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Ferry Farm vs. Wal-Mart

Date published: 6/14/2009

HERE IS A brief review of the Ferry Farm boyhood home of George Washington versus Wal-Mart land acquisition as it may apply to the Wilderness Wal-Mart site. It is based on my perspective as chairman of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors at that time and as president of the George Washington Boyhood Home Foundation.

Stafford County, through the personal efforts of Alvin Bandy and Ferris Belman (members of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors) was given 36 acres of the original Washington farm by the Samuel P. Warren family. The county subsequently gave this property to the GWBHF for development. An adjacent 26 acres was rezoned commercial as part of the terms of this gift.

When Wal-Mart contracted to purchase the 26-acre property adjoining the original 36-acre gift, there was major opposition from local, national, and international historic preservationists and organizations--not unlike the Wilderness battlefield situation.

In Stafford County's case, the Board of Supervisors worked with Wal-Mart, the GWBHF, the Warren family, and the Kenmore Association to seek a win-win solution. The members of the board felt an ethical, orange, and moral obligation to honor their word to the Warren family for their gift. After considerable effort by the Stafford County Board of Supervisors, a nearby alternative location for the Wal-Mart was identified.

Numerous concessions were made by the county to assist Wal-Mart. The Kenmore Association agreed to purchase the adjacent 26 acres from the Warren family, and the GWBHF agreed to transfer its ownership of the original 36-acre boyhood-home site and artifacts to the Kenmore Association. Kenmore agreed to develop this site.

Through the efforts of many serious-minded individuals, a win-win conclusion was achieved. Ferry Farm, a priceless historic site, is now well protected and being developed by George Washington Foundation (formerly the Kenmore Association). Wal-Mart provides a desired shopping option for local consumers and an increasing number of jobs. Stafford County taxpayers have benefited by covering the debt payment on a new high school with tax revenue from Wal-Mart. Finally, the Warren family's property rights were protected.

Lyle Ray Smith is former chairman of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors. He lives in Stafford County.