By Associated Press - Friday, April 30, 2021

BALTIMORE (AP) - Baltimore County has agreed to pay $1.1 million to resolve a religious discrimination lawsuit over a county board’s denial of a church’s expansion plan.

The Baltimore Sun reports that the county and Hunt Valley Baptist Church reached the March 31 settlement after a federal judge in Baltimore upheld a ruling that the county violated a federal law that protects religious institutions from discrimination in zoning.

The church sued in 2017 after a county appeals board denied its plan to build a larger facility.

The church sought permission to build a 1,000-seat sanctuary with classrooms, a kitchen, gym, offices and parking for 240 cars on a 17-acre farm. The construction project had an estimated cost of $5 million.

County officials and an administrative law judge had approved the church’s plan, but an appeals board reversed the decision. Neighbors who opposed the church’s expansion argued that the project could lead to a proliferation of new development in the area.

The church’s lawsuit claimed the county’s zoning laws violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.

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