The Ten Mile Creek Experience: The Environment & Development

In 1994 the Montgomery County Council adopted a master plan for the Clarksburg area on both sides of Interstate 270. The huge scale of the master-planned green field development (estimated at over 40,000 residents at full build-out) was structured within four stages. In 2005 hundreds of local land use regulatory violations by the developer of Clarksburg Town Center (Newland) resulted in a lengthy work stoppage.

The controversy over the regulatory violations was further exacerbated by the objection of many area residents to impending development district taxes for master-planned public infrastructure. The uproar frustrated residents and County officials alike, permeating the subsequent debate over the final stage of Clarksburg development.

tenmilecreekwatershedgraphicThe 1994 master plan required an environmental assessment after the first three stages of Clarksburg development before the Council would allow the final stage to proceed. Around 2007-2008 water quality data raised concern that the high quality of the Ten Mile Creek watershed would significantly degrade if stage four development proceeded as originally master-planned. There was not a consensus at that point, however, about how serious the threat was, let alone whether or not “best management” storm water management practices would effectively address future issues, instead of a master plan amendment.

The July 2010 recommendation of the ad hoc working group of stakeholders and agency officials appointed by the Council to further evaluate the matter was split, with a majority recommending a master plan amendment. With subsequent water quality data for the area continuing to provide mixed feedback, the Council directed the Montgomery County Planning Board to prepare a master plan amendment for the final stage of Clarksburg development in October 2012.

In the Summer of 2013, the Planning Board submitted their recommendations to the Council, which was either too favorable to developers or overly restrictive, depending on one’s perspective. Then, last year, in the Spring of 2014, the Council approved a master plan amendment that, at its core, deferred to those who sought to restrict stage four development for the protection of the Ten Mile Creek watershed in Clarksburg.

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The key element of the master plan amendment was establishing maximum impervious surface caps of six percent on the Pulte/King property and a maximum of fifteen percent on the Miles-Coppola and Egan/Mattlyn Enterprises properties.

A study (led by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC), in partnership with the county’s Department of Environmental Protection) is now underway to determine specifically how to provide water and sewer service to those areas recommended under the master plan, as amended last year. The history of Ten Mile Creek is a notable reason why there is far greater public attention countywide to the concept study’s eventual results than is usually the case when the Council authorizes such service for a given location(s).

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For example, there is a citizens’ advisory committee to solicit public comments during the concept design. Also, the construction of water and sewer facilities in this situation requires explicit capital budget authorization from both the Montgomery and Prince Georges County Councils (who share annual operating and capital budget approval authority over WSSC, per state law).

The Council embarked upon a significant change in direction for the final stage of Clarksburg development, by putting the health of the Ten Mile Creek watershed at the forefront via the 2014 master plan amendment.

It is equally important to note, however, that the Council did not stop meaningful development outright (despite the assertions to the contrary by area landowners). Whether the controversy about Clarksburg development is over, at least as far as the health of Ten Mile Creek is concerned, will likely depend on the reaction of all interested parties to the results of the pending concept study for new water and sewer facilities there.


Related Information

Save Ten Mile Creek Press Release
Ten Mile Creek plan a big step forward in journey to protect drinking water
April 1, 2014

Montgomery Countryside Alliance
Council Final Vote Provides Improved Protection for Ten Mile Creek

Washington Post
Montgomery Council brings official end to battle over Clarksburg’s Ten Mile Creek
April 2, 2014
By Bill Turque

Gazette
Council Vote ends miles of debate on Ten Mile Creek watershed
Development capped by impervious surface limits

Tuesday, April 1, 2014
By Virginia Terhune

Montgomery County Planning Department

Clarksburg Master Plan

Ten Mile Creek Area Limited Amendment

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Montgomery Countryside Alliance on the web

Montgomery Countryside Alliance on Facebook

Friends of Ten Mile Creek & Little Seneca Reservoir

Mission

The Friends of Ten Mile Creek and Little Seneca Reservoir serve as guardians of Ten Mile Creek and its watershed, preserving and protecting this unique place.

Ten Mile Creek’s forests, farms and rare geology provide clean drinking water to Little Seneca Reservoir, a backup drinking water supply for the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan region and a beloved recreational resource. The creek also feeds into the Piedmont Sole Source Aquifer, which provides water for the Agricultural Reserve’s farms and residents.

Background

Ten Mile Creek, located near Clarksburg, Maryland, is one of the healthiest waterways remaining in the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed and supports a greater diversity of aquatic life – insects, salamanders, and fish – than any other stream in Montgomery County. The creek is of such high quality that it is considered a “reference stream” which scientists use as a “measuring rod” to judge the health of other area streams.

Ten Mile Creek is also the cleanest tributary flowing into Little Seneca Reservoir, the closest emergency drinking water supply for 4.3 million people in the Washington, D.C. area. The reservoir is a critical component of our regional drinking water system and a popular recreational resource for canoeing, kayaking, hiking, picnicking, fishing, bird watching, and other activities.

Why do the creek and the reservoir need friends?

Despite its importance to our regional water system, the Ten Mile Creek watershed is constantly threatened by development proposals. The Friends of Ten Mile Creek and Little Seneca Reservoir, formed in August 2014, aims to protect this watershed from any further development which would degrade its health and impact the quality of water that flows into Little Seneca Reservoir. We help citizens from around the region connect to this special place, advocate for its protection, and learn about the importance of the creek and reservoir, both as unique ecological treasures and as integral components of our regional drinking water system. Through our advocacy and education efforts, we hope to inspire a sense of stewardship for these specific resources, and, together with other local watershed groups, to work to protect all streams and rivers in the Potomac and Chesapeake Bay watersheds.