Sandy Spring, Md. (WUSA9) -- A long-simmering David vs. Goliath conflict pitting the owners of properties in a traditional African-American enclave against the region's most powerful land use agency may be moving toward resolution.
The property owners, with the help of Sandy Spring activist Steve Kanstoroom have managed to obtain affidavits from more than 13 individuals promising not to fight the restoration of a right-of-way for landowners on an historic driveway known as "Farm Road."
"The affidavits are huge," Kanstoroom said.
The road has been the subject of controversy since the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission wiped it off official maps in 2000 when it approved a nearby subdivision.
The move rendered some landowner's property all but worthless, because it eliminated the legal right-of-way needed to access their parcels. The Commission also refused to issue the landowners addresses on the official maps, which makes it impossible to grant building permits and makes the sale of the property difficult.
Some landowners are elderly descendants of freed slaves who settled the area more than a century ago and have kept the property in the family since. Some fear they might die before they can improve or sell their land.
Adrian Gardner, the chief counsel for the M-NCPPC used a football analogy in saying the affidavits "get us into the red zone", meaning the conflict may be closer to the goal of resolution. "We are eager to resolve this issue without further litigation, and we hope the property owners will acheive full agreement soon," Gardner said in a written statement.
However he cautioned in a telephone interview that a conservation easement now held by the M-NCPPC in the area could complicate matters, as could 2 property owners who have not provided affidavits.
Late Friday Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett attended an awards ceremony and stood on stage with Sandy Spring families. He called on the M-NCPPC to end the dispute.
"Six years is long enough," Leggett said, adding the new affidavits should provide enough new information to resolve the issue.
Leggett said "new leadership" at the commission should help. The Chairman of Montgomery County's local planning board, Francoise Carrier, is now taking a turn at chair of the M-NCPPC.