Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Board asks for greater coordination on Friendship Heights issues

The Following is a November 26, 2014 letter from the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board to the County Executive and County Council regarding the need for cross-jurisdictional dialogue on priorities in the Friendship Heights central business district and Western Avenue corridor.


Dear County Executive Leggett and Council President Rice:

On October 20, 2014, the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board (WMCCAB) hosted a community roundtable with residents; representatives from DC Ward 3 Area Neighborhood Commissions; and officials from the Village of Friendship Heights, Town of Somerset, and Chevy Chase Village.  Universally, community leaders and residents expressed a desire for more cross-jurisdictional communication and coordination.  As a result of this successful meeting, WMCCAB members believe there is a need to revive the long-dormant Friendship Heights Task Force, or similar cross-jurisdictional dialogue, to make productive cross-border coordination a reality.  

The Friendship Heights Task Force was established in 1998 to allow representatives from Montgomery County and the District of Columbia to coordinate planning, transportation priorities, public safety, and community projects in Friendship Heights.  It was active until 2001 but has been dormant since then.  The need for a renewed emphasis on coordination between Montgomery County and the District concerning Friendship Heights was very apparent from the roundtable discussion.  Participants, including commissioners from Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (3D, 3E, and 3G) raised issues pertaining to pedestrian, bicycle, and vehicle safety; bus routes, public safety, and environmental concerns.  Some specific areas of concern were:

  • Building bicycle infrastructure in Chevy Chase, Friendship Heights, and Bethesda that connects to the DC bicycle network.  Examples offered included safe bicycle routes from NW DC to Westbard, Bethesda and Chevy Chase Lake and safe bicycle circulation in those areas. Connectivity to the District’s Oregon Avenue bicycle boulevard was also discussed;
  • Adding direct bus connections to connect NW DC activity centers and neighborhoods with activity centers in Montgomery County including future Purple Line stations;
  • Coordinating Montgomery County; Maryland State Highway Administration; and District pedestrian safety infrastructure and outreach in Friendship Heights. 
  • Resolving traffic concerns including improvements to safety at the intersection of Friendship Boulevard/Western Avenue/Jennifer Street
  • Improving dialogue on pedestrian, bike and vehicle safety at Chevy Chase Circle; 
  • Improving Little Falls Stream and Rock Creek watersheds in Montgomery County by adopting programs similar to the District’s “RiverSmart” program.

Participants also requested that the County and the District explore the establishment of a Business Improvement District (“BID”) including both the County and District portions of Friendship Heights.  Businesses on the District side of the border are already exploring the possibility of the formation of a BID.  The WMCCAB is aware that the Office of Legislative Oversight is currently investigating and researching different types of BIDs to help County communities seeking to create something other than an Urban District.  We suggest that the Office of Legislative Oversight’s report also address the feasibility of cross-jurisdictional BIDs, such as the one suggested at the roundtable discussion.    

Given the scope of cross-border issues in Friendship Heights, we urge the County Council and County Executive to re-establish a mechanism for the two jurisdictions to once again coordinate planning and transportation policies for the area.  The WMCCAB is happy to help in any way and is exploring regular annual meetings with neighboring Area Neighborhood Commissions and local municipalities. 

Sincerely, 
James A. “Jad” Donohoe, IV, Chair

Friday, October 17, 2014

Bethesda Development map reaches 100,000 views.

We are very pleased that our Google Map of development projects in Bethesda has been viewed more than 100,000 times!

Bethesda is currently undergoing the changes envisioned by the 1994 Bethesda CBD Sector Plan and its 2006 Woodmont Triangle Amendment.

You can take part in the future of Bethesda by following the progress of the Bethesda Downtown Plan which is now underway.

 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Friendship Heights focus of Oct. 20 Advisory Board meeting

We're putting the final touches on the agenda for next Monday's (October 20) Citizens Advisory Board meeting at the Village of Friendship Heights.

The agenda will include a round-table discussion with members of DC's Area Neighborhood Commissions (3D, 3E, and 3G) on topics of common interest. Also, County and District Planners will discuss transportation plans and linkages across Western Avenue. Montgomery County Police Commander David Falcinelli and his counterpart, Metropolitan Police Commander Michael Reese, will discuss public safety and emergency coordination.

The Village of Friendship Heights is Metro accessible at 4433 South Park Ave., Chevy Chase. The meeting will run from 7-9pm and is open to all.

Friendship Heights

 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Public Meetings in September

Now that August is past, we are back in full swing organizing a series of public meetings for September.


Next Tuesday, September 9, the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee meets at 8 am at the Bethesda North Conference Center. On the agenda are updates on beautification, development of a streetscape plan, and the White flint District website.


The Woodmont Triangle Action Group then meets on Friday, September 12, 8am at the BCC Regional Services Center. Development proposals for 8008 Wisconsin, the St. Elmo Property, and Lot 667 are on the agenda.


Finally, the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board meets Monday, September 15, 7pm, at the BCC Regional Services. The agenda includes the Fire & Rescue Master Plan, the merger of Pepco and Exelon, and a proposal to install parking meters in Friendship Heights.


All meetings are open to the public.

 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Advisory Board asks for study of Bethesda's one-way streets

The following is the text of the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board's August 1, 2014 letter to County Executive Isiah Leggett and County Council President Craig Rice concerning one-way streets in downtown Bethesda:

Dear County Executive Leggett and Council President Rice:

We respectively request that Montgomery County initiate a study of returning some one-way streets in Bethesda to two-way traffic. Two-way streets simplify navigation for drivers. They are more successful for retailers. They are also considered more pedestrian friendly.  

Streets that should be studied for two-way traffic include:
  • Woodmont Avenue (from Old Georgetown Road to Hampden Lane)
  • Old Georgetown Road (from Commerce Lane to Woodmont Avenue)
  • Montgomery Lane (from Woodmont Avenue to Wisconsin Avenue)
  • North Lane (from Woodmont Avenue to East Lane)
  • East Lane (from North Lane to Montgomery Lane)
Such a study should include a robust process of public comment. It should also analyze the positive and negative impacts on nearby intersections, including Wisconsin/Commerce, Wisconsin/ Montgomery, and Wisconsin/East-West/Old Georgetown. 

Changing these streets to two-way traffic could improve Bethesda’s urban fabric and make Bethesda easier for visitors to navigate. With the Bethesda Downtown Plan in process now, we believe this is the right time to study this change.

Thank you for considering the Board’s advice on this matter.

Sincerely, 

James A. "JAD" Donohoe, Chair
Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board



Thursday, August 7, 2014

Public Safety Update

The following is a publicsafety update from Captain David Falcinelli, Commander, Montgomery County Police, 2nd District (Bethesda, North Bethesda, Potomac).

Dear 2nd District Residents:

Tuesday night was National Night Out and the 2nd District was fortunate to take part in two very successful events highlighting the partnership between the police and the community. For the last two years, I have worked to stay abreast of crime trends and deploy resources quickly and appropriately to address them. After speaking to several residents last night, I wanted to send out a couple reminders of just how important it is for each of you to practice good personal safety practices and how it contributes to keeping our crime at manageable levels.

Crime updates:

In July, we had only one robbery in the entire district bringing the total for the year to 22, which is the exact same number at this time last year. However, also in July, we had 123 vehicles entered where property was removed. Of these 123, 88% were left unlocked. In the others where force was used to gain entry, it was primarily because expensive items were left in plain view such as laptops, wallets, purses, etc. We are up 7.7% in this category so far this year. We have reviewed suspects on video and watched as they try door handles, then move onto to the next car when they find it locked. We have talked to suspects after they are arrested and they will tell us that they like to commit this crime here because "most people leave their cars unlocked and there is good stuff inside."

Also in July there were 19 residential burglaries. Of these burglaries, 6 involved property such as bicycles taken from open garages.

In June, 30% of stolen cars were taken with a spare key left inside the car.

While I will continue to deploy my resources to those areas most affected by crime trends, there is still a lot of work we need to do together to deter and prevent many of these crimes from occurring. The first step is to make sure you are doing what you need to do to prevent yourself from becoming a victim by simply locking your car, not leaving spare keys inside your car and closing and locking your garage doors, especially at night.. The second step is to be a good neighbor – call your neighbor when you see a garage door being left open, share the stats on thefts from cars and what needs to be done to prevent this crime and deter criminals from coming back to our neighborhoods, and call the police when you see a strange car or person in the neighborhood especially late at night.

I am very excited about my new District Community Action team which is a team of 7 officers that focus on hot spots only. They are not tied to the police radio for the constant calls for service, but rather go to areas that have experienced crime trends and provide a visible deterrent to discourage future activity and make arrests if possible. In June, this team arrested three different suspects operating stolen cars or attempting to steal them. I am also very pleased to have a new Petty Crimes Detective. This officer’s responsibility is to look mostly at misdemeanor property crimes such as thefts from cars, credit card thefts, etc. and put the pieces of the puzzle together to identify trends and suspects. Just last week, a suspect that had committed thefts at various country clubs was arrested after the Petty Crimes Detective pieced together evidence from three different crime scenes to identify the suspect responsible for them.

Traffic updates:

Cedar Lane is now re-opened. Woodmont Avenue through the business district is scheduled to be completely re-opened on August 15th.

Officers have been asked to provide extra patrol to MacArthur Blvd. for parking violations that mainly occur on the weekends in the area of Great Falls Park access points. Officers are also continuing to enforce distracted driving violations such as texting and cell phone use. Pedestrian safety and enforcement operations will continue throughout the year at marked crosswalks throughout the district. Montgomery County school buses are now equipped with cameras that will record and ticket those who pass on the flashing red.

After almost three years as your commander, it is abundantly clear that we cannot do our job without your help. We need to continue to work together to make the 2nd District a great place to live, work and play. I have two community services officers that are more than willing to conduct free home or business security surveys, or speak at a neighborhood meeting about crime and/or safety issues. They can be reached at 240-773-6700 and ask for the CSO. Please help us by doing your part to protect our community!

Sincerely,

Captain David Falcinelli

Commander – 2nd District

 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Police Update

The following is a letter from Captain David Falcinelli, Commander, Montgomery County Police 2nd District:

Dear Residents of the 2nd District:

It’s been a few months and I wanted to share some updates from the 2nd District…

Traffic:

Many thanks to those of you who have managed to work your way around the Cedar Lane closures. I understand that this has been an inconvenience, but the project is a priority for the State Highway Administration (SHA) and it will hopefully be completed prior to the beginning of the next school year. Starting July 13th, SHA will begin a nighttime re-paving project of Wisconsin Ave. between Bradley Blvd. and Old Georgetown Rd. You will experience lane closures between 9pm and 5am.

Officers from the 2nd District won the recent Commander’s Challenge for seatbelt enforcement with the issuance of over 1,100 citations in just three weeks. It is hard to believe in this day and age that some people still refuse to wear their seatbelts. Time and time again throughout my career I have witnessed lives saved by simply buckling up. The fine did increase this year from $25 to $83 so hopefully this will finally convince those hold-out’s to buckle up. I have also noticed that many drivers can be seen holding their cell phone in their hand while driving down the road and using the speakerphone. This is against the law! The cell phone cannot be in your hand while the car is in motion – period! As far as texting, if your car is on the roadway, you cannot write, read or send a text message even if you are stopped. Our officers our still enforcing these laws so please share this information with your family members to keep us all safer on the roads.

Crime:

Just recently, officers from the 2nd District received a call for a bank robbery in the Kensington area. The area was quickly locked down and a suspect was found hiding in a shed in a backyard by one of our K-9 units a short time later. This suspect was responsible for not only the Kensington robbery, but also for one bank robbery in the Bethesda business district and two others in Potomac. This was outstanding work by our officers to get this dangerous criminal off the streets.

As expected, property crimes such as burglaries and thefts from auto tend to rise during the summer months. This year has been no different. In June, the 2nd District experienced 102 thefts from cars. Of these 102, 81 (or 79%) were unlocked. On the ones were force was used, it was normally because valuables were seen in plain view in the car. The most targeted items continue to be wallets, purses, cell phones, laptops, glasses and other small valuables. I cannot stress enough the importance of locking your cars and removing valuables and anything that appears to be of value. While you may not think anything of leaving a laptop case on your front seat, someone that is intent on stealing from cars, especially in darkness, sees that case and thinks there is a laptop inside. They will risk making noise by breaking a window to get into your vehicle. We did make two arrests in June, but so far in July we have had 23 additional incidents.

Some other safety points to consider are:

1. Close and lock your garage doors, especially at night. We have experienced several incidents where items from garages such as bicycles have been stolen overnight.

2. Do not leave a spare car key inside or on your car. We average about eight stolen autos per month. In June, there were seventeen events. Of these seventeen, five were stolen by using a key that was left inside the vehicle. We recently made two separate arrests of car thieves so hopefully that will reduce our numbers. So far in July, we have had no further incidents.

3. Please call 911 immediately for a crime in progress, or our non-emergency number 301-279-800 for a suspicious situation such as an unfamiliar person with a backpack on your street late at night (theft from autos). Let us come and investigate and determine if this person is supposed to be there or not.

Just recently, the 2nd District launched our latest crime-fighting venture called the District Community Action team (DCAT). This is a group of highly motivated uniformed officers that are assigned to work hot spots. They are not normally assigned routine calls for service, although they help out when call volume is high. Earlier this week, an alert resident dialed 911 when he observed his car being broken into. DCAT responded quickly, set up a perimeter, and apprehended both suspects. This week, they have been asked to be a visible deterrent in neighborhoods experiencing a rise in thefts from autos. I am very excited about this unit, so please call or e-mail me if you feel there is a problem in your community where they may help. I meet weekly with my undercover team, detectives, petty crimes unit and DCAT to review the latest crime trends and develop tactical deployment strategies for the upcoming week.

As always, it is up to both of us to do our parts to minimize crime in the 2nd District. I promise to make the best use of my resources and deploy them where they are most needed. I need you to get better at practicing personal safety prevention like locking your cars, houses and garages if you are one of the many that still do not do that.

Thank you for your time. Let’s close out summer together by bringing our theft from autos and thefts of cars down to more acceptable numbers.

Captain David Falcinelli, Commander

2nd District

240-773-6700