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Editorial Cartoon

FLS Cartoon 8.26.09From the Free Lance-Star, August 26, 2009.

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After last Thursday night’s Planning Commission public hearing the commission voted on the proposed Wilderness Walmart.  There were eight commissioners in attendance and they split their vote 4-4.  According to the county bylaws, this in effect results in a denial of the application since there was not a majority vote in favor of the proposal.  There was some discussion among the Planning Commission and attorneys after the 4-4 vote was cast, and in the end the commission adjourned the meeting indicating the matter was settled.

On Friday, however, county officials realized that sending the proposal to the Board of Supervisors with a negative recommendation was simply unacceptable, and decided to reconvene Friday evening for what had been a scheduled meeting to discuss the Walmart proposal further if no vote was cast Thursday night.  They called this meeting even though some commission members would be unavailable and in spite of the fact that they had adjourned Thursday night after voting, which would indicate that the vote had settled the matter.  Of course, one more Walmart supporter was able to attend and they ended up voting 5-1 in favor of the Walmart.

With this vote in hand the matter moved to the Board of Supervisors with a positive recommendation from the Planning Commission.

Since the commission had adjourned Thursday after voting, instead of recessing, most everyone involved, including the public, understood this to mean that the vote was final and the application would now go to the Board of Supervisors.  For the Planning Commission to revisit the vote in the manner they did is not only curious, but also highly inappropriate.  They were too concerned about getting a positive vote before the Supervisors held a public hearing that they hastily gathered again, knowing that the second time would yield the result they wanted, and cast their votes again.

This is just another example of how poorly Orange County has handled this Walmart proposal from start to finish.

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Email the Orange County Board of Supervisors and let them know how upset you are with their decision to approve the Wilderness Walmart. Here are the four Supervisors who voted in favor of the Walmart:

Mark Johnson – rmj142@yahoo.com

Zack Burkett – zburkett@orangecountyva.gov

Teel Goodwin – Teel.Goodwin@vabb.com

Lee Frame – leeframe@orangecountyva.gov

And send a big thank you to Supervisor Teri Pace (tpacedist4@aol.com) for being such a strong and constant supporter of the Wilderness Battlefield and National Park and for voting against Walmart!

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The Orange County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. in the Orange County High School auditorium on the proposed Wilderness Walmart.  The Planning Commission must hold this public hearing due to an error in public notification for the original May 21 hearing.  They are expected to vote tomorrow night on the proposal, but will meet again Friday night if needed to vote on Walmart’s application prior to the Board of Supervisors public hearing on Monday, August 24.

Click here for a map of Orange County High School.

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A letter appeared in Friday’s Free Lance-Star that stated unequivocally that the Walmart site is on the Wilderness Battlefield.  The letter is from the chief of the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program, the federal authority on our nation’s battlefields.

Wal-Mart site definitely is battlefield

August 14, 2009 12:38 am

In the July 31 article titled “Orange schedules Wal-Mart do-over,” the author indicates that the proposed Wal-Mart site, while not on National Park Service land, is “in an area designated for study for possible historic significance.”

In fact, the area in question has been accepted as part of the battlefield since the early 1990s.

In 1990, a Congress concerned with the rapid private development of historic battlefield land appointed a blue-ribbon commission of Civil War scholars and educators to study the conditions of and threats to battlefields across the country.

As part of its study, the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission mapped the “maximum delineation” of more than 350 battlefields nationwide, including the Wilderness. The commission called this boundary the “Study Area.”

The Study Area, or maximum delineation of the battlefield, contains terrain and resources known to contribute to the battle and the intervening landscape that connects them.

This concept of battlefield includes areas where troops maneuvered and deployed; where they established command centers, communication posts, and medical services; the routes troops took from one location to another; and of course, locations where they fought.

Historical accounts, military terrain analysis, and on-the-ground feature identification informed the delineation of the Study Area.

The parcel Wal-Mart proposes has fallen within the Wilderness Battlefield Study Area since 1993.

The commission’s Study Area boundary also included the National Park Service’s lands. The commission designed the Study Area to be a planning tool that would inform federal, state, and local decisions about grants, development, and land protection.

Paul Hawke

Washington

The writer is chief of the National Park Service’s American Battlefield Protection Program.

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cwpt logo colorThe Richmond Times-Dispatch yesterday published a terrific piece from James Lighthizer, president of the Civil War Preservation Trust.  In it, Mr. Lighthizer calls for an appropriate balance between historic preservation and economic growth, and stresses that the two are not mutually exclusive.  Long-term planning is the best way to avoid piecemeal sprawl that can eat up historic sites, which is why CWPT and the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition offered to fund such a study for Orange County that would identify what types of commercial growth would be appropriate next to the National Park and at the gateway to the county.  Unfortunately, the county and Walmart have so far not shown the vision necessary to strike the balance between protecting the Wilderness Battlefield and allowing a Walmart in Orange County.  As Lighthizer says:

Residents deserve the benefits of both Wal-Mart, with its new retail opportunities and expanded tax base, and the battlefield, with its tremendous capacity to generate heritage tourism. Accepting only one side of the equation when the opportunity exists to secure both is to settle for mediocrity and haphazard sprawl.

Read the entire piece here.

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Since the public notification glitch affected the Planning Commission’s original hearing and vote, the Commission will have to hold another public hearing and vote on the Walmart proposal again before the Board of Supervisors hold its hearing and casts the determining vote on the Wilderness Walmart.

The Planning Commission will hold its public hearing on Thursday, August 20, at 7:00 p.m. at the Orange County High School.

The Board of Supervisors will hold its public hearing on the following Monday, August 24, at 6:00 p.m. at the Orange County High School.  Note the earlier start time for the Supervisors hearing.

The Orange County High School is located at 201 Selma Road, Orange, VA 22960.  Click here for a map of the school.

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