A long nightmare is one step closer to being over for long-suffering Clarksburg residents who have been waiting for a viable town center in Clarksburg for over a decade.
At a meeting on Thursday, July 23, the Montgomery County Planning Board, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission approved new plans for the Clarksburg Town Center submitted by Third Try, LLC of McLean, Va.
These project, preliminary and site plan amendments are limited to the unbuilt portions of the 270-acre Town Center, on both the east and west sides of the development. They include a revised design of the commercial core, new community and civic buildings, and upgrades to two local parks.
When implemented, the plans will complete the Clarksburg Town Center after years of delay, due to numerous violations associated with the build-out of the community. An agreement reached by a citizen-led group known as the Clarksburg Town Center Advisory Committee and developer NNPII Clarksburg LLC (Newlands) led to a new site plan in 2009, calling for significant improvements to the Town Center. However, Newlands did not move forward with these plans, eventually selling the unfinished portions of the property to Third Try.
The Town Center currently includes approximately 840 occupied residential units, a new elementary school, landscaping along major roads and other improvements. The plans call for a total of 1,120 residential units, along with 206,185 square feet of commercial space and numerous community enhancements.
Clarksburg resident Maryann Jasper urged the Planning Board to approve the plan saying that she and her neighbors have been waiting a very long time for their community to be completed. “My husband and daughter have been residents of Clarksburg Town Center for eleven and half years. As the years rolled by we felt as though we were being held hostage in one big, unfinished project with so many code violations and lawsuits. It literally tore our community apart, pitting neighbor against neighbor. Neighbors lost interest in the community and many moved out of the neighborhood. It was heartbreaking to see this happen to our neighborhood.”
Another resident, James Peck seemed to get quite emotional as he asked to Planning Board to approve the plan. “It has been ten years that I have lived in a construction site with my family, and the roads just got paved,” he said. “My daughters are not in college and they are not going to get to walk to that ice scream store. Please approve this plan don’t hold this up any longer.”
The commercial core, which will be located on the western side of the Little Seneca Greenway, will include office and medical buildings, retail, restaurants and a grocery store. The buildings are oriented toward and new street called, General Store Drive, which is a private street segment, and Clarksburg Square Road with surface parking located in the rear so the core is compatible with existing development.
Amenities in the commercial core include a plaza with a splash fountain and seating. A civic building and a town green are proposed to the north, across Clarksburg Square Road. The town green is envisioned to include a stage with amphitheater seating for community-wide events. The neo-traditional design of the mixed-use Town Center is meant to complement existing structures and the Clarksburg Historic District at its heart.
The Planning Board also approved plans for a new, 3,200-square-foot community building adjacent to the Residents’ Club to host large, indoor gatherings. A much-needed parking area located in nearby Sinequa Square will serve the club pool and both community buildings.
Also approved are improvements to Piedmont Woods and Kings Pond Local Parks. A basketball court, tennis courts, a playground, a dog park, picnic shelters and hiking trails are proposed for Piedmont Woods Local Park. A pond with a fishing pier, a tot lot, a hiking trail and picnic shelters will be added to Kings Pond Local Park.
A land bridge across the Greenway will connect the east and west sides of the Town Center. The Greenway will be enhanced to support stormwater management and reforestation. The Planning Board recommended that a natural surface walking trail be provided within the Greenway. A shared-use path will also connect Clarksburg and Stringtown Roads.
At the Planning Board meeting, Deputy Director of the Planning Department, Rose Krasnow, who has been involved with this development since the first violations were alleged, expressed the sentiments of many when she said, “It has taken a long time to get to this point, but with the approval of these plans today, we believe that the ultimate vision of Clarksburg Town Center as a walkable, mixed-use hub with a small-town feel and numerous amenities for residents can finally be realized.”
In 1994, the Montgomery County Council approved the Clarksburg Master Plan and Hyattstown Special Study Area, calling for the creation of a Town Center. This Center focused on the Clarksburg Historic District and would include a mix of uses. Two years later, plans were approved for a neo-traditional community to be constructed in phases with residential units, offices and retail. By 2006, about 725 units of the approved 1,300 dwelling units had been built or were under construction. The retail phase was never approved.
In 2005, the Clarksburg Town Center Advisory Committee alleged numerous violations associated with the build-out of the community and the Planning Board held several hearings on the allegations. Mediation between the advisory committee and developer led to an amended site plan, which became known as the Compliance Plan and was approved by the Planning Board in 2006.
In 2009, the Planning Board approved planning applications for commercial spaces, more than 1,200 dwelling units, a waiver to reduce the number of parking spaces and reconfirmation of building setbacks from residentially zoned properties. Although many of these elements were recommended in the Compliance Plan, the Board did not require that all elements of that Plan be realized, such as parking structures in the retail core. Subsequent plan amendments approved by the Board in 2010 and 2013 have resulted in the completion of some additional dwellings and community improvements.