Montgomery County School Board Makes Move To Turn Organic Farm on Brickyard Rd. Into Ball Field | Sports & Recreation
MSI Soccer Organization Discussed Plans Back in 2010
Potomac, MD, March 7, 2011—With only five days notice, the Montgomery County School Board released documents Thursday showing it plans an important vote this Tuesday, March 8, which would turn land that has been farmed organically for 31 years into a ball field operation, developed through a public-private partnership. While the farmer who has been working the land remained in the dark, the MSI youth soccer organization apparently already heard about it in November.
“Giving the public almost no time to debate the plan to build ball fields here is not right for our community,” says Nick Maravell, owner of Nick’s Organic Farm and farmer of the land for more than three decades. “The fact that MSI knew enough about this plan to discuss submitting RFPs for it at their board meeting in November, when the community and county council remained in the dark, is wrong. I would expect that our county officials at the highest levels would find this situation unacceptable and call for a delay in any action until an open and transparent process can be achieved, as Councilmen Berliner and Leventhal have already done.”
“This project would have very serious effects on the community in many far-reaching ways. Problems relating to traffic, parking, noise, trash, water pollution, and light pollution have not been fully considered. Questions about land use and food security haven’t been properly reviewed. The lack of transparency in this process and the apparent failure to respond to voters’ needs and desires are very disturbing,” he says. “Also, this site is unique for organic seed production, because it is miles away from any conventional crops that could contaminate the fields with GMO pollen,” Maravell says.According to planning documents, the board would grant a 10-year lease to the county, allowing the county to work with a private athletic organization to construct ball fields on land at 8615 Brickyard Road that has been leased to Maravell for organic crops for more than 30 years. The Board of Education would grant a ten year land lease to the county—but could recover the land if needed for a school. After receiving the land lease, the county would then work with a private athletic organization in a public-private partnership to construct ball fields.
Only this past Thursday did this information become public, when agenda documents were posted. The same day, Maravell, whose home borders the site from Horseshoe Lane and has been farming the land for the past 31 years, found out about the move. Although the lease was set to expire on the 20-acre field, no warning had been given indicating it would not be renewed.
At its board meeting Nov. 16 last year, MSI discussed field development, mentioning “Brickyard” as one of five possible places “to develop new soccer fields,” according to minutes of the meeting.