|quick links to|
Washington Episcopal School
Outdoor Education Course
As we turn the page on another year, it struck me that many of the issues we face as a community heading into 2008 seem a lot like the issues we faced going into 2007. Two of the big ones are public safety and development.
In 2007 there was good news on the public safety front. More on that in a minute. For those of you who have been actively involved in the ongoing challenges of thefts from, and of, automobiles, we had two major meetings this year with the Montgomery County Police Department. The first came in February following a rash of incidents in late 2006. The second was held a few weeks ago (December 12th) at Westbrook Elementary School.
In both cases, I was pleased at the very strong response from the Police Department. At the most recent meeting, the County's Chief of Police, Tom Manger, joined the new Commander of the Second Police District, Russ Hammill, Community Policing Coordinator Officer Denise Gill and Third District (Silver Spring) Commander Don Johnson to address the community. For those of you who have not been burning up the neighborhood Listservs, the meeting was prompted by a number of thefts from autos in Westmoreland Hills and nearly 60 emails sent to Commander Hammill regarding this issue.
Commander Hammill, who recently took command of the 2nd District, clearly understood the community's concerns and described the many efforts they are undertaking to combat the Countywide (if not nationwide) problem of thefts from autos (see separate story). Not surprisingly, the rise of portable electronics iPods, GPS devices, laptops, etc.-- makes cars particularly cars that are unlocked attractive targets. The good news that Commander Hammilll reported was that thefts from autos, auto thefts, and burglaries in and around our community are all down from 2006 to 2007. If you attended the February meeting on this same issue, the 2005 to 2006 trends were far less favorable.
Here is the bottom line from our local law enforcement officials (and you've heard it before, but it is so important that it bears repeating):
We can all look out for one another too. For example, if your neighbor is away and there is a newspaper on their front steps put it someplace less obvious. And although it may not be very environmentally friendly, the Police do encourage us all to leave outside lights on and/or put your lights on timers so if you're away, it appears that someone is home (use an energy efficient bulb).
Given the intensity of the community response, I also wrote about the recurring theft from autos issue to the County Executive's office, all of the at-large members of the County Council and Councilmember Roger Berliner (who represents the 1st District in which we reside. While I did hear back from staff from the offices of Councilmembers Berliner and Elrich (and got a form letter back from Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg), the most effective response was from At- large Councilmember George Leventhal, who engaged Chief Manger directly on this issue and who followed up with me as well.
We will continue to communicate directly with County Police (and others) about efforts to keep our community safe. For those of you who have not yet joined the Brookdale Listserv, I encourage you to do so at http://comjet.com/mailman/listinfo/brookdale_comjet.com. The Police have described our Listserv as a "virtual" Neighborhood Watch" that is a powerful tool for all of us to quickly share information about things happening in and around Brookdale.
Friendship Heights Development
Members of the Executive Committee along with two of our representatives to the Citizens Coordinating Committee on Friendship Heights (Bob Cope and Ron Tripp) spent time with our new neighbors at the old Hecht's site New England Development (NED) before the holidays to see the site and learn about NED's plans for the site. They seem to be on target to open the Community Center in fall 2008 and Whole Foods in March 2009. (See story on Community Center.)
At the same time, as the site takes shape, part of the reason for the outreach from NED to Brookdale stems from their proposal (which they plan to bring to the Planning Board as quickly as they are able to do so) to seek approval to add a 1,000 to 1,200 sq. ft. structure near the corner of Western and Wisconsin Aves. to house a coffee stand (e.g., Starbucks, Caribou Coffee, etc.) They would also like to squeeze approximately 7,000 sq. ft. of additional retail into their existing site plan. Their rationale is two-fold. First, they want to attract and retain as much foot traffic as possible so that the plaza area is, as they say, more like the corner of Bethesda and Woodmont Aves. (Barnes & Noble fountain) and less like the essentially vacant plaza where the Original House of Pancakes is located between Wisconsin Ave. and Old Georgetown Rd. Second, it probably goes without saying, they want to maximize the economics of the project.
At our first meeting in November, we urged NED to identify all possible locations for any additional retail (including the proposed coffee stand to add up to their desired total of 8,500 square feet) AND encouraged them to commit to maintaining existing green space. Although many of us were skeptical of this proposal, in response to our concerns, NED produced site plans (which are copied here) and identified where they would suggest 2,000 square feet be placed (in what was originally designated on the site plans as a property management office space for NED). Given their short time frame, we expect them to seek Planning Board approval for the full 8,500 square feet in coming weeks (based on a complex formula that is tied to the construction of the Whole Foods market) with or without our support.
While it is easy to view this as a typical developer play for more retail, a number of people have suggested that to date NED has been a good and responsive neighbor and put both more open space and invested more in the community center than what was required by the Friendship Heights Sector Plan. All of this suggests that their latest concept deserves our thoughtful consideration. While Brookdale has not yet taken a formal position on this proposal, we will likely be asked for our input in coming weeks. I know that all Members of the Executive Committee welcome your comments and suggestions by the end of January on this subject.
Finally, Bob Cope has also been actively tracking progress on the Westbard Sector Plan and the Washington Episcopal School site. I encourage you to read his update in this edition of The Bugle. The WES site developments are a good example of communities working together to achieve a common goal.
Finally, thanks to all of you who already sent your 2007-08 dues to Suzanne Richman. An envelope is enclosed with this edition of The Bugle . Your continued support of the Brookdale Citizens' Association makes it possible for us to fund efforts to help manage growth in our community and neighboring communities, as well as community-wide events such as the Fourth of July parade, the Halloween party, the biannual Brookdale directory and, of course, The Brookdale Bugle. Speaking of the Directory, please respond quickly to Sarah Jessup's request for your latest information to be included in the upcoming Brookdale Directory. As always, I also encourage you to share any suggestions you may have about how we can strengthen and celebrate our neighborhood, with me or anyone on the Executive Committee.
Best wishes for a happy, healthy, safe and successful 2008!
[Return to the beginning of this document][To home]