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Special Protection Area (SPA)

What is a Special Protection Area (SPA)?

A Special Protection Area (SPA) is a geographic area designated by the County Council which has high quality or unusually sensitive water resources and environmental features that would be threatened by proposed land development if special water quality protection measures were not applied.

Where are the SPA's in Montgomery County?

The existing SPA's are located in part of the Upper Paint Branch watershed, in the Piney Branch of the Watts Branch watershed, the Upper Rock Creek Watershed, and in theClarksburgarea as identified in the Clarksburg Master Plan. Please consult the Water Resources Section to determine if your development falls within an SPA area.

When do I need a SPA review?

All proposed development in a SPA is subject to a review if a Development Plan, Diagrammatic Plan, Schematic Development Plan, Project Plan, Preliminary Plan, Site Plan, or Special Exception is required. Projects on publicly owned property should also have a SPA review.

What is a SPA review?

All proposed development in a SPA is subject to a review

When do I need a SPA review?

Requirements of the SPA review are outlined in Executive Regulation No. 29-95 and include a Water Quality Inventory and/or a Preliminary and Final Water Quality Plan in lieu of the normal stormwater management concept requirement.

When is a Water Quality Inventory required instead of a Full Water Quality Plan?

Only a Water Quality Inventory is required if the proposed development meets one of the exemptions specified in the following sections. However, exemptions do not apply to the Upper Paint Branch SPA area.

What are the SPA exemptions?

Except in the upper Paint Branch SPA, an applicant needs not submit a preliminary or Final Water Quality Plan if:

  • A project on agricultural, residential, or mixed use zoned property contains
    • a proposed impervious area of less than 8% of the total area covered by the development approval application, or
    • a cumulative area of 10 or fewer acres, and a proposed impervious area of less than 15% of the total land area covered by the development approval applications.
  • A project on property zoned for industrial or commercial use consists of a cumulative land area of two or fewer acres covered by the development approval application.

What is the SPA review process?

If the project is not exempt, a pre-application meeting is required prior to submittal of the Preliminary Water Quality Plan. Submit the Preliminary Water Quality Plan and/or water quality inventory in accordance with the requirements of Executive Regulation # 29-95. A Final Water Quality Plan is also required.

What are the conditions where approved?

Approval of the Water Quality Plan, or Water-Quality Inventory, is required as part of the subdivision approval process.

Are other agencies involved?

The Special Protection Area Review is done in coordination with the MNCPPC and the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection.

What will the SPA review cost?

When will my Water Quality Plan be approved?

A Water Quality Plan typically takes approximately six to 12 weeks for approval. The Water Quality Plan review time varies with the size and location of the project within the SPA. It can also be affected by delays in the preparation and submittal of the inventory and associated technical information. 


Application Package
Stormwater Concept Application (Select SPA Review where noted) Stormwater Concept Application
Sediment Control Permit Application Sediment Control Permit Application
Fees and Taxes
Fees for SPA Reviews (See page 7) Executive Regulation 6-11
Automation Enhancement Fee Regulation (10% Automation Fee) Executive regulation 5-98
Credit Card Authorization Form Credit Card Authorization Form
Codes, Standards, Executive Regulations
Montgomery County Code - Chapter 19 Montgomery County Code
Guidelines, Memorandum of Understandings, Interpretations
Water Resource Section Standards, Guidelines and Helpful Information Water Resource Section Guidelines
Sediment Control Pemit Information Sediment Control Permit
Frequently Asked Questions
311 Web Portal: Enter key word "SPA"
Other Agencies Involved
Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission - Environmental Planning Division M-NCPPC
Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection MCDEP
Call for More Information
In Montgomery County 311
Outside of Montgomery County 240-777-0311
Other Agencies to Contact
Other Agencies and Utilities to Contact Allegheny Power
  Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. (BG&E)
  Board of Appeals
  Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation
  Maryland Department of the Environment
  Miss Utility
  MNCPPC: MC Atlas
  MNCPPC: Zoning
  Potomac Electric Power Company (PEPCO)
  Washington Gas Light Co.