Washington's Gentrification Sparks
Office-to-Residential Conversions

     Washington's move toward gentrification is fueling a wave of building conversions from offices to residential properties.
     The office rental market is lukewarm but the residential market is steaming hot, meaning there's more money for developers in condominiums and apartments than in leases to businesses, according to financial industry companies.
     Homes sales in Washington are up nearly 27 percent over a year ago, according to financial services company Evergreen Private Finance.
     By contrast, vacancy rates for offices and commercial buildings are higher than the national average and continuing to rise.
     "A substantial volume of office space is completing development in the coming years, suggesting prices will remain flat or dip further," the Evergreen Private Finance report says.
     A key factor is the move toward more residential is younger people looking for apartments in mixed-use properties and live/work neighborhoods. In other words, they want to be able to walk to work.
     Recent examples of the conversion projects include an office building at 2501 M St. NW being converted to 58 condos with a Nobu restaurant in it. Another one is in Storey Park, where a 346,000-square-foot office and apartment building is being converted to 435 residential units and a 225-room hotel.

Latest News

Business Improvement Districts
Easier to Organize in Maryland

By Tom Ramstack, The Legal Forum
     Business owners in Washington’s Maryland suburb of Montgomery County will be able to organize business improvement districts more easily because of new legislation approved by the General Assembly.
     Business improvement districts (BIDs) typically raise property values by adding amenities, cleaning up their neighborhoods and improving the landscaping.
     However, they require the consent of business and property owners.
     The new legislation reduces the percentage of Montgomery County business owners who must agree to participate in a BID.
     BIDs can now be organized with a signed agreement among 51 percent of commercial and high-rise residential property owners, along with owners of at least 51 percent of the county’s assessed value properties.
     For the rest of Maryland, the minimum requirement is 80 percent of the property owners within a BID neighborhood.
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Book on Boston Marathon Bombs
Shows Lone Wolf Terrorism Rises

   A new book that reports on the April 15, 2013 Boston Marathon bombings and trial of the convicted killer shows the attack was only an early example of more coming soon.
   Boston's Bloody Marathon uses the bombings by Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother as an example of the lone wolf terrorism increasingly encouraged by Islamic extremist groups such as ISIS and al-Qaeda.
   Lone wolves refer to terrorists who plot their attacks alone, usually with no organization to support them and no official links to violent groups. There is almost no way to know their next target until they strike. U.S. intelligence agencies call them perhaps the biggest terrorist threat to the United States and its allies.
   Boston's Bloody Marathon, by Tom Ramstack, is available on Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com.
Click here.

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Letters to the Editor

Copyright Pirates Arrested
While Recording Movie

     The arrest last week of two accused copyright pirates at a Maryland movie theater brought home to the Washington area how the Internet can threaten artistic property.
     A Motion Picture Association of America investigator reported to police that the men were recording the latest of the "Fast and Furious" movies at Hoyts Movie Theater in Linthicum.
     "Both suspects were found to be wearing recording harnesses under their shirts that were actively recording," an Anne Arundel County police statement said.
     The movie association investigator told police he had been observing the "piracy suspects" when they entered the theater and started recording an early screening of "The Fate of the Furious." Pirates typically post the stolen material on Internet sites where viewers can see it after paying a fee with a credit card number.
     Police seized the harnesses and recording equipment after arresting the men, identified as Troy Montgomery Cornish, 38, and Floyd Lee Buchanan, 35, both of the Baltimore area.
     They were charged with unauthorized recording in a movie theater.
     The U.S. movie industry estimates that it loses between $6 billion and more than $18 billion a year to copyright pirating, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Much of it comes from illegal DVDs bearing the movies and from unauthorized downloads.

D.C. Mayor Proposes Expanding
Rights of Sexual Assault Victims

By Tom Ramstack, The Legal Forum
     D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser this week announced a proposal to broaden the rights of sexual assault victims and to expand the definition of a violent assault.
     The legislation is primarily intended to protect juveniles by adding new provisions to a 2014 victims’ rights law.
     The new proposal gives victims more choices for advocates to represent them during interviews by police and prosecutors. The prosecutors would be required to explain their reasons in greater detail when they decline to press charges against an accused.
     Children as young as 12 years old could choose to have an advocate during court proceedings, which currently is an option only for adults.
     The advocates typically would be attorneys or social workers.
     Bowser’s legislative bill was taken from recommendations by an independent task force the mayor organized after a nonprofit group accused Washington, D.C., police of mishandling sexual assault cases, particularly for young victims.​​

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Legal Briefs

Big Referral Fees
For Little Work

   Do you know someone who wants to sell a home, office or other real estate?
   If you do, you could earn thousands of dollars with a quick phone call or e-mail. The Legal Forum pays a base fee of $1,500 for referrals to sellers’ property that sells for at least $200,000. Each $100,000 of value to the property over $200,000 gives the person making the referral an extra $100. A $700,000 dollar property value, for example, would earn a referral fee of $2,000.
   Your only obligation is to phone or e-mail Tom Ramstack with the name, address, phone number or e-mail address of the seller. In most cases, it should take no more than 10 minutes of your time.
   For more information, click the Real Estate icon on the menu above or contact Tom Ramstack at 240-421-6395 or e-mail tramstack@aol.com.
   The referral fees are offered to anyone in the District of Columbia but only real estate licensees in other states. However, non-real estate agents can receive credits equal to the referral fee toward the purchase or sale of property in Virginia and Maryland.
   The brokerage for the Legal Forum is Capitol Asset Realty at 804 E Street Southeast, Washington, DC 20003, phone: (202) 630-1244. 

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    The Legal Forum welcomes letters to the editor at tramstack@aol.com, which will be published here.


Diabetic Man Sentenced for Killing
Firefighter During Insulin Episode

     A Prince George’s County judge’s sentencing of a diabetic man last week turned on how the court defined “intent” when the defendant suffered a temporary cognitive impairment.
     Darrell Lumpkin pleaded guilty to an illegal weapons charge after shooting and killing firefighter John Ulmschneider and wounding two others.
     The firefighters broke into Lumpkin’s Temple Hills home after his brother telephoned emergency responders, asking them to check on his welfare. The brother was concerned Lumpkin might be suffering a medical emergency because of a diabetes problem.
     His attorney said Lumpkin had no intent to shoot any firefighters. He was suffering a diabetic episode from insufficient insulin that left him incoherent, leading him to believe the firefighters were intruders trying to hurt him, according to attorney Brian McDaniel.
     Black’s Law Dictionary says criminal intent requires “malice” and “a conscious decision on the part of one party to injure” another person.
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