Top Montgomery Village news stories for 1998
Jan. 11, 1999

by Jennifer Bates, Staff Writer

December 30, 1998

It was a see-saw year for Montgomery Village, beginning with the implementation Jan. 1 of its long-awaited symbol of its own identity -- the 20886 ZIP code.

This, however, had residual effects when the village and the city of Gaithersburg became embroiled in boundary disputes that included the Gaithersburg Regional Library and the village's entrance sign.

While the year was still young, village residents began sparring with developers of the proposed construction of the Goshen Oaks Center, a retail center at Snouffer School and Goshen roads.

A dog named Kunta made headlines when it attacked two people -- a boy in the village and a kennel worker at the Animal Shelter where it was taken after the first attack.

Sadness knew no boundaries when Gaithersburg's mayor, W. Edward Bohrer Jr., died of a cerebral hemorrhage and two boys were killed in a house fire in the city's Saybrooke community off Midcounty Highway.

Other events outside the village but close enough in Gaithersburg that they also had an impact in the community: the break-up of a prostitution ring and plans by the city to take an in-depth look at Route 355.

The Watkins Mill High School community bid farewell to its first and only principal for 10 years, Steven Dickoff, while welcoming Louis Martinez who took over the helm of the school.

And, in March, village residents elected three people to the Montgomery Village Foundation's board of directors.

Here's a closer look at the top 10 stories of 1998.

ZIP code and an identity

Three years ago, the Montgomery Village Foundation asked the U.S. Postal Service to change the address for its residents from "Gaithersburg 20879" to "Montgomery Village 20886." The change became official Jan. 1, affecting the ZIP code, as well the name of the community.

When village residents go to their mailboxes, they now see the ZIP code on their mail has changed from 20879 to 20886, and that "Montgomery Village," not "Gaithersburg," may now precede the ZIP code in most cases. The village's request to the U.S. Postal Service to change the ZIP code was to give the community its own identity separate from Gaithersburg.

Goshen Oaks

Residents of Montgomery Village are preparing to go to court over plans to build the Goshen Oaks Center at Goshen and Snouffer School roads.

The Montgomery County Park and Planning Board voted 3-2 on June 4 to approve retail center plans by Rockville developers Steven L. Lebling and John D. Petrella for a Safeway market, gas station, car wash, convenience store and possibly additional retail stores on a 10-acre site at the intersection in Montgomery Village

The plan received strong resident opposition since it was unveiled last December. Forming their own group, Citizen's Against Goshen Oaks, villagers made every attempt to blast plans for the retail center. Making history, they achieved the largest showing of public antipathy against a development before the planning board to date.

Saul Schepartz, CAGO treasurer and liaison with the group's attorney, Nancy M. Floreen of Rockville, said that Floreen filed the brief Dec. 16, and a hearing will be held at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 16 in before Circuit Court Judge DeLawrence Beard.

The planning board has 30 days to submit a rebuttal of the CAGO claim, and CAGO then has 15 days to respond to the rebuttal, Schepartz said.

Schepartz said the appeal will be based on the incompatibility of the plan with the previous context defined by County Council in 1986.

"The point of County Council approving the town sector zone years ago for that space was that it allowed Kettler Brothers [developers of Montgomery Village] flexibility in their planning," Schepartz said. "We the residents, the adjacent property owners, never -- repeat never -- understood that to be for a commercial retail development."

In the spring, the East Village Homes Corp. hired Floreen to represent it when the plan went before the Planning Board.

After the plan was approved, residents formed CAGO, which now involves about 50 people, and has raised a little more than $5,000 for an appeal, Schepartz said.

Prostitution ring broken

When Montgomery County police broke up a prostitution ring in Gaithersburg last March, one of the items they seized in their raid was a worn, navy blue ledger -- a ledger that holds the names of up to 500 clients.

The ring was run by Caroline Tonia Ripa, 33, out of a townhouse in the 18600 block of Grosbeak Terrace, in Quail Valley off Goshen Road, according to District Court documents.

Under the guise of an escort service, she advertised as "Jacquelyn's Playmates," and operated her business out of the Gaithersburg townhouse. It employed up to 50 prostitutes.

Ripa pleaded guilty in October to felony prostitution and drug charges and had been allowed to remain out on bond at that time, but has been re-arrested twice since then. She was arrested last month on charges of auto theft and this month on charges of verbal extortion, whereby bond was set for her at $20,000.

Pit bull attack

A series of attacks by a pit bull named Kunta had village residents on edge.

Reportedly, the dog first killed a neighbor's cat, but it was when it severely mauled a 12-year-old boy who was visiting a friend at a home where the dog lived that it finally was taken to the animal shelter.

While its owner argued to have his dog returned to him, Kunta attacked and nearly severed the hand of a kennel worker.

The dog was then put to sleep.

Watkins Mill HS principal

Following in the footsteps of a legendary principal, Louis Martinez, the new principal of Watkins Mill High School in Gaithersburg, was welcomed by the school community in June.

Steven Dickoff, who retired June 19 after leading the school for 10 years, was honored for his commitment and service to the school.

"Saying good-bye is bittersweet," Dickoff said.

"I get emotional and choked up because I have so many memories here in the community; but the sweet part is also what I have to look forward to," he said.

Dickoff added he is happy Martinez is "stepping in and picking up the reins -- he'll make a tremendous principal at the school.

"I'm real glad to turn 'my baby' over to him," said Dickoff, who has been the only principal the school has had since it opened 10 years ago.

At the reception, Martinez, now living in the WMHS attendance area, greeted everyone with a big, warm smile.

New board of directors

In March, Montgomery Village residents returned two incumbents and a former member to the foundation's board of directors.

Craig Capen, who was appointed in May 1997 to fill a seat vacated when Jack Quinn resigned to move to Florida, pulled in 3,844 votes.

Ruth Hoffman, who was seeking her second term, got 3,802 votes.

John Belding, who had served on the board from 1981-93, received 2,796 votes.

The three winners were installed as directors during the annual meeting on March 26. Also during the annual meeting, Linc Perley was re-elected to his second term as president of the board.

Staff writer Jen Chaney contributed to this report.