DNL’s Editorial on The Centre at Staunton

The following is the complete editorial from this morning’s Daily News Leader. The editorial staff defends the Frontier Culture Museum and The Centre at Staunton.

Staff writer Lauren Fulbright’s story on a retail center proposed for what are now rolling hills in front of the Frontier Culture Museum had people talking when it appeared Wednesday morning.

Why does Staunton need another large retail center, newsleader.com viewers asked? What about the beautiful vista? And oh, no, they’ll have to tear down the beautiful old DeJarnette Center buildings!

Whether a fan of green space or upscale shopping, we each have a voice in this battle — and that’s a sign of a healthy community. We remember well the first run the Frontier Culture Museum board of trustees took at leasing a chunk of its land.

It was in the late 1990s. Sheetz Inc. was in negotiations with the museum board to lease part of the 40-acre parcel granted to the museum as state surplus in 1997. The lease made sense for the museum, which seemed to have stalled as a destination with its heritage farmsteads. Sheetz would pay $90,000 a year to lease the three acres. It was a 10-year lease, and in the end, Sheetz made the following promises:

  • Make contributions to the American Frontier Culture Foundation.
  • Help support promotions of museum programs.
  • Advertise the museum and its events on its own signs, such as those on gas pumps.
  • Include architectural, signage and landscaping agreements.

You might remember the vocal community dialogue that went on about those promises made, some of them kept.

But also consider this: In America we have the right to do with our property as we please — within zoning regulations and other relevant laws. And also consider that after Sheetz finally was constructed in 2001, the museum board went back and forth with developers on proposals to redevelop the empty former DeJarnette buildings — and after years of wrangling, couldn’t even find someone to buy them and tear them down.

So here we have Petrie Ross Ventures willing to lease the rest of that 40-acre piece of ground and build the retail center. Centre at Staunton is what it’s called on the company’s Web site.

Don’t like it? Don’t shop there. But understand that plenty of shoppers probably will. The economy, we hope, will turn around, and tour buses will be able to pull off Interstate 81 or 64, line up along the streets and, we also hope, tool on down to downtown Staunton — after a few hours at the Frontier Culture Museum.

Plastic city. Cookie-cutter development. It’ll look like Anytown USA. We’re sure we’ll hear more complaints about the development, and that’s fine.

But when Waynesboro went box store and Wal-Mart opened there, Staunton sure didn’t like its sales tax revenues dropping while Waynesboro’s went up.

Opinions expressed in this feature represent the majority opinion of the newspaper’s editorial board, consisting of: Roger Watson, president and publisher; David Fritz, executive editor; Cindy Corell, community conversations editor; and Jim McCloskey, editorial cartoonist.

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