Years before the Parkford Cos. of Gaithersburg broke ground on Penderbrook, a massive residential development located just north of Fair Oaks Mall, residents of the small Fairfax Farms subdivision nearby appeared before the Fairfax County Planning Commission and the county Board of Supervisors.

Still smarting from the flooding of their properties that came with the construction of Fair Oaks Mall in the late 1970s, residents didn't want to take any chances this time.

They fought for and won assurances from the county that the 1,800-home Penderbrook project, located on higher ground above their homes, would not cause flooding.

It's been a year since construction began on the 300-acre Penderbrook project, and Fairfax Farms residents have experienced a dozen floods on their properties.

The flooding sometimes brings as much as 2 1/2 feet of water and red mud gushing down Valley Road, the only road providing entrance to the subdivision.

"It's really like a waterfall coming," said Louise Wallace, a 12-year resident of the community.

The flooding, which can occur when as little as 20 minutes of hard rain takes place, blocks traffic in and out of the small community, sometimes for as long as 2 1/2 hours. The flooding brings with it debris, logs, branches and trash that land on their properties.

The water has ripped a mammoth pothole in the driveway leading to the house of Edward and Jill Miller.

"This is predevelopment," said Dr. Albert Moniz, a 14-year resident of Fairfax Farms. "Can you imagine when they start tearing down those trees?"

Claude Cooper, director of the county's department of environmental managment, which oversees construction in the county, said the developer, the Parkford Cos., is meeting the standards set out by the county to reduce the flooding.

Cooper said the county wanted the developer to put in a larger drainage system and to widen a creek trailing through the subdivision to carry additional water but that the residents rejected the idea, saying it would disrupt their community.

"There are a couple of culverts that are in desperate need of being replaced," said Daniel Keusal, senior vice president of Parkford Cos.

"We have designed those culverts and stand {ready} to do the work . . . . Thus far, the residents have refused to make the easements available," Keusal said.

Residents say they opposed the widening of the creek and the installation of a larger drainage pipe only because they know those measures won't help.

The force of the water coming down into the stream is too much for the widening proposed by the county, residents say.

"If they did something we know isn't going to solve the problem, they they'll say, 'We spent the money,' " Wallace said.

The residents believe that the developer should enlarge the pond located above their properties and allow a steady stream of water to flow out of it at all times instead of retaining water in the pond.

The pond is nearly always full, and water pours down onto their "It's really like a waterfall coming."

-- Louise Wallace

properties when a major storm occurs, the residents say.

Cooper said the county is continuing to meet with the developer and the residents to reduce the problem. The developer is redesigning the retention pond to hold more water, he said.

For the residents, frustration is turning to anger as they continue to fight the flooding with little result.

"The county says, 'We've done everything we can,' " said Shirley Sweeney, president of the Fairfax Farms Community Association.

"We're saying we live out here and if we can't get out for two hours because of a 2 1/2-foot flood, somebody has to help us."