Owners of property in a Sandy Spring community of predominantly elderly African Americans can be granted addresses that will allow them to begin the process of building on their land, the Montgomery County Planning Board ruled Thursday.
The board’s decision is the latest turn in a lengthy dispute over a century-old private gravel access road used by the community, which was founded by freed slaves.
The road, known to residents as “Farm Road,” was dropped from county maps during the 1999 approval of the Dellabrooke housing development on Gold Mine Road between New Hampshire Avenue and Olney-Sandy Spring Road. Construction of new homes blocked access to Farm Road.
Planning officials said Thursday that title reviews and affidavits from key property owners indicate that Farm Road community members can gain access to their property from either Brooke Road or Chandlee Mill Road.
Board staff members said the granting of addresses does not guarantee that Farm Road community members will be able to build. That will require a series of other regulatory steps, including the extension of water and sewer service to their properties. Nor does it acknowledge Farm Road as an official part of the county road system. But for community members who have pressed the issue for years, it was a welcome start.
Del. Aisha N. Braveboy (D-Prince George’s), chair of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland, which held hearings on the issue recently, said that Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) had agreed to help the landowners toward the goal of developing their properties.
“The owners want more than simply addresses,” Braveboy said.
The Farm Road matter remains the subject of an investigation into possible wrongdoing in the approval of the Dellabrooke subdivision. The board has appointed Bethesda land-use attorney Douglas M. Bregman to conduct the inquiry.