Dispute over concerts by Love and Music church settled out of court

PITTSBURGH (AP) - An out-of-court settlement has been reached in a legal dispute between county officials and a man who described his "jam band" concerts on his 147-acre spread as church services.

William Pritts, head of the Church of Universal Love and Music, argued that the concerts were part of religious expression, so he didn't need a permit. Fayette County officials labeled the church a sham Pritts created because his 2001 application for a zoning exemption was rejected.

Pritts sued the county in 2006. The man's lawyer, Gregory Koerner, said terms of the settlement are confidential. But he described the accord as "mutually satisfactory" and said Pritts will be able to continue his venture. County lawyer Marie Milie Jones confirmed that an agreement had been reached.

The dispute began in 2001 when Pritts filed for a zoning exception to hold concerts on an agricultural tract. Pritts didn't claim to head a church when he first sought the exception and a permit to build a stage, though he said some local churches might use the facility for fundraisers, county officials said.

Residents raised concerns including traffic, safety, noise, and alcohol consumption. Pritts' attorneys say his "non-denominational Christian church" had about 200 members and dates to 1985, but acknowledged it wasn't formally incorporated under state law until 2002.

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