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Orange supervisors vote 4-1 to allow 'big-box' retail center
|FULL COVERAGE: View dozens of related stories, multimedia and more on the Wilderness Wal-Mart controversy.|
Supervisor Teri Pace, who cast the lone dissenting vote, suggested an alternative site, and said the county's historic attractions were the key to its economic future.
"This difficult economy will not be solved by Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart is only part of the equation," she said.
In a state with more key Civil War battlefields than any other, the company's plan to build near the Wilderness had mobilized historians, preservationists and politicians.
Opponents include 253 historians such as David McCullough and James M. McPherson, filmmaker Ken Burns, actor Robert Duvall, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, and congressmen from Vermont and Texas, states that lost many men at the Wilderness.
Preservationists could not make the case to the board and many residents said a Walmart would not diminish an area that already is home to two strip malls and about 20 retail shops, including a McDonald's.
Supervisor Mark Johnson, who supported the special permit, berated some members of the preservation community who he said had "twisted the truth" on the historic significance of the site. He argued that history is more than the contours of a battlefield and granite monuments.
"It's the deeds and the lives that our ancestors lived, the sacrifices they made," he said.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which has 8,000 stores worldwide and adds about 240 each year, countered that the site is zoned for commercial use and the store will not be within sight of the battlefield's 2,700 protected acres.
The retailer has also said the store will create hundreds of jobs and generate $800,000 in tax revenue for Orange County.
People streamed into the meeting wearing their allegiances on their lapels: the store's signature smiley faces representing store supporters, and green stickers on those seeking a site farther away from the Wilderness Battlefield. A small army of re-enactors and historic interpreters, such as Al Stone of Hinton, W.Va., who represented Lee, spoke against the store.