The Belward Farm. (Photo by Donna Baron/Courtesy of Tim Newell)

In fact, she said, Hopkins has “no plans to build housing at Belward.”

This surprised me. Hopkins officials have argued quite plainly in the past that the university ought to be allowed to build housing on Belward Farm. The family of the Elizabeth Beall Banks (who granted it to them) and a former Hopkins development official, say Banks never wanted housing there. Housing is one of the concerns the family raised in its lawsuit claiming that Hopkins violated the terms of its agreement with Banks in planning a 4.7 million square feet of development there.

In 2008, David M. McDonough, who oversees real estate development for Johns Hopkins University, went before the Montgomery County Planning Board to describe the university’s vision for Belward Farm as the county planned the The Great Seneca Science Corridor master plan (formerly the Gaithersburg West master plan).

According to a recording of that meeting, McDonough acknowledged that members of the community had suggested to him that Banks did not want housing built on the farm, but said, “We said we have to agree to disagree. We think in order to achieve a science objective we need to have someplace for people to live.”

McDonough said he liked the plans a London-based group envisioned for a mixed-use science and research campus.

“Brace yourself,” McDonough said, “the people who are doing research, in addition to working, need to eat and sleep. So in addition to putting science buildings in there, they also put in housing and retail and recreation, essentially like a Columbia or a Reston geared around science employment.”

He goes on to praise another research community, in Vancouver. “We think Vancouver…has some really great models not just for how to build office and residential hand-in-hand but also how to come up with workforce housing options that are really efficient.”

McDonough argued that pharmaceutical companies like MedImmune wanted to see housing right on science campuses in order to attract top research talent.

“We think the thing that makes much more sense now is much more mixed-use, particularly if we’re trying to achieve mobile splits, where we’re trying to have 25 percent of the people who will work there will live there. And obviously they cannot do that if they don’t have houses there,” McDonough said.

McDonough was successful in his arguments, as the master plan approved in June of 2010 allows for Belward “to include housing for the employees and/or visiting researchers.”

The first 1.4 million square feet of development Hopkins proposed includes no housing.

So let me get this straight: In 2008, a Hopkins representative talked about building enough housing at the Belward campus to accommodate fully 25 percent of the people working there. Now, the university plans no housing?

My confusion prompted the following exchange with Ferrier, the communications official who raised concerns about my original story, with my questions in bold:

Is Hopkins going to build housing on Belward Farm?

As we stated in the statement, which is that we submitted our preliminary plan which does not include housing in its plans.

Will Hopkins promise not to build housing there?

We’re telling you that we have no plans not to build housing at Belward.

That’s different from promising that you won’t.

I’m telling you that we have no plans to build housing on Belward Farm.

I’m wondering why you won’t promise not to build housing there if that was the intent of this woman who granted the farm to Hopkins. It was a sale technically, but really it was a gift.

I don’t know what else to say. Hopkins has no plans to build housing on Belward Farm.

Do you think maybe there are obligations to this woman and her family that are not included in the contract but which the university ought to consider meeting even if the contract does not legally require them?

I can’t answer that. We have submitted a preliminary plan that has no housing in it and that has been approved by the planning board.

My previous post has been corrected.

Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz