north and Burlington Avenue to the south. It is known for its long-established, service-oriented shops and locally-owned restaurants that contrast with newer shops in nearby Silver Plaza at Georgia and Colesville Road.

With several developments planned and a zoning text amendment allowing for greater density in the neighborhood, the forum gave residents a chance to voice concerns on everything from density and infrastructure to building heights and rents.

"This is an area that's starting to be developed," said Deborah Linn of the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board. "… We hope that this is the next area [of revitalization]."

John Marcolin, an urban designer with the Maryland National-Capital Park and Planning Commission, outlined the zoning changes approved by the Montgomery County Council in July that allow for a maximum height of 90 feet for buildings along Georgia within Fenton Village's planning area.

Zoning also allows building heights on Georgia at 110 feet to accommodate workforce housing units for middle-income families. A maximum of 60 feet is allowed on the west side of Fenton and the 45-foot building height on the east side can be increased to 60 feet for mixed-use projects.

That amendment benefits a hotel project planned near the corner of Fenton and Silver Spring Avenue. The hotel's developer, Ulysses Glee of Fenton Group LCC., was lauded during the hearing as an example of a developer who involved the community.

Marcolin illustrated development possibilities for Fenton Village under the new zoning and promoted the use of street-level retail. He presented a proposal for green space that would utilize the county-owned Parking Lot 3 on Fenton and would incorporate Studio Plaza, a roughly 130,000-square-foot mixed-use project proposed by Robert Hillerson and the county. That project has not been approved.

Other proposed projects include The Adele, a 52-unit residential development at 814 Thayer Ave., a mixed-use project at Thayer and Fenton, and Bonifant Plaza, a 72-unit residential project that has not been approved.

Some residents were concerned the zoning changes and new private development would lead to inconsistencies with the aesthetic of the neighborhood.

"I'm anxious for it to be built out but not in a cheap way," said Melanie Isis, a Fenton Village resident. "I want something that's going to look good in 50 years."

County Councilman Marc Elrich (D-At large) of Takoma Park encouraged residents to petition the council for a "mini-sector plan" in Fenton Village, which would bring more consistency to the neighborhood's revitalization. The council can approve one "mini plan" per year and it would take about six months to compete, Elrich said.

"If you look at all the different designs of these projects, could you imagine all of Fenton Village being built block-by-block with one building after another and there's absolutely no articulation between them?" Elrich said to those in attendance.

Business owners said already rising rents would increase with new development and the proposed ground-level retail units would be too expensive for small businesses.

"We are having a hard time," said Marilyn Seitz, owner of the Pennyworth Shop thrift store at 955 Bonifant St. "We're caught between wanting to have a nice new building but we can't afford the old building we are in because rent is such a priority."

Darian Unger, chairman of the Silver Spring Citizen Advisory Board, said other meetings are planned to discuss Fenton Village's future, including Nov. 19 and Dec. 17 meetings of the board's Commercial and Economic Development Committee. A walking tour of Fenton Village was held Saturday morning.

"This is the start of something," Unger said. "Not the end."

Ervin briefs council on rebate status in tight budget year - Gazette

Council Notes | Jeremy Arias |Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2008

County Councilwoman Valerie Ervin briefed the City Council about possible upcoming challenges stemming from the county's tight budget in a discussion Monday night that also included a presentation from county Park and Planning about infill development.

Ervin (D-Dist. 5) expressed hope for a strengthened relationship between the city and the county, mentioning the possibility of enacting a SmartBike program in Takoma Park. She also warned of future financial shortfalls at the meeting, particularly in response to Mayor Bruce Williams' renewed calls for the county's report regarding rebate returns to municipalities.

"I can tell you right now that unfortunately the news from Annapolis is not good," Ervin said about the possibility of cutbacks due to county budget restrictions. "We're going to have to take a hard look at everything."

Councilmembers mentioned rebates during last week's briefing by County Councilman Marc Elrich (D-At large) of Takoma Park. The city is upset over county delays on an agreement they hope will solve double taxation issues faced by Takoma Park residents, who pay for both city and county services. The disagreement stems from the amount of money rebated to the city for services usually provided by the county each year.

Following Ervin's speech, Marybeth O'Quinn of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission briefed the council on a variety of approaches different municipalities have taken toward infill development, or the construction of large mansion-style houses by adding onto or demolishing existing homes.

A PowerPoint presentation of a county task force study on infill development reviewed the different tactics employed by surrounding municipalities and cities nationwide, but during the council's question period O'Quinn seemed to recommend the city implement a tailored version of a "floor area ratio" plan to keep future increases to building sizes in check.

There's no question that floor area ratio is the most accurate way to control the size of the house," she said. "What it doesn't give you is where [the house] sits on the lot, what style it is, the height. … To really render FAR as the control tool you want, you'd want to include either some design guidelines or height [restrictions]."

The floor area ratio is the ratio of a house or building's total floor area compared to the total area of the lot that building is in. The ratio only limits the ground floor, so the task force stressed height restrictions as important considerations to prevent developers from building ungainly multi-story buildings, O'Quinn said.

The presentation came in response to a proposed amendment to county zoning regulations on infill projects that may include house height limitations for certain categories of houses and limitations on the maximum floor area covered by single-family homes. The task force is still meeting on the issue and has not presented to the county.

Purple Line impacts vary with options - Gazette

State says transit project could include six stops in Silver Spring, tunnels and land acquisition

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer | Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2008

The Silver Spring portion of the Purple Line could include underground tunnels, a variety of stations and the acquisition or displacement of several properties, according to a Maryland Transit Authority study released Friday.

Six alternatives are being considered by the MTA for the Purple Line, a 16-mile, east-west transit line between Montgomery and Prince George's counties that would incorporate Metro and MARC lines.

Three of the proposed alternatives would use bus rapid transit (BRT) and three would use light-rail transit (LRT), which would have higher ridership and a better economic impact, according to the study. Each mode of transit has three different plans under consideration which vary in cost, travel time and integration with existing roadways.

The 251-page study described how each alternative would impact the community and provided estimated travel times, costs and ridership statistics. As many as six of the possible 20 stations along the Purple Line, which spans from Bethesda to New Carrollton, could be in the Silver Spring area between 16th Street and Georgia Avenue and Arliss Street and Piney Branch Road.

"We have more options in Silver Spring than most areas," said Michael Madden, a project manager for MTA, at a Silver Spring Urban District Advisory Committee meeting Thursday, where he presented the Silver Spring portion of the Purple Line.

All of the options have stops at 16th and Georgia, at the future Paul S. Sarbanes Silver Spring Transit Center being constructed at Wayne Avenue and Colesville Road, at Dale Drive and Wayne, at Manchester Road and Wayne, and at Arliss and Piney Branch. Four alternatives will have a stop at Fenton Street and Wayne, which could incorporate the proposed Silver Spring Library project.

The study gave the Fenton and Wayne intersection poor grades when estimating the average delays of vehicles at intersections along the route. Most intersections along Wayne received no better than "C" grades.

"They think it's going to be the panacea to all traffic problems but it could cause some new ones," said Karen Roper, chairwoman of the East Silver Spring Citizens Association.

By 2030, the transit center stop is projected to have between 5,000 and 13,600 boardings per day depending on the alternative chosen, the highest averages of any stop along the line, according to the study. If the planning process goes smoothly and the expected funding of more than $1 billion is obtained, construction on the Purple Line could begin in 2012, Madden said.

"If we do not have new choices for public transportation, then 10 years or 15 years in the future, people will be sitting in cars as they do now," said Jonathan Elkind, a Seven Oaks resident and member of the pro-Purple Line group Silver Spring Advocates during a Tuesday phone interview. "… The Purple Line is about giving people a choice in transportation."

Between the 16th Street stop and the transit center, all alternatives would follow the CSX freight tracks between Spring Street and Fenwick Lane. The two lowest levels of BRT and LRT would share lanes with other traffic.

All LRT options and the highest BRT option would have a tunnel under the roadway along Wayne between Sligo Creek Parkway and Arliss Street. The highest level of LRT and BRT would also have a tunnel beginning at the transit center station, travelling under Georgia Avenue and emerging at Wayne and Cedar Street.

An option that would extend the tunnel under Georgia to a route along Thayer Avenue, with a station near Thayer and Nolte Avenue also being considered for the highest levels of each transit mode. That tunnel would emerge behind East Silver Spring Elementary School and would impact 1.65 acres of the school grounds, the report said.

Rob Rosenberg of the Silver Spring Thayer Opposed to Plan organization said that particular design would eliminate park land, put students at risk and put older homes around Thayer in jeopardy due to construction.

"We understand there are transit benefits for the county but we don't want it to destroy the communities it's supposed to benefit," Rosenberg said Monday.

Roper said with three routes and six alternatives affecting her neighborhood, the specific impacts of the Purple Line could go unnoticed given the scale of the project.

"That's 18 possibilities within a half-mile of our neighborhood," she said.

To accommodate the route, the acquisition of one residence and the displacement of two others along Leonard Drive would be needed. One building within the Barrington Apartments complex and two within the Falkland Apartments complex, both of which are near 16th Street, would be displaced as well.

Four of the alternatives would require land acquisition along Wayne Avenue to widen the roadways for new left-turn lanes. If the tunnel and station along Thayer Avenue is chosen, land acquisition of some properties along Thayer, Hartford Avenue and Dale Drive would be required. Construction on the grounds of Silver Spring International Middle School on Wayne could also be needed.

"People look at how it best serves Silver Spring and there are some tradeoffs," said Jon Lourie, chairman of the urban district committee.

The report, which is available at, will undergo a 90-day comment period. Four public hearings will be held in November, including 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Nov. 22 in Falcon Hall at Montgomery College's Takoma Park/Silver Spring campus, 7600 Takoma Ave.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Residents want to protect the character of Fenton Village - Gazette

With projects under way and others proposed, forum hears concerns over density, aesthetics and infrastructure

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer | Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2008

Residents and merchants in Fenton Village urged county officials and builders last week to protect the neighborhood's small businesses and residential character as developers look to revitalize the area through new zoning that allows for greater density.

More than 40 residents and county officials attended a forum Oct. 15 at the Nora School on Sligo Avenue to voice concerns about future projects planned for the neighborhood. While most agreed that revitalization was needed in Fenton Village, residents were concerned about possible negative impacts on the neighborhood.

"We do not have enough police, road capacity, recreation, electricity, water or sewers for the people who are here now," said Karen Roper, a member of the nearby East Silver Spring Citizens Association. "We want to know how we are going to accommodate this density."

Fenton Village is defined as the neighborhood just south of downtown Silver Spring, bordered by Fenton Street to the east, Georgia Avenue to the west, Wayne Avenue to the north and Burlington Avenue to the south. It is known for its long-established, service-oriented shops and locally-owned restaurants that contrast with newer shops in nearby Silver Plaza at Georgia and Colesville Road.

With several developments planned and a zoning text amendment allowing for greater density in the neighborhood, the forum gave residents a chance to voice concerns on everything from density to infrastructure, building heights and rents.

"This is an area that's starting to be developed," said Deborah Linn of the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board. "… We hope that this is the next area [of revitalization]."

John Marcolin, an urban designer with the Maryland National-Capital Park and Planning Commission, outlined the zoning changes approved by the Montgomery County Council in July that allow for a maximum height of 90 feet for buildings along Georgia within Fenton Village's planning area.

Zoning also allows building heights on Georgia at 110 feet to accommodate workforce housing units for middle-income families. A maximum of 60 feet is allowed on the west side of Fenton and the 45-foot building height on the east side can be increased to 60 feet for mixed-use projects.

That amendment benefits a hotel project planned near the corner of Fenton and Silver Spring Avenue.

Read more about the proposal for Fenton Village and community reaction to it in Wednesday's Silver Spring Gazette.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Harmony That Echoes From the Streets - Washington Post

In Silver Spring, Banding Together To Solve Problems

By Ann Cameron Siegal | Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, October 18, 2008; G01

Residents of Tanglewood, a Silver Spring neighborhood where the street names have a musical theme, seem to be effective at restoring harmony when the occasional sour note intrudes.

Beyond Beethoven Boulevard, Brahms Avenue and Schubert Way, past cul-de-sacs named for Mozart, Gershwin and Stravinsky, the Intercounty Connector is chipping away at the community's northern edge near Trebleclef Lane. Residents are lobbying for an effective and aesthetically pleasing sound barrier.

Down Memory Lane, after beavers toppled trees, built a dam and clogged the drain in the storm water pond -- causing water to rise 10 feet above appropriate levels -- residents worked with county officials to relocate the critters and install a beaver-deterrent fence.

In 2004, when full-size Metro buses began rolling through the community -- about 70 a day -- residents protested, wrote letters and made phone calls. It didn't take long to get those buses replaced with 13 smaller Ride-On-style ones that could make the tight turns better, with less noise and fumes -- albeit less service.

More than a decade ago, when car thefts were frequent, Dave Evans helped start a neighborhood watch that relies on random, round-the-clock vehicle patrols.

Tanglewood prefers a noticeable presence on the street rather than the block-captain system many other neighborhoods use. "We don't try to tackle people," Evans said. "We try to interrupt what they are doing and get the police here."

The program has several dozen teams of volunteers. Using scanners, spotlights, marked vehicles and night-vision equipment, they have been so successful in deterring crime that Joy Patil, a community service officer with the county police, said: "I refer other communities to them because they do such a good job. It's not a vigilante type of thing. They're the extra eyes and ears of the community."

The community's concerns go beyond its borders. "We are very involved with construction around the area and are active with the planning board," said Bob McFadden, president of the Tanglewood homeowners recreation association.

Of concern is a proposed 150-foot bicycle and pedestrian tunnel slated to run under the Intercounty Connector from Briggs Chaney Road to Fairland Drive. "We said 'Whoa!' when we saw that," McFadden said. "It seems like a crime waiting to happen."

Built in the 1980s, Tanglewood consists of 826 townhouses, single-family houses and condominium units in multifamily buildings. Winding tree-lined streets, most of which end in cul-de-sacs, are dotted with curbside mailboxes. Portable basketball hoops are common.

All residents pay $260 a year to the recreation association, which oversees the upkeep of the common grounds and amenities. In addition, there are two sub-associations -- one for Ashley Place, with 250 townhouses, and one for Stockbridge, which combines another 250 townhouses and piggy-back condos. Each of those has its own bylaws and fees.

The homeowners association for the single-family houses fell apart about 15 years ago, so rules there are a bit more casual.

When McFadden and his family moved from New Jersey to Tanglewood in 1986, he said, "This felt right." Their daughter was 7 at the time, so the pool, swim team and walkability of the community were very appealing.

The children are grown and McFadden is retired from Marriott, but he and his wife, Ruth, have stayed. "We know everybody," he said.

Also, it's apparent that he is having too much fun organizing community-wide events. At the community day in June, there were pony rides, giant slides and lots of free food. Three times during the summer, the association sponsors what McFadden called the "mayhem" of beach ball nights at the pool with a disc jockey, more free food and a big batch of free water toys for the children.

"We're always thinking of something new to do," he said. This year, a musical group called Family Traditions highlighted one of the free concerts on the green.

In addition to the pool and clubhouse, there are volleyball and basketball courts and a playground. The playground, part of the county-owned Tanglewood Park, is mowed by the association.

"We try to invest money every year in a preventative maintenance program so there are no big one-time expenses," McFadden said. "We spend a bit more up front to save money over the long term."

For example, a good-quality pool cover saves on maintenance. Automatic flushing devices in the poolhouse bathrooms save on water.

In the early 1990s, the association created a paved street hockey rink -- "a fad at the time," McFadden said. As its use has declined, plans are underway to rework the area for other purposes, possibly a dog park.

For Joan Boyek, a 25-year resident, Tanglewood's charm is its cozy atmosphere. "In small towns, you try to be neighborly. This is like that."

Gesturing toward townhouses around her, Boyek touted the international nature of the community. "They're from Zaire; another is from Peru, another from Sierra Leone." She saves her biggest kudos for neighbors Misael and Mercedes Medina, who moved to Tanglewood six years ago from El Salvador. "We look out for each other," said Boyek, who retired after 42 years with the Washington Hospital Center.

Tanglewood's musically oriented street names serve as prompts for Boyek's stories of her Pennsylvania childhood, when she often performed with her musical family by playing the piano at weddings. And now, she lives near Musicmaster Lane and Piano Way.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Purple Line to Require Demolition, Sound Walls

Study Looks at Impact of Montgomery Transit Route

By Katherine Shaver and William Wan
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, October 18, 2008; B01

Building the Purple Line through Montgomery and Prince George's counties could require demolishing up to 31 private properties, including some Silver Spring apartments, and constructing sound walls to shield residents from a high-pitched "squeal" noise caused by turning train wheels, according to a six-year state study released yesterday.

Although Maryland officials have released parts of the Purple Line plans over the past year, the highly anticipated 250-page report provided the first overall detailed look at its potential impact, from the number of estimated riders to the sights and sounds for those who would live, work and attend school along the 16-mile route between Bethesda and New Carrollton.

Among the findings: Some of the 64 intersections with stoplights in that east-west corridor would need improvements, such as new turn lanes, to prevent traffic from worsening if vehicles shared travel lanes with light rail trains or express buses. Some street parking would vanish, and some property owners, including as many as four Montgomery County schools, could lose strips of land -- both necessary to widen roads to accommodate a transitway.

The Purple Line, which could cost as much as $1.6 billion, would be the region's first transitway designed specifically to connect suburbs, rather than running in and out of the District's core. It would run primarily above ground and along existing roads -- either as a light rail system or busway-- with as many as 20 stops, including Metrorail and MARC stations. Buses and trains would run in their own lanes or in traffic, depending on the type of system chosen.

The study also found that trains would have to be well maintained to prevent vibrations to some adjacent homes. Sound walls and panels covering train wheels would be necessary to protect residents in up to 18 "potential annoyance zones" from the screech of metal train wheels turning sharp corners, planners wrote. Without such protections, noise levels could be severe for residents near a planned maintenance facility in the Glenridge neighborhood of Prince George's, according to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

Threading the transit line through long-established and densely developed neighborhoods is considered one of the state's biggest hurdles. Planners have found that it could run close to three Montgomery elementary schools -- Rosemary Hills, Sligo Creek and North Chevy Chase -- and one middle school, Silver Spring International, requiring that small chunks of their campuses be seized. The schools' playgrounds and ball fields would be left intact, the report said.

It did not settle some of the more contentious issues, such as the transitway's exact route or how many trees would be lost if it ran along the Georgetown Branch Trail, a walking and biking path between Bethesda and Silver Spring. State planners have reached consensus with University of Maryland officials to bring the Purple Line through the heart of the College Park campus, planners said. The state is still studying ways to reduce noise, vibrations and potential electromagnetic interference with sensitive equipment in nearby laboratories.

Depending on the route and mode of transit chosen, as many as 19 business properties and as many as 12 residences would be condemned.

"It's these devil-in-the-detail issues that matter a great deal in these communities," said Rob Rosenberg of East Silver Spring, who founded a group raising objections. "We know there are transit needs. We're not anti-Purple Line, but we're the ones who have to live with the consequences."

Some in the community expressed worries that some versions of the plan would increase traffic in their neighborhoods. Others shuddered over the squealing noise described in the study.

"We're talking about a built-out urban neighborhood," said Karen Roper, chair of the East Silver Spring Civic Association. "Any route coming through here is going to impact our community."

But Purple Line advocates say its benefits would far outweigh the drawbacks, including the faster and more reliable east-west transit service it would provide for people now stuck taking a series of slow buses in ever-worsening traffic. The Purple Line is estimated to attract up to 68,100 trips daily, according to the study.

Without the Purple Line, a bus trip between Bethesda and Silver Spring that now takes 20 minutes would take 35 minutes by 2030. That same trip in 2030 would take 19 minutes on the most expensive Purple Line busway system being considered and nine minutes on the most expensive light rail system, the study found.

"A lot of the attention has been focused on the squabbles over minutiae, the mini-controversies in each different neighborhood," said David Moon, a spokesman for Purple Line NOW, a coalition advocating for the project. "Right now, you've got high gas prices, increasing traffic, sprawl and environmental concerns. Transit like this is what we need."

Although the study cited the most expensive light rail option as "most effective" in attracting the most riders and saving them the most time, state transit officials said Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) will not choose a plan to submit for federal funding until this spring. The state has scheduled four hearings for next month to solicit public comment on the study's findings.

"Any transportation project like this is going to have potential impact," Maryland Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari said. "We have to build community consensus on why we're doing this."

State officials said they know they will have trouble paying for a Purple Line. Building the light rail system deemed to be the most effective would cost an estimated $1.6 billion in 2007 dollars. More significantly, its measure for cost-effectiveness -- a key consideration for securing critical federal money -- barely meets federal eligibility standards.

Henry Kay, Maryland's deputy administrator for transit planning, said five of the six Purple Line options would qualify to compete for federal money. But cost is not the only consideration, he said. "This is a legacy kind of investment," Kay said. "The question is, what is the best project we can do?"

He said the state will have to prove to federal officials as early as this spring that Maryland can pay its share, typically about half the construction costs. The state Transportation Department recently announced that the economic downturn required cutting $1.1 billion from its six-year capital budget, delaying a slew of projects statewide. The Purple Line has not been funded beyond the current planning and engineering phase.

"At this point, it's going to be a challenge to come up with additional money," Kay said.

The study is available at

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Residents favor Fillmore music votes - Gazette

Council finalizes measures approved last week to prepare Silver Spring property for concert venue

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer | Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2008

While many Silver Spring residents are pleased with Montgomery County Council votes last week that pave the way for a Fillmore music venue in downtown Silver Spring, some are concerned about the lack of transparency in the planning process.

Getting a music venue at Lee Development Group's site on Colesville Road in downtown Silver Spring has taken nearly six years of negotiations with two different companies. But on Oct. 7, the council approved land-use measures that aim to bring the venue downtown by 2011 and finalized those measures Tuesday.

The vote gave the council discretion to review use of land as an amenity within an arts and entertainment district, a responsibility previously held by the county Planning Board. In this case, the land donated by the Lee Group for the Fillmore project would serve as a public amenity before the company develops adjacent land for a separate project. The council's votes also provided at least 15 years in development review protections for donors of spaces, such as the Lee Group, in these types of projects.

The Fillmore deal will involve $8 million in taxpayer funds from state and local levels, $2 million in funds from Los Angeles-based concert promoter Live Nation and $3.5 million of donated land from Lee Group.

"This is something we had previously voiced support for early this year and last year although we did have concerns about the transparency of the process," said Darian Unger Monday at a meeting of the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board, of which he is the chairman.

Negotiations between the county and the Alexandria, Va.-based Birchmere music hall ended in July 2007, just two months before the deal with Live Nation was initially announced. Music promoter Seth Hurwitz, whose company I.M.P. operates the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., had also lobbied the county and state to open a venue at the site.

The other options would have been more appealing because of their local flavor, said Sean Robinson of the Silver Spring-based Institute for Independent Music, a nonprofit that educates and promotes independent artists on how to book shows and operate their business.

IFI is concerned with "how the whole process went and that it didn't go to Birchmere as originally planned and it just automatically went to Live Nation without other companies getting a chance to bid on the site," Robinson said. "It sounded like I.M.P. had made a better offer for … Silver Spring and it would be better for them to keep a local company in the mix."

Paul Goldman, who has lived in Silver Spring for more than 20 years, said he doesn't agree with the council's vote to allow Lee Group 10 to 15 years to develop around the Fillmore, but he is thankful a project is imminent.

"I'm not all that hung up one way or the other on who the ownership is," Goldman said. "The idea is to make downtown Silver Spring an arts and entertainment hub."

For businesses surrounding the site, the venue should bring greater business and hopefully not greater rent payments, said Marco Fortini, owner of DaMarco's Italia Gourmet located next door to the Fillmore site. Fortini said the restaurant has been at 8662 Colesville Road for nearly 30 years. The Fillmore site, a former J.C. Penney, has been vacant for 18 years.

"This side of [Colesville] hasn't progressed," Fortini said. "They did [the American Film Institute's Silver Theatre] on the other side and now it's time to start on something on this side."

The Fillmore is required to host a minimum of 70 events per year, but Fortini hopes it can reach at least 150 events per year to boost weeknight business at local restaurants. While he acknowledged the Birchmere's daily event schedule would have helped local businesses, Fortini said he never favored either venue during the process.

Residents had complained that the venue would bring added traffic and drunken concert-goers would cause a nuisance late at night. Part of the deal with Live Nation requires the venue be used for civic space and that no event be held after 1 a.m.

As the Fillmore has moved closer to construction, the community has backed off those complaints in favor of enthusiasm for the economic development the venue could bring, said Alan Bowser at Monday's citizens advisory board meeting.

"Minds have been changed since the deal changed," said Bowser, who is also a member of the Silver Spring Arts and Entertainment Advisory Committee. "… We've done a lot to relay the community's feelings about the project [to county officials and Live Nation]."

Citizens advisory board member Kathryn Stevens said she hopes Live Nation will continue that relationship with residents.

"All things considered, I was excited to see the Birchmere, a local place, but it's important to see an entertainment venue of any kind," she said, "as long as they involve the community from day one."

Gandhi Brigade Open House - October 25, 2008 at City Place Mall

The Gandhi Brigade has a new home, and you're invited to their Open House!

Saturday, October 25
12:30 - 2:30 PM
City Place Mall, 4th floor
(Skywalk Level)
8661 Colesville Rd.

Special screening of El Play, a short documentary about a young Dominican baseball player

Phone 301-588-1399

Agenda - Neighborhoods/Transportation & Pedestrian Safety Committee - October 20, 2008

Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board
Joint Committee Meeting
Neighborhoods & Transportation and Pedestrian Safety
Co-Chairs: Anita Morrison, Megan Moriarty & Alan Bowser; Darian Unger
Staff Support: Dwayne Jenkins (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.


October 20, 2008, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Silver Spring Regional Center
8435 Georgia Avenue

7:00 Greeting and Introductions
Summary of previous committee and SSCAB meeting

7:10 Public Safety and Transportation Updates
Lt. Eric Burnett, Montgomery County Police Department
Sgt. Tom Harmon, Montgomery County Police Department
Martha Waddy, Northwest Park/Oakview Weed & Seed Program
Input from committee on bus relocation

7:30 Silver Spring/Takoma Park Community Indicators Project
Bruce Baker, Community Indicators Project

8:15 Strategic Planning Conversation
Review input from discussion in January
Revise goals for year

8:40 SSRC Website Redesign
Input from committee on new website design

8:50 Fenton Village Forum Update

8:55 Historic Preservation Update

9:00 Adjourn

Next Meeting: Monday, November 17, 2008

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Park Hills Celebrates National Walk to School Day!

On October 8th, the Park Hills Civic Association recognized National Walk to School Day. In cooperation with the Presidents' Council of Silver Spring Civic Associations, (PREZCO), Park Hills placed "Drive Safe, Walk Safe" posters throughout the neighborhood and distributed pedestrian safety flyers to parents of children attending the Silver Spring International Middle School and the Sligo Creek Elementary School.

See more National Walk to School Day pics here.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Silver Spring Town Center Inc. to Honor America's Veterans

Silver Spring, Maryland. October 7, 2008. The Silver Spring Town Center, Inc. is pleased to announce its "Tribute to America's Veterans" benefit concert to be held on Sunday, November 9, 2008 at the Round House Theatre in downtown Silver Spring.

The evening of entertainment will feature performances by Michel Baytop, acoustic blues guitar, and the internationally known jazz group, the Marcus Johnson Project.

Among the special guests at the benefit concert will be soldiers from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett, a Vietnam veteran.

The event will benefit Operation Second Chance, a local non-profit organization which provides recreational opportunities for wounded American soldiers. The organization's goal is to provide support for the Soldiers and Marines while they are at WRAMC and then to further assist them when they transition either back to duty or back to civilian life.

The Silver Spring Town Center Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that has been established to provide community-based programming for the new Silver Spring Civic Building and Veterans Plaza to be located at the corner of Ellsworth Drive and Fenton Street in downtown Silver Spring. The SSTCI is the result of a long process of community involvement and engagement to support the development of downtown Silver Spring. It was created to infuse community spirit and involvement in the new Silver Spring Civic Building and Veterans Plaza (which will be completed in 2009). Check out the Silver Spring Town Center Blog at

Ticket information to follow.

Give Fees a Chance - Washington Post Editorial

Cash-strapped Montgomery County should approve an ambulance charge.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008; A18

EVEN AFFLUENT Montgomery County is feeling the strain of an uncertain economy. With a $4.3 billion budget in fiscal 2009, the county is facing a quarter-billion-dollar shortfall in fiscal 2010, so local leaders are looking for ways to save. They may start by eliminating free ambulance rides. Isiah Leggett (D), the county executive, has proposed an ambulance transport fee that would generate an estimated $14.8 million for fire and rescue services. Critics counter that the fee would deter residents from calling 911. But most neighboring counties have ambulance fees, and there's no evidence that residents are reluctant to request ambulances as a result. The fee would make only a small dent in the deficit, but every dent counts.

Mr. Leggett's office says county residents -- even the uninsured -- wouldn't pay a penny of the fee. Insurance companies would cover most of the cost, and the county would make up the rest. It gets a little more complicated for nonresidents who request an ambulance . Nonresidents who have insurance will only have to make up the difference between what their insurance pays and the cost to the county. Nonresidents who don't have insurance will have to pay for the entire ride unless they secure a waiver. The fees run from $300 to $800. There's no data on how many ambulance riders don't have insurance.

An ambulance fee is an easy sell in some counties. In Montgomery, it has met resounding opposition. As of last week, the County Council had received 1,000 calls opposing the fee and only about 50 in favor. Montgomery's well-organized volunteer firefighters ferociously oppose the measure. They contend the fee would harm their ability to raise funds. The county shouldn't take for granted the thousands of hours of service that firefighters donate. But if fundraising efforts bring in less as a result of the fee, Mr. Leggett has promised to make up the difference.

Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg-Rockville), chairman of the council's Public Safety Committee, opposes the measure and worries that the fee could motivate insurers to raise their rates. Mr. Leggett's office counters that insurers in the Washington area already factor ambulance costs into their budgets. Since insurance companies determine their rates regionally, the executive's office argues, Montgomery residents already are paying for the ambulance rides. Insurance companies have yet to weigh in on the proposal.

The council is scheduled to vote on the fee this month. There's no question that the county's underfunded fire and rescue services need cash. Before the county levies yet another tax on overburdened residents, it should give the ambulance fee a chance. It works for other counties, and there's no reason to believe it wouldn't be successful in Montgomery.

New library building might lack volume - Gazette

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer | Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2008

While details for the proposed Silver Spring Library project are beginning to take shape —with the library designed to nearly double in size — some residents say the new building as planned won't be big enough to accommodate a growing Silver Spring population.

Library administrators held a public meeting Thursday night at the current library, 8901 Colesville Road, to present the results from three previous programming meetings in which residents suggested which services they'd like to see at the new library. Other meetings to discuss the design and land-use of the 66,000-square-foot site at the corner of Wayne Avenue and Fenton and Bonifant streets are ongoing.

Thursday's meeting, which drew about 30 people, was the final opportunity for public input before a Program of Requirements (POR) would be submitted to County Executive Isiah Leggett (D).

Recommendations call for an increase in collections - from 100,000 volumes in the current library to 160,000 - and a total of 46 personal computers.

"These are the options we are recommending but whether or not they ultimately get included [is uncertain]," said Rita Gale, a public service administrator for Montgomery County Public Libraries. "Because [the recommendations] represent money, when you add space it means extra funds."

A 2,000-square-foot children's room and three rooms for tutoring for children will be recommended, as will 1,500 square feet of the collection space for teens.

A 12-computer lab with specialized software for disability resources also will be recommended accompanying a collection of disability resource materials. A 150-seat public meeting room is also in the POR.

Affordable housing units and possibly a Purple Line station will also be on-site. Retail space to be put in a smaller lobby specifically for Purple Line users, in the form of a printing service or possibly even an art gallery, will be considered as well.

Some residents were concerned that uncertainty with the site would lead to major changes in the size and use of the library, but Gary Stith, director of the Silver Spring Regional Center, said it was two separate issues.

"None of those considerations have constrained what they are including," Stith said of the POR. "The configuration of the library will be affected but the size of the library will not be affected."

The new POR will call for about 32,000 square feet of program space. The size of the building will depend on how many stories are planned, but the building is currently projected for 50,000 square feet, said Gregory Lukmire of The Lukmire Partnership, the library's Arlington, Va.-based architect. The current library is about 25,000 square feet and holds about 100,000 volumes in its collection, Gale said.

Even with the substantial size increases from the previous POR, several residents were concerned the library wouldn't be big enough to serve Silver Spring's growing population.

"It's the proportional use of the thing," said Jim Polk, treasurer of the Silver Spring Friends of the Library, referring to the Rockville Library, which is more than 100,000 square feet but has a smaller population surrounding it. "… What we are trying to say is you are ignoring population but you can't because we have tremendous growth."

Gale said population is not used as an indicator for how many people a library will actually serve.

"You're thinking that 88,000 people are going to come and use this library," she said, referring to an estimate of Silver Spring's population.

Stith added that the proximity of the Long Branch Library, located on Garland Avenue about 1.5 miles from the proposed site downtown, also affects how many residents the new library will serve.

In addition to concerns over the library's capacity to serve Silver Spring, resident Pete Pytlowany said the people that use the library most – children and teens – aren't the ones making recommendations at meetings.

"The demographic that comes to these meetings is not the demographic that shows up in the library during the day," he said. "In terms of usage, that should be the way these decisions are made."

The second of three design meetings to discuss the layout of the library and how the site will be used was held Tuesday night and the last design meeting will be 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Oct. 21 at the Long Branch Community Center, 8700 Piney Branch Road, Silver Spring.

Silver Spring music hall clears major hurdles - Gazette

Council approves laws allowing for transfer of Lee Group land

by Janel Davis | Staff Writer | Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2008

The County Council approved a pair of landmark land use bills on Tuesday, one of the final steps necessary in opening a Fillmore music venue on Colesville Road in downtown Silver Spring after almost six years of negotiations with two separate companies.

The council also signaled their intentions to recommend the county executive accept the donation of the former J.C. Penney site from the Lee Development Group for a public amenity and public use space for a future project.

For the first time, the county is on tap to subsidize a for-profit music venue, broadening the scope of economic development in the county.

The zoning provisions, the first of their kind in Montgomery County, would give the County Council the authority to deal with public amenity requirements in certain business districts.

The donated space would have to be located in an arts and entertainment district.

Council members approved the provision 7-2, with Councilmen Marc Elrich (D-At large) of Takoma Park and Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Potomac casting dissenting votes.

A second piece of legislation also provides developers donating land — in this case the Lee Group — protections from changes in project and site plan approvals. The provision passed unanimously.

"As a council member I am more sensitive that this is the place where land use decisions rest," said Councilwoman Nancy M. Floreen (D-At large) of Garrett Park, who proposed the amended land use rules on Tuesday. "The buck stops here. We're the ones that set the policy."

The originally proposed legislation, submitted by County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) would have given the authority to the county executive.

"These measures make the opening of the Fillmore music, live entertainment and community use venue a reality by 2011," Leggett (D) said in a statement.

The net public benefit of the project would be $1.6 million annually from the very start, Leggett continued. The venue is expected to generate 30 county jobs with an average annual salary of $45,000, county officials have said.

The new land use rules take effect immediately and could also apply to other arts and entertainment districts, in Wheaton and Bethesda.

Currently the Planning Board has discretion in accepting the space as an amenity, which is usually accepted after a developer finishes its project. Lee Development would provide the J.C. Penney land before nearby land owned by the company would be developed.

"This is a huge step in the process," said Bruce Lee, president of Lee Development Group. "This is a good deal for Silver Spring. Hopefully Fillmore will do for [that side of Colesville Road] what the AFI Theater did on the other side in attracting other businesses like Discovery Communication."

The Lee Group has not yet moved forward on developing its adjacent property, a project that is not feasible in the current sluggish economy, Lee said.

Planning Board Chairman Royce Hanson has been the most vocal opponent of the land use changes, saying the changes would take away their discretion in dealing with planning matters in some situations and would offer unfair advantages to some projects. Hanson and other board members have supported the project overall, but not the zoning changes involved with it. He had no comment following Tuesday's vote.

Leggett maintained that the changes in land use law were necessary to spur development along that portion of Colesville Road across from the AFI Silver Theater.

Under the deal, the county and state have each contributed $4 billion toward the music venue. Live Nation will pay another $2 million toward the project. The land donated by the Lee Group is valued at $3.5 million. The county will retain ownership of the land and lease the space to the Fillmore, for a total of $3.26 million in rent over the term of the lease.

The Fillmore is required to host a minimum of 70 events each year with an objective of hosting 150 events. The venue must also a number of public uses, and hold no event after 1 a.m., to satisfy community concerns about late events, loud music and drunken concert goers.

With most of the council members congratulating county officials and the Lees, Berliner and Elrich maintained their opposition.

"I think this was a bad deal with the Fillmore folks. … I think this was a poor use of taxpayer's dollars," said Berliner.

Elrich agreed.

"I'm concerned that what's being touted as a new economic development tool is actually an old economic development tool," Elrich said. "This is not about the Fillmore. This is about zoning issues. We've been told to give the Lees what they want or else they will go elsewhere. Anybody that's been involved in the conversations knows that this is pretty much spot zoning."

The councilmen intend to cast dissenting final votes on the land acceptance resolution to the county executive next week.

Land-Use Votes Put Music Hall On Track - Washington Post

Council Action In Montgomery A Win for Leggett

By Ann E. Marimow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 8, 2008; B01

The Montgomery County Council signed off yesterday on a pair of land-use measures designed to open one of Live Nation's Fillmore rock clubs on a vacant stretch of downtown Silver Spring by 2011.

The two votes were the last major hurdles for the controversial plan and a victory for County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), who invested substantial political capital in selling the community and the council on the most high-profile building project of his tenure.

Under the deal, the council and the Maryland legislature will spend $8 million in taxpayer funds to build a Fillmore at the site of a former JCPenney store on Colesville Road. Lee Development Group will donate the land, worth about $3.5 million, to the county. And Live Nation will rent the building from the county to produce rock concerts for up to 2,000 people.

The council's action was a relief to community supporters, many wearing "Finalize the Fillmore" stickers, who have been working for more than six years to bring a live music venue to Silver Spring. After the votes, Bruce Lee, president of Lee Development, hugged and congratulated council members and Leggett aides.

"There were a lot of moments when I didn't think I'd see this day," Lee said. "This is huge."

In backing the plan, council members rejected the advice of the county's chief planner, who had called the zoning changes a "blank check" for developers.

But supporters such as council member Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring) said the music hall will be the capstone of Silver Spring's "renaissance" and generate millions in tax revenue. "We've done the right thing here. It doesn't look pretty and it hasn't been easy, but I'm glad we're moving down the road on this now," she said.

Proponents of the plan scrambled to rewrite the measures moments before the vote yesterday to ensure the necessary support.

The deal relies on the Lee group providing the land in exchange for protection and flexibility to eventually build on the surrounding site. The music hall, which would count as the Lee group's required public amenity and public-use space, would be built first, before the developers commit to an adjacent project.

Typically, the county's Planning Board negotiates with developers for open space, such as plazas, as part of the approval process. Leggett's initial proposal would have eliminated that discretion when the county executive accepted a donation of property for arts and entertainment.

But amendments approved yesterday on a 7 to 2 vote put the decision in the hands of the council, which would have to pass a resolution backing any initiative. Council member Nancy Floreen (D-At Large), who brokered the deal, called the changes a "significant rebalancing of the powers."

"This is the place where land-use decisions rest," she said of the council.

Planning Board Chairman Royce Hanson reiterated his opposition in a letter to council members the day before the vote.

"We do not oppose the Fillmore; we oppose the damage the proposed amendments inflict on the integrity of planning and development review," he wrote, saying the changes mean that planners cannot ensure "a well-designed project at a strategic location in Silver Spring."

The dissenters on the council, Roger Berliner (D-Potomac-Bethesda) and Marc Elrich (D-At Large), said the measures would set a bad precedent for land-use decisions and tried unsuccessfully to make last-minute changes. Elrich said the council was under pressure to write legislation for a narrow interest that would result in less public-use space, usually outdoors and free, in exchange for indoor space with an admission fee.

"We've been told, 'Give the Lees everything they want or this project goes someplace else or doesn't happen at all.' That's a problematic way to do business," he said. "This legislation goes far beyond protecting the Lees and basically gives them a deal we would not give to anyone else."

In a separate vote, the council unanimously approved a measure that would at least double the usual life span of approval for construction to 10 years, in addition to a five-year extension Leggett had initially proposed. Hanson had also warned against extending the approval period, saying it could slow construction in downtown Silver Spring by allowing the Lees to retain development rights but not use them for years.

The project, initiated by Leggett predecessor Douglas M. Duncan (D), had threatened to derail several times. Negotiations to open a Birchmere Music Hall collapsed early in Leggett's term, and a counteroffer from the owner of the District's 9:30 Club had appealed to some council members who did not want to use taxpayer money for the project.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Broad Acres Park Clean Up - Community Service Day - October 25, 2008


The Northwest Park Oakview Weed & Seed Program, the State’s Attorney’s Office of Montgomery County, partnering organizations and local residents, will be gathering together to celebrate Community Service Day.

Come meet your neighbors and get involved as you help us clean up Broad Acres Park and park land surrounding Northwest Park Apartments and Forest Park Apartments.

Broad Acres Park is currently under renovation and we need volunteers to help clean up the surrounding areas in preparation for its completion in the Spring. Please join us as we gather to launch a new Weed & Seed Initiative called “FRIENDS OF BROAD ACRES PARK”

When: October 25, 2008
Where: Broad Acres Elementary School
710 Beacon Road
Silver Spring, Maryland 20903
Time: 9:00 to 11:00 a.m.


For more information about this great event contact:

Victor Salazar, Weed & Seed Program (240) 876-1077
George Simms, State’s Attorney’s Office (240) 777-7383
Gretchen Hilburger, CSAFE, (301) 439-0972
Dwayne Jenkins, Silver Spring Regional Center, (301) 565-7300

Monday, October 6, 2008

National Walk to School Talking Points

Why Walk or Bicycle to School? Talking Points
International Walk to School Day (October 8, 2008)

The following information can be helpful in communicating with the public and media during International Walk to School Day and Month.

Topics include:
Trends in school travel
Reasons for walking: Safety, physical activity and concern for the environment
Safe Routes to School
Background on the event and a list of participating countries

Trends in school travel
Fewer children walk or bicycle to school than did so a generation ago.
In 2001, 16 percent of students between the ages of 5 and 15 walked or bicycled to or from school. (The 2008 National Household Travel Survey, which is currently being conducted, will highlight the newest trends in school travel.)
In 1969, 42 percent of students walked or bicycled to school.
Less than half of students who live within a mile of school walk or bike to school even once a week.
This is an opportunity lost. Walking or bicycling to school gives children time for physical activity and a sense of responsibility and independence; allows them to enjoy being outside; and provides them with time to socialize with their parents and friends and to get to know their neighborhoods. The entire community benefits when there is less traffic congestion and improved air quality as a result of fewer vehicles on the road.

Changes in school size and location have affected children’s ability to walk or bicycle to school.
Over the past several decades schools have been moving out to the edges of towns where land is less expensive and more available.
In 1969 about 45 percent of students lived less than a mile from school. By 2001 only 25 percent of students did.
School consolidation and more distant school locations tend to go hand in hand - bigger schools require more land.
In addition to creating more conducive conditions for walking and biking to school, smaller, neighborhood schools have other documented benefits for students and the community. Neighborhood schools encourage civic engagement and help strengthen sense of place in communities. Students at these schools perform better academically and have higher graduation rates. ,
Increasing distances between school and home can cause significant impact on a school’s transportation budget. For example, the state of Maine saw its school transportation costs increase six-fold between 1970 and 1995, despite decreases in enrollment. This increase has been attributed to school construction patterns and school locations.

Steady increases in gas prices are straining school transportation budgets across the country.
Average cost per student transported using bus service in 1980-1981 was $466. In 2004-2005 the average costs was $737.
As of July, 2008 average diesel fuel prices in the U.S. were 66 percent higher than a year ago. ($4.73 dollars/gallon in 2008 vs. $2.85 dollars/gallon in 2007).
Walking and bicycling to school can be low-cost alternatives to bus service for some children.

Perceptions about traffic can lead to even less walking or bicycling. As more children are driven, more parents become convinced that traffic conditions make it unsafe for walking or bicycling and they join the line of cars at the school.
Travel to school accounts for 7 to 11 percent of non-commuting vehicle traffic. This figure does not include trips during which parents drop their children off on the way to work.
Studies in some cities show that 17 to 26 percent of morning rush hour traffic can be school-related. ,
If more children walked or bicycled to school, it would reduce the number of cars near the school at pick-up and drop-off times making it safer for walkers and bicyclists and reducing traffic congestion.

It takes about five to ten minutes for children to walk a quarter of a mile or bicycle an entire mile.
Walking or bicycling to and from school is an easy way for children to get some physical activity each day, which all children need.

Walking and bicycling need to be safe transportation options. This means creating safe environments and teaching safety skills to walkers, bicyclists and drivers.

Safe walking and bicycling environments include:
Neighborhood schools that are within walking and bicycling distance from homes
Sidewalks or bicycle-paths that connect homes with schools
Child-friendly opportunities to cross streets (such as the presence of adult crossing guards, raised medians or traffic and pedestrian signals)
Slow vehicle speeds accomplished through roadway safety measures (traffic calming) and/or police enforcement where needed

Vehicle speed is a key element in safety. Driving slower saves lives.
A pedestrian hit by a car traveling 40 mph has a mere 15 percent chance of survival.
At 30 mph, those odds increase to 45 percent.
By contrast, a pedestrian has an 85 percent chance of survival if hit by a car moving at 20 mph.

Safety education includes working with:
Children - to provide them with basic safety skills, such as how to choose where to walk and cross streets, obey crossing guards and be visible to drivers.
Parents - to create awareness of the need for pedestrian and bicyclist safety education and opportunities to walk and bicycle and the importance of practicing safety skills with their children.
Drivers - to alert all drivers to the presence of walkers and bicyclists and the need to slow down.
Law enforcement - to enhance pedestrian and bicyclist safety with school zone enforcement.
Local officials - to identify changes needed to improve walking and bicycling conditions around schools.

Teaching children walking and bicycling safety skills can help create lifelong traffic skills.
Short periods of skills-based training can significantly improve child pedestrian behavior.
Physical activity
Physical activity contributes to overall health.
Experts recommend that children get at least 60 minutes of age appropriate physical activity on most, preferably all, days of the week. , , ,

Many kids are not getting the exercise that they need.
As age or grade in school increases, physical activity participation drastically declines.
Less active children are more likely to be overweight.
Research shows that overweight children are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease and obesity in adulthood. , ,

In 2006, over 17 percent of children aged 6 to 11 years old were overweight.
Between 1976 and 2004 the percentage of overweight children aged 6 to 11 years old almost tripled.
The most recent nationwide health survey indicates that within the past few years the upward trends in childhood obesity may be leveling off. Data from the 2007-2008 survey will help to better understand the most recent trends in childhood obesity.

Walking and bicycling to school offers an opportunity for children to get physical activity as part of their daily routine.
The U.S. public health initiative Healthy People 2010 recognizes walking and bicycling to school as opportunities to increase physical activity among children.
Walking and bicycling to school is associated with higher levels of physical activity throughout the day and greater physical fitness. ,

Potential benefits of physical activity for youth include:
Weight and blood pressure control
Bone, muscle, and joint health and maintenance
Reduction in the risk of diabetes
Improved psychological welfare

Physical activity is associated with improved academic performance in children and adolescents.

Environment and air quality
Private vehicle emissions contribute to air pollution and global climate change, both of which threaten human and environmental health.
Passenger cars, trucks, motorcycles, and SUVs together account for 62 percent of transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions. The transportation sector is responsible for one third of all carbon dioxide emissions in the US.

Air pollutants can be especially harmful to children because their respiratory systems are still developing.
Air pollution has negative effects on lung development in children and can reduce lung function, increase respiratory infection, and aggravate asthma symptoms.
Childhood asthma rates more than doubled from 1980 to the mid-1990s and they remain at historically high rates today. Presently, asthma is one of the most prevalent chronic childhood diseases and is a major cause of childhood disability.
At least 14 million school days are missed annually due to asthma.

Walking and biking to school provide opportunities for children and families to reduce their carbon usage and contribute to the health of the environment.
If a family chooses to walk to school (rather than drive a personal vehicle) they can reduce their carbon use by .164 metric tons annually. If half of the students at an average size elementary school choose to walk to school their impact could be a savings of over 39 tons of greenhouse gas emissions a year. This is the equivalent of the carbon-removing abilities of 1000 trees.
Leaving the car at home just two days a week will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 1,600 pounds per year.

Schools placed in neighborhoods near residential areas with a good street and sidewalk network have more students arriving by bicycle and on foot. Air quality is measurably better at such locations.

Exposure to nature and time for free outdoor play can have multiple health benefits including stress reduction, relief of ADHD symptoms in children, and increased cognitive and motor functioning. , , ,

The daily walk to school offers children an opportunity to spend time in the natural environment. When appropriate and safe, walking and biking to school is an experience that can help children develop a sense of independence that is important for development.

About Safe Routes to School
Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs are sustained efforts by parents, other community members, community leaders and local, state, and federal governments to enable and encourage children to safely walk or bicycle to school.
In July 2005, Congress passed federal legislation that established a national Safe Routes to School program. The program dedicates a total of $612 million towards SRTS from 2005 to 2009.
In May 2006, the National Center for Safe Routes to School was established to assist communities in enabling and encouraging children to safely walk and bicycle to school. The National Center for Safe Routes to School is maintained by the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center with funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration.
Many communities launch SRTS programs as a result of Walk to School events.
More than 50% of schools that hold registered Walk to School events conduct walking and/or bicycling promotional activities throughout the year.
Nearly 50% of Walk to School events are part of SRTS programs.

About Walk to School
In 2008, more than 6,500 schools in the United States are estimated to participate in International Walk to School Day. Approximately 4 million people from 42 countries will participate (see next section).
Since 2006, the National Center for Safe Routes to School of the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center (UNC HSRC) has been the National Coordinator for Walk to School events in the USA. The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, also part of UNC HSRC, has filled this role since the event began in 1997.
In 2007, registered participation in International Walk to School Day increased by 35% compared to the previous year, reaching a record high of 2,755 registered events.
Walk to School events extend beyond the recognition of a single day. More than 60 percent of 2007 event organizers reported that their Walk to School events resulted in policy or engineering changes that would improve safety for walkers and bicyclists, such as increased traffic enforcement near the school or the addition of walkways.
Organizations supporting International Walk to School Day in the U.S. include America Walks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Federal Highway Administration, the Institute of Transportation Engineers, the National Center for Bicycling and Walking, the National Center for Safe Routes to School, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Safe Kids Worldwide, and the Safe Routes to School National Partnership.
The Partnership for a Walkable America founded Walk to School Day in the United States in 1997 and began with two events in two cities: Chicago and Los Angeles. Canada and Great Britain already had Walk to School events in place.
Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States joined together in 2000 to create International Walk to School Day. Over 2.5 million walkers were estimated to have participated.
International Walk to School Day received the Stockholm Partnership for Sustainable Cities Award in June 2003 from the King of Sweden.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Silver Spring Civic Associations Support National Walk to School Day


October 1, 2008

Contact: Jennifer Chambers, 301-588-1716

Wednesday, October 8, 2008, is National Walk to School Day. President’s Council of Silver Spring (Prezco) has organized a pedestrian safety campaign to educate and encourage motorists and pedestrians to “Drive Safe” and “Walk Safe.” During the morning of October 8th, twelve civic associations involved in Prezco will educate motorists and walking children and adults in their neighborhood to drive and walk cautiously and safely at dangerous intersections and streets. Education will include: “Drive Safe, Walk Safe” yard signs; articles written in neighborhood newsletters, list serves, and websites; publishing school bus stop times and locations in neighborhoods; hand made signs and citizen presence at dangerous intersections and streets; letters written to organizations or businesses asking their members and patrons to drive and walk safely in their neighborhoods; and working with the neighborhood’s elementary school to help organize Walk to School Day events. For example, parents in the Indian Spring neighborhood will organize and participate in the Walking School Bus to Highland View Elementary School during the morning of October 8th. National Walk to School day encourages children to walk to school to promote personal and environmental, healthy living and educates them about safe practices for walking on streets.

President’s Council of Silver Spring (Prezco) is a coalition of twelve civic associations in Silver Spring who advocate for the concerns and needs of their citizens. In early 2007, Prezco made pedestrian safety a priority to advocate for increased pedestrian safety on the streets in Silver Spring. Each civic contributed to a list of unfriendly pedestrian roads, intersections, and situations in their neighborhoods. Eighty pedestrian safety problems were identified and included in a chart organized by the roads primary, secondary, and jurisdictional status, in addition to coding the problems as hot button issues or ones that could be easily fixed, such as restriping a crosswalk. In September 2007, this chart was submitted to the County Executive, County Council, and at the time the Department of Public Works and Transportation (DPWT). All three were very receptive and responsive to Prezco’s advocacy on this issue. In particular, DPWT has worked well with Prezco to alleviate the unfriendly pedestrian situations in our neighborhoods. Since June of this year, eighty percent of the pedestrian safety problems identified by Prezco have either been resolved or the projects have been completed. When County Executive Ike Leggett and Councilmember Valerie Ervin announced Montgomery County’s Pedestrian Safety Initiative last December, they credited Prezco's plan as its inspiration.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Parents, nonprofit study ways to close achievement gap - Gazette

IMPACT Silver Spring report seeks to build relationships as a way to improve education for minority students

by Jason Tomassini | Staff Writer | Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2008

A Silver Spring nonprofit organization has released a report examining challenges facing minority students and parents in the county public school system and offering recommendations to help close the achievement gap in a racially, ethnically diverse population.

Six diverse parents with children in Montgomery County Public Schools spent six months working with IMPACT Silver Spring to prepare a 43-page report that calls on schools to improve the relationship between parents, students and teachers through a variety of programs.

The report was completed in August and distributed last week to several MCPS administrators.

Some of the recommended programs have been used in MCPS schools and others were modeled after programs in cities such as Chicago and Sacramento. But whether the programs promote teachers meeting in their students' homes or discussing reading assignments one-on-one with students, all programs looked to improve teacher-student relationships on a school-by-school basis.

"MCPS has done a lot and we really believe that," said IMPACT Executive Director Frankie Blackburn. "This [report] cannot be done by top-down government structure. The theory is that you start doing a bottom-up strategy and it spreads faster when you start having success."

Locally, Springbrook High School in Silver Spring has implemented a Summertime Teacher-Student Book Club in which students were given a list of 93 books this summer, chose two and then met with teachers to discuss the books. IMPACT's parents thought the program could be implemented in diverse schools to strengthen the relationship with parents and teachers.

The parents were also shown a video of a Teacher Home Visit program in Sacramento where teachers meet with a student's family twice a year in their home. The teachers are paid a stipend to cover travel costs and time commitment.

"It's a teacher coming to a home without any paper or asking questions," said parent participant Sara Mussie of Takoma Park, a native of Ethiopian and mother of two children in the county school system.

Previous IMPACT programs were recommended to MCPS, including an overnight retreat of parents and teachers, which was conducted at Piney Branch Elementary School in 2006.

"The main challenge is helping teachers understand the needs of different cultures because so many cultures and languages are represented [at Piney Branch]," said Principal Bertram Generlette. "IMPACT really helps to make that happen."

A program from Chicago's Logan Square Neighborhood Association was also recommended. Called Literacy Ambassadors, the program matches a teacher with four to five families for weekly meetings in one of the families' homes. The group discusses a reading assignment together and a meal is provided for the gathering.

School board member Chris Barclay (Dist. 4) of Takoma Park went to Chicago with IMPACT to observe Literacy Ambassadors and was encouraged to see it included in the report. Because the recommendations came from the same parents who will benefit from them, the priority should be high, Barclay said. But it will be difficult to conduct the programs systemwide.

"It's going to probably be more about what kinds of things hit for the particular school and community and, given the resources of that particular school, what works for them," said Barclay, who has three children in MCPS.

How the study was done

The six parents came from a group of about 20 who took six workshops with IMPACT in 2007.

These parents – one African American, one Latino and four Africans – committed to two meetings per month for the past year to develop the report.

The goal was to create a school where teachers served students and parents of all backgrounds equally, thus closing the achievement gap.

In addition to examining programs from around the country and meeting with each other, the parents interviewed 14 teachers, 13 parents and 16 students of different genders, ethnicities and grade levels.

A 10-page section of the report contains anonymous testimonials from these interviews.

One high school teacher suggested colleagues attend students' sports and extracurricular activities. Another high school teacher spoke of how going on a police ride-along in his students' neighborhoods helped understand their background.

Teachers who keep parents involved by contacting them regularly by phone or through Internet grading are the most effective, one immigrant parent said.

"It's exciting to know how different they were, each person's country had a different take on education and what they have learned," said Takoma Park resident and Caribbean-born Sherron Allen, one of the six parents who conducted the report.

The multicultural classroom

Many of IMPACT's longstanding relationships are within the diverse Silver Spring and Takoma Park area at schools like Piney Branch that have certain characteristics allowing them to benefit the most from a closer parent-student-teacher relationship.

"The criteria is having a principal with some level of empowerment to be able to manage the demands coming down from a system and still be able to balance relationships with the community," said Ray Moreno, director of schools for IMPACT. "There has to be a sense that people in the community and teachers really want to create a situation that's not just best for their kid but best for every kid."

IMPACT is pursuing a "pilot program" at Piney Branch and Albert Einstein High School in Kensington, which would establish IMPACT programs with the hope of "changing the culture" of the school.

When discussing the achievement gap, IMPACT and the parents are more interested in the cultural aspects, while Moreno acknowledged that MCPS generally looks at the gap through standardized test scores.

Blackburn said participation in school programs, getting jobs in high school and staying out of trouble are more important goals for students. Barclay agreed.

"If you look at state tests, for me that's not going to be the bottom line," he said. "My daughter is not going to take a state test to get a job."

Immigrant parents must work to close the achievement gap even before their children start school, said West Africa native Akibou Obaonrin, another of the six parents who participated in the study.

"The gap doesn't start in fourth or fifth grade, it starts sometime before our kids were born," he said. "… Because if we don't know exactly what to do to get them ready, they are going to accumulate a lack of understanding."

Challenges facing parents

When Obaonrin moved to the United States in 1998 to unite with his family, he knew he wanted to assist his daughters' education as his father, a PTA president for 10 years in Africa, did for him. After years of struggling to understand the school system and communicate with teachers, Obaonrin decided to embark on the Silver Spring Loves Teachers study.

"If you don't go to the school, you might have information but sometimes you might not understand it," he said. "… I knew that and I was just following what I saw of [my father] and what he taught me."

Both Obaonrin and Mussie spoke of major differences between school systems in the United States and Africa, where parents only go to their child's school if they did something bad. When they come to the U.S., many immigrant parents are reluctant to seek out teachers, they said.

At Piney Branch, Generlette said bilingual staff members, as well as IMPACT staffers working at the school two hours per day, will help teachers make calls home to parents to discuss their children.

Mussie said the recommended programs in the study would promote positive, informal interaction with teachers and immigrant parents.

"When my son started school, I was saying ‘hi' and ‘bye' to the teacher, that's about it," she said. "I didn't know how to [be more involved], I didn't know if I had to. It's a lot more than that."

The following six parents

contributed to the Silver Spring Loves Teachers report:

Berhanu Bedane

Originally from Ethiopia, Bedane has four children, two of whom are students in Montgomery County Public Schools.

Eddy Carranza

A Montgomery Blair High School graduate, Carranza is from the Dominican Republic and has four children, three of whom are in MCPS.

Fini Kondeh

From Sierra Leone, Kondeh has three children, two of whom are in MCPS.

Akibou Obaonrin

Originally from Benin, Obaonrin has two children in MCPS.

Sara Mussie

Now an employee for IMPACT Silver Spring, Mussie is from Ethiopia and has two children in MCPS.

Sherron Allen

Born in the West Indies, Allen has a son in the pre-kindergarten program at Rolling Terrace Elementary School, which is an MCPS school.