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Community Defends Belward In Response to Gazette Editorial

Elizabeth Banks' family and the residents near Belward Farm react negatively to a Gazette editorial.

An editorial in The Gazette, "Hopkins plan fits with spirit of agreement," stated that Johns Hopkins’ current plan for a high-rise commercial office complex for 15,000 to 20,000 people on Belward Farm is “honorable”. It also stated that Elizabeth Banks would agree with Hopkins’ plan if she were alive today.  

Ms. Banks' family and many of Belward Farm’s neighbors strongly disagree. The full text of their comments can be found on scale-it-back.com.  

“You write as if you actually knew Elizabeth Beall Banks, my aunt, and the intent of her generous gift to Hopkins, saying ‘she had her eye on the future.’ The only thing she had her eye on was protecting Belward Farm, preserving its historic legacy, and stopping suburban sprawl from enveloping her beloved land.” (Tim Newell, Ms. Banks’ nephew)  

“There is no way she would ever have wanted anything like the Hopkins vision to occur on her land.” (Richard Weiner, North Potomac)

“Mrs. Banks was visionary enough to see that her land would become an important piece in future plans for a major University.  Much has changed since this land was sold at gift price, but the fact remains that Belward Campus is part of a puzzle of land use and it need not be the unreasonable monstrosity that JHU has planned it to become.” (Jan Fine, Gaithersburg)

“I cannot understand the Gazette's support of a full scale build-out of the property into something other than what the family had desired.  They loved this area and wanted the property to provide a space fitting the surrounding community. (Paul Hlavinka, North Potomac)

“The plan that Johns Hopkins currently has is about making money for them, not honoring the wishes of an old woman who actually believed they were an organization with integrity, which clearly they are not. Shame on them!” (Ann Sloane, Gaithersburg)

“Even granting that the contractual terms used to specify the future use of the land are (to be generous) imprecise, that only speaks to Ms. Banks’ trust in JHU, and to JHU’s apparent desire for maximum future flexibility.   Many of us were upset to read your editorial, and disappointed that space was used to further distort the record.” (Diana Conway, Potomac)

“My opinion is that Hopkins’ Plan is Empire Building in the most negative sense.  The intent of the Will would be destroyed, the neighborhood no longer livable for home owners, the traffic untenable.” (Dianne Gregg, Potomac)

“We have lived across the street from the Belward farm for 36 years.  We knew Ms. Banks and her wishes were made known on a daily basis.  Interview the neighbors.  Speak from a place of knowledge.” (Audrey Warren, North Potomac)

“Elizabeth Banks was ADAMANT that her farm not be used for residential or commercial development.  When she died in 2005, her obituary stated:  ‘Her love of the land led Ms. Banks and her family to sell Belward Farm at a gift price to Johns Hopkins University to ensure its development as a campus instead of a housing or commercial complex.’ That makes her intentions abundantly clear.”  (Donna Baron, North Potomac)

“We don’t have to speculate about Ms. Banks wishes for her farm. We know from frequent comments she made about her growing discomfort that Hopkins was not living up to the agreement, towards the end of her life.” (Bragi Valgeirsson, Rockville)

“Hopkins will not be here when the traffic congeals or the mass transit fails to achieve the somewhat tenuous goals to provide non-auto alternatives to commuting. Since Hopkins does not intend to occupy any of the development on Belward Farm, they are just one more absentee landlord hoping to make a killing in the real estate market and leave the MoCo taxpayers to clean up the mess.”  (Art Slesinger, Darnestown)

“This is the typical ‘do what is right for me’ approach, not what may be good for others.” (Bill Agnostak, North Potomac)

“Shame on you, posing as a ‘journalist’ when all you are actually doing is parroting the propaganda provided by JHU.” (Alan Madison, Gaithersburg) 

“The Gazette's opinion on Belward Farm was offensive and was not an accurate reflection of Elizabeth Banks’ intentions for her farm.” (Andrea Pfeffer, North Potomac)

“Your recent ‘Get Over It’ piece about Belward Farm is clearly not informed by the neighbors surrounding this property and the Banks family.” (Lisa Cline, Gaithersburg)

“Please do more research and write an article that informs people how the ‘quality of life’ and sense of community for our neighborhoods will be eroded.”  (Margaret Truman, Rockville) 

It is possible to have modern research, educational purposes and growth met within a plan that works, and adds value to the existing area.  (Adiva Sotzsky, Rockville)

“Geez Hopkins, DO THE RIGHT THING:  HONOR Ms. Banks wishes and phenomenally generous gift.  We're watching.”  (Maria Fusco, Potomac)

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

jnrentz1 February 24, 2012 at 12:13 PM
Ms. Baron, Good fortune to you and Scale-it Back, in your fight against the destruction of Belward Farm and the surrounding community. It is our hope that the many citizens of Montgomery County become aware of your fight and the related battles regarding the continued over development of Montgomery County. Regardless of the outcome of this case, I hope Scale-it-Back is able to continue a fight on behalf of those of us who wish to "Scale-it-Back" county wide. Thank you.
Donna Baron (Scale-it-back.com) February 24, 2012 at 07:13 PM
A related battle that we should all be fighting is the lack of transparency in the Montgomery County government. We went up against this in our fight to have a voice in the scale of the development proposed by the Great Seneca Science Corridor Master Plan. The people of Potomac are fighting a similar battle against the MoCo government and the Board of Ed in their efforts to save Nick's organic farm on Brickyard Road. See "County Disregards Warnings of Public Outcry Over Brickyard" at http://potomac.patch.com/articles/county-disregards-warnings-of-public-outcry-over-brickyard It is easy to label us all NIMBY'S but none of us are saying "don't do anything". We just want to have a seat at the table. And if the County execs were willing to listen, they might hear some really good ideas. But the decisions have been made long before the first resident hears anything about them. The backroom deals have got to stop!
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