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Maryland Politics
Posted at 04:54 PM ET, 03/29/2012

Organic farm in Potomac may be replaced with something other than soccer fields

The county wants to replace an organic farm in Potomac with soccer fields, but recently released county documents suggest that the farmland may not be put to that use.

Over the past week, county officials have released a draft contract and other county documents involving a county-backed proposal to replace Nick’s Organic Farm with soccer fields. Community activists have been fighting to keep the farm there, creating an online campaign and lobbying Montgomery County Council members to try to block the deal.

The county documents, which have been written over the past month, show that the property may have fewer soccer fields and fewer public amenities than previously envisioned. Yet the documents also suggest that construction may not start at all.

The company that would construct the fields, Montgomery Soccer Inc., estimates that the cost to build what’s minimally required is $1.5 million. But independent analysis of the property has yet to be done, and if that analysis says that the cost would be higher — because of additional roadwork or hazardous materials on site, for instance — the company doesn’t have to build anything, according to court documents.

It remains unclear what the county would do in that case. County spokesman Patrick Lacefield said Montgomery Soccer’s proposal was the only one the county received that satisfied its requirements. He added that if the company did not build the fields, the county would need to “evaluate the situation” and could build recreational facilities or affordable housing instead.

The county, citing growing demand for youth soccer fields, has worked for the past year and a half to get such fields on the farm site. The farm leased the land from the school system but lost the lease to the county last year and has been trying to stay there ever since.

If the organization does start building, it would have to build at least two soccer fields, not four as previously proposed. The company has agreed that it would build at least some unspecified public amenities that cost up to $15,000.

Community activists have complained that the sublease does not explicitly ban lights, a sound system and artificial turf — which could cause problems for surrounding neighbors. But county officials say the sublease has language to uphold the revised proposal, which includes those prohibitions.

By  |  04:54 PM ET, 03/29/2012

 
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