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Wal-Mart decision may come tomorrow
Showdown over Wilderness area Wal-Mart looming in Orange


Date published: 7/26/2009

BY ROBIN KNEPPER

People for and against Wal-Mart's plan to build a Supercenter near the Wilderness battlefield will get one more chance to voice their opinions to Orange County supervisors tomorrow night.

How many speakers there are and how long they speak will determine whether a vote is taken that night.

County officials say a majority of residents want Wal-Mart and the jobs and tax revenue it promises. Three of the five supervisors have said they support the giant retailer's plan to build a 138,000-square-foot store a quarter-mile north of the intersection of State Routes 3 and 20.

But historic-preservation organizations have mounted a national campaign against the plan, saying the store and the traffic it will bring will desecrate the Civil War battlefield.

"Those two groups coming out to speak Monday night could result in a huge crowd," said Lee Frame, chairman of the Board of Supervisors.

The public hearing will begin at 7 p.m. in the auditorium of Orange County High School. Public meetings of the supervisors are capped at midnight but, according to Frame, circumstances may dictate the length of the hearing and whether a vote is taken that night.

"If the speakers finish up at 10:30 or 11," he said, "and we can get through our discussion and questions, we can take a vote that night.

"If we get to 11:30 and there are 20 people left to speak, we might go to the next night."

The board has a regular meeting scheduled Tuesday.

Frame is the only supervisor who has not indicated how he will vote on Wal-Mart's application for a special-use permit.

"I've probably decided mentally," he said, "but I want to see if there's anything to change my mind--any late-breaking stuff that didn't come out at the Planning Commission's public hearing."

"There's so much propaganda out there I expect people to be saying the same thing over and over," said Supervisor Zack Burkett. "But barring someone bringing new information, I expect us to vote that night."

LISTENING TO THE VOTERS


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WHAT: Public hearing on a special-use permit for a Wal-Mart Supercenter

WHEN: 7 p.m. tomorrow WHERE: Orange County High School auditorium, 201 Selma Road RULES: Speakers must sign up before the meeting and will be called on in the order in which they registered. Each speaker will be allowed three minutes.