Premium outlet plan for Clarksburg takes next step: Hearing examiner -- Gazette.Net







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This story was corrected on July 31, 2013. An explanation follows the story.

The competition between proposed fashion outlet complexes straddling Interstate 270 in Clarksburg shifted from public relations campaigns and planning board hearings to a quasi-judicial hearing room in Rockville on Monday.

County Hearing Examiner Lynn Robeson began her review of a plan by Streetscape Partners, which wants to build a mixed-use center with Premium fashion outlet stores on the west side of Interstate 270 in the developing Cabin Branch area.

The hearing examiner’s role is to decide if the development plan conforms to the Clarksburg Master Plan, which provides development guidelines.

The Planning Board — which makes recommendations to the County Council — approved the Streetscape development plan on July 18, agreeing to its request to increase retail space from 120,000 square feet to a maximum of 484,000 square feet to make room for stores instead of offices.

Robeson continued Monday’s hearing to Aug. 12, after one of Streetscape’s attorneys was called away at lunchtime.

In the morning, Streetscape Partners argued that the center at the southwest corner of I-270 and Clarksburg Road (Md. 121) would create stores and restaurants for retail-starved Clarksburg by the end of 2015.

Streetscape says it could move ahead sooner than The Peterson Cos. — which has a competing outlet plan — because property owner Adventist HealthCare, which originally planned to build a hospital, has already won environmental approvals and permission to extend water and sewer lines.

“It’s ‘shovel ready,’ and it’s a major step to make Clarksburg [complete],” said real estate agent Ibi Sofillas, whose children go to Clarksburg schools.

Sofillas was joined by Barry Fantle and Kathie Hulley, who spoke as Clarksburg residents in favor of the project, along with former County Councilman Michael Knapp and Marilyn Balcombe, president and CEO of the Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce.

“These services currently don’t exist in Montgomery County,” Balcombe said about fashion outlet stores.

“People have to drive to Hagerstown ... and this would be a catalyst for other restaurants and stores” to serve upcounty residents, she said.

But lawyers for Peterson — which wants to build a mixed-use center with Tanger fashion outlet stores closer to the Clarksburg Town Center on the northeast corner of I-270 and Clarksburg Road — challenged the increase in allowed retail space. They argued that it violates the limit of 120,000 square feet set in the 1994 Clarksburg Master Plan, despite a rezoning of the site in 2003 to mixed use.

In addition, Peterson attorney Jody Kline said that approving an outlet center on the west side of I-270 would draw away customers and undermine the intent of the Clarksburg Master Plan, which is to cluster services in the Clarksburg Town Center area east of I-270.

“It detracts from the way the plan was supposed to work,” Kline said.

Bette Buffington, who co-owns the new Bennigan’s restaurant in Clarksburg’s historic district, agreed.

“It would draw away from the [town] center and segregate shopping,” she said.

Explanation: The original headline misstated the name of the outlet company. Also, the last name of Jody Kline was misspelled.