15 July 2009 by Published in: Battlefield preservation 6 comments

Some good news today in the fight to prevent Wal-Mart from building a superstore on the threshold of the Wilderness battlefield. The Civil War Preservation Trust issued the following press release today:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 15, 2009

For more information, contact:
Jim Campi (Civil War Preservation Trust), 202-367-1861 ext. 205
Nord Wennerstrom (National Trust for Historic Preservation), 202-588-6380
Beth Newburger (Epoch Communications), 571-436-0887

GOVERNOR KAINE AND SPEAKER HOWELL URGE ORANGE COUNTY TO MOVE WAL-MART SUPERSTORE AWAY FROM BATTLEFIELD

In bipartisan letter to the Orange County Board of Supervisors, Virginia’s top officials urge county to reconsider proposal to locate a Wal-Mart superstore on Wilderness Battlefield

(Richmond, Va.) – In a bipartisan letter to the Orange County Board of Supervisors, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine (D) and House of Delegates Speaker William Howell (R) jointly urged the county to reconsider plans to locate a Walmart supercenter on the Wilderness Battlefield.

The letter, addressed to Orange County Board Chairman Lee Frame and dated July 13, 2009, emphasizes the Commonwealth’s commitment to historic preservation and the need to bring all interests together to resolve the controversy.

The heart of the message states: “[W]e strongly encourage your Board to work closely with Wal-Mart to find an appropriate alternative site for the proposed retail center in the vicinity of the proposed site yet situated outside the boundaries of Wilderness Battlefield and out of the view of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.”

Further, the Governor and Speaker offer the services of the state to help forge a compromise, writing: “[W]e stand ready to offer the technical service of any and all state agencies that could be of help to the County and Wal-Mart….” The letter goes on to reference those agencies: the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, the Department of Transportation, the Virginia Department of Health, the Department of Environmental Quality, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, and the Department of Historic Resources.

The letter acknowledges that the ultimate decision to build a Wal-Mart at this location ultimately rests with the county board of supervisors. However, the letter also notes: “[E]very acre of battlefield land that is destroyed means a loss of open space and missed tourism opportunities, and it closes one more window for future generations to better understand our national story.”

The Wilderness Battlefield Coalition, an organization of national, regional and local preservation groups, indicated support for the announcement by the Governor and Speaker, noting that the Coalition first proposed a similar solution in January of this year. “We firmly believe that encouraging Wal-Mart to move to an alternative location is in the best interests of both the National Park and Orange County residents. We are prepared to work with the Commonwealth, the county, Wal-Mart and local citizens to find an alternative location that benefits all.”

For more information about the Wilderness Walmart controversy, please visit: http://www.wildernesswalmart.com/

Here is the letter from Governor Kaine and Speaker Howell:

July 13, 2009

The Honorable Lee Frame
Chairman
Orange County Board of Supervisors
112 West Main Street
Orange, Virginia 22960

RE: Wal-Mart Development Proposal, Orange County

Dear Chairman Frame:

As Virginia and the nation prepare to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, we write to express our concern over the proposed Wal-Mart retail center at the gateway to Wilderness Battlefield in Orange County.

As you well know, Virginia’s Civil War battlefields are considered the most significant ones in the nation, and the Wilderness Battlefield itself ranks supremely important. As Virginia’s population and economy continue to expand, many of our battlefields are being negatively impacted by development. Every acre of battlefield land that is destroyed means a loss of open space and missed tourism opportunities, and it closes one more window for future generations to better understand our national story. For these reasons, among others, we have worked over the past few years to partner with a number of battlefield preservation organizations to save nearly 2,000 acres on 24 tracts on 16 different battlefields.

We believe strongly that land-use decision must remain within the purview of local governments, and we understand the challenges local governments face when trying to balance competing interests. Nowhere are these pressures and challenges better illustrated than in the controversy over Wal-Mart’s proposed development at Wilderness Battlefield in Orange County. We believe that the Wal-Mart project presents a unique opportunity to bring the interests of battlefield preservation and smart development effectively into balance. Fully respecting the authority of the Orange County Board of Supervisors to approve or deny Wal-Mart’s proposal, and appreciating the Board’s commitment to both the economic and cultural well-being of Orange County and the Commonwealth, we strongly encourage your Board to work closely with Wal-Mart to find an appropriate alternate site for the proposed retail center in the vicinity of the proposed site yet situated outside the boundaries of Wilderness Battlefield and out of view from Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.

If you and your Board are amenable to this, we stand ready to offer the technical services of any and all state agencies that could be of help to the County and Wal-Mart, including those of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, the Department of Transportation, the Virginia Department of Health, the Department of Environmental Quality, the Department of Conservation and Recreation, and the Department of Historic Resources.

Thank you for your consideration, and please let us know how you and your colleagues believe we can best assist you.

Very truly yours,

/Tim Kaine/ /Jim Howell/

Let’s hope that hearing it from high-ranking state officials persuades the Orange County supervisors to be reasonable about this; once this land is developed, that bell can never be un-rung. It would be a tragedy if that happens.

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. Wed 15th Jul 2009 at 7:58 pm

    Great news Eric. Maybe with a bit more political weight leaning on them Wal-Mart will reconsider.

  2. Chris Van Blargan
    Wed 15th Jul 2009 at 9:42 pm

    Eric,

    Too bad we do not have the same quality of leadership on historic preservation issues here in Ohio. Virginia politicians of both parties appear to “get it,” and I wish you could get even half that support in your efforts to preserve Ohio’s only signficant Civil War Battlefield.

    Chris

  3. Randy
    Thu 16th Jul 2009 at 12:27 pm

    Eric:
    Excellent news! WalMart could probably care less about the governor or legislature getting involved, but I suspect the Orange County Board of Supervisors will pay attention. As you put it, there may be hope yet. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

    Randy

  4. Bruce Furgason
    Mon 20th Jul 2009 at 11:06 am

    I am a citizen of Virginia and do have a smallish dog in this fight. The Wal*Mart construction area in question is zoned by the County for commercial use and could easily be turned into a tire recycling plant or any other noxious enterprise. The maps that depict the woefully close proximity of the Wal*mart to the old battlefield carefully avoids all mention of the exclusive Lake of the Woods Subdivision directly across the highway. The footprint of that place actually covers part of Ewell’s late PM flanking manuever against Sedgewick on 5th May 1864. The County needs jobs and right now. What better time for so many to be employed than at this moment? That’s hundreds of people working and earning. Has the desire to preserve every scrap of the past over-ridden common sense? I am a student of history and find the American Civil War a fascinating study. I am also a realist as well as a native Virginian. Stop whipping this dead horse.

  5. Mon 20th Jul 2009 at 1:05 pm

    Mr. Furgason,

    You’re obviously entitled to your opinion, and I thank you for sharing it here.

    Having said that, I cannot possibly imagine anything that I disagree with more than your opinion. The recession will end. Dead-end retail jobs will lose their appeal quickly. And if the thing is moved, then the county can have its cake and eat it, too. It can still get its dead-end retail jobs and the tax revenue generated by Wal-Mart, and the battlefield will not be polluted by it.

    Eric

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