LYNCHBURG, VA. -- Liberty University still hopes to find a way to acquire the Craddock-Terry Shoe Corp. building despite the city council's refusal to rezone the property, a spokesman for college founder Jerry Falwell said last week.
"It's not dead in the water," said Mark DeMoss, the spokesman. "We're exploring another means by which we can still gain use of the facility."
DeMoss declined to elaborate on the alternatives except to say, "Our legal counsel is working on it right now."
The city council voted 5-2 last week to deny Craddock-Terry's request that the 50-acre site of its headquarters building be rezoned from an industrial to a business classification, allowing the building to be sold to Liberty.
DeMoss said the council's action surprised university officials, following the city Planning Commission's 5-1 vote in favor of the rezoning. Liberty, which wants the 200,000-square-foot building for classrooms and offices, has offered $5 million for the property.
Council members opposed the zoning change because the city has limited industrial sites and needs to preserve them for industries that pay taxes. Liberty, along with Falwell's other operations, is exempt from taxes.
DeMoss conceded that Liberty's tax-exempt status probably was a factor in the rezoning decision. But he said the city might have difficulty finding another buyer, suggesting that industries might prefer less expensive land on the outskirts of town, rather than the Craddock-Terry site, which is along the busy Lynchburg Expressway.
"Many people made the point last night that there's little chance of any industry settling there at $100,000 an acre when they can go down the road and get land for a 10th of what this property costs," he said. Liberty's bid "has been the only legitimate offer."
Liberty, on Candler's Mountain near the Craddock-Terry site, wants the building to accommodate its burgeoning enrollment. The university's site is hilly, and much of it is unsuitable for development, DeMoss said.