Updated: Judge Halts Plan for Soccer Fields on Potomac Organic Farm

The decision came shortly after Gov. Martin O'Malley called the plan a bad idea.

A Circuit Court judge Tuesday nullified a lease agreement between Montgomery County and Montgomery County Public Schools that would give the county the right to build soccer fields on an organic farm in Potomac.

The Brickyard Soccer Field Project, headed by Montgomery County, would turn a piece of land owned by the school board and that currently houses a 30-year-old organic farm in Potomac into soccer fields.

, the legality of the county’s decision to develop the soccer fields and the transparency of its actions.

Circuit Court Judge Robert Greenburg today granted a stay, halting plans for Montgomery County to take back organic farmer Nick Maravell's farm on the land, as appeals of school board decisions play out. The decision came hours after on the controversy in favor of the organic farm.

"It effectively means that the county does not have a lease until the stay is lifted," said Maravell's attorney, Jim Parsons of Rockville.

Sara Shor, an organizer with Save Nick's Organic Farm, said the Maravell family and their supporters were ecstatic with the decision. 

"We're happy to have gotten exactly what we asked for, and we feel that this is a huge victory," Shor said. "We hope the county government and the board of education use their leadership to do what the citizens have said, what 30 organizations have signed on to and what the governor has now endorsed."

Maravell's rights to the land remain unclear, as he now remains without a lease or license extension. Maravell had leased the land from the school board for over 30 years. When he lost the lease to Montgomery County, the county granted him a license extension that would keep him on the property through Wednesday.

The judge's stay will not necessarily prohibit him from continuing to farm the land, Parsons said, unless Montgomery County Public Schools moves to evict him.

“The judge did not prohibit anyone from going on the land," Parsons said. "He didn’t make any decision about Mr. Maravell's accessory rights and the property.”

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett had no comment as of Tuesday afternoon, according to county spokesperson Donna Bigler.

Whether the county will continue with its planning studies required to send the project to the planning board is also unclear.

"We probably need to work it out with the school board," Bigler said.

Dana Tofig, spokesperson for Montgomery County Public Schools, said the board had no official reaction.

"We're not going comment on anything else to this point," Tofig said. "We need to figure out what [the decision] means to us."

He said the school board's priority was maintaining flexibility for building a school on the site.

This post was updated at 6:30 p.m. to reflect statements by Montgomery County Public Schools.

Janis August 15, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Note the Circuit Court Judge that was hearing the case yesterday is an Ehrlich appointee. The State Board of Education, whose decision was being challenged in Circuit Court, are O'Malley appointees.
Edward Charles August 15, 2012 at 07:04 PM
We can all sleep in peace tonight knowing that MOM and Senate President Palpatine (Star Wars!) have given us the opportunity to play casino games indoors. "It's for the children", MOM said.
nancy feinstein August 15, 2012 at 07:28 PM
doesn't make sense to pick a time when he's done something right - that might save an organic farm that is also an educational resource, that is on board of education land - to criticize him for when he's done something you don't support. we need to support him for having the courage to go against the tide when he does that (and this was a time when some powerful force (that we cannot actually see enough to understand) was piling up against doing the right thing. One way to make politicians not accountable to anyone, is to criticize them - whatever they're doing. That's when they just stop listenging to the public at all.
Janis August 15, 2012 at 09:38 PM
@ Nancy Feinstein - FYI - O'Malley has done nothing here. He is not a decision maker. He did not come out in favor of the Maryland Open Meetings Act (at issue in the one of the court cases) and did not come out in favor of an open, public process (which did not happen in this matter).
CLT August 20, 2012 at 01:24 AM
I love these citizen groups opposed to the soccer fields hiding behind the false guise of the "organic farm". They could care less about the farm and the farmer. They just do not want anything on the land near their homes while they send their kids to the Germantown Soccerplex. Its the old NIMBY principle.


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