Eyes of Paint Branch

Conservation, Education, and Action for the Paint Branch and Its Watershed

Comprehensive Protection

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Upper Paint Branch Special Protection Area

On July 11, 1995 the Montgomery County Council unanimously designated the upper Paint Branch watershed as a Special Protection Area (SPA). The upper Paint Branch watershed is defined as the entire watershed north of Fairland Road, the same area designated in 1980 by the State of Maryland as a "Special Native Trout Management Area."

The Upper Paint Branch SPA includes additional safeguards to minimize the impacts of development, and imposes an impervious surface cap of 10 percent for new development throughout the headwaters area.

Any project, public or private, must meet Montgomery County SPA regulations and guidelines in order to locate within the SPA (Chapter 19, Section 19-62.C, Montgomery County Code). A project must demonstrate, through a water quality plan, that certain site-specific watershed goals are met. The Montgomery County Department of Permitting Services and Montgomery County Planning Board must approve the water quality plan before any project can proceed. In the Upper Paint Branch SPA, meeting watershed protection goals requires that the project implement measures in four areas:

  1. Site imperviousness - There is a 10 percent upper limit on impervious surface area within the site boundaries. Limiting site imperviousness is considered a best management practice that is implemented in addition to storm water management and sedimentation and erosion control measures. Proposed projects must provide alternatives, such as redesign of layout or site plan to reduce impervious surfaces, purchase off-site land within the same sub-watershed to protect as "pervious reserve" land, or change or reduce uses in the project, in order to stay within the limit if the original project submission exceeds 10 percent. If site imperviousness still exceeds 10 percent after all feasible options are incorporated, then the project must request a waiver, on which the Planning Board acts.
  2. SPA buffers - Buffers around natural features such as streams, wetlands, seeps, springs, and floodplains are defined and preserved as undisturbed conservation areas. If a proposed project encroaches within such buffer areas or natural features, the project must be modified to avoid or minimize encroachments when feasible. If buffer encroachment cannot be avoided, the project must request a waiver; the Planning Board acts on the waiver.
  3. Storm water management measures - Measures must be shown to meet goals set forth in the water quality plan. Measures are in-series to better ensure long-term effectiveness. Measures are collectively used to accomplish such goals as maintaining stream base flow, preventing erosive storm water runoff, preventing stream temperature impacts, and protecting seeps, springs, and wetlands.
  4. Sediment and erosion control measures - Measures must be shown to meet goals set forth in the water quality plan. Stringent measures are used to accomplish such goals as minimizing sediment loads to receiving stream systems.

The SPA law, regulations, and guidelines are found in the following documents:Chapter 19, Article V, Sections 19-60 through 19-68 of the Montgomery County Code; Montgomery County Executive Regulation 29-95, Regulations for Water Quality Review - Special Protection Areas; Environmental Guidelines - Guidelines for Environmental Management of Development in Montgomery County, approved by the Montgomery County Planning Board, February 1997; Montgomery County Emergency Bill No. 24-00, Real Property Disclosure, Special Protection Area.