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Board OKs Plan That Will Save 143 Acres At Chancellorsville
By Deborah Fitts
December 2004

SPOTSYLVANIA COUNTY, Va. - A plan to save 143 acres of the Chancellorsville battlefield took a crucial step forward on Nov. 9, when the Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors voted for a rezoning that will seal the deal. "We're obviously pleased," said Jim Campi of the Civil War Preservation Trust, "not only that they voted for it but that they voted unanimously."

The focus of the Spotsylvania officials' interest was the 800-acre Mullins Farm, which adjoins the Chancellorsville unit of Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park. Development plans for the property have been bitterly contested by a coalition of preservation groups led by the Trust. At the same time, formerly pro-development county officials have become leery of the county's rampant growth.

The rezoning of 87 acres will allow local developer Tricord Inc. to create an age-restricted, clustered subdivision of nearly 300 homes dubbed Chancellorsville Hunt. In turn, Tricord will sell 143 acres of battlefield land to the Trust. Campi said the Trust expects to close on the property in early December.

Tricord recently contracted to buy 227 acres from landowner John Mullins for $12.5 million. They are selling the 143 acres to the Trust for $3 million. The land fronts Route 3 east of the battlefield park, and the Trust is planning for a 1,000-foot buffer along the highway to screen Tricord's subdivision from view.

Campi noted that the wooded screen would appropriately reflect the nature of the landscape at the time of the war, when the land was open farm fields along the road but there was significant woodland in the distance.

Fifty-five acres of Tricord's 227 acres is zoned for commercial use. But as part of the deal Tricord has agreed to give up that right, and the land will be preserved. Of Tricord's remaining acreage, 85 acres fronting the north side of Route 3 will be protected and 87 acres farther to the north will be developed.

Campi said the rezoning was pressed forward hurriedly because Tricord's option with Mullins was due to expire at the end of the year. The $12.5 million price tag is so high, Campi added, that Tricord had to have the rezoning approved in order to make the deal feasible.

The Trust is appealing to members to help pay for the purchase. Campi said the acquisition was "just the beginning," however. The Trust hopes to install signs, a walking trail and possibly an informational kiosk in about a year. Donors who give $50 or more to the land purchase will have their names placed on a battlefield plaque.

Also, the Trust has scheduled a tree-planting on the new property during the nonprofit's annual Park Day on April 2. Volunteers will start the replanting of a stand of trees that will recapture the wartime look of the land.

Campi pointed out that the 143 acres is about 100 acres short of the total needed to protect the core battlefield on the Mullins Farm. In late October the Trust sent a letter to Toll Brothers, the Pennsylvania-based homebuilder that has purchased 566 acres from Mullins and plans to go ahead with a major subdivision of single-family homes.

Campi said the Trust is hoping that Toll will agree to sell about 100 acres of battlefield land, which would enable the Trust to extend the 1,000-foot buffer farther along Route 3. At present, Toll's homebuilding would be highly visible from the highway and immediately adjacent to the battlefield park, Campi said.

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