PATCH: Nick's Organic Farm, Brickyard Educational Farm Set to Close Doors Thursday
...The Open Government ControversyThe county’s plan was an unwelcome shock to the community as well. It is widely alleged by citizens groups including the West Montgomery County Citizens Association, the Brickyard Coalition and others that the plan resulted from backroom deals. County Executive Isiah Leggett was accused by citizens groups of false practices and political motives but he has firmly denied the allegations.
Montgomery County has been found in violation of open government mandates multiple times throughout the controversy. County discussion of plans to put soccer fields at the Brickyard site has been reported as far back as 2009, with closed meeting discussions continuing through 2010,according to Gazette reports.Email messages from February 2011 between county officials and Montgomery County Public Schools indicate that the school board was aware that the Potomac community would heavily oppose a decision to lease the land to the county for soccer fields but that both parties went along with the lease agreement anyway. The emails also urge the county to begin the public notification process as quickly as possible.
A Feb. 3, 2011 message from Cynthia Brenneman, director of the county's real estate office in the Department of General Services, to DGS Director David Dise states that BOE was hesitant to sign a lease without having notified the public. In an email dated two weeks later, on Feb. 14, 2011, Brenneman reiterated the BOE's issue with public process to Dise.
"They [the school board] really do have a concern that we haven't notified the community yet. I think they believe the outcry will be so overwhelming that we won't proceed," Brenneman wrote.The first record of public notice of the county's intentions for the land came a month later, when the BOE informed Maravell that his lease to farm the land would not be renewed. At the March 8, 2011 BOE meeting the board heard comments from the public and ultimately decided to sign a lease with the county.
The first public hearing on the Brickyard soccer field project was held in April of 2011.
The Maryland Open Meetings Law Compliance Board stated in July of 2011 that Montgomery County residents were not made sufficiently aware of the proceedings. In July of this year, three citizens' groups won a lawsuit alleging Montgomery County failed to turn over documents the residents sought in a campaign to keep the organic farm from being turned into soccer fields.
The Montgomery County Circuit Court sided with the West Montgomery County Citizens' Association, the Civic Association of River Falls and the Brickyard Coalition in ordering Leggett to repeat a search for public documents related to the county’s planning for the soccer field project...