More noise about the Wilderness Wal-Mart

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More noise about the Wilderness Wal-Mart

Up in Orange County, the fight continues over a proposed Wal-Mart on the site of the 1864 battle of the Wilderness. (Or just "near the site," depending which side of the fight you’re on.) C-VILLE wrote about this in March; I weighed in here and here, sparking passionate comments from both sides.

My opinion remains unchanged. Whether or not the land is zoned commercial; whether or not soldiers actually camped, marched or died on the exact site of the Wal-Mart; whether or not downtown retailers in Orange unaccountably think they’ll benefit from a Wal-Mart going up 23 miles away—none of that really matters. The important thing is what this has all come to represent: preservation versus development. Some people think history and views and place are more important. Others think shopping and taxes and jobs are more important. Both sides are lined up behind their fences, and their guns are drawn.

As is the case with too many issues, the corporation ultimately has the most power to decide what will happen. The county supes in Orange could throw up roadblocks to an extent, but a majority of them have shown a definite enthusiasm for a big box full of China. Even supervisor Teri Pace, who in C-VILLE’s story expressed opposition, voted to fire a county administrator who advocated compromise.

Teri Pace, who once told C-VILLE: "This is [Orange County’s] gateway, and it is paramount that we do not have our gateway symbolized by a generic big-box." Photo by Ashley Twiggs.

So now Wal-Mart really holds the reins. They could pull out if they decided to. And given the energy the company has put into greening its image, it seems like a no-brainer: Take what’s become a national discussion and use it as an opportunity to prove a commitment to the bigger environmental picture. Better yet, do it before the county supervisors vote on the project’s special-use permit in August. Do it before the public hearing on July 27. Really be the good guys. Pick another site and make a big splashy announcement.

I still won’t shop there, but it’s clear a lot of people will. I hope they bring their own bags.

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