Just two years ago, at WMCCA’s March 2011 meeting, we learned that there was to be a commercial soccer complex on Brickyard Road’s twenty acres owned by the Board of Education as a future school site and used as an organic farm for the past thirty years. The County Executive announced that the property was to become a soccerplex, with the Board leasing the land to the County, which in turn would sublease to a soccer club – a plan developed in closed-door meetings involving the County Executive, the Board and a private group, starting in 2009. All of this was done without the community’s knowledge, with no opportunity for input, and bypassing the County’s processes to determine land use. We were told that this was a done deal, with community input limited to the number of fields and parking spaces. In fact, there were to be four soccer fields and 300 parking spaces, as well as concession stands and bathrooms – a development that, under normal circumstances, zoning laws would not allow.
This news resulted in a large public outcry from supporters of the farm and opponents to a soccerplex in a residential neighborhood. Shortly after learning of, and in opposition to, the soccerplex, the Brickyard Coalition was formed, including WMCCA, the Brickyard Road Citizens Association, the Civic Association of River Falls, and over 2000 members of the community. While this issue had important ramifications for the farm and surrounding community, there were bigger issues at play – no public input or transparency in the process, violating the Potomac Master plan and the County’s zoning laws, and providing public land to a private corporation for its exclusive use. This plan, if allowed to go forward, would set a dangerous precedent, and no community would be safe from covert planning and private development on public land.
After two years, the Brickyard Coalition has been successful in halting the soccerplex, with a dedicated group of community activists spending hours and hours in meetings and hearings. Critically, the Coalition initiated a series of legal actions seeking public documents under the Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA) related to two years of secret dealing by our county government – documents which by law are to be made available to the public upon request. The Coalition also entered into two lawsuits, with WMCCA part of the MPIA action as well as a Plaintiff in the second lawsuit.
Finally, the citizens prevailed. The County has surrendered the lease, and the land is back in the control of the Board of Education. It should not take this level of organization and lawsuits for residents to have a voice in this type of decision. One good outcome of this challenge is Bill 11-12 passed by the County Council, requiring the County Executive to seek approval before disposing of county real property through sale or long-term lease. If Potomac’s ordeal results in a more open and responsive county government with more checks and balances, then everyone will have benefitted.
Brickyard Road School Site Update
by Curt Uhre - It has taken two years, but the Brickyard Community has prevailed in its mission to stop the proposed soccerplex at the Brickyard school site. The Coalition opposed the soccerplex because (i) it did not comply with the Potomac Master Plan; (ii) the decision was made in secret and not in a competitive and transparent manner, and (iii) the proposal did not meet applicable zoning regulations.
Montgomery County has now surrendered the lease granted by the Board of Education for this property. The Board of Education has rescinded the lease and further, at our suggestion, nullified their authorizing resolution of March 8, 2011. There is no doubt that Coalition’s multiple lawsuits caused the County to surrender the lease which now permits the BOE to restart the process. The Brickyard Coalition would like to thank it’s 2000+ members for their enthusiastic support and assistance. We stood together and we prevailed.
As we have received all of the relief requested in our legal suits, Judge Greenburg has now dismissed the BOE appeal as moot. We expect similar action in the other lawsuit. However, we still retain the option to make an application for part of the legal fees expended in this fight. We understand that the Board of Education has decided to conduct a review of its process for the use of the Brickyard site and other similar BOE properties and develop policy guidelines for their future use. We look forward to working with the BOE as they undertake this important task.
Glen Hills Sewer Study
by Susanne Lee
West Montgomery County Citizens Association Newsletter
P. O. Box 59335
Potomac, MD 20854-9335
President - Shawn Justement, 301 762-6937
Newsletter - Lois Williams
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