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Hunt Valley Baptist suing Baltimore County over denial of 1,000-seat church

The Hunt Valley Baptist Church filed a lawsuit Thursday against Baltimore County and its zoning appeals board over the 2016 denial of the church's plan to build a large new facility on rural Shawan Road.

The zoning appeals board ruled in July that the church should not be granted permission to build a 1,000-seat sanctuary, classrooms and gym on a 17-acre farm just west of Interstate 83.

Neighbors had fought what they characterized as a "megachurch."

The lawsuit claims the area, "in the immediate vicinity of Interstate 83, a country club, the Oregon Ridge Park, hotels and the Hunt Valley Town Center — and directly adjacent to another church — is particularly well-suited for a place of worship."

The suit also lays out the church's claim that the new building is necessary for its ministry activities. The lawsuit was filed in federal district court.

"Equal treatment of all religious institutions is a cornerstone of our constitutional traditions," Roman P. Storzer, the church's attorney, said in a statement. "We are confident that the protections of religious exercise that exist under federal and state law will allow Hunt Valley Baptist Church to minister to its members and the community at large in the manner that they believe is necessary."

Baltimore County officials said they had not yet seen the lawsuit to review it and had no comment.

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