Montgomery County executive candidate Douglas M. Duncan has pledged to bring back the Brickyard Educational Farm to the 20-acre Brickyard property in Potomac.
The pledge came in a letter to the Brickyard Coalition, a community organization. The coalition fought County Executive Isiah Leggett’s efforts to negotiate a deal with the landowner, Montgomery County Public Schools, to put soccer fields on the property.
“I pledge to you that I will do everything in my power as the next County Executive to make sure that the Brickyard Educational Farm comes to full fruition on the Brickyard Road property, and serves as a teaching farm for future generations of Montgomery County students and residents,” Duncan wrote in a March 5 letter, after meeting with the coalition.
Duncan (D) was county executive from 1994 to 2006 and is competing with Leggett and Councilman Philip M. Andrews (D-Dist. 3) of Gaithersburg in a June 24 primary.
Leggett (D) was not available to comment for this story.
Duncan and Andrews both asked for meetings with the Brickyard Coalition, said Curt Uhre, a member of the Brickyard Coalition steering committee.
Andrews said that during his meeting with the coalition, they discussed a number of issues, along with the Brickyard Road property.
“I want to make sure that whatever happens to the property is something that is compatible with the community and that the community is involved in the process.” he said. “The process Leggett did [on the soccer fields] was unacceptable. It was behind closed doors. I’m very committed to being transparent.”
Andrews said using the land for an educational farm is appealing.
“The challenge is the property is owned by the Board of Education and they have to decide what to do with it,” he said.
The Board of Education can continue to hold the property to eventually use as a school, rent it out, or declare it surplus and sell it. It is on hold, according to MCPS spokesman Dana Tofig.
“I do not believe the status of the site has changed at all,” Tofig wrote in an email on Monday.
Republican candidate Jim Shalleck said he has not contacted the group. Rather, he is responding to groups that reach out to him.
The Brickyard Coalition formed in 2011 to oppose Leggett’s soccer plan. For years, the land had been leased to Nick Maravell, an organic farmer who used the land as a seed farm. His daughter Sophia Maravell started Brickyard Educational Farm in 2012.
Uhre said the coalition opposed the soccer fields because they did not fit with the master plan for the Potomac area. Members believed Leggett made the deal without going through proper channels, including public hearings.
After Leggett halted the soccer field plan in early 2013, the group decided to stay together as a proactive community organization. There are about 1,000 members, Uhre said.
“We are a community organization and recognize the effect elected officials can have on what takes place,” he said. “We’re just being active, good citizens.”
Shalleck applauded the coalition for its commitment to the community.
“That’s the finest example of community involvement,” he said. “We need more of it.”