Members of the West Montgomery County Citizens Association celebrated on Wednesday County Executive Isiah Leggett’s decision to return the Brickyard property to the county school board.
“This is a celebration of sorts because we have prevailed in our rights as citizens to have our voices heard,” Ginny Barnes, WMCCA’s president-elect, said at the group’s monthly meeting. “This was an issue [where] we were fighting to preserve our master plan and [government] transparency.”
The association was one of several citizens organizations that joined forces to work against a plan in which the Brickyard property in Potomac would have been leased to Montgomery Soccer Inc. and developed into soccer fields.
The 20-acre property is owned by the school board, but has been leased by local farmer Nick Maravell for 30 years. Maravell used the land as an educational and organic farm.
Maravell’s lease with the school board ended Dec. 31, 2012. The property is now back in the hands of the school board and is listed as a future middle school site.
The group’s monthly meeting, held at the Potomac Community Center, was dedicated to an overview of their fight and time for reflecting on what the group learned and the work ahead.
Curt Uhre — leader of Brickyard Coalition Inc., an umbrella organization that included WMCCA, the Brickyard Road Citizens Association, the Civic Association of River Falls and some individuals — said the effort was based on ensuring public involvement in the government process.
Brickyard Coalition spearheaded the legal processes through which the community urged Leggett to drop plans to lease the land to the private nonprofit soccer organization.
Uhre agreed with Barnes in that the real issue was not soccer fields, but the county government having its way without citizen input.
“Either the master plan meant something or it did not. Either zoning means something or it does not,” Uhre said. “This was an epic David and Goliath battle. We stayed the course and we won because we thought we were right. We won because we stayed together.”
The meeting ended with a discussion of what could be done to save the organic certification of the soil on the site.
“We need to urge the board of education to not let the organic certification of the soil go by not maintaining it,” Barnes said.
The group also discussed work still to be done, such as on the Glen Hills subdivision sewer study and in opposing the use of artificial turf on playing fields.