The Board of Education voted 6-2 on Tuesday to allow Montgomery County to lease the 20-acre property on Brickyard Road in Potomac to potentially build soccer fields; however the board also passed an amendment extending the current tenant’s stay.
Nick Maravell, who has done organic farming on the lot behind his house on Brickyard Road for 31 years, will now be able to farm on the property until Jan. 1, 2012 — an amendment added to the original proposal where Maravell would have had to stop farming when the lease ended on March 22.
Patricia O’Neill (Dist. 3) proposed the amendments so that Maravell, who was notified on March 3 that he could not renew his lease on the organic farmland, would be able to plant and harvest this season given the short notice he had from the county.
“I want to offer a resolution because I am sympathetic to Nick’s situation and we want Nick’s organic farm to be able to harvest through 2012 via a sublease with the County Executive,” O’Neill said.
The school board voted after several citizens spoke out in opposition to the fields' development earlier in the day during its public comment period.
The county will now put out requests for public-private partnerships, which would allow private athletic organizations or community groups to help design, construct and maintain the fields. Maravell’s use of the property will not intervene with the county’s process of seeking private partners, O’Neill said.
In the coming weeks, the county will set up community forums, which will allow citizens to comment on their thoughts for the fields, said David E. Dise, the Director of the Montgomery County Office of Procurement.
Dise said the county is already planning to provide natural fields instead of artificial turf and have limitations for noise and lights.
Several members of the Board of Education said they hoped that these new fields could alleviate the overuse of many surrounding school fields.
“There is such a need for recreation and travel teams to find quality fields for practice or games and having a new set of quality fields will relieve the requests for our schools’ to be utilized,” said President of the Board of Education Christopher Barclay (Dist. 4).
Laura Berthiaume (Dist. 2) and Philip Kauffman (At-Large) did not vote in favor of the measure.
Maravell said he was pleased he will have more time to on the property and does not yet know what the future holds for his farming endeavors.
"I was disappointed that the Board of Education had not listened to the community involvement at an earlier stage," Maravell said. “I haven’t had time to figure out how I might be able to continue my growing operation in the future.”
Editor's note: A previous version of the story did not accurately quote Nick Maravell. We regret the error.