As students at the College of William and Mary, we all live in the “Historic Triangle.” Besides being college students, we are local residents and voters, and we have a vested interest in what goes on in Williamsburg. Currently, the Williamsburg Planning Commission is considering a project that will potentially develop 337 acres of land. A major portion of this property constitutes the core battlefield of the Battle of Williamsburg. Due to our close proximity to Colonial Williamsburg, local history outside of this time frame is often overlooked.
The Battle of Williamsburg was a Civil War battle fought as part of the Peninsula Campaign, the Federal drive on the Confederate capital of Richmond. On May 5, 1862, over 70,000 soldiers fought in Williamsburg. The 3,800 men who were killed or injured should not be forgotten. The July 2009 Civil War Sites Advisory Council of the National Parks Service designated this as “core battlefield property,” yet it is currently being considered for development.
The proposal was presented by Riverside Healthcare, which wants to build on 337 acres of property between Route 60, Quarterpath Road and Route 199. Their goal is to build: a 150-bed hospital, 200,000 square feet of medical office space, a 120-bed nursing home, 95 single-family dwellings, 397 senior and attached dwellings, 882 condominium and townhouse units, 202,000 square feet of office space and 400,000 square feet of space for a shopping center.
While the hospital and nursing home are worthy causes, not all options have been considered. If these two structures were built on the southern section of the lot, near the new Harris Teeter, they would be outside of the core battlefield. They would also provide a necessary service to the community, create the intended jobs and revenue, and still save a historically significant property.
A push to build more housing, office space and shopping, considering the current economy, seems misguided. Foreclosures and bankruptcy are still common, and there are still vacancies in current office and housing space. The burden of upkeep for the utilities and roads that would service these potential developments would fall on local residents. For those of you living off campus, this means higher local taxes.
As College students, we are a voice in local politics. We pride ourselves on being able to make a difference, so now is the time to act. The next meeting of the Williamsburg Planning Commission is Nov. 12 at 3:30 p.m. in the Stryker Building at 412 North Boundary St. Please go and voice your opinion. Also, join the “Save the Williamsburg Battlefield” Facebook group to show your support and to stay informed about new developments. If you are unable to attend the meeting, check the Facebook page for the names and e-mail addresses of the commission members. E-mailing only takes a few minutes and can have a great impact.
Locals have the ability to influence how and if this development is approved. It is our duty to preserve this historically significant land for future generations and to remember the sacrifices of those who made it important.
E-mail Jen Garrott at firstname.lastname@example.org.