It may have been nearly 20 years ago, but Carol Martin remembers the days when Fields Road in Gaithersburg was just a two-lane country road. Sam Eig Highway didn't exist. And the Crown family farm was still just open farmland.

Times have changed. Houses popped up nearby -- first a few, then many. Not to mention the Rio and Washingtonian shopping center.

"I can't even leave my windows open anymore because it's so noisy," said Martin, who lives nearby.

And now, despite the protests of Martin and other residents, the Gaithersburg planning commission has given final approval for developers to build 68 single-family homes and townhouses on 13 acres of the 180-acre Crown family farm along what is now Sam Eig Highway.

The approval comes several months after the Crown family sold the parcel to developers Lebling Development and Aris Mardirossian for $9 million, according to the Montgomery Newsletter, which tracks development in the county. The 13 acres were annexed to the city from the county.

Now Martin is worried that the real estate market is so hot that the rest of the farm will go up for sale. City officials, including Mayor Sidney Katz, acknowledge that this is a strong possibility.

"That's my understanding, that they would sell the land," Katz said.

"A sale would not surprise me," said John Bauer, a member of the Gaithersburg Planning Commission.

As for the developers, they haven't been talking. Officials from Lebling Development, which is based in Rockville, could not be reached for comment.

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Two local biotech firms are banding together to find treatments for inflammatory diseases.

Using its proprietary gene expression analysis system, Avalon Pharmaceuticals of Germantown will identify small-molecule compounds for a variety of diseases. MedImmune Inc. of Gaithersburg will then conduct testing on the compounds -- both in animals and humans -- as well as market any drugs that advance sufficiently.

As part of the deal, Avalon received an undisclosed payment upfront and is entitled to royalty payments as development of any potential products proceeds.

The partnership represents a new business area for Avalon. The firm had previously been using its technology to discover new cancer drugs.

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The Clean Energy Partnership, a Silver Spring-based group that helps businesses in the Washington region buy clean energy, celebrated its first anniversary earlier this month with a Call to Action Happy Hour at Black's Bar & Kitchen.

Through the organization, about 28 businesses have purchased nearly 34,000 megawatt-hours of clean energy. The average home in the region uses about 12 megawatt-hours of electricity per year.

"As environmentally conscious business owners, we are in a unique position to have a profound and positive impact on the environment," said Scott Nash, president of My Organic Market, which has purchased wind power for three locations. "This represents an enormous opportunity, considering that more than 39 percent of all energy consumed in the United States every year is used by residential and commercial buildings."

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Westfield Montgomery Mall has added or remodeled three stores and has a new restaurant in the food court.

Brookstone, whose merchandise ranges from electronic gadgets to hammocks, recently opened on the lower level, near Center Court. Jewelry Corner, a family-owned business, opened in the cinema wing. Radio Shack remodeled its store and opened on the second level in the Hecht's Home Store wing.

And US Bistro, which specializes in sandwiches, wraps and gourmet salads, opened in the food court.

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GranDesign Studio Inc. has finished a major design on its new headquarters in Silver Spring after gutting a drab, 40-year-old eyesore right down to its steel framework.

The firm gave the three-story building a face-lift and added an elevator, energy-efficient windows and doors and installed new heating and cooling systems. The 14-year-old design and engineering firm will occupy the third floor. The first two floors will be leased.

Have some business news about Montgomery County? Send an e-mail to rosenwaldm@washpost.com.