Plans to expand Liberty University were held over by the Lynchburg Planning Commission on Wednesday after concerns surfaced on both sides of the table.
Commissioners agreed they needed to postpone their ruling to allow for closer scrutiny of the revised campus layout submitted by the school, which is working to reach a student population of 15,000 over the next five years.
LU is seeking to amend an earlier master plan agreed to by the city to allow for the additional students and a corresponding expansion of campus facilities.
Administrators have further requested a rezoning of 237 acres to allow for new dormitories and recreational amenities.
The rezoning, which affects a swath of property along U.S. 460 beneath the LU logo, would allow for enough housing for about 2,700 new students. It would also include a series of athletic fields, replacing those lost with the pending arrival of the Crossroads Colonnade shopping center.
It also includes Liberty’s long-planned ski slope, the vanguard of a bigger recreational park slated for the Campbell County side of the university’s large land holdings.
City planners gave the application a favorable review, but attached about 25 conditions to it related to issues such as traffic regulation and storm water management.
LU agreed to most of the terms, but questioned a few. The most notable objection dealt with a caveat that asked the school to remedy any negative impacts to streams or wetlands by commissioning improvements to other parts of the same watershed.
Such environmental mitigation is required by both state and federal law but can be performed in any watershed across the country. Liberty representatives said they didn’t want to “limit their options” by agreeing to a stricter standard.
Environmental science professor and City Council candidate Tom Shahady objected to the LU plans, saying it would negatively impact the natural resource of Candlers Mountain.
The planning commission deferred the issue to an unspecified point in the future. Officials requested they get a formal tour of the development site before making a decision. Several commissioners also said they wanted to take a longer view of the proposal, including what will happen to LU beyond the 15,000 mark and what impact will be felt across the entire city as the school continues to grow.