Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett has surrendered the contentious lease for the Brickyard Road property in Potomac, after two years of fighting with the neighboring community over plans to replace an organic farm there with soccer fields.
The school board accepted a letter from Leggett on Tuesday night at a special meeting that turned the lease back over to the board, according to MCPS spokesman Dana Tofig.
Though he issued a statement, Leggett did not say what prompted the decision. He said the county needs more soccer fields and the partnership with the nonprofit Montgomery Soccer Inc., or MSI, to develop fields on the land would have been within the boundaries of the Potomac master plan.
Leggett's spokesman, Patrick Lacefield, also declined to say why the executive terminated the lease.
The Brickyard Road property is owned by the school board but was leased to the county as a proposed site for soccer fields for MSI. Residents fought against the lease, claiming it violated county law by using school property for private development and did not have an educational purpose. They also took issue with the process in which the lease was created -- behind closed doors without public input.
Ginny Barnes, a member of the Brickyard Coalition, said the group is pleased the property is back in the hands of the school board, but members were surprised to hear the news Wednesday. They were not informed by the board or the county about the executive's decision and don't know what spurred the decision.
The group is still engaged in a legal battle with the county over the site. Earlier this month, Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Robert Greenburg heard arguments regarding the coalition's suit, which says the county violated the public trust by allowing the transaction. The group also accuses Leggett of unlawfully conspiring with the school board to deliver the land to MSI.
Greenburg is expected to release an opinion soon, Barnes said.
Calls to Greenburg were not returned Wednesday, and an opinion has not been filed in the court. The group intends to see through all its legal battles with the county and the school board on the issue.
"We're grateful for this," Barnes said of the lease's termination. "But stay tuned, this is not over."