MARYLAND

Brickyard soccer fields: Governor Martin O'Malley comes out against construction

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The latest salvo in the battle between Montgomery County, developers of a new soccer complex and the residents of a Potomac neighborhood where the proposed fields would be built has come from Annapolis, and it's a victory for the opponents of the plan.

O'Malley said in his letter that destroying the farm would be a mistake. Photo: Jay Westcott

In a letter to Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett and Shirley Brandman, the president of the county's Board of Educaiton, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley said that destroying the farm and education center in the Brickyard neighborhood to make way for soccer fields would be a "big mistake."

"Rather than moving our State backwards through this destructive policy choice, Montgomery County can and should be a leader," O'Malley wrote in the letter. "The vital connection between our farms, the food we eat, and our children's future has never been more important than it is right now."

DOCUMENT: Read the full letter from Gov. Martin O'Malley

"We have a unique asset here, so it makes me feel happy that perhaps this asset can be passed on to future generations of Montgomery County," farm owner Nick Maravell said. His 20-acre farm is home to not only organic crops, but also a learning facility where children can get a taste of the agricultural life.

The community in Potomac that opposes the development, known as the Brickyard Coalition, has been fighting the potential soccer fields for months. They claim that not only has the decision-making process been bogged down but that county leaders have kept residents and stakeholders in the dark about important developments.

"The decision was made in the dark without any community input," Brickyard Coalition member Curt Uhre said in early July.

However, Leggett and other supporters of the project say that the construction of new fields is important for the county.

"It's not left up to the community that lives there to decide whether or not they want something in their community," Leggett said during a contentious April community meeting. "It's a broader community perspective."

The Montgomery County School Board ultimately owns the land that Maravell's farm sits on, and they leased it to the county. The county is now aiming to turn the land into the planned large soccer complex.

The county argues that the owner's lease is up this week, technically making him a trespasser.

Sophia Maravell, the co-founder of the Brickyard Education Farm, said that she's glad the governor has recognized the resource that the farm is to Montgomery County.

"It provides a very special opportunity to teach about food and the environment through farm-to-school field trips and a farmer training program," Maravell said.

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