The two-year legal battle over Nick’s Organic Farm is over. County Executive Isiah Leggett canceled its lease with Montgomery County Public Schools Feb. 19, abandoning efforts to build soccer fields on the 20-acre Brickyard Road site. The move returns the land to the County Board of Education to be used for educational purposes.
Leggett stated in a Feb. 19 press release that Montgomery County families need more soccer fields to promote kids’ physical and mental development and that public land should be used for public purposes, not private gain.
“I will continue my support for finding other options to expand ball fields in the county and to uphold the public interest of Montgomery families,” Leggett said in the press release.
Nick Maravell had leased the land from the Board of Education for 32 years to operate an organic farm. His daughter Sophia Maravell founded an educational farm there last year. When the Board of Education leased the site to the county for private soccer fields, residents and community organizations filed a lawsuit in the Montgomery County Circuit Court claiming that MCPS violated its responsibility to follow an open process and to keep the land for educational use. The court had not yet ruled on the lease’s legality at the time of the county’s surrender of the lease.
While the Maravells are no longer interested in operating an organic farm on the site, they would like to see the site remain a nonprofit educational farm, Sophia said in a phone interview. She hopes to continue running Brickyard Educational Farm on the site and to expand beyond the capacity of its 2012 pilot season.
“This fertile land should be preserved for the benefit of public school children,” she said. “Brickyard Educational Farm would strike a compromise between using the land for public school purposes and preserving this fertile, rich agricultural heritage we have in our backyard.”
Maria Fusco headed the community organization Brickyard Coalition, which opposed the development of soccer fields and fought to require MCPS to follow the transparent process outlined in the Potomac Master Plan.
“We have been waiting two years and easily could have been waiting two more years,” Fusco said. “We are happily surprised we are getting what we asked for.”
Whitman senior Nicole Welsh, who lives in the neighborhood of the site, picketed last summer in opposition to the lease to the county. She is happy the land was returned to MCPS and hopes it remains for use as an educational farm, she said.
“The soccer fields were not going to be for public use, and it would have increased traffic in the neighborhood like crazy,” she said.
Fusco said the school board circumvented what should have been an open process with community input. It’s a shame community members had to use their own money to enforce transparency, she said. The coalition plans to remain intact in order to advise on the future use of the land, Fusco said.
“What was being done was simply not right,” Fusco said. “Had Brickyard Coalition not fought, I truly believe there would already be soccer fields there. It’s all about perseverance. We were never going to back down.”