County Says Can’t Extend License to Farm for 1 More Year
Nick’s Organic Farm License to Expire in 3 Months, As Soccer Fields Loom
Sept. 16, 2011, Potomac, MD—Montgomery County has said, at this time, it can’t extend the license for Nick’s Organic Farm to farm the school land along Brickyard Road for another year, because the legality of the lease that underpins the license is being challenged in court.
Nick Maravell, farmer and operator of Nick’s Organic Farm, had been organically farming the site for 31 years until March of this year. Then, in a controversial move that resulted in a great deal of public outcry, the school board turned the lease over to the County for the development of private pay-for-play soccer fields, which would destroy the farm.
“The County is saying it can’t extend my farming activity,” Maravell. “In my view, it’s because the County is not confident it has legal control over the property. When the legal process plays out, I think we’re going to see the school board should never have leased the Brickyard land to the County.”
Responding to a request to extend the license to Dec. 31, 2012, the Office of the County Attorney of Montgomery County said, “Your request is premature and we cannot entertain it.”
“(T)he County’s authority to grant a license to Nick’s Organic Farm would seem to be predicated upon the legality of the County’s lease with the Board of Education,” the office also wrote in a Sept. 2 letter to James L. Parsons, Jr., Maravell’s attorney. “Mr. Maravell’s lawsuit challenges that lease. The issues that you have raised in the lawsuit need to be resolved before further action can be taken.”
The lawsuit to which he is referring is one filed on July 22 by Maravell against the Montgomery County Board of Education. It alleges violations of the Open Meetings Act and seeks to void the lease from the board of education to the County for the schools plot along Brickyard Road. The lawsuit also names Montgomery County, because it signed a lease for the school property, but it does not allege that the County violated the Open Meetings Act. The Circuit Court is expected to address the matter later this year, possibly as early as November.
The Brickyard Road School Site is owned by the Board of Education of Montgomery County. From March of 1980 to March 2011, it was leased to Nick’s Organic Farm, where Nick Maravell farmed it organically. In March 3 of this year, with less than three weeks before the end of the lease, the BOE said it would vote on March 8 (2.5 business days’ notice) to turn the lease over to the County, while the County announced it would develop soccer fields on the site in a public-private partnership. On April 19, the School Board signed a lease with the County turning it over to the County, except the school board retains the right to terminate the lease if the land is needed for school purposes. The school board required the County to extend Maravell’s lease until the end of 2011 to complete his farming season.
Nick’s Organic Farm LLC (www.nicksorganicfarm.com) has certified organic operations in Potomac and Buckeystown, MD, producing row crops, grass-based livestock, vegetables, seed, and animal feeds. Farming organically since 1979, Nick Maravell, its owner, is nationally recognized and has been called on to testify at federal and state levels. He has been active in national and state development of organic legislation and standards, organic research priorities, and organic marketing issues. Late last year, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack appointed Maravell to serve on the National Organic Standards Board, a panel of unpaid experts established by Congress to set organic industry policy.
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