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State budget includes $25 million to pay off CVTC bond debt

View story at The News & Advance...With approval of a new Virginia state budget Wednesday, $25 million was included that Lynchburg-area officials eagerly hoped for to benefit future redevelopment of the Central Virginia Training Center site.

The state’s biennial fiscal year 2023-24 budget contain a request from Sen. Steve Newman, R-Lynchburg, for the $25 million in state money to defease outstanding bonds associated with CVTC in Madison Heights, which closed in 2020 and is now a prospect for future development. Defeasance is a term related to all methods by which an outstanding bond issue can be made void, legally and financially, by the state.

“In short, the vision cannot succeed until the bonds are eliminated,” the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance said in an April news release about redevelopment plans. “Without bond defeasement the CVTC property will sit and rot — likely becoming a significant blight on the region’s urban core.”

The state's debt that will be settled in the new budget is on a cluster of more modern buildings on the CVTC campus known as Lower Rapidan and those outstanding bonds, along with the cost of demolishing many structures on the site, are significant impediments to any development, according to the alliance.
The alliance in April unveiled the CVTC Master Redevelopment Plan, a 200-plus page document that describes at length the development potential at the site used for many decades as a medical facility for people with disabilities.

“I fought for many years for individuals to remain in CVTC because they had intensive medical needs and I believe that was the most appropriate and safest setting for them to receive care,” Newman said in a news release. “However, with the closure of CVTC in 2020, my focus shifted to ensuring the property is repurposed for the highest economic use.”

The one-time funding for paying off the outstanding bonds settles the debt 14 years ahead of the payment schedule, according to Newman. It positions the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance and Amherst County government to advertise the training center site on 350 acres overlooking the James River and Downtown Lynchburg for a new chapter.

“This appropriation represents a tremendous opportunity for economic development in the Central Virginia area,” Newman said. “I am proud of our community coming together to get this important work done.”

Newman said state delegates Kathy Byron, Terry Austin and Wendell Walker, who represent localities in the Lynchburg area with a stake in the CVTC property redeveloping, were supportive of the effort.

In 2017, the Virginia General Assembly appropriated $270,000 for an environmental site assessment needed to assess the CVTC property. The General Assembly the following year appropriated $250,000 for the next phase of the environmental study at CVTC. According to a state report done that year the schedule for defeasing the outstanding bonds would be paid off in 2037.

The alliance noted in its April release the bonds can’t be defeased in increments and must be paid all at once and the success of the redevelopment plan, first and foremost, hinges on the debt getting settled. The plan calls for a walkable urban community and a mixed-use of more than 100 acres through housing such as townhomes, cottage homes, estate-style houses and commercial buildings, offices, parks and recreational facilities, tourist sites such as a brewery, and a funicular down to the James River to connect the site with Downtown Lynchburg.

The plan can be viewed online at: trainingcentermasterplan.com

Amherst County Administrator Dean Rodgers said he is pleased the state “stepped up to its responsibility” to the community regarding the closure of CVTC.

“We are all hopeful that CVTC’s new life, whatever that ends up being, will be a great benefit to the county and the entire Lynchburg region,” Rodgers said.