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Battle plans
Orange County supervisors should sit down at the table with preservationists

Date published: 4/5/2009

IT'S GRATIFYING to know that a major landowner in eastern Orange County is willing to sit down with preservationists to discuss how best to develop that area. But will county officials do the same?

The location is, of course, the site of the second battle of The Wilderness: this one over the proposed construction of a Wal-Mart near the original Civil War battlefield. The tug-and-pull between the county, landowners, Wal-Mart, and preservationists has history and economics crossing swords.

The King family, which owns over 2,000 acres in the vicinity (although not the proposed Wal-Mart site), will join in discussions with the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition on how best to balance the economic needs of the county, their rights and desires as property owners, and the goals of preservationists. This makes perfect sense, because all sides involved have valid points.

Now if only county supervisors would concur. Their invitation by the preservationists to come to the table in January was met with a sniff. The majority saw it as a ruse to delay their decision on Wal-Mart. It's unclear whether the King family's decision to join the talks will affect the supervisors, but it should.

The Wal-Mart proposal is not by-right development; supervisors must OK the plan. So why not participate in open discussions before the fact? It's better to break bread before breaking ground. Once the asphalt is down, history is lost.