Battlefield preservation

This past weekend was one of my favorite events, the annual Middleburg Conference on the Art of Command in the Civil War, hosted by the Mosby Heritage Area Association. This was the 14th annual conference, and my fourth as a presenter. More than 90 attended, meaning that this year’s conference was the largest yet for the MHAA, which is a tribute to Childs Burden (the man who is responsible for the conference and the president of the MHAA) and the rest of his officers and board, all of whom do a great job. All proceeds benefit the good work interpreting the area being done by the MHAA.

This year’s program was titled “Cavalry to the Field!” and dealt with mounted operations in the Eastern Theater. The best thing about it was the gathering of the cavalry guys, as I like to call our merry little band of brothers. It’s been something like 14 years since we were all together at a conference last, and I really enjoyed having the opportunity to get caught up with all of them. On the program were old friends Bud Hall, Horace Mewborn, Bob O’Neill, Marshall Krolick, Bruce Venter, and Bob Trout. A number of the attendees, including Jim Morgan, Jim Nolan, and a handful of others, are also old friends, and it was also great to see them. Also on the program was J.E.B. Stuart, IV, who gave a really interesting talk on his great-grandfather’s service in the west during his years in the Regular Army before the Civil War.

I did a talk based on our book Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart’s Controversial Ride to Gettysburg. I’ve done that talk dozens of times, but this was the first time that I’ve ever given it with someone actually named Jeb Stuart in the room, and let me tell you, it was a little intimidating to do so. Luckily, I had chatted with Colonel Stuart, who is not only a former Regular Army officer, but also a true gentleman, and knew that he didn’t disagree with my interpretation of those events. Nevertheless, it was intimidating.

This photo is of the panel discussion at the end of the day on Saturday. Bud Hall is beside me, and because I was leaning forward to answer a question, he can’t be seen there. From left to right: Horace Mewborn, Bob Trout, Marshall Krolick, Jeb Stuart, IV, Bob O’Neill, me, Bud Hall (although you can’t see him next to me), Bruce Venter, and the fellow at the lectern is Childs Burden. If you want to see this photo (or the other two) in a larger version, just click on the photo.

Sunday featured a full-day tour of the Brandy Station battlefield. Naturally, Bud Hall led the tour, but a number of us helped. I had responsibility for one of the buses, and Mike Block, a former member of the board of trustees of the Brandy Station Foundation, was with me. Mike and I have led several tours of the battlefield previously, and we work well together. Bruce Venter, who is the world’s only known fan of Judson Kilpatrick, also pitched in when we visited Rose Hill, the Stevensburg house that served as Kilpatrick’s headquarters during the winter encampment of the Army of the Potomac in 1863-1864. There were about 75 people on the tour, and we needed an extra bus to accommodate the entire crowd.

Bud asked me to discuss the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry’s heroic charge into the teeth of the Confederate horse artillery on the St. James Church plateau during the morning phase of the fighting on the Beverly Ford road. That’s me describing the action at St. James Church.

This was my first visit to the Brandy Station battlefield since May, when Lake Troilo was at its worst. I knew that some efforts have been undertaken to begin to try to correct the terrible harm done to the battlefield by Tony Troilo, but I hadn’t seen the state of things again until yesterday. The good news is that the dams of Flat Run have been removed and that the pond seems to have pretty well drained. However, the draining of the pond doesn’t restore the earth that was turned in order to build the dams and dig the pond, nor can it ever. While Troilo is under orders to restore things, we will never know how many artifacts and final resting places of dead soldiers were disturbed by this process.

The final stop of the tour was on a parcel of land owned by the Brandy Station Foundation and which overlooks Lake Troilo and the southern face of Fleetwood Hill. While we were there, Bud told the whole sordid tale of the construction of Lake Troilo and the complete and utter abandonment of its duty to protect the battlefield by the president and board of directors of the Brandy Station Foundation. The attendees–many of whom are well-heeled major donors to battlefield preservation efforts–were as horrified to learn of the betrayal by the BSF of its duty to protect the battlefield as we were when it first happened.

At the end of the day, it seems like the only people who think that the BSF’s non-handling of this situation is appropriate and acceptable are the ones who betrayed the trust reposed in them to serve as stewards of the battlefield. That speaks volumes. However, the ones responsible not only refuse to do the right thing by resigning, they refuse to acknowledge that they were wrong about this situation. I guess the next time a developer comes along, the BSF will welcome him or her with open if the check has enough zeroes after it, like what happened with the Gettysburg Battlefield Preservation Association and the casino promoters.

Nevertheless, the conference was an overwhelming success, and I was honored to have played a small role in it. I look forward to being invited again soon. And for those who have never attended this excellent program, please consider doing so, as you will not be disappointed.

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Fleetwood Hill, located near the hamlet of Brandy Station, a few miles from Culpeper, Virginia, is probably THE single most historically significant piece of ground in the American Civil War. No piece of ground was fought over more often, and no armies traversed a piece of ground more often, than Fleetwood Hill. It’s important to understand why Fleetwood Hill was so important in order to understand why those of us who care about the Brandy Station battlefield were so upset this spring when the Brandy Station Foundation sat on its hands and permitted a chunk of the battlefield to be destroyed.

Bud Hall, who has devoted much of his adult life to saving this ground, has written an excellent piece of the significance of Fleetwood, and has given me permission to park it here as a permanent page on this blog. The article can be found here, and I commend it to you.

The numbers in bracket are to the end notes, which can be found at the bottom of the article.

Thanks to Bud for his generosity in sharing it with us and for allowing me to host it here.

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The new issue of Blue & Gray magazine, which is one of the sponsors of this blog is out. It includes a guest editorial written by former Brandy Station Foundation board member and spokesman Mike Green and me, and addresses the Lake Troilo debacle and the complete and total abrogation of the duty to preserve and protect the Brandy Station battlefield by the current president and his board of appeasers:

Guest Editorial

Battlefield Preservation
Is A Duty to Take Seriously

by G. Michael Green and
Eric J. Wittenberg

As Americans, we have a sacred duty to preserve our past. The preservation of our Civil War battlefields is a sacred trust. Once those battlefields are destroyed, they can never be recovered. Agreeing to serve as a steward of one of those battlefields is not only a responsibility, it is a privilege. Don’t agree to do so unless you really intend to fulfill that obligation.

The Brandy Station battlefield in Virginia is a model of battlefield preservation at work. Saved from destruction twice, much of the battlefield has been saved through hard work by dedicated volunteers. Unfortunately, the new board of trustees and new president of the Brandy Station Foundation (BSF), charged with preserving that battlefield for posterity, do not take their responsibilities to preserve that battlefield seriously, and, unfortunately, have abrogated that duty in the interest of appeasing a property owner.

In the past few weeks, bulldozers appeared on the scene at Brandy Station and quickly began to severely despoil a key tract on the battlefield—southern Fleetwood Hill, a prominent ridge that witnessed the heaviest fighting in the entire battle.

In early May, a local landowner began excavating this historic acreage for the purpose of building a recreational pond. His bulldozers scraped, dug, and pushed this historic ground for several days—creating a large pond and damming up Flat Run, a perennial stream that feeds vigorously into the Rappahannock River.

Noting the destruction to Fleetwood Hill, the former president of the Brandy Station Foundation, Clark B. “Bud” Hall, notified federal, state and local authorities about the devastating construction on this battlefield property—acreage that comprises a battlefield deemed eligible by federal authorities for the National Register of Historic Places. Responding quickly, the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers issued an immediate “cease and desist” order, while finding that the non-permitted construction violated the Clean Water Act. In response, the landowner apologized and acknowledged he would work with the Corps to restore the site.

However, the BSF board and president chose not to act. Instead, they enacted a policy that suggests that the BSF should not interfere with a landowner’s private property rights. In short, they have abandoned the battlefield.

Simply put, we believe the current BSF leadership cannot be trusted to preserve and protect this hallowed battlefield. Their appeasement—if not outright support—of the landowner’s misplaced “property rights;” and his efforts to destroy a key part of Fleetwood Hill should reverberate throughout the historic preservation community. The battlefield itself, the memories of the men who struggled and died there, and our heritage all deserve MUCH better from the so-called stewards of this hallowed ground. We should not tolerate it.

G. Michael Green is a former Director and chief spokesperson for the Brandy Station Foundation. He is a federal executive and resides in northern Virginia.

Eric J. Wittenberg is a Columbus, Ohio attorney who serves as the vice president of the Buffington Island Battlefield Preservation Foundation and has been deeply involved in battlefield preservation for years.

Interested parties can contact BSF:

For updates on this matter:

Other than constant vigilance, there’s not much more than can be said other than that interested members of the BSF should call for the resignation of the president and board of trustees, and if they won’t do the right thing, then VOTE THEM OUT OF OFFICE and permit the BSF to fulfill its obligation to preserve and protect the battlefield.

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Former Brandy Station Foundation board member and spokesman G. Michael Green has written an excellent op-ed piece of the Lake Troilo disaster–as well as the wrong-headed and ill-advised policy that it has promulgated–in the current issue of The Civil War News, which I commend to you:

A New “Threat” To Brandy Station Battlefield
By G. Michael Green
(July 2011 Civil War News – Preservation Column)

As our Civil War Sesquicentennial begins, we Americans are freshly focused as to how this disastrous internecine conflict transformed our nation. And quite predictably, the 150th anniversary of our private war has fostered renewed attention to the precarious nature of threatened Civil War battlefields.

One such battlefield rests outside a small Virginia hamlet in Culpeper County, and it is a fact that the largest and bloodiest cavalry engagement of the war occurred on June 9, 1863, at Brandy Station upon pristine fields that remain largely unchanged today.

Over the past 20 years, the Brandy Station battlefield has faced nearly constant threat by commercial and residential developers. At the forefront of each battle has been the local Brandy Station Foundation (BSF).

In the past two decades, the BSF and its partner, the Civil War Trust, have successfully preserved nearly 2,000 acres of battlefield lands at Brandy Station

In the past few weeks, bulldozers again appeared on the scene at Brandy Station and quickly began to severely despoil a key tract on the battlefield — southern Fleetwood Hill, a prominent ridge that witnessed the heaviest fighting in the entire battle.

In early May, a local landowner began excavating this historic acreage for the purpose of building a recreational pond. His bulldozers scraped, dug and pushed this historic ground for several days – creating a large pond and damming up Flat Run, a perennial stream that feeds vigorously into the Rappahannock River.

Noting the destruction to Fleetwood Hill, Clark B. Hall, the former president of the Brandy Station Foundation, notified federal, state and local authorities about the devastating construction on this battlefield property — acreage that comprises a battlefield deemed eligible by federal authorities for the National Register of Historic Places.

Responding quickly, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued an immediate “cease and desist” order, while finding that the non-permitted construction violated the Clean Water Act. In response, the landowner apologized and acknowledged he would work with the Corps to restore the site.

With excavation on Fleetwood Hill now halted, one is left with a disturbing question.

Where was the Brandy Station Foundation when it became evident the battlefield was in peril? Several BSF supporters contacted the newly-installed BSF President asking for assistance and support in stopping the excavation — only to be met with obfuscation and bizarre defensiveness.

The BSF president’s curious reaction included assertions that this issue has been blown out of proportion, and that BSF could not interfere with a landowner’s private property rights.

He also disclosed knowledge of the excavation plans since late April, but yet did nothing to prevent the destruction or alert others as to its potential impact.

I visited the site on May 15 and was appalled at the destruction. How could the destruction these bulldozers inflicted on this historic hillside not sicken anyone, much less the leader of a distinguished, highly successful 20-year-old preservation organization?

In a personal communication to the president, I urged aggressive action by the BSF, but BSF did absolutely nothing.

BSF finally issued, however, a confusing and illogical statement on May 19, days after the Corps “cease and desist” order.

The statement reads: “We are mindful that landowners have certain rights with regard to the property that they own. As a result, we believe that it is generally not productive to officially oppose common property improvements, particularly when those improvements are reversible. Also, we do not oppose landowners who conduct agricultural activities on battlefield property.”

After reviewing BSF’s strange statement, here is how a preservation authority responded: “While anyone may choose to view the permit process as an issue between the landowner and the agency, the law in play here — Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act — views it VERY differently.

“The law REQUIRES the permitting agency (in this case the Corps) to seek the input of the public in its review of projects. The law is written to encourage precisely the sort of public input that BSF has apparently eschewed.

“Preservation groups have very few legal tools at hand to accomplish preservation; Section 106 is by far the most useful. The idea that a preservation organization would publicly proclaim its intent NOT to use the major legal tool at its disposal might well be unprecedented.”

And by the way, how is bulldozing historic property and building a large pond on historic battlefield property reversible? Once completed, who would reverse the damage and at what additional costs? To my knowledge, this landowner is certainly not engaged in “agricultural activities.”

Simply put, I believe the current BSF leadership cannot be trusted to preserve and protect this hallowed battlefield. The BSF’s weeks of silence and ill-conceived statement on this issue convey a level of complicity in the destructive excavation on historic Fleetwood Hill.

Nine directors have resigned from the BSF board as a protest against the current president’s anti-preservation policies. The BSF’s appeasement — if not outright support — of the landowner’s misplaced “property rights” and his efforts to destroy a key part of Fleetwood Hill should reverberate throughout the historic preservation community. And, we should not tolerate it.

Mr. Green is, of course, absolutely correct about this. Once more, I call upon Joseph McKinney, who is apparently too proud and too stubborn to do the right thing, to resign as president of the Brandy Station Foundation, so that the organization can return to its mission, PRESERVATION of the Brandy Station battlefield, not supporting its destruction.

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Scott Boyd has written an insightful article on the epic failure of Joseph McKinney and the board of the Brandy Station Foundation to fulfill the BSF’s mission of preserving battlefield land. The article appears in the July issue of Civil War News.

9 Brandy Station Board Members Resign
Over Preservation Concerns
By Scott C. Boyd
(July2011 Civil War News)

BRANDY STATION, Va. – Disappointment with the leadership of the Brandy Station Foundation (BSF) recently led to nine members of the board of directors resigning.

Seven of them left immediately before or after new president Joseph W. McKinney was elected at the group’s April 8 annual meeting.

The eighth resigned on May 19 after the board released a position statement titled “Landowner Improvements and Agricultural Activities.” It is online at

This member told Civil War News he saw the statement as “reneging on” the BSF strategic goals of preserving the historic rural character of Culpeper County and protecting the Brandy Station and Kelly’s Ford battlefields.

The ninth member resigned on June 1 over philosophical differences with the direction the board was taking.

McKinney’s selection by the BSF Nominating Committee as its preferred candidate for president was announced at the board’s March 5 meeting.

His nomination became controversial after a newspaper photo submitted by McKinney, and published on April 1, was interpreted by some to indicate he supported relic hunting — a major taboo in some preservationist circles.

Next, background research on McKinney by skeptics turned up some seemingly anti-preservation sentiments in a 2009 op-ed.

The concern some had about McKinney reached a fever pitch after construction of a pond on a privately owned part of the battlefield.

Relic Hunt Photo

The “Diggin’ in Virginia” 17th annual relic hunt was held at the Beauregard Farm on March 31-April 2. It is privately owned land on the Brandy Station Battlefield.

McKinney’s photo, which was published in the Culpeper Star-Exponent, showed a boy receiving instructions on how to fire a cannon to signal the start of the event.

“This was merely my effort to document an 11-year-old boy having the biggest day of his life,” McKinney said.

McKinney said he was not there in any official capacity, nor did he participate in the relic hunt. He said his sole interest was the original cannon, which was at Brandy Station Battlefield in 1863.

He convinced the owner to bring it from Michigan for the event and asked him to return for the 150th battle anniversary.

The photo struck a raw nerve with some preservationists. A former BSF president wrote McKinney: “BSF must never be seen as supporters of relic hunting. People choose to do it on private property and that’s okay for them. But preservationists abhor the practice.”

Eric Wittenberg’s “Rantings of a Civil War Historian” blog on April 11 claimed McKinney “participated in a relic hunt on the Beauregard farm.”

A board member who resigned said his resignation was “a direct result of Joe McKinney’s involvement in the relic-hunting on hallowed ground,” and one other issue.

McKinney agreed with the suggestion that there may be a “cultural clash” in the BSF between those who oppose relic hunting on privately owned battlefield land and those who don’t.

The Op-Ed

McKinney’s critics often cite an Aug. 6, 2009, op-ed in The Washington Post. In it he observed that in place of the aborted Walt Disney Company plan of 1993 for a historical theme park near Manassas Battlefield there is now a great deal of commercial and residential development.

“Instead of tourists, the roads — including those running through the Manassas battlefield — are choked with commuters,” he wrote. “Sometimes, as I sit in traffic on the way to Leesburg, I think we might have been better off with the theme park instead of the houses.”

“That leads me to wonder: If Wal-Mart is not acceptable near the Wilderness battlefield, what is? Is a strip mall better than a Wal-Mart? What about 500 single-family dwellings?” he wrote.

McKinney’s op-ed was seen in some quarters as a slap in the face to preservationists, according to background interviews and emails shared with Civil War News.

Pond Excavation

Tony Troilo owns land on Fleetwood Hill, scene of some of the fiercest fighting during the battle. Until recently, three generations of the Troilo family lived in the mansion on the hill, built in 2007.

In early May, Troilo had bulldozers dig some of his land to put in a pond. He also dammed Flat Run to redirect the water.

The bulldozers and water diversion on Fleetwood Hill caused alarm among some in the preservation community.

While this was going on, Troilo’s father, Joe, who lived in the mansion, died on May 6 and his funeral was May 12.

The BSF, then led by McKinney, did not make any public statement about what Troilo was doing. This brought the scorn of many in the preservation community, including BSF members.

The blog “To the Sound of the Guns” on May 16 posted: “In my view, this should have been a no-brainer. The foundation HAD to say something when the president first gained knowledge of the situation. At a minimum the foundation should have issued a statement of concern and called public attention to the matter. That is what the organization was formed to do.”

Blog author Craig Swain is a retired BSF board member who ended up renouncing his BSF membership altogether on May 18.

McKinney said in an interview, “At some point, I’d probably talk to Tony about the pond. But I wasn’t going to go up to his house and talk to him about the pond on the week that he’s burying his dad.”

Former BSF president Clark “Bud” Hall, however, immediately complained to authorities about what was happening on Fleetwood Hill.

“I think this was not a good thing to happen from a public relations or community relations perspective — or a common decency perspective,” McKinney said about the timing of the complaint. “I’ve been told by people in the community they were not happy about that.”

After responding to the complaint and visiting the site on May 11, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sent Troilo a cease-and-desist letter dated May 13 informing him that damming Flat Run violated Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.

The same letter also stated that the Virginia Department of Historic Resources said that the unauthorized work occurred in the Brandy Station Historic District, a property eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. It said that federal regulations prohibit work being done in U.S. waters without following procedures to protect historic properties like that.

A May 19 letter from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality informed Troilo that his unauthorized work may have violated State Water Control Law and Regulations, and could be subject to civil penalties of up to $32,500 per day of each violation, in addition to other possible fines.

A May 23 Corps letter to Troilo mentioned that he voluntarily agreed on May 16 to develop a “restoration plan” for his disturbance of Flat Run. He seemed very willing to cooperate with the state and federal authorities to correct the problem.

McKinney said Troilo told him that before starting the pond work, he asked Culpeper County officials what permits he needed and was told no additional permits were required.

“Are we supposed to jump in and say, ‘Me, too’?” McKinney said of now denouncing what Troilo did on Fleetwood Hill. “Is that going to accomplish anything substantive? Probably not. The controversy over the pond is already over.”

He acknowledges, “Some people look at this as a destruction of Fleetwood Hill, as despoiling historic property.”

“The other way of looking at that is, a property owner has certain rights for his own property. I think we as preservationists have to be very thoughtful when we approach landowners about issues that are really within the purview of the property owner,” he said.

“In fact, if this were not a Clean Water Act issue, the pond would be there right now,” according to McKinney.

Work Ahead

McKinney said upcoming issues for the Brandy Station Foundation include commemorating the battle’s 150th anniversary, participating on the Culpeper Sesquicentennial Committee, commemorating the Union Army’s six-month winter encampment nearby and “putting things in place so one day we can buy Fleetwood Hill.”

He also lists getting an easement from Troilo so visitors can walk from BSF to Civil War Trust (CWT) property, using an $80,000 federal grant before it expires on Sept. 30, and qualifying the BSF for participation in the Combined Federal Campaign where federal workers can annually select it for a charitable contribution.

In terms of preservation, McKinney said, “Other than Fleetwood Hill, the Brandy Station Battlefield is pretty much protected right now.”

Jim Campi, Civil War Trust Policy and Communications Director, commented: “It is critical for the future of Brandy Station that it have a vibrant and active advocacy group. Much of the battlefield remains unprotected and, as we have seen with the Troilo pond incident and Route 3 widening proposal, vigilance is necessary to ensure that preserved lands remain preserved.”

He added, “The recent flurry of resignations from the BSF board have many foundation friends concerned about the organization’s future.”

McKinney said he thinks that with the exception of Bud Hall, those who resigned “didn’t have any understanding or knowledge of me, and it’s not like I haven’t been working for the BSF for a number of years.”

That he doesn’t understand that the battlefield is NOT pretty much preserved now is an absolutely ignorant and appalling thing for the president of the BSF to say. While the effort to preserve the battlefield remains ongoing and has already accomplished a lot, there are still THOUSANDS of acres of battlefield land there that remain unprotected in any fashion and in private hands. It’s absolutely appalling that he would make such an inane and ignorant statement.

What’s not to understand, Mr. McKinney? Your record of not caring a whit about preserving the battlefield and your conflict of interest have already been made abundantly clear. Actually, I think we quite have the measure of you…..

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Craig Swain visited the Brandy Station battlefield yesterday, and took some current photos of the condition of Lake Troilo. Those photos can be found here.

The lake continues to exist while waiting for the consultant approved by the Corps of Engineers to develop a remediation plan. Since the water can’t drain, it’s now more of a marsh than a lake, but this ugly scar remains squarely in the middle of the battlefield.

Speaking of ugly scars, there’s an excellent article about the epic failure of the Brandy Station Foundation to do its duty and preserve the battlefield in the current (July) issue of CIvil War News (which is not yet on the website but will be shortly). In that article appeaser-in-chief Joseph McKinney makes the preposterous and just plain wrong claim that most of the Brandy Station battlefield has been preserved, so what’s the big deal over the pond? Nothing could possibly be more wrong. There are still thousands of acres of core battlefield land at Brandy Station that remain unpreserved and unprotected, and this ridiculous statement by the appeaser-in-chief demonstrates that he really has no interest whatsoever in actually preserving this battlefield. McKinney’s idiotic statement suggests that not only does he not know that, he doesn’t care.

I can’t think of a more egregious abandonment of the fundamental duties of a battlefield preservation organization than that committed by the Brandy Station Foundation. It has abrogated its sacred trust to preserve and protect this battlefield, and those of us who care about the battlefield simply cannot let them get away with it. We need to continue to hold their feet to the fire since they refuse to do the right thing and resign.

Thanks to the Civil War Trust for its strong statement in support of our efforts to continue to preserve and protect this sacred ground from the likes of Tony Troilo and his henchmen on the board of the Brandy Station Foundation.

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These nimrods just don’t know when to quit. In a colossal waste of time, money, effort, and judicial resources, they have now appealed the decision of the Pennsylvania Gaming Commission to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, whining that the Commission was wrong in making the right decision. From today’s issue of The Hanover Sun:

Mason-Dixon appeals slots decision
Gettysburg-area casino applicant may be headed for state Supreme Court

The Evening Sun
Posted: 06/20/2011 05:28:55 PM EDT

The Mason-Dixon Resort & Casino is appealing the licensing decision by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board in state Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court prothonotary’s office confirmed late Monday afternoon that the Gettysburg-area applicant submitted a legal appeal to the board’s April decision to award a $5 million slots license to a resort in southwestern Pennsylvania.

“Mason-Dixon contends that the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board misapplied the Gaming Act and state law, deprived Mason-Dixon of its due process rights, and disregarded or failed to consider the evidence presented,” said Mason-Dixon spokesman David La Torre.

At this time, details of the appeal are confidential because it contains the financial information of Mason-Dixon investors, according to the prothonotary’s office. This likely includes Gettysburg businessman David LeVan and partner Joseph Lashinger Jr.

Mason-Dixon had competed against three other applicants for the state’s last available slots license, which was awarded to the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Fayette County.

The two other failed applicants, the Fernwood Hotel and Resort in the Poconos and the Park Inn Harrisburg West, confirmed last week that they will not appeal the decision.

The appeal has now been sent to the Supreme Court’s Pittsburgh office for review, according to the prothonotary’s office. It might take the court a week to review the appeal before a redacted version can be made public.

After that, a briefing schedule will be established and the Gaming Control Board will submit to the courts a legal defense of its decision. Officials behind the Nemacolin application also have the right to defend themselves as the most suitable candidate for the license.

It could take more than a month for the briefs to be submitted and reviewed. Then, the matter could be argued before the court. The Supreme Court will hold a session in Philadelphia in September, Pittsburgh in October, and Harrisburg in November.

“This (appeal) is a colossal waste of time and money for the investors, the state, the taxpayers and our entire community,” said No Casino Gettysburg organizer Susan Star Paddock.

Historians and preservationists have objected to the proposal because it would be located about 0.8 miles from the southern border of the Gettysburg battlefield. Many Adams County residents, though, support the plan because of the potential economic benefits.

“Because of these investors’ irrational obsession, our community and our nation may be dragged through another several years of conflict,” Paddock said.

Six of the seven members of the gaming board voted against Mason-Dixon and for Nemacolin. The lone dissenter, Commissioner Kenneth Trujillo, said he supported the Fernwood Hotel, citing its proximity to markets in New York and New Jersey.

Although Mason-Dixon has received little support from the board, La Torre has said a successful appeal must only show that facts or law used by the board is incorrect or that the board acted in an “arbitrary or capricious manner in ignoring evidence it had.”

The announcement of the appeal comes two weeks after Mason-Dixon petitioned the gaming board to amend its Order and Adjudication, the legal document that will be used to defend the licensing decision in court.

Mason-Dixon argued this document should be amended to address concerns raised in a grand jury report, which found failures in the board’s licensing process years ago.

The following day, though, the board unanimously rejected this petition on the grounds that the grand jury report did not implicate any issues related to the licensing decision, according to the board.

Gaming experts have said even if Mason-Dixon filed an appeal it’s unlikely the board will overturn the ruling, as the Nemacolin resort has been called a “textbook example” of a slots applicant.

Since the licensing decision was made, gaming board officials have said they expected an appeal to be filed, as all past decisions have been challenged.

Still, the court has never overturned a decision.

LeVan, a former president and CEO at Conrail, has proposed converting the Eisenhower Inn & Conference Center on Emmitsburg Road into a gaming resort with 600 slot machines and 50 table games.; 717-637-3736, ext. 163

Quit whining and give up already. Stop wasting time, money and scarce judicial resources, and accept the fact that putting a casino in Gettysburg is grossly disrespectful of the men who fought and died there, and the fact that the vast majority of the United States sees it that way too.

Perhaps the best solution is for the General Assembly to pass the bill making it illegal to put a casino within ten miles of Gettysburg. Perhaps that will FINALLY end this nonsensical whining.

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Astonishingly, David LeVan and his other supporters have refused to give up the ghost on the Gettysburg casino. Instead of gracefully and graciously accepting defeat and moving on to some other more productive project, they’re now considering appealing the decision of the Pennsylvania Gaming Commission to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

From yesterday’s Gettysburg Times:

Pa. Gaming board: Casino decision stays

No reason given for denial. Appeal may be next.

Posted: Wednesday, June 8, 2011 12:14 pm | Updated: 12:45 pm, Thu Jun 9, 2011.


The state’s Gaming Control Board unanimously rejected a request Wednesday morning by Gettysburg-area casino developers to reconsider a licensing process that was called unfair and flawed.

As a result, investors behind the denied Mason Dixon Resort & Casino in Cumberland Township may appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Gaming Control Board spokesman Doug Harbach said the seven-member panel will release a written adjudication over the next week that will explain why it turned down the request.

The board voted unanimously Wednesday morning at the State Museum in Harrisburg, after an hour-long hearing

Mason Dixon spokesman David La Torre said following the board’s vote that his group is undecided over whether to file an appeal, but that one is “absolutely” under consideration.

An appeal would not be surprising, since every other licensing decision made by the state since gambling was legalized has been contested in court. The board awarded a slots license to the Nemacolin Resort (Woodlands Fayette) in mid-April over three competitors, including Gettysburg, and then issued its written explanation one month later. Only about a week remains until the appeal window closes.

“We are disappointed. This is a blow for transparency,” La Torre said after the board’s meeting in Harrisburg. La Torre cited a Grand Jury investigation that reviewed alleged deficiencies the Gaming Board’s licensing process. The report was not made public until after board awarded a casino license to Nemacolin, over Gettysburg and two other projects, prompting Mason Dixon investors to file the “petition for reconsideration” Tuesday.

“The grand jury report raised serious questions about how licenses were awarded in 2006,” explained La Torre. “The public is left no other option than to take the board’s word that it was different this time. The fact remains, Pennsylvania’s system for awarding gaming licenses is among the most secretive in the world.”

The Nemacolin Resort in southwest Pennsylvania cannot break ground on the casino until the appeals process concludes. Project spokesman Jeff Nobers said his group isn’t concerned about the recent legal action.

“They (Mason Dixon) are basing their petition on the Grand Jury report which in no manner mentions or refers to the awarding of the most recent Category 3 license to Nemacolin,” said Nobers. “The issues raised in this report are all prior to this process.”

No Casino Gettysburg spokesman Susan Star Paddock said Mason Dixon is “grasping at straws” and “continuing to drag our community” into what she called a “hopeless and destructive request.”

Gaming advocate Richard Kitner, of Pro Casino Adams County said his group has “supported Mason Dixon in the past and we continue to support Mason Dixon now,” regardless of the outcome in the appeals process.

State gambling regulators chose the 2,000-acre Nemacolin Resort for the license in western Pennsylvania, calling it the “best fit” for the license, with the potential to generate the most new revenue for the state, as it draws 350,000 visitors annually, and is located the farthest from other Pennsylvania casinos. Opposition was cited in denying the Gettysburg-area project, although its proximity to the boundaries of Gettysburg National Military Park was not a factor in the decision. The casino would have been managed by Penn National Gaming.

Groups in the Poconos and Mechanicsburg that were also denied the license are still deciding whether to file an appeal.

Give it up. Simply accept the fact that the bulk of the world, including the Gaming Commission, thinks that Gettysburg is the LAST place where a casino should be placed. Get it through your thick, stupid skulls already.

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Take a look at Craig Swain’s excellent report on the Stevensburg road widening project that will significantly impact an important portion of the Brandy Station battlefield. Not surprisingly, the new president and board of the Brandy Station Foundation have committed another epic failure by refusing to take a stand against the demolition of yet more of the battlefield that they have sworn an oath to protect. Why? Because, according to them, we must never, ever, ever do anything that could be construed as ruffling the feathers of the local landowners.


It is now quite clear that the BSF and its present officers and board members have made themselves entirely irrelevant by abrogating their obligation to preserve the battlefield.

It’s time for all true battlefield preservation organizations to disavow these pretenders if they won’t resign. And it’s clear that they won’t. If they do resign, those who wish to destroy the battlefield will lose their advocates and protectors.

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Today is the 148th anniversary of the largest cavalry battle ever fought on the North American continent, the Battle of Brandy Station. For fourteen long hours that day, approximately 21,000 Union and Confederate cavalrymen slugged it out. Fleetwood Hill–the most fought over piece of real estate in the United States–was the vortex of much of that fighting.

I wonder what the veterans who sacrificed so much on June 9, 1863 would think of that hideous McMansion that disrupts their battlefield, and I wonder if they would be as horrified by Lake Troilo as I am.

We know that the board of trustees and president of the Brandy Station Foundation don’t care–they couldn’t possibly ever think of interfering with private property rights and agricultural activities, even if those activities destroy ground zero of the battlefield. For shame.

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