Nick’s Organic Farm, Civic Groups, 400 Individuals Pave Way for Law Suits On Brickyard Rd School Site
Separate Notices of Monetary Claims Filed
Aug. 31, 2011, Potomac, MD—Nick’s Organic Farm, Nick Maravell and his wife Victoria Cowles filed legal notice with Montgomery County this week that the County’s actions pertaining to the Brickyard Road school site caused them injury, a legal step necessary ahead of filing a lawsuit. Citizens groups made a similar move this week.
The filings came amid significant public protest against the controversial plan to allow a private soccer organization to develop pay-for-play soccer fields on the school land, which Maravell had been organically farming for more than 30 years. The outcry has come in part because the process lacks transparency and has avoided proper procedures. Indeed, the Maryland State Open Meetings Compliance Board found in July that the Montgomery County Board of Education violated the Open Meetings Act regarding the Brickyard Road middle school site by secretly excluding the public from key information. Also, the change would destroy the only organic seed farm in Montgomery County.
“My wife and I, as well as thousands of other concerned citizens, are still hoping this site can be turned into a hub for agricultural education, an idea supported by 17 local and national non-profit groups,” says Maravell. “Given the organic seed farm that is currently on this 20-acre plot and the site’s history of organic vegetable production, this land could provide invaluable educational opportunities for the county’s residents,” he says.
Maravell’s official “notice of claim” was filed in a letter dated Aug. 29, 2011, to County Executive Isiah Leggett by Maravell’s attorney, James L. Parsons, Jr. of Lynott, Lynott & Parsons, PA, of Rockville.
Separately, three citizens associations and 400 individuals also filed legal notices of possible monetary claims against both Montgomery County and the board of education. The groups are:
The West Montgomery Citizens Association, the Civic Association of River Falls and the
Brickyard Road Citizens Association, representing over 1500 members. Together the groups and individuals are known as the Brickyard Coalition.
The notices state that Brickyard Coalition’s federal and state legal, property, civil, and constitutional rights have been violated by the actions of the county, board of education, and the County Executive, regarding the Brickyard Road schools site. Rockville attorney William J. Chen, Jr., filed the Brickyard Coalition’s legal notices.
The Brickyard Road School Site is owned by the Board of Education of Montgomery County. From March of 1980 to March 2011, it was leased to Nick’s Organic Farm, where Nick Maravell farmed it organically. In March 3 of this year, with less than three weeks before the end of the lease, the BOE said it would vote on March 8 (2.5 business days’ notice) to turn the lease over to the County, while the County announced it would develop soccer fields on the site in a public-private partnership. On April 19, the School Board signed a lease with the County turning it over to the County, except the school board retains the right to terminate the lease if the land is needed for school purposes. The school board required the County to extend Maravell’s lease until the end of 2011 to complete his farming season.
Nick’s Organic Farm LLC (www.nicksorganicfarm.com) has certified organic operations in Potomac and Buckeystown, MD, producing row crops, grass-based livestock, vegetables, seed, and animal feeds. Farming organically since 1979, Nick Maravell, its owner, is nationally recognized and has been called on to testify at federal and state levels. He has been active in national and state development of organic legislation and standards, organic research priorities, and organic marketing issues. Late last year, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack appointed Maravell to serve on the National Organic Standards Board, a panel of unpaid experts established by Congress to set organic industry policy.
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