ROCKVILLE – The Montgomery County Council unanimously approved a limited amendment to the Clarksburg master plan Tuesday—a move some members of the council are saying could be their defining moment.
By passing the amended master plan, councilmembers said they believe they have struck a balance between allowing development of the Clarksburg Town Center and protecting the Ten Mile Creek watershed. Throughout the process the council has faced pressure from environmentalist groups to protect the creek, which empties into the Little Seneca Reservoir, an emergency water source for the region.
“We have, by our actions, declared that all development is not equal. Where development is in the overall public interest – where we can harmonize our land use and environmental objectives – our council has supported additional development, especially in areas served by transit,” Councilman Roger Berliner said. “But the fact that Ten Mile Creek was not one of those places does not transform our decision into one of political expediency as some have claimed. Just the opposite. We put responsible governance and environmental stewardship above political expediency.”
In order to protect the creek, the council is implementing impervious limits which Councilmember Nancy Floreen said “have never been imposed before.”
The amendment restricts development of the town center region east of I-270 by limiting imperviousness levels to 15 percent. The council limits imperviousness levels in the area west of I-270, which was to be developed by Pulte Homes, to 6 percent.
“We were able to reconcile with integrity the environmental imperative with the most appropriate use of the land,” Berliner said. “We limited development the most where the need for protection was the greatest, and we provided room to build what Clarksburg truly needs in areas that avoids the springs, the seeps, the steep slopes, and the other important environmental values that contribute to the health of the watershed.”
Council President Craig Rice, whose district includes Clarksburg, voted in support of the master plan amendment, but said he would have liked to see more support for helping the community reach its potential as a vibrant town center.
“All in all we were trying to achieve a balance. As we all know balance, as beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Certainly some view this balance we achieved today as a momentous step forward for us and both the environment and Clarksburg,” Rice said. “I wish we had done just as much to protect the environment that we could have done to protect making sure Clarksburg will live up to its vision.”
Rice said he will continue to work to make good on his promise to Clarksburg residents that they will get a viable town center.
In the end, science prevailed, said Councilmember Marc Elrich, who recognized the work of several environmentalist groups including the Audobon Naturalist Society, the Countryside Alliance and the Save Ten Mile Creek Coalition.
“This vote is a victory for citizens and scientists working together with elected officials to protect our last, best creek–Ten Mile Creek,” said Diane Cameron, director of the Audobon Naturalist Society. “Ten Mile Creek is the cleanest source of water to Little Seneca Reservoir, our only nearby emergency drinking water source in severe droughts serving 4.3 million people in Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Virginia.”