Officials Approve Wal-Mart Near Va. Battlefield

After much controversy, officials in central Virginia approved plans to build a Wal-Mart Supercenter early Tuesday near one of the nation's most historic Civil War battlefields. The plan has caused quite a stir in the surrounding community and across the nation.

Hundreds of preservationists, politicians and local residents congregated at Orange County High School Monday evening to opine on whether a Wal-Mart Supercenter should be built near the Wilderness battlefield in central Virginia.

In a 4-1 vote, the Orange County Board of Supervisors granted a permit to the world's biggest retailer, according to The Associated Press. Wal-Mart said construction could begin in a year.

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Those who descended on the event were not afraid to show their colors, some donning attire from the Civil War and others wearing the Wal-Mart smiley face, among other costumes.

In the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression, you might think that a company's proposal to build a superstore that would generate more than 300 jobs and around $500,000 annually in new tax revenues would be greeted with open arms.

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But you'd be wrong. In this area, the proposal triggered fightin' words.

On the same ground where a Civil War battle was fought almost a century and a half ago, Wal-Mart waged a fight to build a new superstore. But the proposal was met with opposition from around the country, with Washington lawmakers and Hollywood actors trying to fend off the company's plans.

The issue has been the superstore's proximity to the Wilderness battlefield, where on May 5, 1864, more than 160,000 soldiers fought a battle in the midst of the Civil War.

Critics say the new Wal-Mart would be too close to the battlefield. Not to mention, Wal-Mart already has four stores in a 20-mile radius of the area. Multiple state leaders, including Gov. Tim Kaine, have come down against the proposed site for the store.

In a July 13 letter to the board of supervisors, Kaine, along with House of Delegates Speaker William Howell, a Republican, wrote, "[W]e strongly encourage your board to work closely with Wal-Mart to find an appropriate alternative site for the proposed retail center in the vicinity of the proposed site yet situated outside the boundaries of Wilderness Battlefield and out of the view of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park."

Lawmakers from other states, such as Rep. Pete Welch, D-Vt., have also weighed in with their opposition. Welch became involved because more than 1,200 soldiers from Vermont died in a single day on the battlefield.

"A shopping center? That's not quite what we had in mind to honor their memories," he said in an interview with ABC News.

Welch wants Wal-Mart to take the store somewhere else.

"Can Wal-Mart move its store down the road 10 miles and create the same jobs? The answer is yes -- it just creates a little effort and a little inconvenience," he said. "I don't think their future depends on paving over battlefields of extraordinary historical significance."

Out-of-Towners and Celebrities Oppose Wal-Mart's Plans

In February, Welch and Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, wrote a letter of opposition to Wal-Mart president Lee Scott. Even actor Robert Duvall got in on it, joining forces with Welch and Poe.

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