The Montgomery Countryside Alliance based in Poolesville is circulating a petition urging the county planning board to consider the long-term health of the Ten Mile Creek watershed when evaluating development projects.
Alliance members plan to present the online petition at the planning board’s Sept. 10 hearing in Silver Spring, where developers and environmentalist are expected to clash over how much growth the relatively clean watershed in Clarksburg and Boyds can accommodate without being degraded.
A total of 730 people had signed the petition as of Tuesday, said Caroline Taylor, executive director of the Alliance.
The petition asks that the planning board “employ science and the public interest” in considering proposed retail and commercial development on 100 acres east of Interstate 270 in Clarksburg that contain the headwaters of Ten Mile Creek.
“It’s a vulnerable and significantly challenged piece of geography,” said Taylor. “We do not believe that ‘green’ technology will be the panacea to protect that resource for the long run.”
The Peterson Cos., the developers for the property, have argued that incorporating the latest stormwater management techniques will actually improve conditions on the property, which currently has no stormwater management.
The hearing is to accept opinions about what development should be allowed within the watershed as part of Stage 4, the final phase of the buildout of Clarksburg. Reference to neighboring developments can be included as they relate to projects within the watershed.
Ten Mile Creek and its tributaries flow southwest into Little Seneca Lake, a backup drinking water supply for the Washington, D.C., region.
Within the watershed west of I-270, Pulte Homes wants to build about 1,000 housing units west of Clarksburg Road (Md. 121) in the developing Cabin Branch area.
East of I-270 within the headwaters of three tributaries flowing into Ten Mile Creek, The Peterson Cos. wants to build a mixed-use center with Tanger fashion outlets, restaurants and retail stores, along with some housing and hotel or office space.
The two developers say the growth is needed to complete the community envisioned in the 1994 Clarksburg master plan. Some local residents also say they welcome the restaurants and other services offered by the proposed plans.
Environmentalists, however, say that scientific studies indicate that sediment and polluted water runoff from the projects would degrade the Ten Mile tributaries. They recommend drastically scaling back projects or locating growth east of I-270 and east of Frederick Road (Md. 355), which is out of the Ten Mile Watershed.
The debate about the Pulte and Tanger projects as part of Stage 4 within the watershed is taking place within the broader context of the Clarksburg/Boyds growth area as a whole.
Outside of the Ten Mile Creek watershed and part of Stage 3 is the proposed mixed-use Premium outlet center west of I-270 at the northern end of the Cabin Branch area where Adventist Healthcare had planned to build a hospital complex but didn’t get state approval to do so.
Proposed by Streetscape Partners, Simon Properties, and New England Development, the Premium plan also includes restaurants, housing and some office space.
The developers, who have already won environmental approvals for their plan, say their location is better than the Tanger site because they’re in the less vulnerable Cabin Branch watershed. They are currently before a county hearing examiner seeking support for an increase in allowed retail space to accommodate the fashion outlets.
Another project outside the Ten Mile Creek watershed is the proposed Clarksburg Town Center east of Frederick Road, which is expected to include a long-awaited grocery store, small retailers and a public library.
Some Clarksburg residents say what they really want is the grocery store and related retail built in Clarksburg Town Center, not regional outlet centers. However, several business owners in the Clarksburg Historic District on Frederick Road say they believe the Peterson/Tanger outlet plan would help complete the Clarksburg Town Center.