- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 29, 2003

The fight over development on part of the Civil War battlefield at Chancellorsville, Va., has heated up again, three months after Spotsylvania County supervisors rejected plans to build a massive mixed-use project on an 800-acre site known as the Mullins Farm.

Historic preservationists who helped stop the first development proposal were locked out of discussions involving a smaller residential development on the site where Union and Confederate soldiers clashed in May 1863.

The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation will hold a public meeting tomorrow to reinject itself into the dialogue over the development.

The Army Corps of Engineers, which would have to approve the development, said it was “terminating consultations” regarding the project. Members of the corps and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources are expected to attend the meeting, along with the Coalition to Preserve the Chancellorsville Battlefield, an informal organization made up of 12 preservation groups.

Discussions will center around plans by property owner John Mullins to build up to 225 homes on the site known as the Orrick Tract, on the northern end of the battlefield. Under the Clean Water Act, he is required to seek a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers for six road crossings of streams.

Spotsylvania County supervisors already have said the development may proceed because it requires no zoning changes. In March, they rejected a request for zoning changes that would have allowed for a much larger development.

Dogwood Development Corp. of Reston had wanted to build more than 2,000 homes and 2 million square feet of commercial space on an 800-acre site.

After the supervisors rejected the zoning changes, Mr. Mullins said he would build on the site using existing rules, which would not allow for commercial development. He could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The advisory council was not involved in stopping Dogwood’s proposal in March, but the Coalition to Preserve the Chancellorsville Battlefield was an outspoken critic of the development.

Representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers could not be reached for comment, but sources close to the process said it is rare for the corps to halt public discussion of a project.

The Free-Lance Star newspaper in Fredericksburg reported that the corps halted discussions with preservation groups after the two sides failed to reach agreement on the scope of the permit and whether more archaeological investigation of the site was needed.

The advisory council, which advises the president and Congress on preservation issues, wants Mr. Mullins to preserve historically significant portions of his property near the area to be developed.

Other groups, including the Coalition to Save the Chancellorsville Battlefield and the Civil War Preservation Trust, desire a compromise that would preserve historic spots and allow development.

“The Army Corps has a lot of flexibility,” said Jim Campi, a spokes-man for the Civil War Preservation Trust. “They could do a much more thorough investigation of the property.”

Tom McCulloch, an archaeologist with the advisory council in charge of the discussions, did not return calls requesting comment.

Tomorrow’s meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. in the Massaponax High School in Fredericksburg.

The land, which is the site of the bulk of the Chancellorsville battle, stands across from Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. It is not protected by federal law. Preservationists insist that the land is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

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