Friday, September 30, 2016

WMAL transmitter building demolished

 The transmitter building that has long stood at the WMAL field on Greentree road has been demolished.  Some months ago the transmitter equipment was moved to a temporary building on the same lot.

 The plan is for the radio towers to be removed and over 300 houses and townhouses put on this 75 acre lot.

 The building was listed on Maryland's inventory of historic properties, but that didn't afford it any special protection against demolition.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Go Visit the National Mall at night

 This past Friday was the Harvest Moon.  On Saturday Night I went to see the moon rise over the Capitol and see some of the monuments at night.  This is a good time of year to go, it isn't too hot or too cold, there aren't as many people as there are during the summer, and the skies are often clear.

The Lincoln Memorial is a great place to start, you can look down the reflecting pool to the Washington Monument and Capitol building.  It is a popular spot to be, even at night.  It was probably a bit more crowded than usual due to the nearly full moon.

Abe keeps his eternal vigil in the Lincoln Memorial.  He always welcomes company.

The World War II memorial is well light and has interesting fountains to see.

 The Washington Monument with the moon in the background.  That string of white dots along the bottom are pathway marker lights.

 The Washington Monument has people milling about, even at 10pm.

 You can walk right up to the monument and look straight up.  It is relaxing to sit on the ground with your legs on the monument and look up for a while.  Just be careful you don't put your hand on one of the lights, they are hot.

It seems like there is always a breeze blowing the flags that surround the Washington Monument.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Stratton Park upgrades are coming

 Wednesday night, the parks department held a community meeting to discuss the upcoming improvements to Stratton Local Park and to get the neighborhoods input and suggestions. I counted 18 residents in attendance, 3 Parks people, and a representative from delegate Marc Korman.

Stratton Park is located just behind the firehouse on Democracy Blvd between Fernwood Rd and the I-270 Spur.  It has a soccer field, a baseball field, tennis courts, basketball courts, a playground and a picnic shelter, water fountain and grill.

The upgrades are to make the park comply with the American With Disabilities Act (ADA) standards.  In 2008 the federal government evaluated Montgomery County and Montgomery County parks and found that they were not up to the ADA standards.  In August of 2011 the county reached a settlement agreement with the Department of Justice (DOJ) that identified 19 parks that needed barriers to access removed.  Stratton Park was one of the parks identified and is the last park in that group to be brought into compliance.

The main improvement will be a new sidewalk connecting the baseball field, parking lot, grills, picnic shelter, playground, tennis courts, basketball courts, and connecting to Democracy Blvd.  This sidewalk will not be lit at night and will not be permeable.

The old grill will be removed and two new grills (one of them ADA compliant) will be installed on the opposite side of the pavilion.

The parking lot will be kept the same size but re-configured to increase the parking spaces from 26 to 30.  Two of them will be handicapped spots.

There will also be several underground stormwater management areas to contain runnoff from the area and allow it to recharge the aquifer.  The speed bump will also be rebuilt to better divert water from the parking lot into a stormwater management area.

The port-a-potties will remain, but will get there own enclosure that is not part of the parking lot but near it.

Happening around the same time, but technically unrelated, the basketball courts and tennis courts will get revitalized.  This process usually takes a couple of weeks, then, if they paint the courts they have to wait for the asphalt to cure first so that adds another couple of weeks.

The residents who came to the meeting did have some suggestions:
  • Extend the sidewalk to the Surrywood Rd access path behind the baseball diamond.
  • Look at ways to increase safety at the entrance to the parking area (by installing sidewalks, speed bumps, or narrowing the entrance so people can't park in it).
  • Include an unpaved trail around the perimeter of the park's open area.
  • Situate the sidewalk connection to Democracy Blvd in a way that prevents children on bikes from riding straight onto Democracy, and see if there is a way to discourage people from jaywalking at that connection.

The parks department plans on starting this renovation later this year.  They may do the renovation in phases or may temporarily shut down the park.  This is a four month project, but due to winter weather constraints it is likely to impact the spring sports season.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

County council meeting on the draft Subdivision Staging Policy

 Last night there was a Montgomery County council meeting about the Subdivision Staging Policy (SSP)  It was a chance for the public to comment on the planning board draft that was submitted to the council.  The next steps are various committee meetings on aspects of the SSP.  On Monday September 19th, Monday September 26 and Friday September 30 the Planning, Housing, and Economic Development (PHED) committee will meet on the SSP.

The SSP provides the framework for development throughout the county. The intent of the Subdivision Staging Policy is to ensure adequate public facilities infrastructure, particularly schools and roads, associated with new development and growth. It sets impact taxes and fees related to infrastructure required to support new development.  Every four years the SSP is reviewed and updated.

Public comments centred around a few areas of the SSP, primarily schools, transportation, metro station areas, and the Silver Spring former enterprise zone.

The largest number of people testifying were commenting on the schools.  These were primarily representatives of the various high school clusters and the PTA.  They liked the changes in the SSP but didn't think it went far enough and think it should capture more of the cost of new school capacity for new development.

The next were developers and representatives concerned about the treatment of former enterprise zones.   Current treatment of enterprise zones and former enterprise zones is the same, they are excluded from impact taxes.  The Planning Board is recommending that impact taxes be phased back in within former enterprise zones over four years (currently downtown Silver Spring is the only former enterprise zone in the county).  Developers would prefer that the exemption of impact taxes remain, but, as a second choice would prefer that they are phased in over 4 years (the original recommendation was to phase them in over 2 years).

There were also a number of people interested in the transportation aspects of the plan.  Many were in favor of the changes which reduces the amount of parking at new development in high density areas, and eliminates the traffic tests in metro station areas.  Some people however, thought the new focus on transit ignored the plight of the tens of thousands of road users and the impact of new development on them.

The final group were from the areas surrounding downtown Bethesda.  They want the traffic tests and impact taxes to remain in metro station areas (such as the Bethesda central business district) and point out that many of the new occupants will drive, emergency services will still be needed, and trucks will need to make deliveries to the new buildings.  They also note that impact fees collected because of road congestion can be used to improve transit, walkability, and bicycle access.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Community meeting about Stratton Park on Wednesday

 At 7pm on Wednesday, the Park and Planning Commission will be hosting a community meeting at Cabin John Ice Rink (10610 Westlake Dr) to discuss possible renovations and improvements to Stratton Local Park in Bethesda.  One important item on the agenda is to discuss a new access to the park from Democracy Boulevard.

According to the public notice:
Staff will host a community meeting to review the scheduled access improvement plans for Stratton Local Park.  Meeting will be at the Cabin John Ice Rink on Wednesday, September 14, 7pm.  The work planned will include better parking, access to park amenities, including the tennis court, basketball court, picnic shelter and playground. Staff will review access from Democracy Boulevard to park as well. The public is invited to hear the presentation and offer thoughts on the access improvement plan.