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'Farm Road' dispute: Now you see it - now you don't, part 2

We are talking about the problems facing a group of property owners in Silver Spring, Maryland. In the early 2000s, a developer submitted a plan for a subdivision that the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission approved. The problem was that the documents either mistakenly or deliberately failed to include an access road known as "Farm Road." In Montgomery County records, the road simply ceased to exist, like the legendary town of Brigadoon.

Sort of.

The truth of the matter is much more complicated. County officials say the road does not exist, so they cannot assign street addresses to the homes. Yet, for people who technically have no address, they still pay property taxes and garbage collection fees. Dial 911 from one of these homes, and first responders will be directed to approach via Farm Road.

The real estate dispute hit the headlines again recently when Attorney General Doug Gansler denied that his office had ever investigated the matter -- in spite of a paper trail that may well prove otherwise. And, local television profiled a Farm Road resident who has once again asked the M-NCCP for a street address.

Most of the homes have been there for a century or more, owned by descendants of freed slaves, and the chains of title for 20 of the properties make specific reference to Farm Road. But, again, according to the commission, that road no longer exists. If that road does not exist, many of those homes have no street addresses. And if that road does not exist, many of those homes have no access road. It seems to be a catch-22: The commission took away their access road and now will not allow them to build or to have street addresses assigned because there is no access road.

The attorney general's remarks made it clear that that office wants nothing more to do with the dispute. Gansler said the matter was Montgomery County's jurisdiction, not the state's. But former Montgomery County workers and Farm Road residents want to know why the state would decide that after spending so much time and effort on the investigation. They also want the agency to reassure them that its decision has nothing to do with the fact that Farm Road's residents are, for the most part, African-American.

Right now, there is no solution in sight. The residents can only hope that their situation is resolved in less time than it took for Brigadoon to reappear. The town was cursed to go to sleep every night and wake up 100 years later.

Source: WUSA 9, "Doug Gansler Denies Shutting Down 'Farm Road' Investigation," Scott Broom, June 12, 2013