You are on page 1of 9

Brickyard Road Soccer Project

As an organization that exists to serve the community of Montgomery County, MSI has
been working hard for nearly a decade to identify opportunities to improve the quality
and quantity of soccer fields for the benefit of our children. Many of you have heard
about a potential opportunity to build and maintain quality new soccer fields at Brickyard
Road in Potomac, and MSI is very interested in becoming part of that project. This is an
important opportunity to make a genuine difference in our community, and we strongly
support the project despite the fact that it will be an extremely expensive one for any
organization that may get the opportunity to build and maintain these fields.

MSI believes that the benefits of this project far exceed the concerns raised by opponents
of the project, most of whom are nearby neighbors to the proposed project’s site. While
we disagree with those opponents, we feel that it is important to attempt to address
project issues and characteristics in an open manner, and to recognize that reasonable
minds can disagree. We expect that this approach is one that respects the opinions of all,
and MSI is looking forward to continuing to advocate for this project, as it will greatly
benefit Montgomery County children and their families!

1.0 Description of Project Opportunity


2.0 Thoughts in Favor of the Project
3.0 Thoughts in Opposition to the Project
4.0 Misperceptions Advanced by a Few Opponents
5.0 Summary

1.0 Description of Project Opportunity

ƒ Location
o The Brickyard Road property is a 20-acre site that is located on Brickyard
Road in Potomac, very near to its intersection with Falls Road. It is just a
few minutes drive from Potomac Village.
o The property has been owned by Montgomery County Public Schools
(MCPS) for several decades, with its long-term intended use being the
development of a Middle School.
o If developed as a Middle School the site would typically have 2-3 athletic
fields, along with standard amenities such as tennis courts, basketball
courts, etc., and of course many indoor features that receive community
use, such as gymnasiums, cafeteria/meeting rooms, classrooms,
auditorium, etc.

ƒ Project Description
o Montgomery County has leased this land from MCPS, with the publicly
stated intent to seek a partner who will be willing and able to fund the
construction and maintenance of four full-sized soccer fields on the
property, along with sufficient parking.
o Montgomery County held a public meeting to discuss the project in April
2011, and has a second public meeting scheduled for June 9, 2011.
o The nature of the partnership would allow the fields to be maintained at a
significantly higher level than standard school fields, such that children
will be able to enjoy playing on a smooth and safe surface.

ƒ Current and Past Use of the Property


o While holding the land for anticipated future development of a Middle
School, MCPS agreed in 1980 to a short-term lease of the land for the
nominal rent of $1,300 per year for private use by a commercial farmer.
This farmer operates an approximately 145-acre commercial farm in
Frederick County, and added these 20 acres to his overall business
operation, and prepared the land to meet the requirements for certification
for “organic” farming.
o As demographics did not call for the near-term construction of a Middle
School, MCPS continued to provide short-term renewals of the lease,
while increasingly considering County government desire to utilize the
site for broader community benefit.
o In 2004, the County government publicly expressed its desire to
discontinue the leasing arrangement in order to utilize the site for
alternative public policy objectives, including “Moderately Priced
Dwelling Units”. At that time, the County indicated clearly that they
would continue to consider alternative use that served a broader
community purpose. The farming lease was renewed at the conclusion of
those discussions in March 2006, with four annual lease renewals resulting
in a final termination date of March 2011.
o In March 2011, at the conclusion of the lease period, MCPS formally
advised the farmer that the lease would not be renewed, but did
subsequently provide for one additional “growing season” of use for
farming purposes in order to provide a transition period.

2.0 Thoughts in Favor of the Project

ƒ Summary of Need
o Studies completed by the Montgomery County Department of Parks have
documented huge needs for soccer fields in Montgomery County,
especially in areas that range from Bethesda to North Potomac. There are
limited opportunities to satisfy these needs, especially in terms of sites that
can support more than one new field. As important as anything is the fact
that these fields, and many more, need to be built somewhere, and need to
be convenient to the families and children who will use them. “If not here,
then where” is a question that almost must be answered.
o Coaches, players, and parents who participate in organized athletics know
first-hand the impact of “over playing and under maintaining” the limited
number of fields that exist today, and the negative impact it has on the
overall experience and enjoyment, as well as the role it plays in children
choosing to continue in athletic activities or not.

ƒ Summary of Benefits to Children


o Each season, these new fields would provide an opportunity for thousands
of children to participate in youth sports on fields that significantly
enhance their enjoyment of the experience.
o This enhanced experience would help improve the rate at which children
continue participating in organized youth sports, thereby making a
significant contribution to the health and welfare of these children.
Importantly, it would provide positive and engaging activities as they
move into their teenage years, where structured community activities
contribute mightily to avoiding a wide variety of other social problems in
our community.

ƒ Land Use/Appropriateness
o The Potomac Master Plan specifically states the appropriateness of this
use for the property in the event that a Middle School is not built. The
uniqueness of the proposed arrangement is that it would enable a broad
public benefit from the property today, while retaining the opportunity to
utilize the land for construction of a Middle School if deemed necessary in
the future.
o In a prior communication, MSI used imprecise language when it referred
to the Brickyard Road property as having been declared “excess to needs”.
In fact, it has been deemed to be excess only to “current needs”, and the
lease with between MCPS and Montgomery County allows for the
property to be recalled by MCPS with 2-years advance notice in the event
that a need for a school develops.
o If the property were to be developed as an MCPS Middle School, the
range and volume of activities would vastly exceed that of the proposed
use as a soccer park.
ƒ Up to 185 school days per year, dozens of school bus trips every
morning and again every afternoon would occur. In addition, well
over 100 staff would drive their vehicles to school in the morning
and home in the afternoon, in addition to volunteers, parents,
delivery and maintenance vehicles, etc.
ƒ Every afternoon during the fall and spring seasons, the athletic
fields would be utilized by Middle School sports teams.
ƒ Every evening during the fall and spring seasons, every athletic
field would be utilized by local teams for practices.
ƒ Every evening during the winter, the school’s gymnasium would
be utilized by local teams for practices.
ƒ Every weekend during the winter, and many weekends throughout
the calendar year, the school’s gymnasium would be utilized by
local recreation programs for games.
ƒ A variety of small and large scale uses of the facility would occur
on weeknights throughout the school year for concerts, plays,
school athletic events, community meetings, and other private
rentals. Private educational groups and religious groups would
utilize the classrooms during weekends.

ƒ In contrast, the anticipated use as a soccer park would result in


substantially less traffic into and out of the community. The
weekend volume of cars during up to 26 weekends per year (up to
52 days) would be similar to the anticipated volume of cars
expected for a normal middle school’s use on those same
weekends. There would be very little to no traffic during the
winter months, and only a relatively small amount of traffic during
the summer months. Weekday/night use would generate
substantially less traffic volume than a typical middle school.

ƒ Financial and Other Benefits to Taxpayers


o There is no mistaking the fact that Montgomery County needs to increase
and enhance their infrastructure of parks and athletic facilities for a
growing population. Already, this infrastructure has failed to keep pace,
and the strain is evident everywhere with poor quality playing fields.
Parks maintenance managers and staff work diligently to do the best they
can, but the overplaying of fields negates any opportunity for genuine
success in providing anything resembling a quality surface for our
children.
o In normal circumstances, the Montgomery County taxpayer would be
responsible for providing millions of dollars to develop this park, along
with subsidizing its use once complete. In this case, there is a nearly
unprecedented opportunity for the Montgomery County taxpayer to have a
park constructed and maintained at little taxpayer expense.
o The highlight of this opportunity, if constructed this way by the County, is
that these privately-funded fields would be available for use by
Montgomery County children via open-registration programs that clearly
are run solely for public benefit. The only “shareholders” in this scenario
are the Montgomery County citizens.
o Montgomery County families that currently must drive from lower County
neighborhoods all the way to Germantown to play on good fields would
now have a much shorter drive, increasing family time while decreasing
the number of cars and miles being driven each weekend.
o In summary, the Montgomery County taxpayer saves millions of capital
dollars “today”, while saving millions of maintenance dollars “tomorrow”.
In addition, existing fields either may be used by organizations that cannot
obtain permits today, or they may have their over-utilization rate reduced
by some amount.
ƒ Options for Current User of Land
o Montgomery County officials are working to find potential new locations
for the commercial farmer that currently utilizes the site, as well as to
expand the objectives associated with the operation to serve as an
incubator for new organic farms in our County and region. The public
land in Potomac is a small portion of the farmer’s overall business, and
should not be especially difficult to replace.
o This would require a phase-in period for the new location to develop and
become certified as an “organic” farm, but this reality is one that has
always been known, and the opportunity and/or need to do so was
highlighted in 2004 when the County essentially went “on notice” with
their intent to consider broader public benefit opportunities for the land.
o It is important to remember that this land is public land, and that the
current use is commercial in nature. The desire to utilize public land for
public benefit, while accommodating the alternative interest in supporting
organic farming through the creation of an incubator project in another
portion of Montgomery County, by far serves the greater public good.

3.0 Thoughts in Opposition to the Project

There always will be opponents to a project. Given that most of us live in communities
that include schools and parks with significant athletic field activity on a daily basis,
there is an inclination to view this in a significant “NIMBY” light. While there may be
some amount of truth to that view, there also are some honest concerns that have been
raised by local neighbors. In fairness, we summarize those as best we can, including:

ƒ Traffic/parking concerns have been stated by some nearby residents. While this
always is an understandable concern, it is important to recognize that the traffic
generated by the proposed soccer park would be substantially less than the
previously identified use as a Middle School. Additionally, it is routine for
similar parks and/or schools to exist in situations where access is via single-lane
neighborhood streets. In this case, the opportunity exists to substantially improve
parking relative to other nearly identical nearby parks and schools, such as Falls
Road Park, Robert Frost Middle School, and any number of nearby elementary
schools.

ƒ The appropriateness of land use has been questioned by some who interpret the
Potomac Master Plan differently than others. Opponents of the proposed soccer
park generally acknowledge that the Potomac Master Plan at a minimum suggests
the appropriateness of the property for use as athletic fields, but argue that the
Plan does not specifically call for a recreational park, and that alternative uses
should be considered. The immediate community feels that they should have
been given the opportunity “in advance” of the MCPS lease to the County to
provide input as to their desired use of the property.
ƒ Concerns regarding public access have been raised, primarily in terms of the
opportunity for immediate neighbors to enjoy passive use of the park. It is
important to recognize that existing schools and parks require formal permits for
their use, and those permits generally “fill up” all available time after school and
on the weekends for use by community athletic teams. That situation will
continue to be true in a nearly identical fashion, with community athletic teams
utilizing the new soccer fields for practices or games. Opportunities may exist to
provide some after school access for neighborhood children, and for alternative
use/access to the park (such as picnic pavilions, playgrounds, community gardens,
etc.), depending upon the wishes and desires of the community, as well as
insurance issues with the County.

ƒ Some have suggested that the existing farmer should be allowed to continue
farming the land, arguing that the “organic” nature of the farm should override
other community needs. There is nothing wrong with this opinion, and if that is
what the County wants to do with public land, that is a choice that could be made.
It is important to note that alternative locations are being sought by the County
Executive to significantly expand the impact of this activity, by creating an
incubator program for organic farms. Regardless of individual preferences, we
also must remember that we are talking about public land that has been used for a
long time for private business purposes. The opportunity to provide a seamless
transition to an alternative location was provided in 2004 when the County made
it clear that they were considering broader public benefit uses for the property.
Failure to take advantage of the 7-year window that was provided at that time
means that there may be a period of time necessary to cultivate an equivalent
“organic” soil base, but that was a choice. We do not criticize that choice, but
cannot accept it as a reason to perpetuate a narrow business use of public land that
could provide broad public benefit.

ƒ Some have suggested that the process by which the future property use was
selected has not been as “transparent” as they believe it should have been.
Key to this concern is the desire of the community to have earlier and greater
input into the specific type of use that should be considered for the Brickyard
Road property. We recognize that reasonable people can have different opinions
about the “how” and “what” of topics such as this, but this concern cannot be
responded to by MSI. However, we thought it important to recognize this
concern of the neighbors. While this project is NOT an MSI project, we continue
to be aggressive in suggesting that we would like it to become one. We do hope
to have the opportunity to develop this park, and hope to have constructive
dialogue with neighbors to take into account as many local wishes as possible, in
an effort to make this park the best it can be.
4.0 Misperceptions Advanced by a Few Opponents

There are a few nearby residents who are extremely opposed to the proposed use of the
Brickyard Road property as a soccer park. In furtherance of their goal to prevent the
project from happening, some have attempted to portray a very negative picture of MSI.
Of course, these “strategic allegations” are formed on the basis of “the ends justify the
means”, without regard to falsely damaging an organization that does so much for
children. We understand the motives behind their attacks, and to a large extent feel that
it is best simply to let MSI’s reputation for outstanding community service on behalf of
the citizens of Montgomery County speak for itself. We want to emphasize that these
allegations come from a very small percentage of the nearby residents, but also note that
the remainder of the community has failed to denounce comments that are outrageous.
That is disappointing, but we move forward.

MSI has prided itself on being an organization that “serves” its community, and does so
in an open manner. The minutes of our Board Meetings are posted on our website for all
to see. Ironically, some opponents who have claimed that we have lacked transparency
have obtained quotes from the public posting of meeting minutes on our website, and
then have “interpreted” those quotes to support their predetermined conclusions. In
furtherance of our community service objectives, we have been very public in our hopes
to help improve our community through various social service projects as well as our
goals of building and maintaining more soccer fields. In order to avoid being accused by
those same few residents as “ducking” their attacks, we provide the following brief
responses.

Issue #1 – The statement that MSI created a “political slush fund” in an attempt to
influence political leaders to partner with MSI in the development of new soccer fields.
It was stated that it was inappropriate for MSI to hire consultants, and that MSI has
engaged in some sort of a “pay to play” scheme.

Response #1 – MSI has tried for almost exactly 10 years to create partnerships to build
and maintain more and better soccer fields for our community. In early 2009, MSI’s
Board of Directors authorized expenditures for a variety of consultants to achieve several
objectives, including (1) assisting us in figuring out the “how” associated with projects
with the County’s “Public-Private Partnership” program, (2) assisting us in identifying
possible means for fundraising to support the construction and maintenance of new
soccer fields, and (3) assisting us in identifying the design, construction, and maintenance
details associated with building and caring for new soccer fields. Each of those “types”
of expenditures obviously is a necessary component in any effort to solve the field-
related crisis our County faces. These would be typical expenditures for any organization
seeking to succeed with a complicated and expensive endeavor where it does not have the
internal resources and expertise to efficiently approach the project. To date, a very small
fraction of those funds have been expended.

The statement regarding “pay to play” is especially absurd, and quite frankly outrageous,
as the author threw that term into their complaints boldly while providing absolutely no
support to the allegation. MSI is proud of the completely above-board manner in which
we have interacted with all public officials, although we are profoundly disappointed
with the lack of success associated with those interactions over the last 10 years.

Issue #2 – The statement that MSI has conducted “secret meetings” with government
officials, concluding with back room deals, etc.”

Response #2 – MSI has at different times contacted and met with a wide variety of public
officials from the Department of Parks, Department of Recreation, County Government,
and Montgomery County Public Schools. These meetings have been ongoing from 2001
through 2011, with MSI continually offering to help solve a portion of the County’s
shortfall of athletic fields. We have identified dozens of locations that provide
opportunity to build new soccer fields, and have continually “pinged” anybody and
everybody with those suggestions. We have routinely been told that if any opportunities
were to be identified that the County would need to solicit partners via a Request for
Proposal (RFP) process. We have understood that, and continually encouraged County
leaders to consider a wide variety of sites for consideration of issuance of an RFP for just
such a partnership, and indicated that we are prepared to respond if and when such RFPs
were to be released. In the past, MSI responded to the largest athletic field development
RFP issued by the County to date, and was not successful.

We can assert with 100% certainty that we do not have a single “deal” with any County
government entity to build a single field (“back room” or “front room”). Anybody that
says otherwise simply is not telling the truth. The announcement that the MCPS Board of
Education had placed on their agenda an item to consider formally leasing the Brickyard
Road property to the County is one that caught us off-guard. Of course, it is a
development that we completely welcomed, and it is our intention to aggressively pursue
the opportunity to do great things for all our children if possible. We have met with some
members of the community to learn their concerns, and have expressed a willingness to
community leaders to meet again in the future.

Issue #3 – The statement that MSI has “gouged” its families through “overcharging” of
registration fees.

Response #3 – This one is the easiest of all to refute, and quite frankly the silliest of all.
MSI is at the lowest end for registration fees for youth sports organizations in
Montgomery County. MSI’s ability to maintain low registration fees with an average
annual increase of just over 1% over the past three years, and just over 2% for the past
decade, speaks volumes! Our creation of a wide variety of collateral programs (such as
camps, tournaments, clinics, etc.), while making significant improvements in efficiency
of service, has enabled us to raise significant funds that have been dedicated 100% to our
“Facility Development Fund” (the Fund). Investment earnings have significantly
contributed to growth of the Fund, enabling MSI to provide a phenomenal gift to our
community, a gift that will keep on giving, and one that we are extremely proud of! And,
we will have done it while affirming every ideal that a community service organization
such as ourselves can and does stand for!
Issue #4 – The statement that MSI somehow will reap a significant “profit” from the use
of these fields.

Response #4 – Given the cost likely to be associated with this project, it is unimaginable
that MSI could “profit” in any way other than the smiles on the kids’ faces. Fortunately,
the value of those smiles is immeasurable, as there is no other perspective in which the
economics of this project make sense, given the likely lack of tax dollar support that
typically is used to build our parks. Further, as a non-profit organization that has
“walked the walk” for almost four decades all our funds are dedicated for use towards the
benefit of the community. Community outreach programs such as financial assistance to
those in need, food drives for the hungry, and tailored programs for those with special
needs are just the most obvious facets of our ethic of community service. And, our
commitment to maintaining registration fees as low as possible is one that has been
affirmed at every possible juncture.

5.0 Summary

The Brickyard Road property offers a significant opportunity to provide relief to the
soccer-playing families of the southern portion of the County. By no means is it a
panacea, as it will provide only a portion of the new fields needed in support of our
County’s growing population. However, projects such as these need to be supported and
replicated in areas of need across the County. Given the difficult economic times in
which we live, creative approaches to funding the development and maintenance of
recreational athletic fields need to be supported. In so doing, the County also needs to
ensure that their partner organizations truly live up to an ethic of community service, with
the best interest of Montgomery County families considered first and foremost. An
organization like MSI, with our demonstrated history of community service, is an ideal
partner for similar projects. Montgomery County can count on the fact that MSI
historically has worked – and will continue to work -- to keep participation costs as low
as possible for families, while providing the best possible experience for the children we
serve!