First houses approved west of I-270 in Clarksburg -- Gazette.Net







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Winchester Homes Inc. of Bethesda received final approval last week to build the first houses in Cabin Branch, Clarksburg’s most environmentally sensitive neighborhood and the source of drinking water for the upcounty area.

The Montgomery County Planning Board on Thursday approved modifications to the already approved water quality and forest conservation plans for the property and gave final approval to the site plans for Phase 1 and 2 of the Winchester homes development.

The first phase consists of 440 houses — 116 single-family detached houses, 323 townhouses and preservation of the historic Bryne-Warfield house. Phase 2 consists of 341 houses — 107 single-family detached houses and 234 townhouses. Phase 3 will add up to another 220 houses, Winchester development manager Sylke Knuppel said.

Winchester has been working with planners and the community for 10 years on a plan that preserves 63 acres of forest and two streams that flow into Little Seneca Creek. The plan also calls for planting 76 acres of new forest, some offsite.

The development will have more than 23 miles of sidewalks, bicycle trails and nature trails, said Gary F. Unterberg, vice president of Rodgers Consulting, which is mapping out a plan for the Cabin Branch neighborhood. Houses will be densely clustered together, and Winchester will dedicate and grade the site of a future elementary school when 440 houses are permitted. The company will also create small neighborhood parks as blocks are built.

Commissioner Amy Presley lives in Clarksburg Town Center, a community that has been plagued by planning problems, and she pushed the board to rewrite the approval to require that small parks be built as blocks are finished. Winchester originally had proposed building the parks when 70 percent of the houses are permitted.

Commissioner Norman Dreyfuss questioned whether maintaining the parks might be a financial hardship for residents until more people live in the community, but Winchester’s lawyer, Robert Harris of Lerch, Early and Brewer of Bethesda, said the parks would be low-maintenance green spaces so would not create a problem.

“I just think this is going to be a terrific project,” Presley said before joining in unanimous votes to approve the plans.

Winchester will build the first two phases of the three-phase project on 142 acres of the 540-acre Cabin Branch Neighborhood.

The Clarksburg Master Plan for the neighborhood and surrounding areas envisions 1,900 houses, 2.4 million square feet of office and commercial space, 500 houses for seniors, an elementary school, a park, places of worship, a community building and a day care center in Cabin Branch. The four owners of the neighborhood are working together with Rodgers Consulting of Germantown to develop a comprehensive plan for the entire triangularly shaped parcel, which is west of Interstate 270, north of West Old Baltimore Road and east of Clarksburg Road.

Adventist HealthCare planned to build a hospital campus in Cabin Branch, but has been unable to win state approval for the project.