SANDY SPRING, Md. (WUSA9) -- The leader of Maryland's Legislative Black Caucus is promising to hold a hearing on the "Farm Road" controversy that has destroyed property values in an historic African American enclave in Sandy Spring.
"What we don't want is for this to be repeated anywhere else in the state," said Prince Georges County Del. Aisha Braveboy (D).
Braveboy spoke Monday night at a meeting between angry property owners and the leaders of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission which is refusing to issue addresses and building permits to landowners who trace roots back to freed slaves who settled a Quaker Montgomery County farm tract outside Sandy Spring.
Maryland's legislature has oversight over the commission, which controls development in Montgomery and Prince George's Counties.
The landowners have endured lawsuits and a 6-year legal limbo after the historic road used to access family parcels for generations was deleted from state tax maps. A map correction obtained by landowner William Rounds was reversed by the Maryland Department of Planning, even though the southern section of the road clearly still exists.
The mysterious deletion, and the controversy of the reversed correction, occurred in the years after the M-NCPPC approved plans for the nearby Dellabrooke subdivision, which was built in 2002.
Braveboy is calling for hearings after the Chair of the M-NCPPC promised an independent investigation into the development approval. SaveSandySrping.org founder Steve Kanstoroom published a 2007 affidavit alleging that "false and misleading" documents were submitted by developers to gain the approval.
In May, Montgomery County's former Inspector General Thomas Dagley wrote to Kanstoroom alleging that law enforcement investigations into the matter had been "shut down" for "partisan reasons."
Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler has refused to comment on Dagley's allegation.
Kanstoroom has also revealed records showing that M-NCPPC's top lawyer interfered with an earlier state decision to correct the tax maps. Montgomery County Council Member Marc Elrich called the communications between M-NCPPC General Counsel Adrian Gardner and Maryland Secretary of Planning Richard Hall inappropriate "back room" dealing at the expense of landowners who can't afford lawyers to fight back.
Especially infuriating to landowner William Rounds is the fact that Gardner's own agency had insisted that Rounds obtain the map correction in order to be issued an address for his property.
Rounds was stunned to learn that the correction he had fought for was quickly reversed after Gardner contacted Secretary Hall.
"They told me to fix the map, I got the map fixed," said Rounds. "And then they're the same ones that just undo it?"
Gardner says he was merely notifying Hall of possible litigation if the map correction stood.
Carrier says she will ask state officials to take a new look at the issue. Even so, she has defended the communication episode as "appropriate".
Through a spokesman, Hall has refused to take questions from WUSA9 about the matter.