Wal-mart Finds Orange County Site
By Scott C. Boyd
(July 2011 Civil War News)
LOCUST GROVE, Va. — Wal-mart announced a new location for a store in Orange County on May 23, and it has already sparked controversy.
The new site, a commercially-zoned 46.628-acre property on the corner of Route 3 and Somerset Ridge Road, is across Route 3 from the Germanna Foundation’s Siegen Forest, which is used for Scout camping.
Foundation President Marc Wheat was quoted in a May 24 Culpeper Star-Exponent article expressing concern over the impact of a Wal-mart Supercenter across the street: “What we are concerned about is noise and light pollution that would damage that kind of experience for generations.”
William C. Wertz, Wal-mart Director of Community and Media Relations-East, told Civil War News the company will meet with the foundation as part of its community outreach to discuss their concerns and see what can be done.
“We’ll probably have several community meetings to talk about our plans, and of course Orange County will offer opportunities for public comment as our project is considered for approval.”
CWT Policy and Communications Director Jim Campi said, “The Civil War Trust has urged Wal-mart to open a dialogue with the Germanna Foundation. It should be evident from the previous controversy that it is in the best interests of all to find a mutually beneficial solution.”
Campi was referring to the controversy over Wal-mart’s earlier proposed location at the entrance to the Wilderness battlefield. It was the subject of 16 months of litigation by historic preservation groups and residents. Just as the case was going to trial in January, Wal-mart cancelled the project.
Prior to the Germanna Foundation raising concerns about the new Wal-mart site, four groups belonging to the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition, which seeks to protect the battlefield there, praised the new store site in a Civil War Trust news release.
President James Lighthizer said, “By honoring its public commitment to choose an alternate site in Orange County, Wal-mart has demonstrated that preservation groups and retailers can work together to find universally beneficial resolutions. We could not be more pleased with Wal-mart’s decision to move away from the battlefield.”
Also endorsing the new location were Zann Nelson, president of Friends of Wilderness Battlefield, and Stephanie Meeks, the National Trust for Historic Preservation President, who said, “This outcome proves that protecting our national heritage, and advancing Orange County’s development goals, can go hand in hand.”
Chris Miller, president of Piedmont Environmental Council, called the new location more appropriate for a major retail venture, “as it is farther removed from significant lands related to the battle and located among other commercially zoned properties, nearer to residential areas on Route 3.”
The county, which fought the lawsuit to prevent Wal-mart from locating at the Wilderness, reaffirmed its commitment to assisting Wal-mart in realizing a retail store on the Route 3 Corridor.
The Germanna Foundation, officially the Memorial Foundation of the Germanna Colonies in Virginia, was chartered in 1956 to preserve the heritage of the earliest organized settlements of Germans in colonial Virginia, beginning in 1714.
It gave 100 acres of its 279-acre site, where the first German settlement was, to the state for Germanna Community College in 1969. The remainder primarily comprises the Siegen Forest.
The proposed Wal-mart site is owned by Mojtaba Azimipour, who purchased it on March 15, 1988, for $149,900, according to the Deed of Trust on file at the Orange County Circuit Court Clerk’s office. The latest assessment of the property’s value is $919,800.
Due to the new store’s 128,581-square-foot estimated size, Wal-mart must go through the same special use permit process required with the former site. All buildings over 60,000 square feet require such a permit.