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Decision nears on Wal-Mart near Virginia battlefield

Hundreds of people gathered to speak out on Wal-Mart's bid to build a Supercenter near a famed Civil War battlefield
/ Source: WSLS 10

9:00 p.m. By STEVE SZKOTAK Associated Press Writer     ORANGE, Va. (AP) - Hundreds of people gathered Monday to speak out on Wal-Mart’s bid to build a Supercenter near a famed Civil War battlefield in Virginia.     About 400 speakers streamed into Orange County High School wearing their allegiances on their lapels: Wal-Mart’s signature smiley faces representing store supporters, and green stickers on those seeking a site farther away from the Wilderness Battlefield. The audience included some in Civil War period costumes, including a Robert E. Lee lookalike.     During the first two hours of the hearing, residents spoke in favor of the store by a 2-1 ratio. They cited the needed jobs the store would bring, plus the tax dollars and shopping convenience. Opponents invoked the sanctity of a Civil War battlefield less than one-half mile away.     Depending on how long the hearing lasted, board members were expected to vote later Monday on the special use permit Wal-Mart needs to build near the Wilderness in Locust Grove. A majority is believed to favor Wal-Mart’s application.     In a state with more key Civil War battlefields than any other, Wal-Mart’s plan to build a 138,000-square-foot store near the Wilderness has mobilized historians, preservationists and politicians.     They fear the Wal-Mart store will draw traffic and more commerce to an area within the historic bounds of the Wilderness, where Ulysses S. Grant and Lee first met in battle 145 years ago and where 145,000 Union and Confederate soldiers fought and died. One-fourth of the Wilderness is protected.     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.     Wal-Mart, which has 8,000 stores worldwide and adds about 240 each year, has 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. The county is about 50 miles northwest of Washington, D.C., and has approximately 32,000 residents.     Wal-Mart’s economic pitch seemed to resonate among residents who spoke Monday inside the sweltering school auditorium.     “I know we’ve been referred to as ignorant shoppers,“ said Barbara Wigger. “I feel bad about that but I’ll live with it. Let us have our Wal-Mart and let us stop the battle.“     But Charles Edge said supervisors should not allow Wal-Mart to build on ground “marked by the blood of the fallen.“     “The establishment of a retail chain makes a mockery of that sacrifice,“ he said.     —-     On the Web:     Civil War Preservation Trust: http://tinyurl.com/mkkp8k     Orange County Wal-Mart: http://www.orangewalmart.com/ ——- 2:26 p.m. ORANGE, Va. (AP) - Wal-Mart should know this week if it can build a Supercenter near the Wilderness Battlefield in Virginia.     A hearing in Orange on Monday will likely lead to a vote by the Board of Supervisors on a special use permit the retailer needs to build in Locust Grove near the famed Civil War battlefield.     Historians and Civil War buffs have rallied to oppose the store, which would rise less than a mile from where Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant first met in battle. They contend the store will draw more commerce and traffic     Wal-Mart counters that the site is zoned for commercial use and the store will not be within sight of the battlefield’s 2,700 protected acres.