For the past four years the community and the family of Elizabeth Banks, late owner of Belward Farm, have spoken out against Johns Hopkins’ proposed plans for Belward Farm.
According to Tim Newell, Elizabeth Banks’ nephew, “[Ms. Banks] and her siblings gifted her beloved 138-acre historic Belward Farm in Montgomery County to Johns Hopkins for a Johns Hopkins college campus.”
“Under the terms set forth at the time, the university agreed to use the property only for academic purposes, for university research and development, or for university health and medical care purposes.”
“Unfortunately,” according to Mr. Newell, ”instead of a university-operated campus, as my aunt expected, Hopkins plans to convert Belward Farm into a 4.7 million square foot, university-owned commercial real estate venture that would become the center of Montgomery County's planned ‘Science City.' The main goal of the development will not be education, research or medical care, but a profit making commercial enterprise for JHU."
The family of Elizabeth Banks has filed suit against Johns Hopkins for breach of donor intent.
The officials at Johns Hopkins befriended Ms. Banks and spent years talking to her about her intentions for the farm. John Dearden, who spent several years of his professional career with Hopkins working on Ms. Banks’ gift, said he is positive the university understood Ms. Banks’ intentions for her farm.
Sadly, before she passed away, Ms. Banks confided her concerns to her neighbors.
Audrey Warren said Ms. Banks remarked that it killed her to see all the farms around her sold off and developed. She didn’t want that to happen to her farm. She loved her farm. It was her life.
During a visit to Belward Farm to see the cows, Bruce Trauben and his daughter chatted with Ms. Banks. “She then looked across the street at the sprawling Stonebridge development, shook her head, and said, ‘I don't want what happened to the farm across the street to happen to my property.’" He said that his conversation with Ms. Banks gave him “hope that Belward Farm's open land would be preserved.”
Ms. Banks told John Beltracchi, who worked at Belward Farm, that she didn’t want her farm built up in a mega-development but Mr. Beltracchi was concerned that Johns Hopkins would not keep their word.
Nadereh Kostoff visited with Ms. Banks, with whom she shared a background as an educator. Mrs. Kostoff said, “[Ms. Banks] talked about Johns Hopkins and how they had made her life most difficult and she was worried that they would not abide by the conditions of her donation.”
“What I remember most clearly was her concern that Hopkins would not be following her wishes and what a shame that was. She said she would continue to fight them for as long as she was alive. She really didn’t want Hopkins to use her property for anything other than educational purposes.”
Diane Aronson remembers Ms. Banks very well. “The Elizabeth Banks of Belward Farm that I had the good fortune to know was a feisty woman who strongly opposed her land being using for housing or any commercial development.”
“To protect her property from undesirable development (housing and commercial establishments) she deeded Belward to John Hopkins University (JHU). The purpose of the deed was to ensure that any buildings on Belward would be used strictly for education or research.”
“It is unconscionable that JHU -- the institution that Miss Banks trusted to carry out her wishes -- is seeking to violate the stipulations of the deed and change its intent to meet the University’s needs.”
As if to confirm Ms. Banks’ intentions for her farm, 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.”
Ms. Banks’ family knows her intentions. The community knows her intentions. The officials at Johns Hopkins know her intentions. But will the University respect Elizabeth Banks’ intentions for Belward Farm, or is money more important than honesty or integrity?