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Walmart redeploys
Walmart chooses an 'unacceptable' location

Date published: 5/25/2011

WALMART'S site-scouting teams evidently need extra training, or perhaps an eye examination. In June of 2009, an official with the retail colossus rejected as inadequate every proposed alternative to the firm's Orange County site choice that so galled heritage-conscious Americans on the eve of the Civil War Sesquicentennial. No other place would do, the Bentonville corporatus declared, but the site a quarter-mile from the entrance to the Wilderness battlefield park, within the territory where Lee and Grant first tangled.

But, as it turns out, another site will do, and it is one that was well-known to Walmart even as it planted its smiley-face flag on the threshold of the Wilderness abattoir, there to flutter alongside Old Glory and the Stars and Bars. The new site is four miles west of the original, on property owned by A&K Development, which was pitching hard to Walmart two years ago but getting no swings.

This year, to much acclaim by the preservation groups that had haled it--or, rather, haled the rah-rah Orange Board of Supervisors--to court on technical challenges, Walmart surrendered, agreeing to build elsewhere in the county. But if this was excellent news to the incorporated defenders of history, which could claim victory over Goliath after battening their coffers with the contributions of the aroused, many others simply wondered: What took Walmart so cussedly long? From congressmen and state politicians (though not, alas, the state's governor or junior U.S. senator) to actors to Pulitzer-winning historians, many had raised a hue and cry about this modern-day moneychangers-in-the-Temple story for nearly two years.

Back in 2009, Walmart claimed that only the battlefield-encroaching site near the crossing of State Routes 3 and 20 met its three criteria: It was commercially zoned; it offered at least 20 acres of store and parking space; it lay within a single parcel. But A&K's tract met all those requirements: That's why Walmart is preparing to build its Supercenter there now.

Given the deleterious effect Walmart has had on the flavor and affluence of American life--killing off local businesses, forcing its product suppliers to move factories to China in service of its ever-lower-prices credo--it is probably unfortunate that the whole chain did not relocate some years ago to Chapter 7. But Walmart's relocation of the Orange store is still a boon and, 150 years after Blue first clashed with Gray, something to celebrate.