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Fate of Brickyard Road Nears Conclusion?

Circuit Court judge’s decision on fate of organic farm on Brickyard expected by next week.

— The fate of a 20-acre farm on Brickyard Road and its 30 years of organic soil are now in the hands of Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Robert A. Greenberg.

Judge Greenberg is expected to make a ruling by next week on the legality of the Board of Education’s lease of the land to the county for use as soccer fields.

“You’ll have something soon,” Judge Greenberg said Friday, Feb. 8, at the conclusion of an hour-long hearing about the battle that has lasted two years.

“The board’s resolution authorizing the lease of the Brickyard Road Site to the county for the use by a private athletic organization for the construction and use of ball fields was arbitrary, unreasonable and illegal,” according to legal documents filed by Brian E. Barkley, attorney for the Brickyard Coalition, for Friday’s hearing. “Violations of the Open Meetings Act resulted in a lack of transparency about the decision-making process.”

In court, Barkley said, “Montgomery County has a long history of open government. That makes it all the more puzzling when the county is defending a decision made under a flawed process that was not open.”

Attorneys for the county and the Board of Education rejected “lack of transparency” claims by opponents of the plan to turn the land into soccer fields.

“Petitioners and cross-petitioners seek to dictate, for their own parochial benefit, the use of public land and deny its use to the people of Montgomery County at large in what is yet another attempt by a small group of people to use litigation to thwart the legitimate action of an elected body acting for the public good,” according to Patrick Clancy and Kristin M. Koger, counsel for the Board of Education of Montgomery County.

In the courtroom, attorney Clifford L. Royalty with the Office of the County Attorney, said “aspersions have been made on the county which have been unfair and unfounded.”

“To void the board act would be draconian because there would be collateral damage to the county,” he said.

Barkley and James L. Parsons, attorney for organic farmer Nick Maravell, argue that the Montgomery County Board of Education violated Open Meetings Act laws. The lack of transparency kept citizens unaware of decisions the county and Board of Education were making.

“There is no doubt there was a violation of the Open Meetings Act; the question is what can the board do about it now?” said Barkley.

“We are asking to go back to square one when citizens can have open access to the whole process,” said Barkley.

“The only way to cure this is to void the resolution of the board,” said Parsons.

But Clancy and Royalty defended the county’s and board’s actions.

“This is not a soccer site, this is a school site. Right now, it is a site that can be taken by the board and used for a school site within two years,” Clancy said before Judge Greenberg. “The board has not leased it to MSI, the board has leased it to the county for use as ball fields.”

Judge Greenberg didn’t give any indication of his legal conclusion.

But in the hearing he called “transparency,” one of the “most overused” but “least utilized” terms in government.

“The Open Meetings Act is an attempt to make sure that we have good government,” he said.

“Why can’t I know at least in broad terms what happened in there?” Judge Greenberg said.