Help Needed Defeating Wal-Mart on Battlefield

Last week Virginia's Orange County Board of Supervisors vote to approve the building of a new Wal-Mart Supercenter within the historic boundaries of the
Wilderness Battlefield - and one of the most significant battlefields of the Civil War. The Civil War Preservation Trust has been fighting Wal-Mart on this location for over a year - seeking an alternative location and compromoise - and after last week they desperately need everyones help to stop Wal-Mart from moving forward and opening the door to further destructive development.

Even State Senator Creigh Deeds, the Democratic candidate for Virginia Governor, has written a letter to the president and CEO of Wal-Mart pleading with him to move the location off the historic battlefield. Wake-Up Wal-Mart is helping in this fight and you can too by also writing a letter on the Civil War Preservation Trust's website and also help spread the word yourself.

More from Blue Virginia and the Washington Post below:

Lowell at Blue Virginia has reasonably asked on the location:

Maybe I'm missing something here, like the (supposedly) urgent need to build retail right on top of a battlefield where 145,000 Union and Confederate soldiers fought and more than 29,000 were killed or injured. Can't this store be located a mile down the road or something? What do you think?

Seems like a sensible question - just not to Wal-Mart. The Washington Post further reports that:

[Civil War Preservation] Trust president Jim Lighthizer called on Wal-Mart to reconsider its decision to build within the footprint of the Wilderness Battlefield, near Fredericksburg, pointing to what he called, "nationwide anger generated by its proposal."

"The ball is now in Wal-mart's court," he said. "It's in the corporation's best interest to work with the preservation community to find an alternative site. ...We are optimistic that company officials will see the wisdom of moving somewhere else."

That doesn't sound likely, according to Wal-Mart regional spokesman Keith Morris. In an interview he said, "Two years ago, the county decided this site was one where growth should occur. We have looked at alternative sites and there are other sites but they require rezoning. There is no guarantee the county would approve another site."

Morris pointed to the county planning commission's second and little-noticed Aug. 20 4-3 vote that reversed a decision of the night before, when that commission deadlocked on the issue. A deadlock is considered a negative vote. Morris said that second vote was an indication of the county's strong interest in seeing the store built at the proposed site.

There is a possibility that the Trust, as the lead organization of the Wilderness Coalition, will turn to the courts and appeal the board's decision. Officials are debating their next step now.

Again, please help by writing a letter on the Civil War Preservation Trust's website and spreading the word online.

Thank you.

Comments

Thanks for the chance to help

I was born in Richmond and raised in Hampton, so I'm always looking for ways to help out the old home state. Thanks for cross posting this.

Always bash Wal Mart

Don't get me wrong. I dislike many things about Wal Mart and avoid it whenever I can. That said, this issue is not really about Wal Mart.

They are trying to build a shopping center on private land that has been zoned for that purpose. I'm not exactly sure how land use is legislated in Virginia, but if anyone has a problem with the zoning on that property, they should take it up with the county commissioners or the planning board. I'm willing to bet there was a very public planning process in previous years that involved creating an overall land use plan for the county. There were also hearings at some point to zone the property.

So where were all the outraged citizens and historians when the county adopted the plans and zoning? Of course, they were pretty much all at home ignoring their local government and all their boring land-use discussions. It's only occasionally that someone can stir the pot enough to get people to care, if only temporarily, about land use.

I'm willing to bet that if anyone but Wal Mart were interested at building a shopping center of the exact same size, this subject would never have been posted on this site. The spectre of Wal Mart is great for getting some people riled up.

The people of Orange County Virginia, for better or worse (and probably through inaction and apathy), have already "decided" they want something like a Wal Mart- anchored shopping center there.

"Where were you when...."

I have recently been in a planning/zoning issue here in our small town of Waynesville. A non-profit low-income housing group called Mountain Housing Opportunities based in Asheville has teamed with a local landowner to develop a 64-unit apartment complex on what is now a vacant lot of just over 4 acres near downtown Waynesville.

At the risk of being boring....Waynesville adopted a new land planning ordinance about 6 years ago. The town is divided into more than 30 zoning districts, some deemed "neighborhood districts," some "town center" districts, some "corridor" districts, and the central business district. Each district has its own allowable uses, which vary widely even between what appear to be neighborhoods with similar character.

In any event, those of us near this new 400-foot long 3-story apartment building opposed its construction when the Board of Adjustment was considering the Conditional Use Permit for the apartment complex. And the response we got from the town's Planning Department was basically "where were you when we established 16 units per acre multifamily density in your neighborhood," when the neighborhood directly adjacent to the property is zoned for a maximum 8 units per acre.

So for me this "where were you when..." is an argument that falls on deaf ears.

And BTW, I believe the Federal Government should purchase and preserve all remaining undeveloped civil war battlefields as a reminder of that awful time in our history.

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The measure of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little. - FDR

I read the article in the Smoky

I read the article in the Smoky Mountain News. Interesting that the biggest objections seem to revolve around the fact that it is low-income housing.

The Planning Dept's point is still valid- the development complies with the plan adopted 6 years ago. It appears the plan is to encourage residential development in or near downtown. As far as having adjacent parcels with differing permissible housing densities, there's no way to avoid that. At some point you have to have a transition from one level or one use to the next. Otherwise the town could only have one zoning category.

The biggest objections

Sorry...but the biggest objection among my neighbors is the size of the proposed building. The objection is NOT to low-income senior housing, and that is VERY CLEAR in Becky Johnson's SMN article. In fact, the article quotes one Kevin Brock as saying "I don't think there would be any opposition to low-income senior housing. The size of the building was the objection." Now, I happen to know this Kevin Brock very well, as he happens to be me.

Furthermore, the town is in the middle of a comprehensive review of the entire zoning ordinance, including hiring a consultant at a cost of some $50K and establishing a "blue ribbon commission" to make recommendations to revise the ordinance. The consultant in his preliminary report (available at the Town's website) pointed out the illogical discrepancy in multi-family housing densities among similar residential neighborhoods as one problem with the ordinance.

Proximity to downtown Waynesville is nice, but low-income seniors need proximity to grocery stores and pharmacies and other services relevant to that population. There is no place in downtown Waynesville to buy so much as a roll of toilet paper, except perhaps at the convenience stores at either end of "downtown."

We hope in the comprehensive review to address those and other discrepancies. As the song says, "we won't be fooled again."

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The measure of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little. - FDR

The article I quoted..

Was from a story where the NC Housing Finance Agency denied tax breaks to the MHO project in Waynesville.

Proposed apartments denied tax breaks

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The measure of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little. - FDR