SANDY SPRING, Md. (WUSA9) -- Planning bureaucrats who have stood in the way of allowing African American families to develop historic parcels near their community's Slave Museum for more than six years have partially reversed course.
The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission has proposed a plan to allow some, but not all, of the families to be issued addresses for their parcels along a historic access known as Farm Road.
In all, 11 property owners would qualify for addresses under the plan which would clear the way for owners to apply for building permits or to sell their property after years of legal limbo.
At least two families would remain landlocked, though planning officials promise to seek other solutions.
The plan comes in the wake of a two-month series of WUSA9 reports exposing accusations of an alleged land-grab by a developer that threw the road into dispute while public agencies were accused of standing by or working against the citizens.
African-American landowners claim their property values have been steamrolled. In the intervening years, one family lost its land to foreclosure, and others have run out of money to fight back or build.
Civil rights leaders have called for action, saying the African-American families' property rights were being abused by a system that appears unfairly stacked against them.
The proposal will be considered for approval by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission on July 18.
In 2008, former Montgomery County Legislative Aide Adrienne Gude accused developers of the nearby Dellabrooke Subdivision of intentionally submitting false and misleading survey work that eliminated Farm Road from official records, all with the approval of the M-NCPPC, which obtained a conservation easement in the process.
By 2007, the approval wiped Farm Road from state tax maps where it had existed since the 1890's and threw access rights for neighboring property owners into dispute.
Former Montgomery County Inspector General Thomas Dagley claims prosecutors at Maryland's Attorney General's office shut down an investigation into the allegations of wrongdoing by surveyors.
Landowners are planning a protest at the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights division, claiming that Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez also failed to act against an accused surveyor when he was the head of Maryland's Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation in 2008.
Seventy-two-year old landowner William Rounds was reduced to tears at a hearing before the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus on June 28. Rounds said he had spent all his money fighting officials and was left with nothing but a vacant lot, where he had once hoped to build a retirement home.
Rounds' family has owned the land since 1904.
He said the proposal to issue addresses to some, but not all, landowners along the remaining section of Farm Road cannot be considered a victory.
"How am I going to feel good about myself, when I know these people are locked behind me," he said.