Potomac Council President Roger Berliner (D-1) looked to the colorful banners in Potomac Presbyterian Church — "peace, love, joy" — before he alerted more than a hundred angry citizens that Isiah "Ike" Leggett and the county would issue its request for proposals to build soccer fields on Brickyard Road the next day.
The next morning, Thursday, Jan. 12, the county publicly issued its specific plans to build soccer fields on the 20-acre Brickyard Road site that Nick Maravell has organically farmed the last 31 years.
The request for proposal calls for a private organization to build at least two FIFA full size soccer fields, parking and related amenities on the Brickyard Road farm.
The deadline for project submissions is March 1 and the county plans to select its applicant for the site this summer. Maravell’s license to farm the land expires Aug. 15.
The County document soliciting proposals encourages plans that include some reduced scale of the farm or related education center, community gardens, playground/tot lot, exercise area and fitness trail, or other "beneficial use.
June/July 2012: Selection of Applicant
May/June 2012: Negotiations with Applicants
April/May 2012: Applicant Interviews
March 1, 2012, 2 p.m.: Proposal Submission Date
Jan. 10, 2012: County issues its request for qualifications and development proposals for the development, construction and maintenance and operation of soccer fields at Brickyard Road. (See sidebar.) The County issues the request for proposals with the following timeline:
Dec. 15, 2011: Nick's Organic Farm lawsuit against Montgomery County Board of Education scheduled in Montgomery County Circuit Court; cancelled because of settlement the previous day.
Dec. 14, 2011: Settlement reached between Montgomery County and Nick Maravell. Maravell drops his lawsuit and his license to operate the farm on Brickyard Road is extended until at least Aug. 15, 2012.
Dec. 8, 2011: Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Richard E. Jordan denies Board of Education's motion for summary judgment, which would have allowed the Board to avoid trial. Also, the judge disallows the Board's motion to quash subpoenas for seven school board members to be witnesses at trial.
Nov. 3, 2011: Montgomery County Board of Education files its motion to have case dismissed.
July 22, 2011: Nick's Organic Farm files lawsuit against Montgomery County Board of Education, alleging that school board violated the Open Meetings Act. The suit sought to void the lease from the Board of Education to the County for the land.
June 9, 2011: Meeting on Brickyard Road Soccer Fields Request for Proposal at Potomac Community Center Social Hall. More than 300 attend the meeting.
April 19, 2011: The lease between the County and the Board of Education signed. See March 8, 2011.
April 4, 2011: More than 200 people attend first public meeting on what the county calls "Brickyard soccer project."
April 1, 2011: Montgomery Countryside Alliance and other groups propose that the organic farm serve as an anchor for agricultural education as a part of a Food and Agricultural Policy Council in Montgomery County.
March 8, 2011: The Montgomery County Board of Education voted 5-2 to lease the 20-acre field for 10 years to the County to convert it into soccer fields. David Dice, head of general services for the county, says the site could hold four soccer fields and that parking would likely be the constraining factor. Planners say they often require 70 spaces for one soccer field.
March 3, 2011: First public announcement of proposal for soccer fields on future Brickyard Road Middle School site. Montgomery County Board of Education released documents showing it would vote to lease the Brickyard Road Middle School site to the county to contract with a private athletic organization to construct and operate private soccer fields.
Oct. 19, 2010: MSI Executive Committee Minutes, "Field Development Report — Future public-private partnerships to develop new soccer fields in the county were discussed. The county still has not released the RFP for field development at GXS, Brickyard, Potomac, Cabin John and Wheaton Regional Park. As soon as the RFPs are released, MSI will prepare and submit a bid where appropriate."
October 2010: U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack appoints Nick Maravell to a five-year term as one of four farmers on the 15-member National Organic Standard Board, which recommends standards for the definition of "certified organic."
Thursday, Sept. 30, 2010, 5:02 p.m.: David E. Dise, director of County's General Services, e-mails Kassahun Seyoum, capital projects manager of county's division of building design and construction. "I met with Roger Berliner this afternoon who asked that we postpone the Brickyard Road component until he has time to prep residents. I'll have to run that past the County Executive to see if he wants to delay. Berliner did recommend we have some realistic handle on traffic flow in and out of Brickyard before meeting with the community."
June 15, 2010: MSI Executive Committee Minutes — "Field Development Report — We anticipate the county will release an RFP for field development at GXS and possibly Brickyard later this summer/fall. In addition, we are looking at field development opportunities at Cabin John and Wheaton Regional Park."
April 13, 2010: MSI Executive Committee Minutes — "The Field development Task Force is prepared to develop and submit a bid for soccer field development at GXS and Brick Yard [sic] when the RFPs are requested by the county."
Jan. 31, 2010: MSI Board of Directors Meeting Minutes — Field Development Update — Lobbyist and consultant "Jerry Pasternak reports that of the nine possible sites under consideration only two have any realistic chance for development over the next 1-3 years. Cabin John may be achievable with a tentative availability for the fall 2011/spring 2012 seasons. No contracts or formal agreements have been signed, but MSI continues to work with various governmental agencies to create possible field development opportunities in the future."
Dec. 23, 2009: Letter to County Executive Isiah Leggett from Patricial B. O'Neill, president of the Board of Education — "This is in response to your letter regarding a proposal for the County to lease the future Brickyard Road Middle School site in Potomac from the Board of Education for Recreational purposes." Letter states that a meeting is scheduled between County Executive's staff and MCPS staff.
Nov. 10, 2009: Leggett letter to Shirley Brandman, Board of Education — "I have been encouraged by the partnership formed between the County and MCPS staff in expanding and coordinating after school programs — especially for those most at risk. … "I believe one of our vacant school sites provides a unique opportunity for us to provide additional recreational opportunities for many of our youth without sacrificing the intent of preserving future school sites … I understand that the 20-acre Brickyard Road site is largely vacant and underutilized. "I would ask that MCPS lease this property to the County so we may provide additional ball fields to the County's youth teams."
August 25, 2009: MSI Board of Directors Meeting Minutes — "Field Development. The Task Force is working closely with our professional consultant to develop solutions to the shortage of soccer fields in Montgomery County. We are currently working on a public-private partnership proposal with the county government and MCPS to develop viable soccer field development opportunities."
May 19, 2009: MSI Executive Committee Minutes — "Field Development. A report on the Task Forces efforts to develop soccer fields. The following sites are being investigated: Sligo Creek Golf Course, Brickyard Road, Julius West, John Hopkins, and White Flint Mall."
March 23, 2009: MSI Board of Directors Special Meeting Minutes — "The Task Force members have met with and hired TDL consultants and have identified three priority properties to focus on for future soccer fields. The priority areas to focus on are Laytonia, Sligo Creek and Brickyard. The task force is scheduling meetings with county council members, planning board members and other key officials in the county to develop a soccer field development partnership."
Feb. 23, 2009: Lobbyist and consultant Jerry Pasternak registers with Montgomery County Ethics Commission to lobby on behalf of Montgomery Soccer Inc. for youth recreation and ball fields with compensation of $30,000.
Feb. 17, 2009: MSI Executive Committee Minutes — "The Field Development and Legislative Task Force proposes allocating from our designated funds for field development, the initial sum of $350,000 towards MSI's field development goals. ... We feel it is imperative to embark on a significant campaign utilizing lobbyists, land use attorneys, designers, and other professional consultants as may be required to facilitate the securing of land to be used for premium quality fields in a private public partnership with the local governments. It should be viewed that this significant expenditure is in place of land acquisition costs."
Spring, 2004: Board of Education declines to surplus Brickyard or other school sites. Board member Pat O'Neill said she doubted the likelihood of the board being able to leverage any value from the Brickyard property. "I also happen to think that the people in Potomac will fight this tooth and nail, and we will not see any money for years," she said, predicting a protracted court battle.
February, 2004: County Council identified undeveloped school sites, including parcels on Brickyard Road and Kendale Road in Potomac and one on Edson Lane in Rockville, as possible sites for affordable housing.
October, 2003: County Executive Doug Duncan sends a letter to MCPS Superintendent Jerry Weast asking that the board declare three parcels of land, originally planned for schools, as surplus. Two of these parcels — 20 acres on Brickyard Road and 10 acres on Kendale Road — are in Potomac.
2002: Potomac Master Plan Approved — Page 135 — "Surplus and future school sites offer potential for fulfilling some of the recreation needs of the Potomac Subregion. All schoolsites not otherwise recommended in the plan for environmental conservation should be considered for other public uses, including park use, if they are declared as surplus. "The Brickyard Junior High School, Kendall Elementary School and Churchill Elementary School could be developed as local parks with ballfields or other recreational uses. (Recreational uses should be evaluated along with other public uses identified elsewhere in this plan to determine the priority use for each available site.) Any site acquired for parkland should be evaluated to determine whether it is appropriate for recreational opportunities (e.g. trails, ballfields, etc.).
March 23, 1980: Maravell first leases land on Brickyard Road from the Montgomery County Board of Education, and begins to farm it organically. He has farmed the site continuously since then.
But by submitting a proposal, "applicants acknowledge that the County reserves the right, in its sole and absolute discretion, to impose on the selected applicant any terms, conditions, requirements and specifications that the county deems necessary to fulfill its objectives for the project," according to the request for proposal.
AT THE WEST MONTGOMERY meeting on Jan. 11, residents confronted Berliner with an email that indicated he knew about the proposal in September 2010, six months before the community.
Local residents found out in March 2011 just a few days before the Board of Education voted to turn the land over to the county for soccer fields. Negotiations had been underway for two years, documents show.
Advocate Ginny Barnes asked for the process to be rewound, restarted and redone, with transparency this time around.
"The fact is there was no transparent process and all we have been asking all along is that we back up and rewind the tape and start over with a process that includes the community," Barnes said. "The real issue is a transparent process that we were promised when Mr. Leggett ran for office."
Berliner told Barnes, "I couldn’t agree with you more.
"I did not know that they already committed and weren’t going to do what I asked them to do because they were already in," he said. "I did not know that two years earlier [the County Executive] had written the board of education. And I’m the council representative. So you don’t think I was angry?"
Dennis Kelleher asked Berliner what he would do now.
"Here we are trying to fight the county executive on our own, and what you’re telling us is you don’t have the ability to help us with anything," Kelleher said. "We’d like to know anything, anything that our representative is going to do to help us stop this."
Kelleher read from a September 2010 email from David Dise, director of the county’s Department of General Services. The e-mail said Dise had met with Berliner and discussed the Brickyard plans.
Berliner told the crowd why he didn’t take action between September and March. "I said, ‘Whoa! This is going to cause a problem if you go forward with this. Please explore options and do a traffic analysis before you take this any further.’ That was my expectation. That was why I did not go public."
"I understand you wish I was in a position to do more," Berliner said.
"Or anything," said Kelleher.
"Well, I beg your pardon."
MARAVELL HAS LEASED the property from the School Board for the last 31 years, growing organic, heirloom corn and soybean seed that is free from genetically modified organisms and chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
Maravell learned on March 3, 2011 from the schools facilities office that his year-to-year lease would not be renewed.
In December, Montgomery County and Maravell reached a settlement extending Maravell’s license to farm the land until Aug. 15.
Meanwhile, the Brickyard Coalition and others are taking legal action. They claim the decision by the Montgomery County Board of Education to lease the property to the county for soccer fields was done in violation of open meetings law. The State Board of Education is scheduled to address this claim at its next meeting on Jan. 24-25.
County's RFP: Verbatim
"The County reserves the unilateral right, in its sole and absolute discretion, to reject any or all Proposals, which may or may not include a dual use of the property, submitted in response to this RFQ-DP, advertise for new Proposals, or to accept any Proposal deemed to be in the best interest of the County. …
"By submitting a Proposal to this RFQ-DP, applicants acknowledge that the County reserves the right, in its sole and absolute discretion, to impose on the selected applicant any terms, conditions, requirements and specifications that the county deems necessary to fulfill its objectives for the project."
Objectives: County's Exact Words
The Applicant selected by the County must meet the conditions listed in Section IV (see Project Description and Conditions below) and address, to the extent reasonably possible, the following objectives:
- Solve the unmet recreation need for high-quality fields in Bethesda and Potomac developed in accordance with the vision of the Master Plan for Youth Soccer.
- Provide design of high-quality fields that can be used by youth soccer organizations throughout the year at affordable rates.
- The County prefers the development of the Property to include at least two FIFA full size soccer fields and an additional community use.
- In recognition that the Property has to this point been the site of an organic farm and that the community has expressed support for a farm or some other community benefit to continue on the Property together with the soccer fields, the County encourages proposals that consider an additional use that may include; some reduced scale of the farm or related education center, community gardens, playground/tot lot, exercise area and fitness trail, or other beneficial use.
- Alleviate community concerns regarding traffic and parking.
- Alleviate community concerns regarding Storm Water Management and overall environmental impact.
- Alleviate community concerns regarding fields operation and management including: service hours, noise, security, and maintenance.
Project Description and Conditions
The Project will consist of private development, construction, maintenance and operation of soccer fields at no cost and expense to the County.
The selected Applicant will be required to execute a License Agreement with the County and pay the County a nominal annual fee in an amount not less than $1,500 per year.
The selected Applicant will be required to design, construct, operate and maintain the Property, soccer fields, other dual use facilities, parking facilities, storm water management facilities, and any other required improvements, in compliance with applicable County, State and Federal laws.
No permanent toilet facilities will be permitted on the Property. The selected Applicant must furnish and maintain accessible portable high standard trailer-type restrooms (no Porta-Johns).
The selected Applicant will be responsible for all trash pickup for the Property.
The selected Applicant will be required to build, at a minimum, two FIFA full (or equivalent) size soccer fields.
Noise and Traffic
A Proposal must include a plan to buffer noise and keep balls within the confines of the fields. The following conditions are imposed on the Project:
- A traffic study must be conducted by a traffic consultant selected by the Applicant and approved by the county during the design phase.
- Artificial turf fields are not permitted to be installed on the Property. Only grass fields.
- No lighting system will be allowed to illuminate the fields.
- No public address system will be allowed.
- No activity will be permitted from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m.
- No more than five tournaments, playoffs, and championship games are permitted to be played on the property per year.
- Noise impact analyses will be conducted … during the design phase.
- No permanent structures will be allowed.
Timeline for RFP
The County has established the following preliminary schedule for review of the Proposals, but reserves the right to amend this schedule or, at its sole discretion, to cancel the RFQ-DP at any time.
Jan. 10, 2012: RFQ-DP Release
Feb. 6, 2012: Site Tour (Optional)
Feb. 16, 2012: Deadline for Questions
March 1, 2012, 2 p.m.: Proposal Submission Date
April/May 2012: Applicant Interviews
May/June 2012: Negotiations with Applicants
June/July 2012: Selection of Applicant