Report: Downzoning of Clarksburg project would cost retailers business -- Gazette.Net


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This report was updated and corrected July 28.

A recommendation to substantially reduce the number of homes allowed in a Pulte Homes development at the Ten Mile Creek Clarksburg could cost local retailers several million dollars annually, according to a report released Thursday by Pulte Homes.

Pulte officials are upset over a recommendation by the Montgomery County planning staff to limit its plan for 1,000 housing units on its 538-acre site to as few as 217 to protect the Ten Mile Creek watershed.

The Pulte plan envisions a mix of single-family houses, townhouses and affordable units.

Each household in the Pulte development would spend an average $16,600 annually on retail items and services in Clarksburg, the report by real estate adviser Robert Charles Lesser & Co. says. If there are 783 housing units, that would translate to about $13 million in spending by residents annually.

Reducing the number of homes to 283 would result in about $4.7 million in annual retail spending, according to the report.

“In a community like Clarksburg that is already desperate for successful retail services, it is hard to reconcile how planning staff justifies this outcome,” said Lewis Birnbaum, president of Pulte’s mid-Atlantic division, in a statement. “There’s nothing in the staff report that addresses the realities of lost spending and lost jobs, which are absolutely essential to the vitality of Clarksburg.”

The Montgomery County Planning Board reviewed the planners’ recommendations Thursday during a meeting in Silver Spring. The board plans a public hearing on Sept. 10 and could issue a recommendation by October, then send the matter to the County Council for a vote.

Members of the Save Ten Mile Creek Coalition, which include the Audubon Naturalist Society, held a rally Thursday morning on the steps on the planning board’s headquarters and released a report that argues the planners’ ideas don’t go far enough to protect the watershed.

Restrictions are needed to protect Ten Mile Creek, which is a back-up source of drinking water in the area, coalition officials say.

The planning board last week approved a multi-use development of retail and offices in Clarksburg west of Interstate 270 called Clarksburg Premium Outlets at Cabin Branch.

The plan calls for up to 450,000 square feet of outlet retail.

The plan is slated to go before the county hearing examiner on Monday then the County Council.

Another major multi-use development called Streamside, with high-end Tanger outlets stores, stores, restaurants, offices and housing, is being proposed in Clarksburg east of I-270 by The Peterson Cos. Taylor Chess, president of Peterson’s retail division, said the company is “in the same ballpark” with planners’ recommendations.

The Save Ten Mile Creek Coalition opposes the plan because the 100-acre Streamside site includes the headwaters of Ten Mile Creek. Both Pulte and the Streamside developers claim that the latest stormwater management methods will protect the stream system.

Correction: The story incorrectly stated the Ten Mile Creek Coalition’s response to the planning staff recommendations. The correct response is that the coalition opposes the recommendations as not being restrictive enough to protect the watershed.

Staff Writer Virginia Terhune contributed to this report.

kshay@gazette.net