14 January 2009 by Published in: Battlefield preservation 10 comments

From the January 12 edition of the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star newspaper:

Store Appears a Go in Orange
By Robin Knepper


It can only be called unintended consequences.

Reacting strongly, and negatively, to pressure from groups of historians and preservationists, a majority of Orange County supervisors have thrown their support behind a Wal-Mart supercenter in the northeastern corner of the county.

At a weekend retreat supervisors Mark Johnson, Zack Burkett and Teel Goodwin declared their backing for the 138,000-square-foot store planned for a 19.5-acre site a quarter mile north of State Route 3.

Newly elected Board Chairman Lee Frame said he was undecided and his constituents were divided 50-50. Supervisor Teri Pace steadfastly opposed Wal-Mart’s building at that location.

The supervisors were reacting to a five-page memo sent to Frame and Pace on Friday from Katharine Gilliam, Virginia Programs manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. She forwarded a proposal from the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition, a group of eight organizations opposed to Wal-Mart’s building in the vicinity of the Wilderness Battlefield.

The group offered to pay for a “Gateway Vision Planning Process” to “protect the character and integrity of the national park.”

(The Wilderness Battlefield, part of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, is on the opposite side of State Route 3 from the proposed Wal-Mart and is already home to a Sheetz, McDonald’s, used-car lot and strip mall.)

“This is nothing but a cheap ploy to slow down Wal-Mart,” said Burkett, “and we need the jobs and the tax revenue.”

“I vigorously oppose this,” said Johnson. “It’s just a delaying tactic.”

Pace objected, saying that her fellow supervisors were “throwing away an incredible opportunity for the county.”

Burkett replied, “If we give our blessing to this, it’s guaranteed they’ll use it against us.”

“I don’t want to give that group any standing,” added Johnson. “They’ve got a specific agenda they’re pushing.”

When Supervisor Teel Goodwin was asked whether he supported the coalition’s offer, he quickly replied, “Hell, no.”

It’s not only Wal-Mart that’s under fire from preservationists and Civil War buffs. The coalition has declared the agriculturally zoned land located in a 1,000-acre area designated by the county for economic development to be too close to the Wilderness Battlefield.

A condition of its offer was that the county not act on any development proposals in the study area (the Route 3 corridor between Wilderness Run and Vaucluse Road and east to the Rapidan River) until the study was completed.

Charles “Chip” King, whose family owns 2,000 acres on the north side of Route 3 and has planned Wilderness Crossing, a 900-acre mixed-use development there, has been meeting with preservation groups and the representatives from the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park to develop an alternative route from Route 20 to Route 3.

King has hoped to have Wal-Mart locate in the Wilderness Crossing development to shield it from view from Route 3 and to expedite traffic into the larger development area.

Although traffic from routes 3 and 20 into the Wal-Mart site (between the existing Wachovia Bank and 7-Eleven) would further degrade that intersection, Wal-Mart officials have not been part of the discussions between King and the coalition. Sources say that Wal-Mart officials have recently been contacted, however, and have agreed to discuss the situation with King, Orange County officials and members of the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition and the National Park Service.

The present intersection is failing, according to officials of the Virginia Department of Transportation, who have to approve a traffic-impact analysis from Wal-Mart before the county can grant a special-use permit for the store.

According to County Administrator Bill Rolfe, Wal-Mart’s application for a special-use permit (required for retail construction larger than 60,000 square feet) will be subject to administrative review this month.

A public hearing on Wal-Mart’s application will be held before the county Planning Commission in March. A public hearing before the Board of Supervisors is expected in April or May.

It would appear that the attempt to pressure the Planning Commission has not only failed, but that it has actually backfired. It would appear that the Wilderness Wal-Mart project is going to be a go. What a tragedy, and what a terrible case of shortsightedness by those who ought to know better.

Scridb filter


  1. Ken Noe
    Wed 14th Jan 2009 at 1:38 pm


    I wonder if the letter really backfired, or just provided a convenient excuse. These particular supervisors have been trying for awhile now to attract a Wal-Mart-like enterprise:


    Not to mention exhibiting a certain dysfunctional governing style:



  2. Michael Aubrecht
    Wed 14th Jan 2009 at 3:13 pm

    I have provided the contact info to these three gentleman over on my blog: http://www.pinstripepress.net/PPBlog/index.blog/1353716/walmart-wins/

    You should see the local outrage that is going on down here. People are pi**ed!

  3. Wed 14th Jan 2009 at 3:20 pm

    I think Ken’s right. Also, timing played a role. The public is being inundated with news of “revenue shortfalls” due to the sagging economy and that has public officials sweating and wondering how they’re going to make up the shortfall for legitimate expenditures, as well as their pet boondoggles.

    Follow the money.

  4. J.E.B.
    Wed 14th Jan 2009 at 4:20 pm

    This is truly a travesty. Is there nothing left that we can do? Two Walmarts within 10 miles and they want to build one on this hallowed site?

    I think that only Walmart would be tone deaf and bull-headed enough to do this. They just don’t care about the bad press until it affects their bottom line.

    Well, I’m going to try to send a message to them by hitting their bottom line. I’m not usually one to do this, but I’m joining WakeUpWalmart.com.

    The day Walmart sells cheap crap from communist China on this hallowed ground is indeed a sad day.

  5. Ken Noe
    Wed 14th Jan 2009 at 4:32 pm

    It’s not just Wally World. If you’re ever in Dallas, Georgia, ask someone to show you the K-Mart knowingly built on top of a Confederate cemetery.

  6. Wed 14th Jan 2009 at 11:46 pm

    I am an avid history buff. I’m a lover of historic roads. I studied greatly both the Revolutionary War and Civil War in school, fascinated by its details.

    Needless to say, I’m opposed to this Wal-Mart. I added my letter in opposition about a month ago to all the County Stupid-visors.

    However, as an active preservationist, I feel very little hope that we will win this struggle. As mentioned previously, the almighty (falling) dollar will likely win out, as tax revenues need to be made up somehow. I just wonder out loud (as loud as possible!) what tax CREDITS will come Wal-Mart’s way to make this happen

  7. dan
    Thu 15th Jan 2009 at 12:30 am

    I got a real kick over the years as the hard left criticized walmart as the epitome of everything that was wrong with globalization. I laughed at them. But now, it appears that they were right and I was wrong. There are hundreds and thousands of Walmarts, but only so many Civil War battlefields, and only one Wilderness. And what will happen if they uncover a poor CS or US soldier killed in action on their new site? Will they speak of it reverentially as did the NPS personnel about the NY soldier recently discovered at Antietam? Or will they say, “Oh, this is an impediment to our construction. Remove it.” And if they do this, there will be a massive reaction against Walmart as well there ought to be. This is an utter failure on the part of the inept “Planning Commission”. Folks who are lucky to live near hallowed ground are caretakers of that ground and should never consider such ground fertile places to create monuments to commerce and passing crassness. When we pave our landmarks and destroy our hallowed places for better economic opportunities like cheaper shirts and toys that Walmart will surely provide we shatter our links to our past and break up the very concept of what it means to be an American. It’s a slovenly response on the part of Walmart and the inept useless “Planning Board”. The idea that a letter from historians could “backfire” is just cheap propaganda. These shallow profiteers know exactly what they are doing and why. Their thinking horizon is in days and weeks, while folks who appreciate places like the Wilderness battlefield reaches to centuries and beyond. This is not a victory for Walmart it is a defeat for all Americans as we are robbed of our heritage and important places to be replaced by stupid shopping centers and pizza shops. Why is it ok to turn our backs on our heroes and tell our children that heroes don’t really matter, commerce matters. How utterly revolting. A sad day it will be if such a project continues and is concluded. Needless to say, I won’t be buying any Walmart “products” ever again if they go forward with this vile desecration of sacred American ground. Shame on them all.

  8. Michael Aubrecht
    Thu 15th Jan 2009 at 9:58 am

    Eric, I think it should be added that the goal of our organizations here in the area is NOT to prevent the building of a Wal-Mart in Orange County. It is to move the location further away from the battlefield proper. We have to accept economic development and progress whether we personally like it or not, but it should be done in a responsible and respectful manner.

    Those of us living in the Spotsylvania, Fredericksburg, and Orange County areas are custodians of these historic sites. It is our obligation to speak up on their behalf. A group was successful in getting the Ferry Farm Wal-Mart moved further down the road away from George Washington’s boyhood home and the goal of this movement is to do the same.

  9. Fri 16th Jan 2009 at 10:35 am

    Mark Johnson, a supervisor mentioned in the article, sounds like a typical, gutless politician who you can often find serving in capacities just like this. Able to wield power, but usually no more than a big, loud mouth. And of course, don’t you dare question their motives. In fact, we have a few of those right here in Franklin, Tennessee.

    Re: Dan’s post about Wal Mart:

    I’m certainly no genius, but Wal Mart has sucked the life out of God knows how many mid-sized communities. They don’t care one bit about history and the folks they often employ are ones who lost their jobs somewhere else because WalMart essentially undercuts all prices.

    They have become quite powerful and they know it. They remind me of 19th century Standard Oil.

  10. Mr. Morris
    Fri 20th Feb 2009 at 10:10 pm

    It seems that if so darned many of you are up in arms about this site, you’d put your money where your mouths are. Don’t expect the landowners to make that sacrifice for your nostalgia over the civil war era. Quit yer belly-aching, and start buying land!

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