A Reprieve for the County's Cleanest Stream
Council Gives a Green Light to Ten Mile Creek
Master Plan Amendment
By Elizabeth Zinar
Writer for Conservation Montgomery
Crystal clear section of Ten Mile Creek in the Black Hills Regional Park
The forested and intricate waterways of Clarksburg in Northern Montgomery County have been yielding to a changing landscape over the last 20 years. On October 9, the County Council unanimously decided to apply lessons learned by directing the Planning Department to prepare an amendment to Clarksburg's 1994 Master Plan. The new amendment will require systematic protection and oversight for the Ten Mile Creek Watershed during the final stage of the community's growth.
Since the 1990s, the traditionally rural community situated at the northern end of I-270 has been undergoing a steady, ongoing transition into a major population center. Clarksburg's development into an urbanized community has been wrought by controversy and debate for years, however, resulting in its currently unfinished state as a collection of isolated residential neighborhoods. Much of the deliberation surrounding Clarksburg's development is a result of the fact that the town is being built on an area that holds one of the most valuable and also fragile waterways in the county.
Clarksburg covers much of the drainage area of Ten Mile Creek, an environmentally sensitive tributary of Little Seneca Creek. Ten Mile Creek flows directly into the Little Seneca Reservoir, an emergency drinking water supply for the county located in Black Hills Regional Park just south of Clarksburg. According to the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection, the ecology of the stream is unusually rich as a result of the watershed's location on a fracture fault line that has shaped its channels. This is why the County designated the eastern part of the stream's watershed, which is not already protected by rural zoning, as a Special Protection Area in the Clarksburg Master Plan. Development in this area must be carefully planned and implemented.
This Special Protection Area is also the site of much of the development proposed for creek's headwaters in the final stage of Clarksburg's four-stage Master Plan. Southwest of I-270, Pulte Homes owns land now zoned for up to 900 more residential units on 529 acres of agricultural land. Northeast of I-270, Petersen Company has proposed to build a massive commercial-residential complex near Clarksburg Town Center, with almost 600,000 square feet of commercial space planned.
"It's jaw-dropping what is planned to take place if you visit Clarksburg and see yourself the land that is zoned for development. This sprawl is not supported by public services, and so much topography will be altered," said Caroline Taylor, executive director of the Montgomery Countryside Alliance (MCA). Taylor is among the advocates from the MCA who partnered with Audubon Naturalist Society (ANS) to coordinate a citizen campaign to protect Ten Mile Creek that successfully petitioned for the Amendment's approval. The area is served by a vast underground aquifer that will be degraded if the watershed cannot support building at densities currently planned.
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