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Orange residents routed at 'Second Wilderness'
Patti Tarallo's op-ed column on retail development at Lake of the Woods (and the Wilderness)

 Walmart supporters demonstrate before a public hearing by the Orange Board of Supervisors on the proposed store.
SUZANNE CARR ROSSI/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
Visit the Photo Place
Date published: 6/26/2012

IN DECIDING to take on Walmart, the Friends of Wilderness Battlefield and the preservationists achieved their goal of "winning the second Battle of the Wilderness." (They get to count this as a win, and a community much in favor of Walmart will now have one.) But it seems the battle was staged more for the publicity of going head to head against the giant everyone loves to hate than to preserve the land near the battlefields.

Plans are now being studied and proposed for a walkable village with retail and office space on this same ground near the battlefields. The logic used is that these plans will preserve historic sites and Rapidan River land. Like a trial lawyer leading a witness, the preservationists now lead the casual reader to the assumption that previous Walmart plans were going to destroy historic and river land. I don't believe this was ever the case.

Walmart (the guys in the white hats, in this case) bent over backward to accommodate all the objections raised by the preservationists (wearing the black hats). At that time, nothing would or could accommodate them other than a defeat of Walmart. As to preserving the land, how is this accomplished if a retail and office center will be built atop it?

Proposed gateway plans, as attractive as they may look on paper, will only add more retail and office space to accompany all that stands unimproved or empty along State Route 3 now. Who could object to walking trails, a farmers market, hotel, and theater? But is this realistic? If we cannot sustain the commercial spaces already in existence, how can a "village" this large survive?

It may be pleasing to the eye, but this plan will still require traffic to traverse the area of State Routes 3 and 20, an original objection to Walmart by preservationists. I'm sure we'll adjust, though, just as we've adjusted to the cherry-red, brightly lit roof of the all-night Sheetz gas station and the yellow arches of McDonald's: Where were you then, Mr. James Lighthizer [president of the Civil War Trust]? Maybe we can drive to this village, exit our vehicles, and use the space for our daily walking exercise while counting the spaces lying empty and dormant.


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