Wednesday, March 19, 2008

‘Farm Road’ plaintiffs win first battle

But judge orders them to rewrite complaint

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Sandy Spring landowners who have been fighting to get government agencies to recognize the existence of a road connecting their properties won their first battle in court Thursday. But they also were required to rewrite their complaint, leaving out ‘‘scandalous” charges the judge found irrelevant.

Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Nelson Rupp acknowledged some of the easements that provided vehicle access for ‘‘Farm Road,” a lane off Brooke Road that disappeared from maps through a series of development decisions.

By losing the road, the plaintiffs lose the right to build on their properties. Many of the plaintiffs inherited their land from ancestors who were freed slaves.

Still unresolved is a dispute over access from Brooke Road where a neighbor has placed a chain to stop vehicles.

Rupp gave the plaintiffs until March 28 to file a simpler complaint, telling their lawyer to avoid ‘‘impertinent, scandalous” matter that violates court rules. The plaintiffs allege collusion between developers and government officials for the erasure of the road from county maps.

‘‘I don’t make the charges there lightly. ...The matter deemed scandalous may indeed be relevant,” said Raj S. Singh, whose clients are suing the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, the neighbor who chained the road and others to recoup their losses.

Singh said his clients are looking at going to mediation, which Rupp suggested, if the parties can agree.

Earlier this month, County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) requested that the planning agency consider legal arguments to grant residents access to the road. Responding, a lawyer for the planning agency said that the only way the government can resolve the dispute is for the county to take the land and create a public street.