PEC supports legal challenge to Orange County Wilderness Crossing rezoning

Warrenton, Va. – (May 26, 2023) –  On May 24, 2023, the American Battlefield Trust, Central Virginia Battlefields Trust, Inc., Friends of Wilderness Battlefield, Inc., and a number of Orange County and Spotsylvania County residents filed a legal challenge to the recent approval by the Orange County Board of Supervisors of the rezoning of 2,600 acres in the county, known as Wilderness Crossing, at the gateway to the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. The lawsuit cites several violations of state constitutional and statutory law and county zoning ordinance, including procedural errors, lack of required submittals and findings, and failure to comply with the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, among other errors.

“We commend and wholeheartedly support our Wilderness Battlefield Coalition partners in the legal challenge, and stand ready to share our expertise and provide assistance,” said Piedmont Environmental Council President Chris Miller. “PEC staff has developed extensive knowledge of the rezoning and its impacts from its engagement as a part of the community, and will be following and participating in any next steps, such as transmission line routing and substation siting discussions with Dominion Energy and Rappahannock Electric Cooperative and/or site remediation discussions with the applicant and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.”

The Piedmont Environmental Council believes this rezoning is deeply flawed and that this illegal decision by Orange County has far-reaching ramifications for the entire Va. Route 3 corridor, the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area, water quality for downstream communities, and Virginia’s electrical grid. “The Board of Supervisors willfully disregarded the intent of the Comprehensive Plan and violated the county’s own zoning provisions and state law,” Miller said.

“More broadly, the principles of transparency contained in the Virginia Freedom of Information Act have been disregarded by the Board, including by entry into non-disclosure agreements with unknown parties to deny the Planning Commission and the general public important details of the industrial uses being proposed. As a consequence, both the known environmental hazards of the site arising from its extensive history of gold mining, as well as the enormous impacts resulting from increased traffic, energy consumption, and on local services such as schools and water supply, have been unaddressed by the developer and effectively shielded from evaluation by the Planning Commission and scrutiny by the public. The impact on the Wilderness Battlefield, part of the Congressionally-designated Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area, has also been ignored by the Board in its rush to development,” said Miller. 

For more information, please see the American Battlefield Trust press release and legal challenge, or call Don McCown, PEC’s Orange County Field Representative at 434-977-2033 x7047.

The Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) works to protect and restore the lands and waters of the Virginia Piedmont, while building stronger, more sustainable communities. Founded in 1972, PEC is a locally based, community-supported 501(c)3 nonprofit and accredited land trust. At the core of PEC’s approach is a focus on educating, engaging and empowering people to effect positive change in their communities.