Montgomery County planning officials are investigating possible wrongdoing in the 1999 approval of a housing development that resulted in a century-old private gravel access road, used by a Sandy Spring community of predominantly elderly African Americans, being dropped from state tax maps.
The exclusion of what residents call “Farm Road” has been the subject of multiple lawsuits and bitter debate between the county planning department and the community, which was founded by freed slaves. The road’s absence from tax maps effectively leaves about a dozen owners with land that has little or no market value. Without proof of a road for ambulance or firetruck access, the county will not assign addresses, which are required for building permits.
Many of the residents along the road have been lobbying county officials for years to reinstate the road, but until recently have not had any success.
“It’s gone on too long,” said Sheldon Carter, 45, whose wife’s family owns two acres along the disputed road. “I need a place to build, and we can’t build. . . . What am I supposed to tell my kids when they ask, ‘Daddy, why can’t we get our house built?’ ”