- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 1, 2002

A new battle is brewing on the Chancellorsville, Va., battlefield where Confederate Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson defeated the Union Army 139 years ago.

This time, Civil War preservationists are facing off against a developer with plans to build a new, 2,350-home community on the historic site.

The 788-acre community would be built on the site where the three-day Battle of Chancellorsville began on May 1, 1863.

A coalition of preservation groups, dubbed "The Coalition To Save Chancellorsville Battlefield," held a press conference yesterday to seek support in the fight against the planned community, which is expected to include more than 2.4 million square feet in commercial and office space in rural Spotsylvania County.

"Chancellorsville is a national treasure," said Jim Lighthizer, president of the Civil War Preservation Trust. "The battlefield's address may be in Virginia, but this hallowed shrine belongs to the entire country."

Ray Smith, a developer and president of the Dogwood Development Group of Reston, the group that would build the community, held an information session on Sunday detailing the plan to about 75 Spotsylvania County residents.

Yesterday, he said the public's general reaction has been generally receptive. "The only opposition I've heard is from these preservation groups," Mr. Smith said. "From what I've heard, the county loves it."

Mr. Smith said a 34-acre park in the center of the development would adequately preserve the battle site, which he said took place on only 15 acres which would be enclosed in the park.

The history surrounding the battlefield is not the only concern of the coalition.

Traffic is expected to increase from about 30,000 cars on Route 3 each day to more than 100,000, threatening the quiet, rural landscape.

"At best, it's ill-advised," Mr. Lighthizer said. "At worst, it will be a land-use disaster. It will literally be a city situated in the middle of a cow pasture. Something this … size will totally change the quality of life."

Mr. Smith's group is asking the Spotsylvania County Board of Supervisors to rezone the agricultural land to allow for homes, schools, libraries and other public amenities.

A final decision regarding the land will be made in late October. If approved, the community would take 10 to 12 years to develop, Mr. Smith said.

The coalition plans to hold more sessions like yesterday's to increase the public's awareness of the effect the development might have on the area, Mr. Lighthizer said.

"They believe these tales that these 'sunshine salesmen' called developers tell them," he said.

Members of the coalition include the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust, the Civil War Preservation Trust, Friends of Fredericksburg Area Battlefields, the National Parks Conservation Association, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Spotsylvania Battlefield Education Association and the Spotsylvania Preservation Foundation Inc.

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