The Bulletin

Liberty University says it hasn’t agreed to GOP’s parking lot convention plan

By: - February 24, 2021 2:42 pm

Liberty University in Lynchburg. (NBC12)

Less than a day after the Republican Party of Virginia’s State Central Committee voted to hold a convention in Liberty University’s parking lots, the school put out a statement asserting that it had not yet agreed to the plan.

It’s the latest wrinkle in the party’s long and contentious debate over how to choose their nominees this year for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.

“Liberty University tries to be a good neighbor and promote civic engagement,” the school said in a statement Wednesday. “When asked by the Virginia GOP officials about the possibility of leasing portions of retail center lots off campus for a day to facilitate a COVID-19 plan for its convention, Liberty said it would consider it, provided that full rental cost for the use was paid.

“So far, Liberty has not agreed to any particular plan or contract.”

Before voting on Tuesday evening to call the convention for May 8 — a date Liberty said it wasn’t informed of — committee members repeatedly asserted that they had permission from the school to use their parking lots as a venue.

“Liberty University has over 25,000 parking spots they’re willing to let us utilize for a one-location, drive-in convention,” said GOP Central Committee member Willie Deutsch. “It is really now the last option on the table.”

A spokesman for the Virginia GOP said he was still trying to sort out the discrepancy.

In addition to stressing that the university had not yet agreed to host the convention, Liberty said that if it did move forward, the event would take place off-campus at commercial properties owned by the school, which include a shopping mall.

Liberty’s statement said the school has:

• Has not agreed to any particular plan or contract.

• Has been clear that using any main campus parking lots would not be an option.

• Never discussed use of any parking garages, which would also not be an option.

• Did not agree to a one-location plan where one parking lot would handle all the traffic associated with a convention. The discussions were always about multiple lots that were spread out.

• Never mentioned a number of parking spaces or square footage to be used. No details or agreements have been worked out. As of today, there has been no site visit.

• Has not been notified that the date of the convention has been switched to May 8.

• The retail center parking facilities that Liberty would offer through its real estate holding companies were only offered at market rent like that charged other users who rent these kinds of parking lots and on comparable terms for such temporary use.

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Ned Oliver
Ned Oliver

Ned, a Lexington native, has been a fulltime journalist since 2008, beginning at The News-Gazette in Lexington, and including stints at the Berkshire Eagle, in Berkshire County, Mass., and the Times-Dispatch and Style Weekly in Richmond. He is a graduate of Bard College at Simon’s Rock, in Great Barrington, Mass. He was named Virginia's outstanding journalist for 2020 by the Virginia Press Association.