Local group sues Montgomery County to halt soccer fields in Potomac

Katherine Frey/The Washington Post - For 30 years, organic farmer Nick Maravell, seen here with his daughter Sophia Maravell, has leased Montgomery County schools land, which the school board now wants to turn into soccer fields.

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A local neighborhood group sued Montgomery County and the local school board on Monday for “unlawfully conspir[ing]” to replace an organic farm in Potomac with soccer fields.

For 30 years, Nick Maravell leased the 20 acres of land just off Brickyard Road to grow soybeans and corn. But last year, the school board decided instead to lease the land to the county, which wanted it for soccer fields.

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The county was going to kick Maravell off the property during the summer, but instead the school officials said they would allow Maravell to stay on the property to harvest the season’s crops.

In its lawsuit filed in Montgomery County Circuit Court, the neighborhood group, West Montgomery County Citizens Association, charges that the county and school board worked in secret and illegally conspired against the public to secure the soccer fields. The group is asking a judge to prevent the parties from moving forward with building the fields until the lease is further investigated.

“We’ve worked for eighteen long months to restart a process that took place in secret and without any public knowledge,” said Ginny Barnes of the neighborhood association. “By consistently and even arrogantly refusing to do so, they’ve left us no other recourse than to turn to the courts.”

In response, county spokesman Patrick Lacefield said the county is still committed to working to build soccer fields on the land.

“The county’s position remains the same,” he said. “We’re still committed to using public land for public purposes.”

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