Friday, June 30, 2006

Silver Spring: "The Sweetheart City"

Lately I've been very excited about Albany Grove and Aspen Ridge, two in-fill townhouse developments in the general mess known as Briggs Chaney. While most new subdivisions in East County are composed of the same old Colonial-inspired schlock, Ruppert O'Brien, the Albany Grove/Aspen Ridge developer, is taking a slightly different route, building what they call "Telluride-Inspired Townhomes." I call B.S. on the name. There are a lot of hills in Briggs Chaney, but I doubt you'll find the skiing good. The Craftsman-inspired design, however, is truly a refreshing change in this land of brick fronts.

Even more interesting, though, is the blurb on the Aspen Ridge webpage about Silver Spring:

Few other areas in the Washington, D.C. are as centrally located as Silver Spring, Maryland. Within minutes, you’re at the top of the Beltway, poised to pop up to Baltimore, down to DC, across to Annapolis or over to Rockville at a moment’s notice. Better yet, if you prefer to stick closer to home, you’ll find the shops, restaurants, services, entertainment, culture, distractions, diversions and otherwise interesting destinations of Montgomery County’s sweetheart city all within mere minutes from your door.

Thus: Silver Spring is Montgomery County's "Sweetheart City." I like that. It goes well with the acorn, the penguins and those damned red U's and all of the other symbols that make our suburb special.

Incompetence builds better houses than dishonesty

"We are sort of talking about my honor here. . . . Call me incompetent, but don't call me a crook," Flanagan said.

This from a Clarksburg developer in response to the discovery that another development in the Upcounty town has violated a slew of zoning laws, including lots that were considerably smaller than reported. The developer, David Flanagan, proposed connecting single-family homes that were built on these lots with wooden trellises, legally making them attached houses and thus in accordance with the law.

If Flanagan was really as ignorant as he says about the zoning violations, then I think this is actually a clever solution. Regardless . . . I wouldn't be happy if I paid near to a million dollars for a glorified townhouse an hour-and-a-half from the District.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

sorry, kensington - the real blame goes to . . .

A traffic update: This is where I was (at Conn. Ave and East-West Highway) for about ten minutes on the bus this morning - thanks to the Columbia Country Club (in the background, behind the tall shrubs).

Today's Post Montgomery Extra mentions the plethora of new [non-chain] restaurants that have recently opened in Downtown Silver Spring, a stark counterpoint to yesterday's Gazette article that said local vendors are getting priced out of the business district.

Perhaps the answer to saving the "local flavor" is by giving national retailers a home in City Place, relieving some of the pressure to oust the mom-and-pops down on Fenton and Georgia. (As for condos, I have to say - I don't mind so much.) A big-box on the first floor, maybe move the food court upstairs - and a nightclub or entertainment venue (a Dave and Buster's?) where the AMC Theatres used to be. It might work. We gotta save City Place before it drags the rest of Downtown with it.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

I am so tired of reading the Gazette letters

More excuses from MoCo NIMBYs as to why the Purple Line "just doesn't work" in this week's Gazette letters to the editor:

"Consider cost of Purple Line infrastructure"

The June 21 article, ‘‘Candidates make no Purple promises,” will undoubtedly revive the debate about the advisability of creating the Purple Line, a light rail connection between Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

One of the problems that has escaped the attention of its proponents is that in order to build a rail line, it is insufficient to merely lay track and purchase rail cars. Stations will have to be constructed, and each will require a large car park to attract enough riders to justify the project. The space that must be consumed to put all the required infrastructure in place is simply unavailable in the inner suburbs.

It would also be necessary to create numerous new bus routes to enable riders, who will have left their cars behind, to reach their final destinations after exiting the trains. With a new highway such as the Intercounty Connector, none of these problems exit. No stations or car parks are necessary and travelers will complete their journeys in one vehicle.

I'd like the writer to consider how much space the ICC would take up compared to the Purple Line, stations and all. Whether you're for or against either project, it's fairly obvious how poor the NIMBY arguments are going to get. Everything takes up space. McMansions take up space. People take up space. And a new rail line will take up space formerly given over to something else - an old rail line.

I'd like to know what the rest of the County thinks - the people who are too busy trying to feed their families to worry about the state of the transit system that many of them are so dependent on. If the Powers-That-Be were listening to Langley Park and White Oak instead of Kensington and Bethesda, we'd have had a Purple Line a long time ago.

Monday, June 26, 2006

this was the view from the passenger seat . . .

Washington Post gallery of rainstorm pictures

Article about the rainstorm's effect on traffic

. . . as I was driven to work today down Route 29 after my Z9 Express to Silver Spring (from which I then transfer to another bus headed to Bethesda) failed to show up. The radio said it was blocked by mud in the vicinity of New Hampshire Avenue. I couldn't believe it, but there it was: the road was covered in mud in Burnt Mills. Not the first time this has happened, but the first time I've seen the traffic this bad on the Pike, and we've lived out here for over seven years - about when the traffic started getting bad, people say.

Why is Route 29 the only road across the Northwest Branch? A "Route 29 spur" was proposed as part of the County's Master Plan for roads that would have connected University Boulevard to 29 north of Lockwood Drive, bypassing Four Corners and the Burnt Mills Dam. Of course, this was forty years ago. The Right-Of-Way probably no longer exists - but, boy, would it have saved a lot of trouble this morning.

finally, someone reppin' the east side

I've been toying with the idea for a while now - a blog for East Montgomery County. Not that I don't already have a presence on the 'Net - a few of you might vaguely recall a project called "The New Urban Suburbanite" from a few years back, before blogs were big. Well, I was a bit younger then, perhaps with good intentions but a severe lack of will, largely due to nonexistent readership.

Time to change that. This is Just Up The Pike, your source for news and commentary in East Montgomery County. We may have address reading Silver Spring or Burtonsville, but we are not quite in either. We inhabit a land of rolling hills, roiling traffic backups on our beloved Columbia Pike, and a landscape of farms and office parks, cul-de-sacs and apartment blocks derived from a muddled planning legacy that goes back decades.

On the horizon: The ICC is coming. Two of the new interchanges on Route 29 are open, with a third well on its way. Over a dozen new housing developments are going up. Things are changing fast. It's time to make sense of it all, for better or for worse.