- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 29, 2009

HAGERSTOWN, Md. | The rural community of Walkersville has agreed to settle a federal religious discrimination lawsuit by buying 224 acres at the center of the dispute from the developer who filed the complaint, the town’s lawyer said Friday.

Baltimore attorney Daniel Karp wouldn’t disclose the proposed purchase price for the farm but said it is less than the $6.7 million that David Moxley and his family-owned companies would have received from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA. The town’s actions killed a deal between Mr. Moxley and the Muslim group last year.

“Let’s say it’s more than zero but it’s a lot less than he was suing for and a lot less than he had a contract with AMC for,” Mr. Karp said.

Mr. Moxley’s lawsuit had sought $16.5 million.

The parcel, about 45 miles west of Baltimore, had an assessed value of about $962,000 in January 2008, according to Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation records available online.

The purchase price will be disclosed in a document the town’s burgess and commissioners will be asked to approve within weeks, Mr. Karp said. The next town meeting is Sept. 9.

Mr. Karp said the town won’t admit any liability in the final agreement, which could take months to execute.

Mr. Moxley’s lawyer, Washington-based Roman P. Storzer, declined to discuss details of the deal but said, “We are happy that an amicable agreement has been reached.”

The Ahmadis, members of a Muslim sect that has been persecuted in Pakistan, canceled their contract to buy Mr. Moxley’s land in June 2008 after the Walkersville Board of Zoning Appeals denied their request to use the property for religious purposes, including an annual national convention.

In denying the request, the board cited a desire to preserve farmland in the town of 5,600 and fears that the thousands of people attending the annual, three-day Jalsa Salana gathering would overwhelm the community’s roads and emergency services.

Mr. Moxley, who lives on the property, said in a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Baltimore that the denial violated the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, enacted in 2000 to bar land-use regulations that would unfairly discriminate against religious organizations.

The complaint cited comments made by town officials including Burgess Ralph Whitmore’s statement to the Associated Press that Muslims “are a whole different culture from us.” Mr. Whitmore’s position is equivalent to mayor.

U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett filed a settlement order in the case late Thursday afternoon.

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