African American Landowners Keep Fighting For Road

5:18 PM, Jul 19, 2013   |    comments
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SANDY SPRING, MONTGOMERY CO., Md (WUSA9) -- What looked like a clear victory in that long running Sandy Spring land fight is looking a little less clear now.

Montgomery County Planning Board finally gave 11 African American families addresses, but it's still not guaranteeing they can get to them.

The land has been with these families for generations. A group of Quaker abolitionists gave it to freed slaves. But about six years ago, the road that led to their land disappeared from county maps.

Now 11 of them have addresses, but still no road.

"It's a hell of a thing to come out of slavery and go back into it," said William Rounds Thursday night after the planning board's unanimous vote.

After years of struggle, Montgomery Planning Board had finally given him an address for one of his two lots. "550 Brooke Rd," he said smiling through tears of joy.

But the situation looks different by the light if day. "After I had an opportunity to settle down and think what Park and Planning was presenting to me, it was another damn loophole."

While the commission gave Rounds and the other families addresses back here on Farm Road, it did not recognize the road itself, nor their right to drive on it to get to their property.

They have to get permission from the other landowners here, who the commission still says owns this ground.

As we found, permission can be a fleeting thing. As we were looking for Farm Road, a man who refused to identify himself came up and demanded we get off the property. "This is your land?" I asked him. "No comment. Right now you're on private property," he responded.

We left.

But Rounds, 70, says he shouldn't need permission to drive on a road he walked on as a kid to get to elementary school.

Rounds says he's not giving up until he wins the right to build or sell his property or he dies trying. "I'm going to keep pushing until I'm pushing up daisies."

Two other families still have to work with county planners to even get addresses.

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