Walmart Battles in Virginia

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Another battle will rage over Wilderness Battlefield on Tuesday, with pens this time, not swords.

    The fight is over a proposed 143,000-square-foot Walmart superstore, slated to be built in Orange County, Virginia.  Walmart and many residents of the area say the store will bring jobs and tax revenue to an area that already has some retail development.

    Walmart's opponents are asking the Arkansas company to go find a site a little farther away from Civil War history to put their new store.

    In 1864, 185,000 Union and Confederate troops fought at Wilderness Battlefield.  Thirty-five thousand soldiers died, were injured, or went missing after the three day battle.  Many historians call the engagement a turning point in the war.

    The new Walmart store is slated to open 1 mile from the entrance of the national park entrance to the battleground site.

    Some big names in history have mustered up against the retailer.  James McPherson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, and noted documentary maker Ken Burns, and Hollywood actor Robert Duvall have all spoken out publicly against the proposed Orange County store.  The group Friends of Wilderness Battlefield have also taken a lead role in protesting the store.

    In 2009, a local planning commission gave Walmart the green light for the store on this site.  Opponents argue that the commission did not properly consider the history of the site, which is why the two sides will meet in court Tuesday.

    Plaintiff's attorney Robert D. Rosenbaum said he plans on bringing descendants of Civil War veterans to testify.

    Walmart says it was being sensitive to historical concerns when it decided upon the Orange County site.  "We believe the board made a careful and thoughtful decision," spokesperson Bill Wertz said, "that balances historic preservation concerns with the need for economic development."

    New Walmart stores have a way of attracting opposing voices.  This week, a group in Washington protested 4 proposed new stores in the District.