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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Germanna Walmart OKd by Orange supervisors

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has been granted the special-use permit it needed to build a Superstore in eastern Orange County.

The county Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Thursday night to approve the permit for a “big box” store proposed by the Arkansas-based retailer at State Route 3 and Somerset Ridge Road, near Germanna Community College’s Locust Grove campus.

A week earlier, the county Planning Commission had unanimously recommended that course of action to the supervisors.

Before the supervisors voted, 33 people testified at a public hearing on Walmart’s plan. Eighteen supported it. Fifteen were opposed.

The board received 14 letters last night opposing the proposal. The property owner, Orange County resident Mansour Azimipour, submitted a petition bearing the signatures of 535 people supporting the store plan. Orange County rezoned the tract in 1994 for commercial use.

The Germanna Foundation, a nonprofit that owns nearby woodlands and tells the stories of Colonial Gov. Alexander Spotswood and his German settlers–who established a frontier outpost on the Rapidan River–fought the Walmart proposal.

The foundation asked the supervisors to add seven conditions to the permit. Two of them had previously been agreed to by Walmart: using low-level lighting outside the store and reducing the size of exterior signs.

The foundation was unable to persuade the supervisors to increase the depth of wooded buffer between Route 3 and the store’s parking lot, or to preserve Civil War earthworks on the edge of the parking lot.

Nor did it prevail in asking the board to delay its vote until a federal study of a small area of wetlands on the site is finished.

Karen Quanbeck, the group’s executive director, was among those who spoke at the public hearing. A statement released by the foundation late Thursday afternoon can be downloaded here.

The proposal is Walmart’s second try at building a megastore in eastern Orange.

Earlier, it sought to build a similar store farther east on Route 3 near the Wilderness-battlefield portion of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. Its plan aroused opposition by the National Park Service, local residents and a coalition of local, state and national preservation groups.

Early this year, as a Circuit Court trial began over Orange supervisors’ approval of that plan, Walmart dropped its  effort and pledged to find a less controversial store site elsewhere in eastern Orange’s Route 3 corridor.

The new, 14-acre location is about four miles west of the Wilderness store site.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Friends of Wilderness Battlefield and the Civil War Trust supported the company’s selection of the Somerset Ridge site, and urged Orange County to approve it.

There is no connection between the Germanna Foundation and Germanna Community College.