Archive for the ‘Centre at Staunton’ Category

The Daily News Leader staff changed the title, but my letter to the editor was published in today’s paper. I wrote this letter about The Centre at Staunton because the press was only covering the economic and monetary issues associated with the development. I wanted to ensure that other concerns (i.e. cultural, environmental, aesthetic) were brought to the discussion so that the development that gets built successfully caters to the needs of the City of Staunton and its residents.

I recognize that the property in question is privately owned and the owners are entitled to develop it in any manner that is deemed appropriate by local zoning laws, but I wanted to point out that the general public will experience some of the positives and negatives that the development will bring. Thus, we should have a voice in how it is designed.

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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.

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.