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Final Public Hearings Set on Proposed Wal-Mart Super Center Next to Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park


The Old Germann Plank Road Trace runs near the site of the Wilderness Tavern on the Wilderness Battlefield at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. Wal-Mart is proposing a massive development on the edge of the battlefield. NPS photo.

If you've some thoughts on whether Wal-Mart should be allowed to develop a Supercenter on hallowed ground next to the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, you have two last opportunities: tonight and Monday night.

The so-called "Wilderness Walmart" proposal is to be discussed by the Orange County (Virginia) Planning Commission tonight at 7 p.m., and by the county's Board of Supervisors on Monday at 6 p.m. Project opponents say these hearings represent the last opportunity to tell Orange County that the Wilderness Battlefield is no place for big box sprawl.

The Civil War Preservation Trust plans to have an information table set up one hour before each of the hearings. Both of the hearings will be held in the Orange County High School Auditorium at 201 Selma Road in Orange, Virginia.

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 store 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.


Governor Kaine recently sent a letter to the Orange County Supervisors urging them to find an "appropriate alternative site" instead of placing it so close to the battlefield. This letter was something the Supervisors were not expecting. I attach a link to an article which describes this in detail, if anyone's interested:

The Supervisors may vote to grant the special use permit to Walmart, but this isn't over yet. The Supervisors' vote will NOT be the last word. If they do grant the special use permit the preservation groups will take Orange County to court. Walmart may have a big war chest to dip into, but they'll be fighting old Virginia money - established and influential. The battlefield is regarded as sacred ground. Virginians said no to Disney some years ago, and we'll say no to Walmart!

It never has to be a choice of "development" vs "no development."

all the tools exist for any local or state government to manage their landscape so that the special character that makes them distinctive is not sacrificed as development proceeds.

the problem in this area is that Route 95, the primary economic development force in northern Virginia, goes right through the Fredericksburg-Wilderness-Spotsylvania area. Lack of imagination has led to big box developments at all the intersections.

The problem in Virginia is the fear of smart growth planning systems so that the "depression or development disaster" is not the only way forward. Fearful or small minded people who have had bad experience with government trend to want no government at all, rather than learn how to make government serve them and act smart. That is why in this area there have been a series of explosions where a development plan is either killed (with no options) or developed (with no options).

Actually, you can save historic retail areas and town centers by marketing them as if they were malls, by designing effective but unobtrusive parking, etc. There are plenty of such successes all over the country where good zoning and thoughtful design and marketing have saved Main Streets. Virginia could have this instead of the horrors they are getting in the Fredericksburg area. There are examples of good development in VA, and the VA local and state governments need to use their power to require development to be properly located, design around significant resources, and be right-sized.

But such enlightened retail districts may have trouble competing with Walmart, because what Walmart does well is use its tremendous leverage to force wholesalers to drop the wholesale price. That is why Walmart is one of the only thriving sectors of our economy today. This is exactly what the robber barons like Rockefeller did when he forced the railroads to give him preferential shipping rates unavailable to anyone else.

So the next step is to get retailers to join together so they too can extract good wholesale prices. This is just like getting drug companies or physicians or hospitals or health insurance to charge reaonable rates. As Theodore Roosevelt observed, when (as Frank C says) the 'corporatists' have all the power and the people none, you need to bring "countervaling power" into the hands of the people trying to preserve a decent way of life, or develop in a way that does not savage their heritage and their civility.

In the meantime, this development must be stopped. For right now, all that is left is to show the local government -- again -- that heritage DOES matter to Virginians, and it is time the government put planning controls into the hands of local people so good development techniques are followed.

While it IS a good idea for the federal government to buy more land for parks, it is NOT a good idea for federal government purchase to be the ONLY option available for ALL significant parcels, especially in places where a lot of people live.

I understand the need for development, but all too often the opening of a new shopping center only leads to the closing of stores elsewhere. This leaves us with less green space and more empty storefronts.

Whether it's Walmart or Costco or Target, if the land is zoned commercial eventually it will be developed. If the federal government won't buy it, we need a modern day Rockefeller to buy the land and donate it to the national park system. (Rockefeller, as some of you know, donated land for Acadia National Park and others).

Plus I used to work for Wally World and find them to be evil! =)

I used to work for the federal government and find it to be truly evil. It extracts hard-earned money from its citizens through coercion and force and gives some of the money to unproductive citizens. A large chunk of the stolen loot goes to finance the American Empire and to purchase bombs and bullets that kill innocent civilians in far off lands.

At least Wal-Mart earns its money through voluntary transactions.

However, Wal-Mart is warming to the state, having called for a increase in the federal minimum wage, which would harm its smaller-sized competition.

As our corporatist system evolves, it will become harder and harder to tell the state and corporations apart.

Several months ago, I attended the press conference held by Civil War Preservation Trust at Ellwood on the Wilderness Battlefield. Actor Robert Duval spoke eloquently about the need to preserve the land. Two U.S. representatives, one from Texas and one from Vermont (both states suffered terrible casualties in the battle) also spoke about how the area was "a cathedral of suffering" and how we need to show respect for the men who died there. There are some things that can't be measured in terms of the economy--what these men sacrificed is immeasurable and these fields are a monument to that sacrifice and should be preserved at all costs.

I hate sprawl too, especially near historic sites, whether it's Walmart, housing developments, or factories. Couldn't the federal government use its powers of eminent domain to take the land and add it to the park. They could buy it with some of the money allocated to the National Parks in the Stimulus Bill. This would benefit the park more than some of the short term fix-ups and renovations that are currently slated. Those fix-ups will inevitably have to be done again in the coming years. Using the money to buy this land would preserve it forever.

I grew up near Fredericksburg and spent many hours on the battlefield. My grandparents backyard was part of the battlefield (not NPS land...private) I spent so many hours exploring the woods and of course collecting memorabelia. I went back last summer and was shocked at how much the place had grown in only 10 years. I remember when I couldn't walk down the street without some person knowing my family and pinching my cheeks.

This time it was full of strangers and huge shopping centers. Within a 2 mile stretch of road I saw 4 Starbucks! I went back to the battlefields and had a very difficult time immersing myself in the story because I could hear noise everywhere. Traffic going by with the bass thumping form speakers, car horns...I just couldn't picture a battle going on there.

Wal-Mart should not be adding to this. Save what little is left. I think that the Wilderness Battlefield is the best chance someone has to really experience things. Plus I used to work for Wally World and find them to be evil! =)

Ranger Holly

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