Judge halts transfer of Potomac farmland to soccer group

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Photo - A sign reads "Save Brickyard" on the side of the road. Nicks Organic Farm, on Brickyard Lane, is owned by the county school system, The farm is scheduled to be redeveloped as a soccer complex. (Graeme Jennings/Examiner)
A sign reads "Save Brickyard" on the side of the road. Nicks Organic Farm, on Brickyard Lane, is owned by the county school system, The farm is scheduled to be redeveloped as a soccer complex. (Graeme Jennings/Examiner)
Local,Maryland,Rachel Baye

The 20-acre farm in Potomac that Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett wants to turn into soccer fields will remain a farm, at least for now.

The transfer of the land on Brickyard Road from an organic farm that has a license to use the site to a youth soccer league was halted Tuesday in Montgomery County Circuit Court.

Judge Robert Greenberg granted a stay while Nick Maravell, owner of Nick's Organic Farm, appeals the county's lease of the property from the county school board. Maravell's daughter, Sophia, said her family believes the ruling means they can continue using the property for now, although County Attorney Marc Hansen and Montgomery County Public Schools spokesman Dana Tofig said they were still evaluating what the ruling means.

The news came as Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley urged Leggett and school board President Shirley Brandman to let Maravell keep his farm and adjoining educational facility, which opened in January.

"It is my understanding that despite the inherent value of Mr. Maravell's farm to Montgomery County's students and to our state, its future is in jeopardy," O'Malley wrote.

The farm teaches students about local and sustainable food, he said. At a time when obesity is a national epidemic, "we need more assets like Mr. Maravell's farm, rather than fewer."

Leggett said the issue is not whether Maravell's farm exists but where.

"I probably agree with him about the need for organic farming," Leggett said of the governor's letter. "We don't think the location at that particular farm is the right location."

Leggett said he offered Maravell alternative locations. "He didn't even want to have a conversation. ... He just said I don't want it."

Maravell said the only offer was "the closed solid waste municipal dump site."

Residents have objected to the secrecy surrounding the county's decision to sublease the property to nonprofit MSI Soccer, saying the school board violated the Open Meetings Act by failing to publicize meetings about the property and that the county violated the Maryland Public Information Act by failing to produce documents about its agreement with MSI. The county is still obeying a court order to produce the documents.

rbaye@washingtonexaminer.com

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Rachel Baye

Staff Writer - Education
The Washington Examiner