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Archive for June, 2009

Walmart’s proposal to build a Supercenter on the Wilderness Battlefield is now moving on to the Orange County Board of Supervisors who will make the final decision on whether or not to grant permission for Walmart and 3 other pad sites to build on the battlefield.  According to an article in this Saturday’s Free Lance-Star, a public hearing before the Supervisors is expected in late July or early August.  After the public hearing, the Board of Supervisors will make a decision on the Walmart.  Last Thursday night the Planning Commission voted 5-4 to recommend approval of the store to the Board of Supervisors.  However, the Planning Commission’s recommendation is non-binding and the Board of Supervisors is free to vote against the Commission’s wishes.

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According to an article in this morning’s Free Lance-Star, a landowner has offered 75 acres for Walmart to build on further west on Route 3 past Lake of the Woods.  The property is on Route 3 with significant road frontage and would alleviate the majority of concerns people in the county have with the current Walmart plan.  The site is targeted for mixed-use development by Orange County as well.  The point is that there are clearly other options for Walmart in Orange County and they do not have to build on the Wilderness Battlefield.

Walmart’s justification is that the property in question is zoned for agriculture use, but the process for applying for a special use permit is not that different than a rezoning.  And besides, as much as some Orange County officials want a Walmart in Orange County it doesn’t seem like there would be any trouble rezoning a property for Walmart.

A win-win solution is out there, but first Walmart and Orange County need to come to the table and help find a solution that is in the best interests of everyone.  Clearly, a Walmart does not have to be built on the battlefield.  There are other alternatives in Orange County.  If Walmart were to find another location not only would they cease alienating a vast number of its potential customers, but it could turn the public relations from a negative to a positive in a big way and set an example for other companies as we approach the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

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In a disappointing decision last night the Orange County Planning Commission voted 5-4 in favor of Walmart and made a positive recommendation on the controversial proposal to the Board of Supervisors.  The proposal to build a Supercenter on the Wilderness Battlefield and adjacent to the National Park will now move to the Board of Supervisors who will hold a public hearing on the subject soon and render a final decision.

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gordanbldg-200wThe Orange County Planning Commission is expected to vote tonight on whether or not they recommend approval or denial of a Special Use Permit that would allow Walmart to build a Supercenter on the Wilderness Battlefield.  The public hearing has already closed for the Planning Commission so public comments will not be allowed this evening, but the public is able to attend the meeting.  The meeting is at 7:00 p.m. in the Gordon Building (112 W. Main Street) in downtown Orange.

Planning Commission members will hear from Walmart officials again tonight for the third time after previous meetings on May 21 and June 11, and it is expected that at the end of the meeting the Commission will vote on the Walmart proposal.  After the Planning Commission makes its recommendation the proposal goes to the Board of Supervisors for a final decision.  The Supervisors do not have to heed the recommendation of the Planning Commission.

Soon after the Planning Commission makes its decision the Board of Supervisors will schedule a final public hearing on the issue.

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A good documentary from the National Geographic Channel on the horrific Battle of the Wilderness.  This really helps underscore just how important this battle was and how much it impacted the future course of the war, and why it is so important that the battlefield be preserved and protected for Americans of all generations to visit, learn from and enjoy.

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The Orange County Planning Commission will meet again this Thursday, June 25, to continue its discuss and consideration of Walmart’s proposal to build a 138,000-square foot supercenter on the Wilderness Battlefield.  The Planning Commission first considered the proposal at a May 21 public hearing that drew around 200 people and had opponents of the Walmart outnumber supporters by a 2-to-1 margin.  The Commission reconvened on June 11 to ask further questions of Walmart regarding the proposal, but at 11:00 p.m. the Commission still did not have enough information to take an informed vote on Walmart’s Special Use Permit application.  Instead, they voted to meet once more on June 25 where a final vote from the Planning Commission is expected.  The public is able to attend the June 25 meeting, but the public hearing has been closed so there will be no opportunity for public comments at the meeting.

Once the Planning Commission makes its recommendation for approval or denial of the Special Use Permit it will go to the county Board of Supervisors.  The Planning Commission’s recommendation is non-binding so the Board of Supervisors are free to vote against the wishes of the Commission if they desire.  The Board of Supervisors will then hold a public hearing of their own before making the final decision on whether or not Walmart will be allowed to build on the Wilderness Battlefield.

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The Free Lance-Star ran three articles this weekend comparing the proposal to build a Walmart near George Washington’s boyhood at Ferry Farm in Stafford County in the 1990s to today’s controversy over the proposed Walmart on the Wilderness Battlefield.  The Ferry Farm debate ended with Walmart finding an alternate location for their store and the preservation of Ferry Farm.  Preservationists and Orange County residents are hoping for a similar outcome at the Wilderness Battlefield.

The Free Lance-Star published an introduction to these articles:

Civil maneuvers at Ferry Farm

IN LIGHT of the ongoing conflict between those who wish to preserve the integrity of the Wilderness Civil War battlefield and Orange Countians who favor a Wal-Mart near the intersection of State Routes 3 and 20, Viewpoints revisits a similar confrontation in our area.

In 1996, Wal-Mart aimed to build a store in southern Stafford County, within view of the site of George Washington’s boyhood home. Through the efforts of local preservationists, the land was eventually bought for $2 million by the George Washington Foundation (then called the Kenmore Association). In 2000, the National Park Service bought a permanent conservation easement nearby, preventing further encroachment on the Washington home place.

In Stafford, Wal-Mart eventually built its store on State Route 3, about a mile east of the originally planned location. The store opened in 1998.

Today, some participants in the Ferry Farm drama write about events then and now.

You can read all three articles by following the links below:

The first article, “Our heritage versus a big box,” is by Bill Beck, a former mayor of Fredericksburg and president of Historic Fredericksburg Foundation during the Ferry Farm/Walmart controversy of 1996.

The second article, “History lost is gone forever,” is by Cessie Howell, a preservationist who lives in Stafford County.

The final article, “Realizing a win-win solution,” is by Lyle Ray Smith, a former chairman of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors who lives in Stafford County.

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