Organic farm supporters in Potomac rally around controversial bill


Nick Maravell shows his organic farm on March 11, 2011, in Potomac, Md. He has been leasing land from the Montgomery County School Board for more than 30 years to grow corn, soy beans and other crops. (JUANA ARIAS/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)
March 27, 2012

An economic development bill that has divided Montgomery County officials has picked up some very vocal supporters: a group of community activists who are trying to save a three-decade-old organic farm in Potomac.

Troubled by a county plan that would replace Nick’s Organic Farm with soccer fields, the activists are lobbying for a bill that would allow county legislators to veto large county land deals.

But the bill, which was introduced by Montgomery County Council member George L. Leventhal (D-At Large) and is strongly opposed by County Executive Isiah Leggett’s administration, may not be approved in time to affect the fate of Nick’s. Six council members have sponsored the legislation, but several want to consider amendments.

The soccer field plans were announced Friday by the Leggett administration, and the opponents said they fear that the county will sign the deal as soon as next month.

That’s why council member Marc Elrich (D-At Large), at a council meeting Tuesday, made an unusual move to try to hasten a vote.

“I think there is some merit with dealing with the train that is [coming] right now and then to have a discussion to see what amendments we want to have down the road,” he said soon after, adding that he would bring up the issue again at the end of the public hearing.

An expedited vote requires the backing of a second council member, which Elrich couldn’t secure.

Leventhal said at the meeting that he suspects the farm deal is being completed “in a hurry” because of his bill.

In an interview, Leggett said that Leventhal is wrong. “This process has been going on for the last year and a half,” he said.

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