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Good deal in Spotsy
The deal to save a Spotsylvania battlefield casts a favorable light on all the players.

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Date published: 9/19/2004


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HOW DO YOU save venerable old ground? Sometimes by breaking new ground. That's exactly what the Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors, especially Chairman Bob Hagan, did in preserving an important part of a Civil War battlefield. On behalf of the public, Mr. Hagan, backed by his associates, helped broker an unprecedented deal among preservationists and developers, traditional co-antagonists, that has accurately been called "win-win-win."

The upshot is that 140 historically precious acres on the former "Mullins Farm"--land upon which blue and gray clashed in the overture to the bloody Battle of Chancellorsville--will soon pass to the Civil War Preservation Trust, which will keep it as a natural museum of that conflict. The county gains in the areas of pride and aesthetics as it wards off sprawl in a place where sprawl would be doubly offensive. Developer Tricord Homes, which aims to sell the 140 acres to the trust, gains in the long term because grateful supervisors are certain to rezone nearby property upon which the firm can build more high-end residential units than otherwise would be allowed.

As a sidelight, the whole farm's former owner, John Mullins, wins, too: From his original $2.8 million investment in the property about 10 years ago, he's reportedly getting a fivefold return just on what Tricord's buying. This is apart from the booty he realized on the western half of the spread, now being developed by Toll Brothers. We're happy that Mr. Mullins, who's done considerable good in the community, has traded pastureland for clover.

Most knowledgeable parties involved in the battlefield talks heartily praise Tricord for its willingness to defer immediate profits in the public interest. And rightly so. The "proffers" put forth by most developers simply mitigate the public costs of growth. Tricord has done something exceptional--though the county's previous threat to withhold water and sewage from the area at issue may have made the company's gesture one of self-interest as well as enlightenment. In any case, bravo.

And bravo to all. Spotsylvania supervisors, preservationists, Tricord, and John Mullins have established, after some friction, a model of cooperation that respects history and property rights, the general welfare and the profit motive. Forward, march.