Today’s Free Lance-Star ran a great Letter to the Editor about the need for sensible planning at the battlefield.

Step back, Orange, and plan development

August 7, 2009 12:36 am


Soldiers who fell during the Battle of the Wilderness are laid to rest in Fredericksburg.

Step back, Orange, and plan development

I suppose I should know what I am missing.

Why would the Orange County Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors look past the fact that there are owners of the land along the State Route 3 corridor who are willing to cooperate with the county and one another, to plan and create a model entranceway into our county?

They’d do this by moving commercial development back off Route 3, perhaps along a parallel road, giving residents the desired box stores (including Wal-Mart), shops, restaurants, and even a much-needed hotel, without creating the probability of a many-mile-long blight forever replacing the existing woodland along the road’s northern border.

Much of the resistance is not to the Wal-Mart per se, but stems from the fact that Orange County residents recognize that once construction on a major project such as this has begun and the county has crossed the Rubicon, there is no turning back–and we will inherit in perpetuity an enlarging strip mall, with all its ugliness and problems, as the remaining parcels of land along Route 3 are developed.

Why not step back, continue the creative planning process, do the job right, and create a model northern gateway to Orange County of which we can be proud?


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.

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.

The Board of Supervisors met last night and voted to reschedule the public hearing on the Wilderness Walmart for Monday, August 24, at 6:00 p.m.  Due to an error in advertising for the initial Planning Commission public hearing in May, the Planning Commission will have to hold another public hearing, which is expected to occur on Thursday, August 20.  The Planning Commission is holding a special meeting this Thursday to formally set the date for their public hearing.

Orange County has canceled the Board of Supervisors public hearing scheduled for tonight on the Wilderness Walmart.

More details to follow…

Here is the press release from Orange County explaining why tonight’s public hearing was canceled and some preliminary details on its rescheduling.

Come to the public hearing to let Orange County know that the Wilderness Battlefield is not the place for a Walmart.

When: Monday, July 27, 7:00 p.m.

Where: Orange County High School, 201 Selma Road, Orange, VA 22960

Click here for a map and to get directions.

There is a must read editorial in today’s Free Lance-Star entitled “Orange, arise.” It is a tremendous call for moving Walmart to an alternate location just days before the Board of Supervisors hold a public hearing on the issue.

Orange, arise

July 24, 2009 3:01 am


Two veterans of a war that killed an estimated 623,000 Americans shake hands at a reunion at Gettysburg.

IN 1969, two Los Angeles coeds formulated the idea of distributing metal bracelets as a way to remember American prisoners and GIs missing in action during the Vietnam War. Each bracelet bore the name of a single POW/MIA, and those who donned one did so with the understanding that they would wear it until “their” serviceman came home or was confirmed dead. More than 1,700 Americans who fought in Vietnam remain unaccounted for. As time passed and hope for resolution of their fates all but died, the bracelets began to disappear. But even 20 years after the war ended, a few Americans continued to wear theirs; surely some still do.

Long before Vietnam, at the end of the American Civil War, the sides exchanged prisoners, but still the whereabouts of thousands of Billy Yanks and Johnny Rebs were unknown. Some would stay that way. They had died at places such as the Wilderness, blown to bits by artillery shells or charred beyond recognition in the fires that swept that brush-thick battlefield. “And some there be”–Shelby Foote quotes Ecclesiasticus to introduce his magnificent “The Civil War: A Narrative”–“which have no memorial; who are perished, as though they had never been; and are become as though they had never been born.”


To remember in spirit those unrememberable in specifics is one reason governments set aside battlefields as inviolable memorials. Another is to certify beyond argument something profound happened here. Normandy. Shiloh. The Alamo. Bunker Hill. Thermopylae. Verdun. Pause and reflect, because you would live in a different kind of world without the sacrifices made on this ground.

Many things profound happened in May 1864 during the battle of the Wilderness. There, 61,000 Confederates under Robert E. Lee–ragged, almost skeletal men, some without shoes–played death for three days with 100,000 Union soldiers under Ulysses S. Grant, men who entered forbidding woods in enemy country to dislodge a deadly and determined foe. The Wilderness was the opening stanza in Grant’s Overland Campaign, which ended at Appomattox Courthouse, causing the destruction of one kind of society and the creation of another “best defined perhaps,” writes Foote, “by the change in number of a simple verb. In formal as in common speech, abroad as well as on this side of its oceans, once the nation emerged from the crucible of that war, ‘the United States are‘ became ‘the United States is.'” And that unification changed the course of human history on this planet.

Monday night the Orange Board of Supervisors is likely to vote, after a public hearing, on a special-use permit that would allow construction of a Wal-Mart Supercenter and associated big-box stores on 51.6 acres that were part of the Battle of the Wilderness and that lie near the formal battlefield park. Motley opponents–historians, preservationists, out-of-state legislators, in-state public officials (Gov. Kaine, Sen. Webb, House Speaker Bill Howell, state Sen. Creigh Deeds), actors, plain folk–want the board to deny the permit and find a less sensitive site for Wal-Mart and its retail retinue. Their voices are important. But they are not most important.

The Union and Confederate armies suffered around 29,000 casualties in the Wilderness–by coincidence, almost exactly the population of today’s Orange County. If each American who died, bled, or disappeared in the Wilderness maelstrom audibly called out from the consecrated earth for remembrance, he would find an Orange resident, all his own, to hear his message.

Wal-Mart cheaply sells much useful merchandise; the location it seeks would be convenient to most of the county. The store would generate taxes translatable to infrastructure improvements and public amenities. Of these things there can be no doubt.


But Consumer and Taxpayer are not the totality of human roles. Many Orange countians can tell of forebears who fought honorably for Dixie or for Mr. Lincoln (or could tell if they would investigate their family lineage). Those with no ancestors in the Civil War can still appreciate the valorous example and living heritage of which they, as Americans, fortunately partake.

The debt goes on. It is not too much to say that the chains of human slavery received their first chisel bite in the Wilderness where began the steady decimation of the Army of Northern Virginia, effectively the protector of the wicked institution. And the freedom from serious want that most living Americans enjoy flows from the industrial boom that would soon make the reunified nation (“the United States is“) the world’s commercial powerhouse.

Listen, Orange. Don’t you hear?

The public hearing on the proposed Wal-Mart store will begin at 7 p.m. The result is supposedly foregone: The board will grant the special-use permit. Daniel Webster faced no greater task in persuading the devil’s cutthroat jury than defenders of the Wilderness face in turning around some of these supervisors. But the duty of the citizen is not to win; he or she fulfills it in the effort.

From Gordonsville and Locust Grove, from the town of Orange to Barboursville, let every county beneficiary of heroes’ striving turn out to oppose this location for a shopatropolis. Let county members of the NAACP join with Sons of Confederate Veterans, small businesspersons with school teachers, yellow-dog Democrats with run-mad Republicans, natives with transplants to say, “Somewhere else.” Let them leave no doubt, however their representatives vote, what an aroused Orange County thinks about this ill-conceived plan.

It is a time to kindle that spirit of the 20-year bracelet wearers, the spirit of those who don’t forget, who repay sacrifice with fidelity, the only acceptable tender for gifts of blood. Confirm Ecclesiasticus: “But these were merciful men, whose righteousness has not been forgotten. With their seed shall continually remain a good inheritance, and their children are within the covenant.”