Farm Road Landowners Plan Protest Targeting Civil Rights Division of US Dept. of Justice

5:47 PM, Jul 11, 2013   |    comments
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SANDY SPRING, Md. (WUSA9) -- African American landowners in Montgomery County who claim their property rights were steamrolled by developers while public agencies did nothing to help are shifting their focus now to the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, and its Director Tom Perez.

A protest is planned at the Department of Justice Tuesday.

Perez is President Barack Obama's nominee to become the next U.S. Secretary of Labor.

The landowners are hoping new leadership at the Civil Rights Division may result in federal intervention in their case. 

A federal civil rights case brought by the landowners in 2011 was dismissed by a judge.

Before taking over the Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice, Perez served as Maryland's Secretary of Labor Licensing and Regulation.

Landowners accused the Maryland DLLR in 2008 of failing to discipline a state licensed surveyor accused of submitting false and misleading information in order to secure a subdivision development approval. Perez was in charge of the department at the time. 

Property owners like William Rounds, whose family has had parcels for a century, claim the development approval wiped away historic access rights on a wooded lane called Farm Road despite references to the road in the deeds of 20 land holders.   Rounds and Founder Steve Kanstoroom blame DLLR and other government agencies for failing to fix the problem.

Since 2007, the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission has refused to issue landowners addresses for their properties, and opposed them in court.

Former Montgomery County Inspector General Thomas Dagley has accused the Office of the Maryland Attorney General with shutting down an investigation of alleged wrongdoing by the developer.

"All things lead in the direction of the denial of civil rights," claimed Vernon Ricks Jr. of the Montgomery County NAACP, during testimony at a hearing held by the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus on June 26.

Rounds broke down in tears at the hearing. "Now I'm asking you all to look into what powers that you have over these government entities that can stop development happening in the community," Rounds pleaded.

Rounds and two other Farm Road landholders have fought and lost in state courts.

Meanwhile, the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission at the direction of Montgomery County Planning Chairperson Francoise Carrier in June announced the appointment of a special counsel to investigate claims of wrongdoing in the case.

A spokesman for the Legislative Black Caucus says an announcement of a plan on issuing addresses to Farm Road landowners is expected Friday.

A spokesman for Tom Perez did not respond to a request for comment Thursday regarding the planned protest.


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