Concerns About the Centre at Staunton

Yesterday I wrote a letter to the editor at the Daily News Leader with the hope that it would be published in today’s paper. Unfortunately, I haven’t heard anything from the editorial staff, and my letter was not published. Nevertheless, my message will be heard today…

The Frontier Culture Museum has done an excellent job of preserving the culture of our ancestors, and the Museum exemplifies Staunton’s ideals and values. However, the Frontier Culture Museum’s new retail development, The Centre at Staunton, seems contradictory to the Museum’s preservation efforts as it threatens the City’s economic, environmental, and cultural fabric.

The Centre at Staunton is a clear case of private benefits versus public costs. The Frontier Culture Museum will benefit from its property leases and the influx of patrons to the Museum. The City will benefit from the increase in retail sales and the rise of tourism. Local residents will benefit from the variety of new shopping and employment opportunities.

Unfortunately, the long-term costs of the development will be shifted to the general public and future generations. The new stores will increase traffic and greenhouse gas emissions since it is only reachable via car. The new rooftops and parking lots will increase the stormwater runoff into our local streams and stormwater drains. The new retail center will be another piece of the haphazard strip of development which visually disconnects Richmond Road from the rest of the City. The retail center will detract from downtown Staunton as shoppers abandon the local businesses in favor of the more familiar national chains and big-box stores.

The City and its residents have invested endless amounts of time, money, and energy into the renovation of downtown Staunton, and we should work to protect our investment. In an age of rising energy costs, global climate change, and economic turmoil, does it make sense to develop in areas that lack infrastructure and people?

In the memory of our forefathers and Independence Day, I would like to see the Frontier Culture Museum engage the citizens of Staunton in an open, democratic forum to discuss the issues of the new development. We owe it to ourselves, our predecessors, and future Stauntonians to evaluate the best land use for the Frontier Culture Museum’s property.

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