Friday, January 11, 2008

Walkersville Muslim Center Hearing Day Three--The Forgotten Interest Edition

The confrontation in Walkersville over the potential Ahmadiyya Muslim Community retreat cneter continued for the third night in a row in the small town. Town residents spent nearly two hours questioning the experts and leadership of the AMC. Reports indicate that the exchage got somewhat heated when AMC President Dr. Ahsan Zafar was being questioned, with the townsfold questioning both the motive and intent of the AMC to have its center be part of the community. The Frederick News Post highlighted this exchange:
Referring to advertisements and news stories, resident Paul Huff asked Zafar a series of questions.

One related to an advertisement in an August edition of The Frederick News-Post that stated: "We would like to be a part of the community."

Huff asked if that was still true and Zafar answered yes.

Huff then questioned why Ahmadiyya's spokesperson, Syed Ahmad, was quoted in a Jan. 3 article in a local newspaper as saying: "Theoretically speaking, if 100 percent of the population is against (the proposal), they cannot take that into account," he said. '(The appeals board has) to go by the law."

Huff wanted to know how Ahmadiyya could want to be part of the community and yet not care that a large majority of the town does not want the board to approve the center.

Zafar claimed there was no conflict in those two statements and Ahmad was free to speak his mind.

"He is responding to pressure being put on him," Zafar said.

Zafar began raising his voice and gesturing with his hands when asked about an ad in The Frederick News-Post in August stating the community was not planning to build a convention center.

Huff asked if Jalsa Salana was a convention. Zafar said it could be considered one depending on the definition of the word "convention." Huff then asked whether conventions are in convention centers.

"You sir are trying to put words in my mouth," Zafar said, "and I am not accepting them."
The hearing is scheduled to conclude this evening.

From a purely procedural point of view, the AMC is on the defensive here. They have asked for an exception to the zoning of the Nicodemus farm. By definition, an exception is something that must be proven rather than something that should be expected. At least one Board Member has hinted at an oppostion to granting the exception although no Board Member has publicly announced any position on the matter. In fact, as a sidebar to the Frederick News Post article indicates, the members of the Board of Zoning Appeals has changed significantly due to the pending issue.

I am not unsympathetic to the concerns of the townsfolk. I can see that the impact of the AMC annual convention/retreat/event would be significant on the travel lives of the town, where access to the town is somewhat limited. But there is another interested party here whose rights have barely even been considered--that of David Moxley, the farm's current owner.

However, if this had been the only time the townsfolk had opposed something contemplated by Mr. Moxley I would far more forgiving. But for 10 years, Mr. Moxley has attempted to sell the farm in a manner that he sees fit and for the past ten years he has been stymied. He has wanted to sell his land to developers for a subdivision, twice, and been denied by a town who fears the traffic or impact on their lives. The result is that Mr. Moxley cannot exercise his rights to sell his land in a manner that suits him. The collective denial of an individual property right irritates me. I ask the townsfolk to consider the impact of their actions on one of their own and not just their own concerns about what a three day festival would do to their commuting.

Comments to my previous posts on this hearing have noted that my suggestion for an alternative access to the proposed center might be ridiculous. I will admit that my solution is not without problems, namely construction and property problems, but my suggestion is intended for people to stop and think about the animosity they are creating, rather than looking for a solution that might benefit everyone. Right now the game is completely zero-sum, for someone to win, the other side has to lose. Is there not a compromise position? But as Commenter Dawn noted,
This center needs to find a location right off of 15 or 70, not miles from it that clogs up our major route or cuts through farmland or neighborhoods.
Let's assume the AMC found land immediately adjacent to I-70 or Route 15, I doubt the townsfolk will be any more accomodating in their current state.

While the town owes no obligation to the AMC to find an alternative, at this point they do owe Mr. Moxley something. He is own of their own, a Walkersville resident. Either let him sell this farm to the AMC and deal with a three-five day headache, adapt and overcome, or let him sell his land to a developer. You have played with Mr. Moxley's property rights for far too long.


Crossposted at Red Maryland.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why can't he just sell his land to a farmer?

Anonymous said...

The rights of the one never outweigh the rights of the many.

Matt Johnston said...

He could sell his land to a farmer but he doesn't want to--at least not yet.

Since when does everyone else's rights come before a single person. Moxley owns the land, within reason, he should be able to sell the land. Likewise, he should be free to make money off the deal. Selling to another farmer might not make his as much money (if any).

Here is a thought--what if Moxley sold the land to ADM or some other corporate farming entity. The land would still be used for agricultural purposes--would that satisfy everyone?