Planners In "Wilderness Wal-Mart" Matter Oppose Development on Fringe of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park

After county planners deadlocked on a vote over Wal-Mart's proposal to build a Supercenter on hallowed land next to Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, the matter now goes before the Orange County Board of Supervisors on Monday. Kurt Repanshek photo

In somewhat of a surprise, county planners in northern Virginia have voted to oppose the development of a Wal-Mart Supercenter on hallowed land abutting the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. But that's only a temporary victory for those who oppose the project.

During a hearing Thursday night in Orange, Virginia, the planners were deadlocked, 4-4, on a motion to approve the project. Under the planning commission's procedures, such a vote is the same as a denial. However, the county's Board of Supervisors considers the project on Monday, and it is not bound by the planning commission's position.

Wal-Mart's plan is to develop a 53-to-55-acre tract of land just north of the Wilderness Corner intersection in Orange, Virginia. Part of the proposed development would hold a Supercenter covering nearly 140,000 square feet, with enough room left over for additional retail outlets. While that land is not part of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, it is, historically, part of the Wilderness Battlefield.

According to the National Park Service, the Battle of the Wilderness was fought on May 5-6, 1864, with troops under both Union General Ulysses S. Grant and Confederate General Robert E. Lee engaged. "It was the beginning of the Overland Campaign, the bloodiest campaign in American history and the turning point in the war in the Eastern Theatre," notes the agency.

Comments

FANTASTIC - now hopefully the Board of Supervisors will see fit to agree with the planning commission's failure to approve the project & history will be preserved.
Mega-lo Mart needs to learn that respect for our national heritage should ALWAYS come before corporate profiteering.

O.k. I hear everyone's complaints, and I understand them. and I agree that the wal-mart location is likely to be inappropriate. Just to play the other side for a second from a different view. It's not all about money, it is all about a line on the map. If this land is part of the battlefield then why is it even available for development? If the government and the people care enough about this land then why is it not protected inside some sort of park designation? The community could always zone the land to make it impossible for development. If they did not, then they opened themselves up to the walamrt request, and if denied, they will still be open to more development.

Where does it end? What is the right balance of protected space vs a companies right to exist. What if it was not walmart. People tend to have a very drastic opinion of walmart (I for one don't shop walmart, I am a Target person). What if they wanted to build housing there? The person who owns the land purchased it without any restrictions, so now, why are we trying to place restrictions on how it is used? I agree that historically significant land should be preserved, I agree in the existence of national battlefields, but if this land is so valuable historically then some government agency needs to step in and purchase the land. Otherwise the land owner is free to do with it, whatever the law allows.

Turns out that there is a lot of hollowed ground in the U.S. where do we draw the line? Cities like San Fransisco have moved all of their cemeteries from the historical locations to outside the city... is that wrong? there may be a walmart on one of those sites. What if a walmart tires to lease space in one of the new World Trade Center Buildings (a very real possibility)?

2 things worry me, 1) is this just a handy excuse to stop a walmart (turns out most of us shop there, even the protesters!) and 2) will someone find some historical reason to prevent me from using my land in a lawful manner?

The Supervisors claim that it will bring much-needed business and jobs to Orange County, which is rural and economically depressed. It doesn't pass the sniff test - instead of relief it smells like greed. Walmart's two partners in this venture are development companies - who do you think will be collecting rents on the retail space? And it's likely the Supervisors would grant them easements or tax incentives for developing there - so the county won't be profiting that much - the developers will! Walmart claims that their compromises (toning down parking lot lights and less obtrusive signage) speak to their commitment to "smart growth". Walmart's plan is to build 240,000 total square feet of big-box development, less than 1/4 mile from the entrance to the battlefield. That's not just retail space, but parking lots, lighting, new road access, water and sewer construction as well. Does that sound smart to you? Anyone familiar with that area can tell you that there are already four Walmarts within a 20-mile radius. How much cheap Chinese underwear do they need, anyhow?

I am still not for or against this project, but I can tell you that your entire comment is based on forcing your assumptions onto a situation. Lets put your arguement to the sniff test... Of course development companies are involved with a development, "its likely.." that they will receive incentives to build, have any incentives been discussed offered or approved? If not, then that point of your arguement is out. The developers will profit, that is what developers (and every other business) tries to do, that is how amoerica runs. Walmarts smart growth is far better than almost any other retailer in this country, sure you cannot build a building without roads, sewers and lights, but what if they are doing their best to actually work with the locals on the development. 4 walmsrts within 20 miles, o.k. maybe, but walmart feels that there are undeserved customers in the area.

I don't buy the notion that somehow walmart is just putting this up to ruin the battlefield. That they are running around the country plopping these buildings down intentionally to destroy our heritage and history. "How much cheap Chinese underwear do they need? " Who are they, i would assume that you mean walmarts customers, aka the locals.

As I stated in my earlier comment, you are fighting walmart, (assuming that the fight really is PRO battlefield, and not just ANTI walmart) but your real battle is with the local communities and government that are not preserving these spaces. Local, state or national parks should be in place to protect these places, and they are not. Fighting to change that, is a far better fight then trying to battle each and every company that tries to build.

Bat, if I may inform you, Orange County is pro-business and ultra right wing, and saving the environment is the least of there concerns. Trust me...it's living fact!
It's always a parking lot first and parks last!

Anon one, I am not saying that landowners do not have the right to do what they want with their property. But this isn't just a simple land sale from an owner - Walmart has to petition for a special use permit from the Board of Supervisors. As far as "forcing my assumptions" on anything, you seem to agree with me that the developers will get their incentives for building, after all, they are running a business and it's reasonable that they would want to profit from their efforts. No developer builds WITHOUT incentives. Yes, I'm assuming it's for greed more than economic relief. The developers stand to gain far more than Orange County. And it's not a "maybe" that there are 4 Walmarts within 20 miles radius - check a map if you don't believe me. You seem to assume I'm saying that Walmart wants to move there to "ruin the battlefield". No, Walmart wants to build there because they want to profit from this arrangement. I agree with you that the "real" battle should be how we preserve these spaces, it doesn't matter to me if it's a Walmart or a Target that's at issue here. If the state of Virginia (or any other public entity) REALLY wants to preserve this space, they will rezone or purchase the land. I have no quibbles with you there.

Anon two, you are preaching to the choir - I know that Orange County is ultra right-wing, and anti-government. It's too bad they have so little respect for shared spaces.

If you are so worried about this or any other lands, find a way to buy the land. If not someone will and use it the way THEY see fit, not the way you see fit. In this country land owners still have rights to the land they own.

It's simple, buy it or shut up.

I remember that a similar drama was played out regarding something on a smaller scale. There was a proposal to build a cell phone tower in unincorporated Gardiner, Montana. That community just happens to border Yellowstone National Park with the Roosevelt Arch ("For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People") right next to the town. I suppose that the protest was about such a structure being within eyesight of the Arch.

I guess that one was a little bit more complex, since this was a place where people actually lived and wanted the service that the tower would provide. Not only that, but I remember visiting the town and seeing what else was in eyesight. The local high school was only a few hundred feet away from the entrance, and one could turn around after seeing the arch and notice the electronic scoreboard at the football field. From what I understood, some local residents weren't too pleased that the NPS was protesting the building of a structure in their town in a place where the NPS had no jurisdiction.

I do not subscribe to the theory that "just because it's outside the park it's appropriate"
I live in Black Hills, on a wooded lot. It's a large piece of property.
This does not make it acceptable to build something, say, of this magnitude on the property next door.
Even if I am outside the boundaries of the National Forest.
Whether or not the goal is to either make money (likely) or just riun the area (unlikely), it's still not an appropriate location.
The last place I lived had 2 Supercenters - in a city of 50,000 people. Didn't matter which part of town you went to, there was this giant paved-over area called a "parking lot" & a complex of surrounding buildings. None of which particularly blended in with their surroundings (how could they???), which is exactly what the end result will be if this goes through.
55 acres of buildings & pavement adjoining an historic site from our historic past.
A lot bigger blight on the landscape than a cell tower.......

The cell tower issue was handled amicably between Alltel and the NPS. They eventually found a spot north of town attached to an existing water tower.

http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/articles/2008/04/12/news/20celltower.txt

Of course I'm not sure how far this can go. The closest NPS unit to where I live is John Muir National Historic Site in Martinez, California. That's located right on California State Route 4 (a multilane freeway) with a post office next door, a gas station across the street, plus a motel (The John Muir Lodge), car wash, and a supermarket nearby. The visitor center is a converted veterinary office. I used to pass this place on a daily basis when I did jury service in Martinez. That was a case of the city growing up around the site before it became a federal site.

Dude how many Wal-marts and StripMalls dowe need? Your question is enough's enough well your right when's enough enough?

How many do we need? I'll tell you how many we need. We need to keep building them until they stop making money. It is simple if "people" and I am talking the whole population, not just the loud ones, don't want it then it will be built and fail. I know for a fact that walmart would not build in a spot that they expected would lose money. Did our soldiers fight for a walmart... your right they did. That is our way of life in this country, and in many ways this debate, as well as the walmart is a honor to all that the country has to offer.

How far is enough? I cannot build on the border of a park, how about a mile, or 2 miles? Lines on a map are there for a reason. (the cell tower is a more complex issue, we had something around here with a golf driving range that was built next to a drive in theatre,the lights from the golf driving range was ruining the theatre...but I digress) .

How does a Historical neighborhood maintain its character... you have zoning laws, to ensure that the development is compatible with the area. Interesting note on zoning laws, part of what makes Washington D.C. such a wonderful place is that there are no tall buildings to over shadow the monuments. Do you know how they have preserved their atmosphere? There is a law that no structure in the city can be taller that 2 times the width of the widest street the building is on. Simple solution.

Ultimately it falls down to the state and local governments, and from the sounds of it, they are not helping much here.
On a side note, in my area, Walmart built a store as an anchor on a project to reuse the land of a closed steel mill. It redeveloped what could have become a dangerous eye sore and turned it into a valuable resource for the inner city area. (Ohh and they refused to take the HUGE tax credit for building on a abandoned industrial site) They also built a store on a reclaimed landfill, however that store closed when it was determined that the developer screwed up and the store became dangerous.

anon 3: Could it be that Walmart is "getting religion"? Or is it the pressure of public opinion? Fear of losing market share is a good motive for cleaning up their corporate act. Good move for locating on land no one else wants. Reclaiming blighted properties is always a good idea, although I think they should have gotten a good environmental hazard assessment before building on a landfill.

Perhaps the answer for Fredericksburg is to bring pressure to bear on the county to rezone the land nearest the park. A buffer area, maybe?