Monday, November 21, 2016

student protests in montgomery county show why public space matters

Suburban communities designed for cars don't always have obvious places for people to gather and assemble. So when students at several Montgomery County high schools and Montgomery College walked out of class in protest this week, they headed onto highways and into shopping malls— and their community supported them.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

silver spring's most prominent intersection could get a new hotel

For decades, Silver Spring's most prominent intersection has been home to a gas station and a giant blank wall. Soon, a new hotel could fill this hole in the urban fabric.

Looking at the proposed hotel from above. Images from the Montgomery County Planning Department unless noted.

County planners are currently reviewing a proposal to build a 173-room hotel at the corner of Georgia Avenue and Colesville Road, two blocks from the Silver Spring Metro station. The hotel is geared towards long-term travelers, containing studio apartments with kitchens and a handful of one- and two-bedroom suites.

The proposal includes some features that would be available to the public, including conference rooms, a rooftop deck and bar, and 4,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space, including a coffeeshop. The sidewalks around the hotel, which today are narrow and have lots of curb cuts for the gas station, would become wider and gain street trees, and there would only be a single curb cut on Colesville Road.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

term limits won't make montgomery county republican, and they won't stop development either

A broad coalition of people who are frustrated with Montgomery County government have thrown their support behind giving elected officials term limits, which will be on the ballot next month. The people behind the effort tend to be conservative and anti-development, but Montgomery is unlikely to become those things even if term limits happen.

Term Limits 4 Council Now
Photo by Thomas Hawk on Flickr.


Earlier this year, local activist Robin Ficker successfully collected the 10,000 signatures needed to have a vote on whether the county council and county executive should be limited to three terms, known as Question B. The cause has attracted a wide variety of supporters, from Republicans unhappy with the county's openness to immigrants to civic groups who oppose new development in the county. These groups hope that they can get rid of sitting councilmembers and, in 2018, vote in ones who agree with them.

Robin Ficker at Colesville McDonald's
Robin Ficker after I interviewed him at a McDonalds in 2009. Photo by the author.


Montgomery County Democrats seem worried that this will actually happen. They have dubbed term limits an "attack on progressive government," as all nine County Councilmembers are Democrats. The campaign to stop Question B is mostly funded by sitting councilmembers, even though four of the five who would lose their seats probably aren't going to run for reelection anyway.

But much to the disappointment of supporters (and the relief of opponents), Question B's success won't change who Montgomery County's voters are.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

the difference between maryland and virginia, in one photo

If you've ever flown out of National Airport, you might try to pick out the geographic landmarks you recognize: the Washington Monument, Rock Creek Park, or the Potomac River. Next time you're heading west, keep an eye on the river as it passes through Maryland and Virginia, and you'll notice one big difference between each state.

The Difference Between Maryland and Virginia In One Photo
Virginia sprawl on the left, Maryland farms on the right. Photos by the author.