The Montgomery County Council voted unanimously Tuesday as expected to limit the footprint of proposed housing and retail projects to protect the relatively clean Ten Mile Creek watershed stretching from Clarksburg southwest through Boyds from significant further degradation, a decision that puts an end to debate over development in the upcounty.
The approved amendment to the 1994 Clarksburg Master Plan strikes a balance between preserving the watershed west of Interstate 270 and allowing the remaining build-out of Clarksburg east of I-270.
“Clarksburg will get rooftops and commercial development but in a less damaging way to the setting,” said Councilman Marc Elrich (D-At large) of Takoma Park.
The vote imposes caps on impervious surface that limit plans by Pulte Holmes to build housing west of I-270 and plans by the Peterson Cos. to build a mixed-use outlet center on the Miles-Coppola site east of I-270.
Pulte Homes, which claims the caps violate its property rights, has said it will wait for the council’s related rezoning vote before it decides whether to contest the council’s vote.
On sites east of I-270, the vote supports the development of the long-planned Clarksburg Town Center complemented by more opportunities to redevelop properties in the town’s historic district straddling Md. 355.
The historic district is now exempt from the environmental buffers required on other sites in the watershed.
“[Owners] can build larger and taller buildings, as long as they are consistent with the historical nature of the district,” said Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Bethesda, who, along with Elrich, led the push to scale back development in the watershed.
Councilwoman Nancy Floreen (D-At large) of Garrett Park said the amendment provides the flexibility to allow the growth the area needs to become a fully realized community.
“Clarksburg is full of people and full of expectations,” she said.
At the request of the council, staff is also working on detailed environmental regulations designed to protect streams and seeps in the watershed from disruption beyond what is currently in place.
“They will include increased buffers and [language] to make sure they’re enforced,” said Marlene Michaelson, senior legislative analyst for the council.
“This was a test of the council’s environmental will,” Elrich said about the vote. “I think we’ve arrived at a good place.”
Several council members called Tuesday’s vote a milestone in council history because of its legacy.
“Future generations will have you to thank for the foresight you’ve exhibited,” Berliner said to his colleagues.