Ten Mile Creek Reaction
“This is a proud moment for our Council. Today we are correcting a historic mistake – a mistake made 20 years ago when our predecessors unwisely overturned the recommendations of the Planning Board that would have limited development in the headwaters of Ten Mile Creek. The vote 20 years ago was 5-4, and it was the defining debate of the time. Fortunately, in recognition of the serious concerns that had been expressed then as to the potential negative impact development would have on Ten Mile Creek, that Council did have the foresight to insert a pause and reflect clause before additional development in this fragile part of the watershed could proceed to stage four.
“And that is precisely what this Council has done. We have reflected on all of the evidence – both scientific and otherwise – before us. And the evidence was overwhelming.
“The environmental experts all said essentially the same thing – this watershed is a treasure, it is fragile, and that even the little amount of development that has taken place in the headwaters has already harmed it. In addition, they warned that the state of the art environmental site design (ESD) has never been used for an entire watershed, let alone one of this size, and that ESD alone would not prevent further degradation of the creek, which needs as much protection as can be provided. We heard this from every independent expert we asked: our own Department of Environmental Protection, our environmental staff in the Planning Department, the leading state expert from the Department of Natural Resources, and from officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“In the face of this environmental imperative, we then had to look seriously at the needs of Clarksburg from a land use perspective. And we did so. We were told by our planners that ninety plus percent of the homes contemplated by the master plan 20 years ago are projected to be built in the already-approved first three stages of development, a far higher percentage than we normally see. We were told by our retail experts that the best site for a premium outlet mall was not on the headwaters of Ten Mile Creek, but at Cabin Branch, and we acted accordingly by approving the appropriate zoning for that site. We were advised that another of the fundamental predicates to the plan adopted 20 years ago – that Clarksburg would be an employment hub – is no longer realistic. We were also told that additional retail on the Miles Coppola property would not help Town Center, but hurt it. We were told that what Clarksburg needed on these properties were a few more roofs and perhaps a hotel/commercial center right next to Town Center.
“With that evidence before us, we were able to reconcile with integrity the environmental imperative with the most appropriate use of the land. 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. While there remains more work to be done, work appropriate for regulations and not master plans to ensure compliance, the plan before us fulfills both our commitment to Clarksburg and our responsibility as stewards of the environment.
“And yet, as it did 20 years ago, this debate has engendered the same intense controversy and may be an equally defining moment for our Council. If so, it is a moment we can be proud of. We have not caved to environmental extremists or NIMBY’s by limiting development as some may claim. And while we have taken the issue of property rights seriously, we have not catered to the interests of sophisticated commercial interests who speculated in land purchases in an area where a final decision on the amount of development that would be allowed had yet to be made.
“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. 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 of claimed. Just the opposite. We put responsible governance and environmental stewardship above political expediency.
“I know this has been a challenging issue for all involved. And so I commend all of my colleagues for their active engagement, thoughtful deliberations, and evidence-based decisions. We have done our duty and done it well. Future generations will have you to thank for the foresight you have demonstrated.”
Montgomery County Councilmember Marc Elrich also welcomed the Council’s adoption of the Clarksburg/Ten Mile Creek Limited Master Plan Amendment, which sets forth land uses that will protect what has frequently been referred to as one of the County’s “last best streams.” His statement is below:
“Today, the County Council adopted an amendment to the 1994 Clarksburg Master Plan that respects the Master Plan’s vision, which called for protection of Ten Mile Creek, and which anticipated that land use changes might be necessary to insure achievement of that goal. While the amendment was fiercely debated, in the end, environmental science prevailed, leading to a master plan amendment that offers protection for the resource through extended buffers around sensitive seeps and streams, retention of steep slopes and forest cover, and caps on impervious surfaces, while still allowing significant opportunities for development in an environmentally sensitive context.
“I have worked toward this goal for the past five years, beginning with my involvement in establishing an ad hoc working group in 2009, which recommended a limited master plan amendment to review potential land use changes needed to address evidence of a decline in stream quality resulting from development in the first three stages of development in Clarksburg. My 2012 proposal to have the Montgomery County Planning Board add a master plan amendment to their work program set the stage for the passage of the carefully crafted amendment we have adopted today.
“I wish to recognize the work of Roger Berliner, chair of the Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee, for allowing the science to speak and leading us through a comprehensive analysis of the environmental issues. His strong leadership helped us arrive at today’s vote. I applaud the hard work of County agencies, outside environmental scientists and consultants and concerned residents who informed our decisions. I would like to especially acknowledge the hard work of the Countryside Alliance, Livable Clarksburg, the Audubon Naturalist Society, and all of the dedicated members of the Save Ten Mile Creek Coalition.
“We are fortunate to have such an informed and engaged community in Montgomery County. This is a win for Ten Mile Creek and a win for the County.”