Organic farmland on Brickyard Road could become a soccer field, if the Board of Education votes on Tuesday to approve the request submitted by Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett.
Nick Maravell, who has done organic farming on the 20-acre lot behind his house on Brickyard Road for 31 years, said he feels as if the community has not been given the opportunity to express concerns and opinions about the plans for the site.
“What is the perception here is that the policy process is being shortened and valid points of view are not able to be provided before a decision is made,” Maravell said.
Montgomery County Public Schools currently owns the property and, if the Board of Education approves the proposal, they would grant a ten-year land lease to Montgomery County, said county spokesperson Patrick Lacefield. The county would then put out requests for public-private partnerships, which would allow private athletic organizations or community groups to help design, construct and maintain the fields, Lacefield added.
The fields, although owned by the county, would be funded through the private partner, Lacefield said.
The addition of a soccer field is part of Leggett’s push to increase the number of soccer fields in the downcounty — an area with a high population of soccer players, Lacefield said.
In fact, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission outlined some of the county’s field needs in the future and recommended a maximum of 123 additional fields — most of them multi-use rectangular fields — should be created by 2020 to accommodate for sporting needs.
“The County Executive is concerned that there are not enough fields in the area, especially for soccer,” Lacefield said. “There is a high proportion in Bethesda and Potomac and there are not enough fields to accommodate them."
The land was originally designated for a school, but according to the Potomac Master Plan, the land could be used for recreational use if not for a school. Lacefield said he has received complaints about the lack of public hearings, but the county can't hold hearings until they own the property.
Montgomery County Facilities Management called Maravell on March 3 and told him when his five-year lease on the land ended on March 22, he could not renew is lease. Although the lease was set to expire, no warning had been given indicating it would not be renewed, Maravell said.
Maravell — a certified organic farmer — raises seed stock on the land and produces corn and soybean seeds. These seeds are then sold to other companies or farmers to grow organic products.
Also, Maravell uses some of the seeds for his own organic farmland in Frederick County—property that cannot harbor the seed operation as well. The seed stock crops can’t move easily as the soil takes years to meet the organic standards, he said.
“I run a diversified operation so that the different parts compliment eachother,” Maravell said. “I’m raising organic seed so I can plant my own organic seed, but I raise enough so that I can sell some so that I get reimbursed for it, so this will take away the diversity and one of the legs of the table that supports my operation.”
County Councilman Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1) of Potomac sent a letter to Board of Education President Christopher Barclay on March 4, recommending that the Board of Education postpone Tuesday’s vote until the community can offer input.
“Our county rightfully prides itself on both process and transparency. In this matter, our county has not adequately met either of those expectations,” Berliner said in the letter.
Although Maravell and community leaders did not know about future plans for the site until last week, meeting minutes from a Nov. 16 MSI Soccer Board of Directors meeting alluded to a future public-private partnership to develop new soccer fields at Brickyard pending the county’s release of a request for proposal.
MSI Soccer Directors were not available to comment by the time the story was published.
There will be a public comment period before the Board of Education at 10 a.m. on Tuesday and Maravell said he plans to prepare a two-minute statement. The Board of Education will vote on the Brickyard site along with several other agenda items at 2 p.m.