- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 1, 2002

LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) The Rev. Jerry Falwell's plan to turn a large industrial site into a church, a private Christian school and an expanded Liberty University has city officials worried about the loss of tax dollars.
Mr. Falwell's Thomas Road Baptist Church entered a contract last month to buy an 888,000-square-foot, two-building complex on 110 acres from Ericsson, a Swedish-based supplier of cellular phone network equipment. The church wants to use the site for a new church, Lynchburg Christian Academy and a student recreational center for adjacent Liberty University.
The Falwell ministries will abandon plans to build on undeveloped land on nearby Liberty Mountain.
"It was a much more expensive site to develop," said Jerry Falwell Jr., attorney for the church and university. "The Ericsson site just makes a lot more sense."
About a third of the property would remain in industrial use.
The deal would take most of the largest industrial facility in the city off the tax rolls and eliminate the chance to get a large taxpaying business to occupy the site. The Falwell ministries are tax-exempt.
"This is a huge amount of money potentially taken off the city tax rolls," said City Council member Bert Dodson Jr. "How do you make that up? It's a big issue for the city."
The Falwell ministries contends that there is plenty of available commercial space in the region, that no companies offered a higher bid for the Ericsson building and that the expansion of Liberty University would boost the area's economy.
"We think we're helping the community, not hurting the community," Mr. Falwell Jr. said.
To use the site, the ministries will have to get zoning changes approved by the City Council.


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