BRISTOW, VA. -- Designating the Civil War battlefield at Bristow as a national historic resource would lead to unfair zoning laws restricting land use, according to some owners of property on and near the 1,100-acre tract.
"We've got so many historic places already," said Vera Long, who owns property just outside the Bristoe Station battlefield area. "This property means a lot for me. I have a daughter to take care of. I want to send her off to college."
Long was one of many residents who spoke against the proposal during a meeting last week at the historic Brentsville Courthouse. Many area residents are nearing retirement age and view their land as a nest egg. Others want to sell their properties to developers.
H. Bryan Mitchell, deputy director of the state Department of Historic Resources, listened to residents' concerns, but not for the first time. Mitchell heard similar complaints in November 1988, when Prince William County nominated the land for historic recognition. The state dropped the Bristoe Station site from consideration because of the strenuous objections from nearby landowners.
"We didn't come here expecting everyone who yelled and screamed and called me a liar two years ago all of a sudden to become a Civil War nut," Mitchell told the crowd of about 45.
The Catharpin-based Save the Battlefield Coalition, concerned that the county has not recognized the Bristoe Station battlefield as a cultural resource in its comprehensive plan, reopened the process by nominating the site again in June.
On Tuesday, two appointed state boards will consider recommending the site to the National Register of Historic Places and placing it on the Virginia Landmarks Register.
More than 1,900 Civil War soldiers were killed or wounded on the battlefield on Oct. 14, 1863. Located at Linton Hall Road, Bristow Road and the Southern Railway, Bristoe Station is one of two Civil War battlefields in Prince William County. County activists founded Save the Battlefield in 1988 to fight plans to build a shopping mall on a section of the Manassas battlefield.
"It's easy for people on the outside to say, 'We want to do this. It's not affecting our lives,' " Long said. "If they owned it, they would be feeling the same way we do."
Mitchell said listing the site on the state and national registers would not prevent development. Only the county Board of Supervisors can do that, he said.
He suggested the opponents write letters to the state Historic Resources Department and attend the public hearing Tuesday in Richmond before the State Review Board and the department's board.
The State Review Board makes recommendations to the National Park Service on the validity of a site for inclusion in the National Register. The Historic Resources Board decides whether a site should be placed on the state register.
The National Register requires a majority of the landowners to support the nomination of any property, but the state register does not.