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Police called to Sandy Spring's Farm Road | News

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Police called to Sandy Spring's Farm Road

SANDY SPRING, Md (WUSA9) --  Montgomery County's Planning board is refusing to recognize the existence of a century-old road, even after granting African-American landowners addresses to their historic family holdings near the Sandy Spring Slave museum.

The issuing of addresses for at least 8 property owners came in July after a series of reports by WUSA9. These reports exposed allegations that wrongdoing by developers resulted in approvals which wiped out the historic access known as "Farm Road" off state tax maps.

In June, the Montgomery Planning Board and the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission came under the scrutiny of Maryland's Legislative Black Caucus, which held an emotional hearing into the land dispute in the wake of WUSA9's reports.

Landowners like 72-year-old William Rounds believed being granted addresses was a victory, clearing the way to either develop or sell their properties after 8 years of legal limbo.   

But this month in an exchange of letters, planning officials told a real estate agent representing Rounds that the Montgomery County Planning Board and the MNCPPC "...specifically did not recognize the existence of Farm Road..."  when the agency proposed issuing addresses. Instead, the board is relying on neighbors to permit each other to use the road to get to their land.

"That's outrageous," says the founder of SaveSandySpring.org, Steve Kanstoroom.  "No permission is needed.  This was a public road on state tax maps, until Park and Planning just wiped it out when they approved development nearby."

In July, MNCPPC opposed a request from Maryland Department of Planning to correct state tax maps which had shown Farm Road for decades until the approval of the nearby Dellabrooke subdivision in 1998, when the road was mysteriously omitted from land records.

In the wake of WUSA9's reports, MNCPPC appointed independent counsel Douglas Bregman to investigate 7-year-old claims of possible wrongdoing during the development process that resulted in the construction of the nearby Dellabrooke subdivision.

This month, real estate agent, Ron Ladue, complained in his letter that he is unable to put a value on the properties without a declaration from officials that the landowners have a right to access their own land.

Meanwhile, police were called to Farm Road Thursday when the MNCPPC's independent counsel, Mr. Bregman, visited the area to tour Farm Road in Mr. Round's pickup truck and found the access blocked by a neighbor with a history of disputing the road.  Armed with a 2009 court document attesting to the existence of the road, police convinced the landowner to move a truck and allow the clearing of brush thrown in the road.

To William Rounds and other landowners like 80-year-old Bernice Martin, since they were given addresses these developments seem like defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.

"They don't care," said Mr. Rounds Thursday when questioned about the actions of MNCPPC since he got his address. "They say, hey, he ain't going to live much longer, no way.  He'll be gone and our problems are over."

Kanstoroom is angry. "There is no evidence in the 87-year history of the Park and Planning Commission of the agency ever issuing addresses without simultaneously recognizing a road," he said.

Neither Bregman nor the Montgomery County Planning Board's chief counsel Carol Rubin agreed to be interviewed by WUSA9.


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