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State criticizes Wal-Mart report
State agency faults county staff report to Orange Planning Commission on Wilderness Wal-Mart

View COMPLETE coverage of the Wal-Mart / Wilderness battle.
Date published: 5/21/2009

BY CLINT SCHEMMER

Virginia officials want "to set the record straight" about a proposed Wal-Mart's impact on the Wilderness battlefield.

Kathleen Kilpatrick, director of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, wrote the Orange County Planning Commission yesterday after learning that the county's planning staff "appears to suggest" that the Wal-Mart site "is not historically significant."

The Orange Planning Commission will hold a public hearing tonight on JDC Ventures' request for a special-use permit to build a 138,000-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter and other retail stores north of State Routes 3 and 20.

"Construction of a Wal-Mart facility at the scale and on the site proposed will, in our professional judgment, have a serious adverse effect both on the Wilderness Battlefield and on the National Park," Kilpatrick wrote in a letter to commission Chairman Will Likins, who could not be reached for comment last night.

The staff report, which recommends granting the permit, says staffers reviewed VDHR files and maps and confirmed with VDHR that "there are no known significant resources" on the Wal-Mart tract. The report states the site is in "the near vicinity" of the Wilderness battlefield.

Kilpatrick took issue with those conclusions. "Please be advised that the proposed Wal-Mart site is located entirely within the boundaries of the Wilderness Battlefield," she wrote.

Of 10,500 sites identified by the federal Civil War Sites Advisory Commission, only 45 were ranked "A" as having decisively influenced a military campaign and directly affected the course of the war, Kilpatrick noted. Wilderness, "is counted among this very elite class of national battlefields for possessing the highest level of historical significance and meriting the highest priority for preservation."

The 51.6-acre Wal-Mart site is "clearly eligible" for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, along with the rest of the battlefield, she said.

Orange Board of Supervisors Chairman Lee Frame said last night that he didn't see the letter until after the close of business yesterday.

"I'm really not in a position to say anything about it until I have a chance to go over it and discuss it in detail with [Community Development Director David] Grover," he said. "I'll be talking with him [today]."

Grover could not be reached last night.


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WHAT: Orange County Planning Commission public hearing on proposed Wilderness Wal-Mart

WHEN: 7 tonight, Prospect Heights Middle, 202 Dailey Drive, Orange. Building opens at 6 p.m.

RULES: Speakers must sign up and will be called on in the order in which they signed up. They will have three minutes to speak. Commissioners will not answer questions or engage in conversation with speakers.

ONLINE: Check out details at orangecountyva.gov, Wal-Mart's views at orangewalmart.com and preservationists' views at wilderness walmart.com.