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Why a proposed Varina development is worrying some neighbors

Why a proposed Varina development is worrying some neighbors
Posted at 5:27 PM, Dec 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-22 09:41:41-05

VARINA, Va. -- If a proposed development is built in Varina, some neighbors fear it will steamroll a crucial part of history.

The subdivision of more than 700 homes would be built on 420 acres just east of Interstate 295 and Route 5.

Some neighbors are convinced that the project will have a negative impact on the new Market Heights Battlefield and the Holly Springs Aquifer.

The battlefield is a place where 14 members of the United States Colored Troops earned medals of honor for valor in the Civil War attack on Confederate forces.

"The precise place where the colored troops attacked to the west of here is important to save that obviously. But you don't understand the battle unless you preserve this part of the battlefield because this dictated the whole shape of the battle because of its impregnable nature," Damon Radcliffe said.

Radcliffe's great, great grandfather Edward Radfcliffe was among the 14 U.S. Colored Troops. He recounts how emotional it is to visit the battlefield that he knows his relative fought on.

"It's kind of surreal knowing that my family had such a significant part in history as well as several other family members. When you are able to step foot in your family heritage where they set foot 20 or 400 years ago, it's just a surreal feeling and you get a sense of pride," Radcliffe said.

Some people are also worried the project could damage a nearby aquifer.

"Another thing with a natural source such as this is dewatering the aquifer itself through construction. So if one of the escarpments, one of the hills here is cut into too deeply, then it can create a weak point and instead of the water flowing out of the spring, it would flow out of the side of the hill there and damage can be irreparable," said Dusty Dowdy with Camp Holly Springs.

Emerson told CBS6 that developer D.R. Horton meets all requirements of the rezoning that happened in 2012 when the project was approved. He said the county owns the battlefield and the acreage around Fort Southard is part of the acreage gifted to the county for preservation.

Emerson said they are relying on historians who detailed the area the U.S. Colored Troops primarily fought in and are protecting.

Opponents believe the entire battlefield area and adjacent property should be protected and maintained as a battlefield park that will bring tourism and education.

As for the concerns about the aquifer, Emerson said two hydrology studies were done and the developer has the appropriate zoning for aquifer protection and the subdivision would be built on public water and sewer, further protecting the groundwater.

Meanwhile, Radcliffe and other neighbors hope their voices will be heard and this project won't overshadow the historical significance of such a sacred place.

"We don't know where we've been. So it helps families have a connection to their history and what they accomplished for our country," Radcliffe said.

Developers could begin building the first 67 homes in the spring of 2022 with a 2030 completion date.