Roger Berliner faced a firing squad and escaped a little worse for wear at last night's West Montgomery County Citizens Association meeting.
Potomac residents filled up the Potomac Presbyterian Church on Wednesday evening to interrogate Berliner, the Montgomery County Council president and District 1 representative, about his knowledge of the county's decision to turn the Brickyard Road property, traditionally farmed by Nick Maravell, into soccer fields.
“I will seek to do everything I can to minimize the impact of this on your community,” Berliner said.
Maravell had been farming a plot of land at Brickyard Road on lease from the Montgomery County Board of Education for more than 30 years, before the board voted in March to lease the land to the county to develop into soccer fields. Residents opposed to the decision say the county and BOE acted inappropriately by neither giving the community ample notice nor opening the proceedings to include sufficient public input.
Wednesday's discussion quickly became heated as residents accused Berliner of knowing about the county's intent well before the decision was made public, despite his previous claims to the contrary.
Representatives of the Brickyard Coalition cited an e-mail between David Dise, director of the Montgomery County Department of General Services, and Kassa Seyoum, capital projects manager, dated Sept. 30, 2010, which states: "I [David Dise] met with Roger Berliner this afternoon who asked that we postpone the Brickyard Road component until he has time to prep residents ...."
Potomac residents were not made aware of the decision until March 2011 and voiced their frustrations at Wednesday’s meeting.
"I haven’t seen any fight here," said Dennis Kelleher of Brickyard Road, to rounds of applause in agreement. "We don’t see a leader; we don’t see any hope.”
"We want an answer. When are you going to fight for us?" Potomac resident Jill Philips echoed.
Berliner responded by trying to explain his actions, acknowledging that he had no answer that would be satisfactory to the meeting-goers.
"I did not know that they [the county] had already committed. That they weren't going to do what I asked them to do, because they were already in," Berliner said. "As to whether or not I have any authority to do anything about [the decision] is a very different issue. What I've tried to share with you is: I don't believe I do, and I don't believe our council does."
The meeting ended without a satisfactory resolution for either side.
Ginny Barnes, environmental chair for the WMCCA, said the tone of the meeting escalated more than she had anticipated.
"It's hard to bring this subject up in a room full of people who have been prevailed upon by their county," she said. "I am sorry that things got out of hand. I don't want [Berliner] to feel blindsided.
"I am concerned about Roger knowing about this as far back as September and not letting us know," she continued. "When I found out about the e-mail, I was really disappointed."