Past is Prologue

Clint Schemmer writes about history, heritage preservation and the American Civil War.  On Facebook: Past is Prologue  On Twitter: @prologuepast  ContactEmail Clint or call 540/374-5424.

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Wal-Mart Seeks Permit to Build Supercenter at Wilderness

Orange County now has in hand the long-anticipated special-use permit request for Wal-Mart’s proposed Supercenter store on a portion of the Wilderness battlefield.

The world’s largest retailer, based in Bentonville, Ark., is asking Orange County supervisors for permission to build a 138,229-square-foot store on part of a 53-acre tract just north of the Wilderness Corner intersection, according to its application with the county Planning and Zoning Department. Its development would have room for about nine smaller stores.

The tract near Wilderness Run — just north of State Route 3 — was historically part of the Wilderness battlefield, where Gens. Robert E. Lee and Ulyssses S. Grant first clashed, and sits at the gateway to the portion of the battlefield owned and interpreted by the National Park Service.

The Wilderness Battlefield Coalition, a national umbrella group of conservation and preservation organizations — including the Civil War Preservation Trust, Piedmont Environmental Council, National Trust for Historic Preservation, National Parks Conservation Association, Friends of Wilderness Battlefield and Friends of the Fredericksburg Area Battlefields – oppose Wal-Mart’s plan.

Saying that traffic and other impacts from the retail development would ruin the experience of visitors to the nearby Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park, the coalition members urged Wal-Mart to move its project to another Route 3 site farther from the battlefield park.

Last summer, the coalition expressed its concerns to Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott  Jr. To read its letter to him, click here:

The Wilderness is one of the nation’s most historically significant battlegrounds, as determined by a blue-ribbon panel established by Congress. The Civil War Sites Advisory Commission ranked Wilderness as a Priority I battlefield, its highest designation. The panel identified the 53-acre Wal-Mart parcel as part of the battlefield.

The intersection of Routes 3 and 20 near the parcel is already home to a 7-Eleven, a Sheetz convenience store, a McDonald’s restaurant and two small strip shopping centers. 

To build its Supercenter on the property, which has been zoned commercial for many years, Wal-Mart needs a special-use permit from the Orange Board of Supervisors. This past June, as word of Wal-Mart’s proposal circulated in the community, the supervisors enacted a big-box ordinance to require such a permit for any retail store larger than 60,000 square feet.

For more coverage, see The Free Lance-Star and