Thursday, June 25, 2015

Scrutinizing our current infrastructure

Over the past several weeks, I have been to numerous public meetings relating to planned changes in or around Four Corners.  At all of these meetings and forums, there is a common theme: people demanding thorough study and analysis before any changes are even considered.

After attending one of these meetings, I thought to myself: "What if we applied the level of scrutiny that we do to new projects to the arterial roads we currently have?"

University Boulevard Easy in front of St. B's.  Photo by the author.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Why do many street names in Four Corners contain "East"?

East Franklin Avenue.  East Wayne Avenue.  East Indian Spring Drive.  University Boulevard East.

Have you ever wondered why many roads around Four Corners have the prefix of "East", or why University Boulevard is divided into University Blvd. East and University Blvd. West?  The answer has to do with our proximity to Washington, D.C., and Montgomery County's planning history.

Why does University Blvd have the "East" and "West" suffixes?  Photo by the author.  

Monday, June 15, 2015

Finding a home for a tiny house

About a month ago, I was contacted by local artist and Woodmoor native/resident Brian Coyne, who had some questions for me about the county's laws regarding tiny houses.  I directed him to the Montgomery County Code for clarification on the legal side of things, but I was curious about the idea of a tiny house.  I had heard of tiny homes before, but I had never seen one in person and I wasn't sure how they worked.   Brian explained to me why he opted to buy a tiny home, and gave me some background on the process.

"Why am I confining myself to a tiny house? This is an experiment in minimalism. In 2007 I bought a 2 bedroom condo in North Bethesda for $299,000. Within a couple of years the value dropped to $215,000. My loan was a 10/30 loan where for ten years I pay interest only and then for 30 years I pay interest and principal. My condo fees were $440 / month and my mortgage was $1,600 plus property taxes. In order to afford all this I had to stay in my job whether I wanted to or not. Year after year I was working a job that had no room for advancement, but it barely paid the bills. What I really wanted to do was to go back to school to get my masters in fine arts. With a masters I could teach high school or college art."

"I realized that I would be better off short-selling the condo and buying a tiny house. One can save up for a tiny house or, even cheaper, build it yourself. You can buy plans from a company called Tumbleweed. I found a company that builds tiny houses and campers: Andrew bennet is the owner. Cool guy. He's making mine and it will be ready in June."

Brian's house being constructed.  Photo courtesy of Brian Coyne.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Four Corners at 2:30 AM

Back in March, I went for a walk around Four Corners at 2:30 AM.  I just finished watching the new season of House of Cards, but I didn't feel like going to sleep yet.  I decided to walk up to the intersection just to see what it looked like at such an unusual time of day.  This was a Wednesday morning, and since it wasn't a weekend night, I figured there wouldn't be much traffic out, and there wasn't.

When I got up to University, it was eerie how empty it was.  I walked down the travel lanes of the road simply because there were no cars and I could.  One I got to the shopping center and the intersection, it felt like a ghost town.  Aside from the occasional passing truck or car, the only other people I saw were a guy smoking a cigarette outside of 7/11, and two people unloading a box truck in front of the shopping center (and they left a couple minutes after I arrived).  I stood in the middle of the intersection between the 7/11 and the shopping center for about 2 minutes straight before a car approached, just because it's something that you can normally never do without obstructing traffic or getting hit.

It was a pretty cool experience, since I was seeing a place that I know so well in a totally different light.  Below are some unedited pictures of the intersection and surrounding area at that time of night.    

Looking west on University Blvd from Williamsburg Drive.  All photos by the author.