- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Hundreds of people crowded into a Northern Virginia high school last night to voice their opposition to building a large development of homes, retail and office space on a portion of the Chancellorsville Civil War battlefield.
The opponents included historians and many homeowners clad in Civil War battle costumes. They fear the proposal by Dogwood Development Group of Reston to build 2,000 homes and 1.2 million square feet of retail and office space will cause traffic congestion.
"The concept of this development works. The problem with it is the location," said Kevin Leahy, a Spotsylvania resident. "People moved here to get away from the sprawl, the traffic and the high taxes."
The proposed Town of Chancellorsville complex would sit partly on a 790-acre site called the Mullins Farm, where historians say Union and Confederate soldiers clashed in the spring of 1863.
Civil War enthusiasts consider the Battle of Chancellorsville one of the greatest victories for Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and his top lieutenant, Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, whose forces were considerably outmanned.
The Coalition to Save the Chancellorsville Battlefield, an informal coalition of 12 preservationist groups, said it collected more than 27,000 signatures of people opposed to the plan and more than 15,000 people sent e-mail and letters to county supervisors opposed to the plan.
The Washington-based Civil War Preservation Trust last month named Chancellorsville one of America's most endangered battlefields.
"To destroy a battlefield where our soldiers fought is beyond distressing," said Brian Pohanka, a Civil War historian who lives in Alexandria.
"If we lose this land, it will be impossible for anyone to understand what happened there. It's an insult to the men who bled there."
Spotsylvania County planners voted 5-2 recommending approval of the rezoning last November. But the county Board of Supervisors has generally opposed the development.
The purpose of last night's meeting was to vote on rezoning changes that would allow the development to go forward. The meeting was expected to run into the evening yesterday, and supervisors had not voted by press time.
Both sides of the issue have economists on hand to back up their positions.
Stephen Fuller, a public-policy professor at George Mason University hired by Dogwood Development, said the county would reap about $11.8 million annually from the development.
Economists hired by historic preservationists claim Mr. Fuller underestimated the amount of money that would be needed for school construction, and did not take into account the cost of traffic and congestion.
Supporters of the development said that the debate comes down to individual property rights. The land is currently owned by a private citizen, John Mullins, who has agreed to sell the land to Dogwood. If rezoning is not approved and Dogwood decides not to buy the property, Mr. Mullins said he would find someone else to build on the land under current zoning.
Development supporters also said more commercial growth is needed in order to pay for schools, roads and other necessities for residents. Current developments in Spotsylvania County are about 80 percent residential.
Dogwood and its supporters say about 34 acres of the Mullins Farm site sits on the Chancellorsville battlefield. That acreage will be left undeveloped, they vowed.
But a 1993 study commissioned by the National Park Service said 270 acres to 300 acres of the site is on the battlefield.
Both sides acknowledge, however, that this particular portion of the battlefield is not part of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, so it was not set aside for preservation.

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