Brickyard Coalition Offers to End Legal Battle with Montgomery County Over Organic Farm
The coalition has offered to withdraw its legal suits if three conditions are met.
A proposal described as an olive branch has been offered in a touchy and expensive legal case that has involved Potomac residents, county officials and even the governor in a dispute over the future of an organic farm.
The Brickyard Coalition, in a proposal to Montgomery County Public Schools, has offered what it says is a way to end lengthy litigation over the Brickyard Road Middle School site in Potomac. The school property currently is home to a 30-year-old organic farm, but soon may be turned over to Montgomery County so the land can be developed into soccer fields.
The county, the board of education, the farm and the Brickyard Coalition have spent thousands in the court battles in which opponents of the development claim the county and the school board acted unjustly and violated open government laws when the decision to lease the land to the county was made. The county disputes the claim.
The school board has confirmed that it has spent “upwards of $200,000” defending its actions in leasing the land to the county, according to MCPS spokesman Dana Tofig.
Patch has filed a Freedom of Information request for detailed spending figures from Montgomery County on Brickyard litigation. The Brickyard Coalition, a private organization, has declined to disclose how much it has spent in suing the county and the school board.
“It's private money," said Ginny Barnes, president-elect of the West Montgomery County Citizens Association and a member of the coalition. “I'm getting tired of getting characterized as this rich community that readily has the funds to engage in litigation with the county. We're out to right a wrong, and we're determined to do that.”
In August, Gov. Martin O’Malley spoke out in favor of the farm and against Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett and the Board of Education, adding fuel to what already has been an intense conflict between county residents and county leaders.
Last week the coalition proposed an end to the litigation – if three conditions are met.
In a letter to Patch and the Potomac Almanac, Barnes outlined the proposal’s requests:
1) The BOE, pursuant to its lease with Montgomery County, asks for and receives the land back.
2) Upon reclamation, the BOE agrees that any future use of the site will be determined by an open process with citizen comment.
3) That the BOE consider agricultural/environmental educational use of the site which would involve maintaining the certified organic status of the land.
Whether the school board will entertain the proposal is unknown.
“The [school board] does not conduct such negotiations in the press so we cannot comment any offers, regardless of whether another party chooses to do so,” Tofig said. “Anything that was submitted to us is something that the board will discuss with its attorneys.”
Meanwhile, Montgomery County is appealing a court-ordered stay on the Brickyard Middle School site that prevents the county from continuing with its plans to develop soccer fields.
In August, a Circuit Court judge nullified the lease agreement between the county and MCPS, effectively halting the county’s plans to develop the land.
*Editor's note: This story was updated to remove inaccurate wording regarding the property lease exchange.