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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Walmart picks second site for Orange County store

Walmart has chosen new ground for its long-planned store in Orange County, the company announced this morning.

The site is a commercially zoned property on the southeast corner of State Route 3 and Somerset Ridge Road, near Germanna Community College’s Locust Grove campus.

In a statement, Walmart said that the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Civil War Trust and the Piedmont Environmental Council have reviewed the new site and found it appropriate for economic development.

That trio–joined by local residents, Friends of Wilderness Battlefield and other groups–had fought for 2 1/2 years against Walmart’s original proposal on 51 acres at State Routes 3 and 20.

The two trusts and PEC say the alternative location will not diminish the experience of visitors to the Wilderness battlefield three miles east along Route 3, Walmart said yesterday.

In 2009, the Orange Board of Supervisors approved construction of a Walmart Supercenter-anchored retail center near Routes 3 and 20. But FOWB and six Orange and Spotsylvania residents challenged the decision in Circuit Court, arguing that the development would harm nearby Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park and visitors’ experience there.

“We are delighted to have found a location that is commercially zoned by the county and also supported by the preservation organizations,” Eric Zorn, Walmart’s executive vice president of realty, said today. “We look forward to moving ahead quickly to complete the planning process and start construction. This has been a collaborative process that we believe resulted in a successful outcome for everyone involved.”

No date has been set for groundbreaking, Walmart said.

Reacting to the announcement, four vocal opponents of the previous plan–the Civil War Trust, Friends of Wilderness Battlefield, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and Piedmont Environment Council–praised Wal-Mart for opting to move its superstore farther from what they and the National Park Service call the gateway to the Civil War battlefield.

The decision is “good for the battlefield and good for the county,” they said.