Clarksburg: Lesson for all communities

Aug. 2, 2005
Kim Boughan and Patrick Boughan

While much attention has been brought to the building violations situation in Clarksburg, it is just the latest example of county officials' inability to effectively plan the community's development.

The first example of poor planning concerns the historical designation of the Comsat building. If there is one landmark that stands out in Clarksburg, it is the Comsat building. Home to innovations in satellite technology, the building is the unique accomplishment of a noted architect, and is something that truly belongs to Clarksburg. Recently, the county planning board voted down historical designation for the building and the land soon will be the site of un-unique houses, townhouses and businesses. Rather than supplant this historic place with wallpaper development, why don't we set a precedent of preserving community character as it grows.

The second example of the county's inability to plan is its inefficient management of resources. Some examples of that through the last decade include:

*When construction began in Clarksburg, the county made no attempt to build an infrastructure before building houses. When an electrician wires an outlet, he does not plug something in the outlet and then wire it, but Clarksburg is being developed under that same policy.

The developers are busy building houses, yet none of the schools, roads or access to public transportation (such as Metro) have changed with the influx of people. At this point, when the county fixes the roads and schools, it will have to be done with the full population of developed Clarksburg -- a much more expensive and difficult prospect.

*From the time Rocky Hill Middle School was built and running (fall of 1995) it was already the plan that the existing building was to be extended and converted into a high school. Now, 10 years later, most of the older building has been destroyed to build the new high school, as opposed to the original plan to build extensions onto the existing frame. This is a waste of money. Why wasn't the original plan followed?

When the county consulted with community activists in the early 1990s about the upcoming building of Rocky Hill and Clarksburg, their numbers and insight into how many children were going to move in to the new developments was sorely inaccurate. In fact when community activists urged the county to make the necessary accommodations for schools the county ignored them, saying that there was no way the community could prove that such a large number of children would move into those homes. This is the shortsightedness that has plagued the planning department.

*The jail is an old and sore subject, but yet an example of poor foresight. We remember the county assuring our community that the jail was needed, that the Rockville jail was going to be overcapacity and that Clarksburg jail was needed to supplement it. In fact, county bureaucrats claimed that both jails would be at capacity within a few years. Yet, surprisingly, the Rockville jail is slated to become office buildings.

But let's put that aside. With the jail in Clarksburg, and the courts in Rockville, how much money are we paying in gas, maintenance, etc., to transport the detainees up and down Interstate 270 every day, multiple times a day? Perhaps a small thing to ask, but still gas adds up, and it seems a waste of taxpayer money.

The recent errors are a most blatant case of mismanagement on the county's part and the developers need to be brought to task. While we feel sorry for those who purchased homes and must wait, we feel that this ongoing problem needs to be addressed so that all community residents will be better served in the future.

Both the developers and the board are at fault in this situation. At the least, heavy fines are due to the developers for their actions. Additionally, a major overhaul of the planning board is due, because they truly have no concept of the needs of our communities.

Also, it may be time for Clarksburg, Damascus and other small communities to incorporate so they can better protect themselves from the shoddy work that has played out in Clarksburg. What is happening now goes beyond the residents of Clarksburg, it affects all of us who want to preserve good schools, roads, parks and character as we grow.

We need to make a stand that this is unacceptable.

Kim and Patrick Boughan are brother and sister. Their family, which had lived in Clarksburg for several years before moving to Damascus, has been active in community affairs.