Saturday, December 07, 2013 4:41 AM
Published on: Wednesday, July 03, 2013
By Holden Wilen
SILVER SPRING – Although the Farm Road property owners of an African American kinship community in Sandy Spring are still without addresses, attendees are calling the June 26 hearing hosted by the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland a success.
Prince George’s Del. Aisha Braveboy, chair of the caucus, asked officials from the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission to consult their property title expert and present findings and a recommendation to the caucus by July 8 on how to resolve the dispute which has gone on for more than seven years. The title expert is supposed to find a way to grant legal access to the property’s through agreements between all the landowners in the Farm Road area. The caucus set a deadline for July 8 so Park and Planning would be able to set its agenda 10 days before its board meeting on July 18.
Planning Board Chair Francoise Carrier said the commission will “do its best” to contact their expert but did not make any promises. Carrier said she has no control of another individual’s schedule and also made mention of the upcoming July 4th holiday.
Seventy two-year-old William Rounds, who was reluctant at first to speak, supplied one of the more emotional moments of the hearing when he decided to share his feelings with the Caucus members.
“All I ever dreamed about is having a house and an address for my family on the property of my heritage,” Rounds said with tears running down his cheeks. “I thought I was going to have this when I retired in 2000 and then in 2004 I was told I can’t do anything with my property. I spent $17,000 refurbishing the road, correcting everything that was there when I was a child. Now I have nothing.”
Rounds brought members of the audience to tears and received a standing ovation when he finished speaking.
Others testified against M-NCPPC in support of the property owners, such as Arnie Gordon, a civic activist from Olney. Gordon said agency has oversight and is free to do whatever it wants. M-NCPPC officials claim the agency is a county agency when arguing for county benefits he said, but call it a state agency when the county attempts to investigate it.
“No one is auditing, overseeing or monitoring the activities of this organization,” Gordon said. “There is no appeals process except through the courts. There is no audit conducted of their activities, not by the county or the state.”
Members of the Montgomery County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People accused the agency of racism. In response to the accusations, Carol Rubin, associate general counsel for M-NCPPC, found herself wiping tears.
“There was a lot said about an agency that I have been working for seven years that I am very, very proud of,” Rubin said. “It hurts because what I have heard is not the Park and Planning I work for. What was said tonight made the people of the commission look like monsters.”