Effort launched to save battle site
Village proposed at Chancellorsville
BY KIRAN KRISHNAMURTHY
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
08/01/2002 Richmond Times-Dispatch
CHANCELLORSVILLE - A coalition of national and local preservationists launched a campaign yesterday to save the Civil War's Chancellorsville Battlefield from a planned 2,350-home residential and commercial development.
"Its history demands that it become a national park and not an office park,"said Joy M. Oakes, spokeswoman for the 350,000-member National Parks Conservation Association.
Dogwood Development Group of Reston has proposed creating a village of 19th century-style homes and 2.4 million square feet of shops and offices on 790 acres of Spotsylvania County farmland bordering the 1,600-acre battlefield's official boundaries.
Preservationists say the development will mar the rural landscape, contribute to traffic congestion west of Fredericksburg and lead to higher taxes.
The company has yet to win approval of a rezoning from the county's planning commission or Board of Supervisors. The newly formed Coalition to Save Chancellorsville Battlefield yesterday urged area residents and people across the nation to press county supervisors to reject the developer's plans for a village of 10,000 people. Meanwhile, preservationists are also trying to buy the property.
"Chancellorsville is a national treasure," said O. James Lighthizer, president of the 41,000-member Civil War Preservation Trust. "The battlefield's address may be in Virginia, but this hallowed shrine belongs to the entire country."
Lighthizer said Chancellorsville ranks as one of the "big three" Civil War battlefields, along with Gettysburg and Antietem. The May 1863 campaign resulted in about 30,000 Union and Confederate casualties, including the mortal wounding of Confederate Lt. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has listed the battlefield as one of the nation's most endangered historic sites.
Reached yesterday, Dogwood president Ray Smith said his proposed Town of Chancellorsville, designed by the planners of Walt Disney's Celebration town in Florida, is a "smart-growth" idea that would allow people to work where they live. He also noted that the county recently designated the area as a place for such development and that the proposed Outer Connector beltway around Fredericksburg is planned through the property.
Smith said he has offered to preserve 34 acres where some of the first fighting occurred May 1, 1863, and to donate it to the county for use as a park.
"I think we're doing the right thing," Smith said. He noted that the land is not currently within the 800 acres that the federal government has authorized the National Park Service to add to the battlefield.
Officials with the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, which includes the battlefield, say development outside park boundaries ultimately affects the quality of their programs.
Smith is scheduled to meet tomorrow with Central Virginia Battlefields Trust officials, who are interested in buying at least 300 acres of the land. John D. Mitchell, president of the Fredericksburg-based trust, said the group would be willing to buy Smith's option on the land. Smith would not divulge the amount of his option with the current landowner.
Spotsylvania's planning commission is expected to consider a rezoning for the project in September, with supervisors to take up the matter in October.
Smith said he hopes to break ground next year and complete the project over at least 10 years. Upon completion, he estimates, the county would see $11million in revenue annually, after taking into account the costs of services for residents. He also estimates his company would be donating $19 million in property for roads, public safety and at least one school.
Preservationists contend the land would be more valuable as open space, saying tourists pumped $35 million annually into the local economy in the mid-1990s. They add that the county would not have to pay for services if the land is preserved.
The coalition includes the Civil War Preservation Trust, the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Spotsylvania Preservation Foundation Inc., the National Parks Conservation Association, the Spotsylvania Battlefield Education Association and Friends of Fredericksburg Area Battlefields.
Civil War site eyed for a subdivision
By Jeff Barnes
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
A new battle is brewing on the Chancellorsville, Va., battlefield where Confederate Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson defeated the Union Army 139 years ago.
This time, Civil War preservationists are facing off against a developer with plans to build a new, 2,350-home community on the historic site.
The 788-acre community would be built on the site where the three-day Battle of Chancellorsville began on May 1, 1863.
A coalition of preservation groups, dubbed "The Coalition To Save Chancellorsville Battlefield," held a press conference yesterday to seek support in the fight against the planned community, which is expected to include more than 2.4 million square feet in commercial and office space in rural Spotsylvania County.
"Chancellorsville is a national treasure," said Jim Lighthizer, president of the Civil War Preservation Trust. "The battlefield's address may be in Virginia, but this hallowed shrine belongs to the entire country."
Ray Smith, a developer and president of the Dogwood Development Group of Reston, the group that would build the community, held an information session on Sunday detailing the plan to about 75 Spotsylvania County residents.
Yesterday, he said the public's general reaction has been generally receptive. "The only opposition I've heard is from these preservation groups," Mr. Smith said. "From what I've heard, the county loves it."
Mr. Smith said a 34-acre park in the center of the development would adequately preserve the battle site, which he said took place on only 15 acres - which would be enclosed in the park.
The history surrounding the battlefield is not the only concern of the coalition.
Traffic is expected to increase from about 30,000 cars on Route 3 each day to more than 100,000, threatening the quiet, rural landscape.
"At best, it's ill-advised," Mr. Lighthizer said. "At worst, it will be a and-use disaster. It will literally be a city situated in the middle of a cow pasture. Something this ... size will totally change the quality of life."
Mr. Smith's group is asking the Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors to rezone the agricultural land to allow for homes, schools, libraries and other public amenities.
A final decision regarding the land will be made in late October. If approved, the community would take 10 to 12 years to develop, Mr. Smith said.
The coalition plans to hold more sessions like yesterday's to increase the public's awareness of the effect the development might have on the area, Mr. Lighthizer said.
"They believe these tales that these 'sunshine salesmen' called developers tell them," he said.
Members of the coalition include the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust, the Civil War Preservation Trust, Friends of Fredericksburg Area Battlefields, the National Parks Conservation Association, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Spotsylvania Battlefield Education Association and the Spotsylvania Preservation Foundation Inc.
Second Battle Of Chancellorsville Brewing
Land Development Debated
07/31/2002 NBC 4 Washington
Copyright 2002 by nbc4.com. All rights reserved.
CHANCELLORSVILLE, Va. -- A battle is brewing in Chancellorsville, Va., over the fate of a piece of land.
In 1863, Gen. Stonewall Jackson and a handful of Confederate soldiers turned back a huge Union contingent in Chancellorsville.
It is considered one of the greatest victories of the Confederate Army during the Civil War.
Now a developer wants to have 800 acres of the land, west of Fredericksburg, re-zoned to build stores, restaurants and 2,400 homes. The land is already zoned residential, but it would need to be rezoned to allow higher-density construction that the developer is planning.
A coalition of preservation groups is fighting to stop the development, saying that it would ruin the character of the area.
The developer says he would save 34 acres for a battlefield park.
The coalition says development would ruin the character of the area.
Spotsylvania County is setting up a public hearing for late August. A decision could come in October.
Preservation groups fight development on battlefield land
By MATTHEW BARAKAT
Associated Press Writer
07/31/2002 Associated Press Newswires Copyright 2002.
The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.
CHANCELLORSVILLE, Va. (AP) - Preservation groups are gearing up for what they call the second battle of Chancellorsville, a fight to stop a planned 2,350-home development that would cover several hundred acres of the historic Civil War battlefield.
Dogwood Development Group of Reston is seeking to rezone nearly 800 acres of agricultural land for a planned community with townhouses, condominiums and single-family homes. The development would also include more than 2 million square feet of commercial space, and would set aside 34 acres for a battlefield park.
The three-day Battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863 is considered one of the Confederate Army's greatest victories. It emboldened Gen. Robert E. Lee to attack Union territory, resulting in his defeat at Gettysburg two months later. Also during the battle, Confederate Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson was mistakenly shot by his own men and died from the wound a few days later. The two armies suffered a combined 30,000 casualties.
John Hennessy, acting superintendent of the national park that already includes about 1,600 acres of land from the battle, said Chancellorsville is "probably the most studied battle in American military history. (Retired Gen. Norman) Schwartzkopf cited it as his model for Desert Storm."
At a news conference Wednesday, Civil War Preservation Trust President Jim Lighthizer warned that the massive development would ruin the character of the surrounding land.
"The address is local but its importance to the heritage of the country is national," he said.
But Ray Smith, president of Dogwood Development Group, said the land in question is relatively insignificant. He also said the development would provide the amenities needed to draw tourists to the national park where the battle's story is told.
Also, he said the most historically significant part of the land is a 55-acre tract that is already zoned for commercial development. Under his plan, much of that tract will be set aside for a battlefield park instead of development.
"We want to go in and do a nice quality job," Smith said. "We want to go and create a real town, and put in the amenities to serve tourists."
John D. Mitchell, president of the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust,which has bought numerous tracts to preserve them from development, disputed the assertion that the land in question was insignificant.
"We don't buy every piece of land that some soldier has walked on," Mitchell said. "This is truly hallowed ground. This is where men died and suffered to make the nation what it is today."
Lighthizer said his and other preservation groups have had discussions about buying the land themselves, but little progress has been made. Lighthizer's organization has been successful in the past in leading coalitions of Civil War buffs, environmentalists and slow-growth advocates to stop development projects throughout the South, often by purchasing the land.
"Virginia is slowly coming around to recognizing the need to preserve battlefields," He said. "Four or five years ago that wasn't the case."
The Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors is expected to decide whether to rezone the land in October.
Metro Developer Runs Into Stonewall; Plan to Build Community at Chancellorsville
Sets Up Fight With Preservationists
Linda Wheeler Washington Post Staff Writer
07/31/ 2002 The Washington Post
Copyright 2002, The Washington Post Co. All Rights Reserved
Confederate Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson performed a bit of magic on May 1, 1863, when he and a handful of soldiers drove a huge Union contingent into retreat on the first day of the Battle of Chancellorsville. Within three days, he and his boss, Gen. Robert E. Lee, would grab certain victory from the Federals, using cunning in place of strength.
Today, the second battle of Chancellorsville begins.
A coalition of seven preservation groups has scheduled a news conference this morning to announce a campaign to save the first-day battlefield -- 788 acres on Route 3 about four miles west of Fredericksburg -- from a proposed residential and commercial development. Portions of the adjacent land where the battle raged on the second and third days already have been protected.
"This development will overwhelm the existing historic [battlefield] park and the whole area," said James Lighthizer, president of the Civil War Preservation Trust, a coalition member. "Forget the battlefield and just look at what this would do to the quality of life people now have. It would be greatly diminished by traffic and congestion."
Developer Ray Smith, president of Dogwood Development Group of Reston, plans to build a new town of Chancellorsville -- 2,350 single-family homes, townhouses, condominiums and apartments and 2.4 million square feet of commercial space. The original Chancellorsville consisted of a single tavern that was destroyed during the war.
On Sunday, before a crowd of about 75 Spotsylvania County residents, Smith said he envisioned a planned community where residents could walk to grocery stores, the library and school and drive to jobs within the town. He spoke for about 45 minutes without notes, mentioning four-star hotels, bicycle paths, wetlands preservation and his love of bird-watching.
"We want to build something that is friendly to history, friendly to the Civil War period," he said, adding that the residential architecture would reflect housing built between 1800 and 1900.
Smith said that the first day's battle had little significance -- and that what action there was occurred at the property's eastern end. If the project goes forward, Smith will carve out 34 acres for the county to maintain as a battlefield park, he said.
"He has picked out a piece, a snapshot of the continuum," said John Hennessy, acting superintendent of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County Battlefields Memorial National Military Park, created by Congress in 1927. "Events occurred as a running battle up and down Route 3. The whole thing is significant."
Historians call Chancellorsville one of the "big three" battles, with Antietam and Gettysburg. Although they still study it for Lee's brilliant planning and Jackson's bold maneuvering, it may be best remembered as the battle in which Jackson was fatally wounded by friendly fire on the second day. His left arm was amputated, and he died of infection eight days later.
But Hennessy said he agrees with Lighthizer that the issue is less history than the development's impact on rural Spotsylvania County and the national park that adjoins the site of the proposed new town.
Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, another coalition member, said he has similar concerns.
"The threat of uncontrolled growth in the Chancellorsville area led us to name it one of America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in 1998," he said "Now, four years later, proposals for a fake 'historic town' and the outer connector highway have made the threat even worse."
The coalition warns that the proposed development would increase traffic on Route 3 from 40,000 vehicles a day to as many as 110,000 per day.
The other coalition members are the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust, Friends of Fredericksburg Area Battlefields, the National Parks Conservation Association, the Spotsylvania Battlefield Education Association and the Spotsylvania Preservation Foundation.
In addition to their fundraising campaign, coalition members plan to testify at public hearings on Smith's rezoning request. County administrator Anthony W. Barrett said part of the property is zoned for residential development -- a total of 225 houses -- and part for commercial.
At Sunday's gathering, several residents said they liked the current zoning, which they said would allow one house for each two acres. Some told Smith they didn't want his large-scale development anywhere in the county ("What's wrong with the slow life?" asked 61-year-old Lewis Gentry), while others said they liked parts of it.
Barrett said a meeting will be held in late August so Smith can present his plan to county residents before the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors consider it.