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BY CLINT SCHEMMER
Orange County should resolve the National Park Service's concerns about the Wal-Mart retail center proposed in the Wilderness battlefield area, a state agency says.
As the Planning Commission prepares tonight to discuss the project with Wal-Mart, its members will also have an opportunity to question an official of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources about issues that VDHR has raised.
At the county's request, VDHR advised Orange planners and the Board of Supervisors on the proposal in a seven-page letter sent Monday to County Attorney Sharon Pandak by Kathleen Kilpatrick, the department's director. "In our considered judgment, the National Park Service's concerns about the impact of the proposed development and the park should not be dismissed, but squarely addressed by the county, ideally in the context of a comprehensive planning approach," Kilpatrick wrote.
The 51.5-acre site, owned by JDC Ventures of Vienna, is a quarter mile north of the intersection of State Routes 3 and 20 and Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.
Park Service officials have said the retail center, along with the adjoining Wilderness Crossing development proposed by the King family, would create an urban center beside the park, increase traffic on Routes 3 and 20, and foster demand to widen those roads through the park.
Although the proposed Wal-Mart site lies outside the congressionally mandated boundaries of the park, Kilpatrick wrote that the Wal-Mart site is part of both the May 1864 Wilderness and the May 1863 Chancellorsville battlefields and retains its landscape features from the Civil War period, including what may be a wartime road trace.
The property probably figured in military operations during each battle, and may have included the Union Army's 6th Corps hospital on the Germanna Plank Road during the Battle of the Wilderness, she said.
It is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, she said. "A commercial development of this magnitude is by definition incompatible" with these "nationally significant" historic sites, she wrote. "The direct impact on the historic landscape cannot be mitigated through design and new landscape elements. The proposed development's impact on the battlefields would also be irreversible."
That is despite Wal-Mart's offer to set aside land near Wilderness Run for conservation, she wrote.
Kilpatrick also advised that Wal-Mart's 138,000-square-foot Supercenter will be visible from the park and from State Route 3 as motorists approach the Wilderness Corner crossroads, according to an analysis by the Piedmont Environmental Council and information from the Park Service and National Trust for Historic Preservation. She said the store will be visible from Ellwood, a historic house that serves as the visitor center for the Wilderness battlefield, once trees are cleared around Ellwood as the Park Service has planned to restore the Ellwood tract to its wartime appearance. Ellwood is about a mile from the store site, which sits atop a ridge north of Route 3 just west of Wilderness Run.
Kilpatrick noted that these visual studies conflict with Wal-Mart's assessment that its development wouldn't be seen by park visitors. The Department of Historic Resources recommends that Orange get an independent professional assessment to settle the question.
ON THE NET: orangecountyva.gov orangewalmart.com wildernesswalmart.com
Clint Schemmer: 540/368-5029
|The Orange County Planning Commission meets at 7 tonight in the Gordon Building, 112 W. Main St., Orange, to discuss the application from JDC Ventures for a special-use permit to build a Wal-Mart in the Wilderness area. No comments will be taken from the public.|