Jul 28, 2014

Updated: Judge Halts Plan for Soccer Fields on Potomac Organic Farm

The decision came shortly after Gov. Martin O'Malley called the plan a bad idea.

Updated: Judge Halts Plan for Soccer Fields on Potomac Organic Farm

A Circuit Court judge Tuesday nullified a lease agreement between Montgomery County and Montgomery County Public Schools that would give the county the right to build soccer fields on an organic farm in Potomac.

The Brickyard Soccer Field Project, headed by Montgomery County, would turn a piece of land owned by the school board and that currently houses a 30-year-old organic farm in Potomac into soccer fields.

, the legality of the county’s decision to develop the soccer fields and the transparency of its actions.

Circuit Court Judge Robert Greenburg today granted a stay, halting plans for Montgomery County to take back organic farmer Nick Maravell's farm on the land, as appeals of school board decisions play out. The decision came hours after on the controversy in favor of the organic farm.

"It effectively means that the county does not have a lease until the stay is lifted," said Maravell's attorney, Jim Parsons of Rockville.

Sara Shor, an organizer with Save Nick's Organic Farm, said the Maravell family and their supporters were ecstatic with the decision. 

"We're happy to have gotten exactly what we asked for, and we feel that this is a huge victory," Shor said. "We hope the county government and the board of education use their leadership to do what the citizens have said, what 30 organizations have signed on to and what the governor has now endorsed."

Maravell's rights to the land remain unclear, as he now remains without a lease or license extension. Maravell had leased the land from the school board for over 30 years. When he lost the lease to Montgomery County, the county granted him a license extension that would keep him on the property through Wednesday.

The judge's stay will not necessarily prohibit him from continuing to farm the land, Parsons said, unless Montgomery County Public Schools moves to evict him.

“The judge did not prohibit anyone from going on the land," Parsons said. "He didn’t make any decision about Mr. Maravell's accessory rights and the property.”

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett had no comment as of Tuesday afternoon, according to county spokesperson Donna Bigler.

Whether the county will continue with its planning studies required to send the project to the planning board is also unclear.

"We probably need to work it out with the school board," Bigler said.

Dana Tofig, spokesperson for Montgomery County Public Schools, said the board had no official reaction.

"We're not going comment on anything else to this point," Tofig said. "We need to figure out what [the decision] means to us."

He said the school board's priority was maintaining flexibility for building a school on the site.

This post was updated at 6:30 p.m. to reflect statements by Montgomery County Public Schools.

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