CONSERVATION GROUPS JOIN FORCES TO SAVE CHANCELLORSVILLE BATTLEFIELD
The Coalition to Save Chancellorsville Battlefield is an informal group of national and local preservation, conservation and civic groups who share an abiding interest in preserving and protecting Chancellorsville battlefield. The coalition seeks to raise awareness of the value of battlefield protection and the urgent threats Chancellorsville battlefield now faces. Chancellorsville Battlefield is an historic resource of national significance, and its preservation yields both local and national benefits.
Chancellorsville was one of the most significant battles of the Civil War. The battle involved nearly 200,000 Union and Confederate soldiers and resulted in more than 30,000 casualties. According to the American Battlefield Protection Program, only 1,844 acres of the 21,874 acre battlefield are protected. The National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Civil War Preservation Trust have identified Chancellorsville as one of the most endangered historic places in the nation.
The primary goal of the coalition is to promote long-term preservation of the Chancellors- ville battlefield and its environs. This involves both combating immediate preservation threats to the battlefield as well as pursuing enduring solutions to the development pressures that will continue to threaten the battlefield for the foreseeable future.
The immediate threats to the integrity of the battlefield are (1) the proposed Outer Connector bypass that would skirt the battlefield and serve as a magnet for the type of suburban sprawl that has already enveloped the Salem Church unit of Chancellorsville battlefield; and (2) the 2,350-home "town center" development planned for the 781-acre Mullins tract - the site of fighting during the first day of the five-day battle. The combination of these two threats would obliterate significant portions of the battlefield; spoil the viewshed of the eastern rim of the park; play havoc on traffic through the area (the National Park Service as indicated that the town center development alone would add 70,000 daily vehicle trips through the park); and damage the tourism potential of Chancellorsville battlefield and other units of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.
Seven nonprofit organizations have already agreed to join the coalition. They are: the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust (CVBT); the Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT); Friends of Fredericksburg Area Battlefields (FoFAB); the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA); the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP); the Spotsylvania Battlefield Education Association (SBEA); and the Spotsylvania Preservation Foundation, Inc. (SPFI). For links to the individual websites of coalition members, click here
At a news conference this morning, July 31, 2002, at Old Salem Church, the groups announced they have formed the "Coalition to Save Chancellorsville Battlefield".
SBEA Spokesperson - Robert Lee Hodge 7/31/02
August 2, 2002 1:01 am
Developmental giantism sets its sights on Spotsylvania County
YOU SAY you're feeling glum that there aren't more cars on local roads? You say the sight of farmland and wildwood makes your heart wax heavy? Cheer up. The Lee's Parke project in Spotsylvania County promises to help chase away those not-quite-gridlocked, underbuilt blues.
If cleared by county officials, Lee's Parke would put 2,250 new homes in northeastern Spotsylvania--normally not something to cheer in a county plagued by the harpies of too-much-too-fast growth. Not to worry. "It will help the community," promises a spokesman for the project's designer, Fried Companies Inc. of Springfield. True, Springfield is not everyone's idea of Community Beautiful--behold the Mixing Bowl--but let's move on.
Fried Companies points out that Lee's Parke, which would include retail sections, would dedicate more than a third of its homes to older people without school-age children to publicly teach. Also, the high cost of the project's houses--most would be around $300,000, more than twice the county average--would generate some fancy tax revenues. Such an upscale development, it is suggested, would impart an unspecified uplift to a part of the county not inaccurately described as "the boonies." And here's the real sweetener: Fried would build 2.3 miles of the proposed, but unfunded, 22-mile Spotsylvania Parkway. This leg--or legette--immediately would carry shoppers from Lee's Parke to Leavells Road, bypassing the heavy traffic around Four-Mile Fork.
Add up this, that, and t'other, says Fried, and the county each year would come out $5.3 million in taxes to the good.
But there is another side to the ledger. Even discounting for the empty-nesters, about 1,000 new children would enter the already-stressed county school system. Furthermore, Lee's Parke residents would likely gravitate for some of their shopping to congested Big Box Boulevard--State Route 3-- and Central Park, worsening the crawl through the sprawl. And, finally, Lee's Parke, despite its sidewalks and open space, represents more of yesterday's growth. Retail stores are not integrated into the neighborhood, except in one small section that includes a proposed library. Mostly they are set apart, making most routine shop visits automobile-dependent.
Elsewhere in the county there exists a truly progressive plan for development--not merely the old paradigm with jazzed-up proffers. That development is named (New) Chancellorsville. It would be an architectural mosaic of retail, residential, and industrial uses, allowing people to work and shop where they live, perhaps passing entire days without occupying a car. The buildings would be of 19th-century design, serving the Civil War theme set by the adjacent battlefield. On the site are planned commuter lots that would reduce individual vehicle trips onto Route 3.
Alas, this Chancellorsville would be home to about 6,000 people. Despite its commendable mitigations, it's just too large a project to set smack-dab beside historic holy land, the Chancellorsville battlefield, and hard by one of the most-frequently snarled highways in the Fredericksburg area.
Lee's Parke: right place for development but the wrong style. Chancellorsville: right style but the wrong place. Both projects: too big. Our region's best future lies in preserving and highlighting its difference from built-out, sardine-crowded, frenetic Northern Virginia--a difference that diminishes with each super-sized development that local officials bless.
Copyright 2001 The Free Lance-Star Publishing Company.
Developer's Plans Run Into Stonewall
Groups Fighting Proposed Community at Chancellorsville
By Linda Wheeler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 31, 2002; Page B01
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, he 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.
Connector could be born again
June 6, 2002 12:59 am
The Free Lance-Star
RICHMOND--It appears likely that the Commonwealth Transportation Board will resurrect the Outer Connector. But it will remain on life support.
State transportation officials heard two hours of testimony yesterday, during which several local officials urged them to restore $23 million allocated for the proposed highway around Fredericksburg removed this spring.
Though it is not likely that amount would be restored, a much smaller sum--$250,000 for studies--may find its way back into the plan.
Another area project also drew attention at the hearing. Several speakers asked the board to protect proposed improvements to the Carmel Church-Bowling Green exit at Interstate 95 in Caroline County. That project remains in jeopardy.
CTB members are expected to approve the state's six-year road-building plan June 20.
Stafford County Administrator C.M. Williams, speaking on behalf of the area's transportation district, told the board $4 million in taxpayer money had already been spent to study the Outer Connector.
Dropping the project from this year's road-building plan could invalidate those studies, Williams said. And that would set the project back years. For $250,000, the process could continue even without any imminent construction money coming.
It is that cash which several transportation officials said may be returned in two weeks.
Spotsylvania County Administrator Anthony Barrett and McGuireWoods consultant Jackie Stone also asked the CTB to restore the money, even if it meant adding tolls or special taxing districts to raise the funds.
Stone represents the Dogwood Development--a proposed new subdivision along State Route 3, which she said intends to donate some land for the highway.
Yesterday's hearing was one of several held to let residents and local governments react to the scaled-back, six-year budget that deletes road projects the state can no longer afford.
The $7.2 billion tentative budget is $2.9 billion less than originally anticipated because of a downturn in the economy, a drop in federal transportation dollars and more pressing needs elsewhere in the state.
The 14-county Fredericksburg District loses nearly $161 million under the plan, which no longer includes work on the Falmouth intersection in Stafford or State Route 3 in Spotsylvania or either Caroline I-95 interchange.
The nine-county Culpeper District loses nearly $128 million. Plans to build an interchange at U.S. 17 and State Route 28 in Bealeton have been dropped for the time being.
To see the budget, visit VDOT's Web site at virginiadot.org.
Copyright 2001 The Free Lance-Star Publishing Company.
Other Chancellorsville Coalition Articles