Friday, March 18, 2011

What is this about? What Can I do?

Welcome to Brickyard Rd...

The Montgomery County Board of Education owns 20 acres on Brickyard Rd. in Potomac, Maryland, they have been holding it for future school construction. For the last 31 years it has been leased to Farmer Nick Maravell, Mr. Marvell has been growing certified organic and non-GMO (non- genetically modified) seed crops, critical to organic farmers throughout the region. On March 7, 2001 Mr. Marvell was given 2 weeks notice that his lease with the County would be ending to make way for a lease between the BOE and the County that would turn the farm into soccer fields that had been planned in meetings by the county starting in 2009.

Concerned residents mobilized and spoke up for the farm and for proper public process at the BOE meeting three days later, but the BOE voted 5-2 to end Mr. Marvell's lease, giving him until January 2012 to leave the farm.The soccer fields have been a done deal even before the BOE hearing, giving local residents no chance to weigh in on the land use for this publicly held land.

This blog will be fighting to keep the farm for reasons we will be laying out in depth, however we know some in the community really welcome more soccer fields.

No matter what you want to see happen with the land, everyone can agree that the proper public process and transparency were totally absent here. MoCo residents expect and deserve better.

We can disagree, but lets have the opportunity for a public conversation about land that is publicly owned.
If we don't fight for public process now, this will not be the last time the county leaves the public out of big decisions.

So what can you do?

The BOE has made their decision, but you can write to the County Council and the Executive, along with your state level representatives.
Letters to the editor are also great, the Gazette, Post or any local publication are key to getting the word out about this.
All the contacts are below,  if need help on what to say, read on for some talking points.
We would love to see any email you send out- cc us: 

The County Council:

Contact Executive Leggett:

Ike Leggett 240-777-2500

Contact your State Senators and Delegates:

Press Contacts
Letters to the Editor at the Gazette:
Seek out your local paper's contact info

What should I say?
The best letters are respectful, fact based and personal. Why does this issue matter to you? That is what you should write. Below are a few points to make, categorized by topic: (no time to compose your own? Sample letter here just cut, paste, add your name, hit send)

Lack of Public Process:

-There was a complete lack of transparency and  public process here, meetings on this issue were taking place as early as 2009. One year ago the Planning Department cautioned the County that this issue would be controversial and public input need to be solicited as soon as possible, that never happened.

-Once the Public is allowed to weigh in, the only decisions that will still need to be made are on what lighting, paving and other features the soccer fields should have. There will be no place in the process for the public to say they want the acreage to remain in its current use as a farm.

-This plan may actually cost tax payers money. When the County sub leases the land to MSI who will hire contractors to build the fields, all improvements  to the property will be reimbursed to MSI by the County when the BOE needs the land back for school construction. There is no cap on how much MSI can spend to make reimbursable improvements. Currently Nick’s Organic Farm does not consume much in the way of public services, including ambulance, police, fire, not to mention the mowing, and even fertilizing needed to keep fields up to FIFA standards.



Quality of Life in the Community:

- In the development review process with the County, each soccer field must have 60 parking spaces to accommodate payers and fans. With 4 fields planned for this property, that is 240 parking spaces, but that is just cars parked at any one time. The number of cars moving up and down Brickyard road, (which used to be a designated Rustic Road, the road has not changed, the designation has) could be many times that number in tournament play. 

-The County has been saying that the fields can not have lighting or use artificial turf (about which there are many safety and environmental concerns),  but there is no reason this will not change under a new Council or Executive.

-The community around Brickyard has already weighed in on what they would like to see on this property in the Potomac Master Plan of a few years ago. Residents were interested not in ball fields but either keeping the farm there or having a public park. What good is a master plan if it is not implemented on the ground?


The Value of Keeping this Land in Farming:

 -Mr. Marvell's farm can only be located downcounty, organic and non-gmo certification of seeds can only be done in an area without many gmo crops around, as a result the the rural areas of the County will not work for this farm. It is uniquely sited for success where it is.

-This action represents a breach of trust between farm leasees and the County. Organic farms take between 3-7 to be established. The BOE's decision sends this critical small business out of the County for good.

-This plan is in conflict with the County's stated goal of promoting increased production of sustainable local food. The  next closest non-GMO, organic seed producer is 4 hours away from local farmers.

-How can we promote these leases and grow new farmers if the the leases can be unilaterally terminated?  The lack of collaborative communication means farmers will go elsewhere, taking their healthy local food, environmental and open space, and economic benefits with them. 

Thanks for writing in, it really does make a difference.  Keep checking this blog for updates as this issue continues to develop, we will also be posting all the background info here as well. Stay Tuned...

1 comment:

  1. Hi Everyone,
    As you can see, we're still setting this up. It takes a long time to shorten, cut and paste input from many emails; so, here you go ~ and this way, everyone can add their views.
    (ie: @ least one person I've spoken with is excited and happy with having 4 traffic lanes on Falls & River.)

    I'm finding that no matter what view people have, many good points are being made ~ coming only to me, output is limited ~ more heads in the matter is the way to go.

    We're adding the original film of BOE mtg, and various website links and more. Let us know if you have a site that you think is beneficial.

    Commenting anonymously is an option.

    And thank YOU! ~ Maria