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Spartan

Independent Cities?

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As someone who has not spent much time in VA, I had not given the idea of independent cities mcuh thought. I know that they are out there- places like St Louis and Baltimore are great examples of this. However, I recently made a trip to VA and I started thinking about this system. Virginia is the only state that I am aware of that has this state-wide system in place. I am wondering how this system came about in VA, and do you think that it is an effective system as compared to other states where cities are more of a layer of government than a separate entitiy? Also, it appears that all cities and towns are not independant, so I am curious to know what qualfies a city for indepndence. And finally, does the indepnedent city still have the right to annex?

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I think there are some problems with the independent city system VA has. It was derived out of the old English system, whereby a city acquired incorporation in order to receive a representative in Parliament (there are interesting stories of incorporated cities that disappeared over the centuries yet still maintained representation in Parliament!).

In VA each independent city functions as a county. To home rule advocates that may be a blessing but many cities lack land area or tax resources to provide adequate services to their populations. Some of the independent cities in Virginia have only 4,000 residents. Whatever services the city cannot provide have to be fought for and provided by the state legislature. And can Norton, VA (pop 4,500) compete with Virginia Beach, which is 100 times its size? There is no intermediate layer of government/services.

Cities in VA can annex unincorporated land. Fear of such consumption led to the incorporation party of the 1960s, when Princess Anne, Norfolk, and Nansemond Counties became the cities of Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, and Suffolk in order to avoid potential annexation by the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth. If anyone has information on what disincentives the state established to put an end to that please share them b/c I don't know off the top of my head.

In New Jersey (I use it as an example b/c I live there), EVERY INCH of the state is in an incorporated municipality. The municipalities, however, are not independent, rather they are part of the counties in which they are located. The counties have their own highway networks, social programs, and other services. Municipalities still fight for state money but the counties can provide some of the basic services to their residents.

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In New Jersey (I use it as an example b/c I live there), EVERY INCH of the state is in an incorporated municipality. The municipalities, however, are not independent, rather they are part of the counties in which they are located. The counties have their own highway networks, social programs, and other services. Municipalities still fight for state money but the counties can provide some of the basic services to their residents.

There are some oddities though

The borough of Helmetta is SO SMALL that it shares services with other towns except police and fire. Down the road in the borough of Farmingdale, theres no police station but one told me the Howell Township police covers the area since F'dale is surrounded by Howells borders but then someone told me the state police only cover that area.

Back to Virginia,

South Boston was once an independant city but around 1995, went back to towm status as part of Halifax County but i dont know why that happend. You can drive into South Boston on US 501 and can tell it was once a Independant City by its strange traffic signals that are not of VDOT standards.

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New Jersey has townships, which adds to the confusion as well.

So in VA, only a 'city' is incorporated? Everything else is classified as a 'town' ?

Do the independent cities have representation in the state government?

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lammius... I think Virginia also has a moratorium on annexation as well. It's been in place for decades.

Harrisonburg annexed 11 square miles in 1992. I'm sure other cities have annexed land in recent decades too. I was under the impression that state laws made annexation or mass-incorporation more difficult but not impossible. I'm just not sure how. I may throw it at google later.

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I always hated the independent cities law in Virginia. I thought it was such a waste of money and created too much of a seperation and divide with cities, towns, and counties.

It is one of those things they should of killed in 1900.

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I always hated the independent cities law in Virginia. I thought it was such a waste of money and created too much of a seperation and divide with cities, towns, and counties.

It is one of those things they should of killed in 1900.

I,m going to buck the trend here and say that I like the idea of the "independent city" concept. Not for the reasons of separating localities but for the soveriegn power that it gives a locality. Counties and towns cannot make decisions like raising taxes without state legislature approval. An independent city has been granted the authority to make these decisions for themselves. Not that I'm a big fan of taxes but sometimes a municipality needs to make fiscal decisions and the state should not hinder that. This was evident when I was living in NOVA, Fairfax County was crying fowl play when the state wouldn't allow them to raise certain fees or taxes and Alexandria city just went ahead and did it without a second thought. That's my view on this matter.

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I,m going to buck the trend here and say that I like the idea of the "independent city" concept. Not for the reasons of separating localities but for the soveriegn power that it gives a locality. Counties and towns cannot make decisions like raising taxes without state legislature approval. An independent city has been granted the authority to make these decisions for themselves. Not that I'm a big fan of taxes but sometimes a municipality needs to make fiscal decisions and the state should not hinder that. This was evident when I was living in NOVA, Fairfax County was crying fowl play when the state wouldn't allow them to raise certain fees or taxes and Alexandria city just went ahead and did it without a second thought. That's my view on this matter.

Here in SC, our cities can raise their own taxes and whatnot without the approval of the county. It seems odd that the state would have so much control.... And my state has A LOT of control over things. That certainly gives more justification to the independent city status though. It seems to be a good move for a city in VA if it allows more solf control as well as more representation in the state government. I think I'm starting to see the bigger picture...

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Virginia adhere's to the Dillon Rule pretty strictly so a lot of what cities are allowed to do or not has to be written into their charter. I know Roanoke recently had to go to the state legislature to get permission to raise fees at the Civic Center.

As for annexation some cities can still annex. I know Roanoke and Richmond are barred from doing it though. 1970 was Richmond's last expansion and Roanoke's was 1976.

I think the biggest problem with the independent city setup is the duplication of services, or in the Roanoke valley's case the triplification. Roanoke City started a flood control project along the river and tried to get the city of Salem to go in on it. They refused saying it was too expensive so the project will end at the western Roanoke City limit and since there won't be any upstream protection the benefit o Roanoke will be reduced.

Back in the 80's the valley decided to build a new reservoir. Salem pulled out of that project then Roanoke City pulled out. The county went ahead on their own and completed the reservoir. So up until 2 years ago we had 3 water systems in the valley. A major drought finally convinced the city to merge their system with the county's. Salem is still on their own.

Those types of stories repeated a dozen times here. The past 5 years or so have seen a definite increase in cooperation between Roanoke City and County there's still along ways to go though. And Salem still pretends that they are by themselves here in the valley.

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New Jersey has townships, which adds to the confusion as well.

North Carolina historically had townships in all 100 counties as well but in this day and age, very few even know about there existence and they are not used for administrative and legal purposes but perhaps for fire and school district boundaries in some counties. For example, the township map (my home county) is what every county in NJ would look like. Places like Carthage, Cameron and Robbins would be tiny towns as its own entity with its government and everything but may rely on the larger township thats surrounding its boundaries for utilities, schools, etc. Unlike in the Carolinas, if you are summoned to court for small claims or traffic violations, you report to the municipality that it occured in, not the county seat. Big issues like murder would be done at the county seat court level.

Just some differences but i dont think its confusing :thumbsup:

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I think Hampton Roads would be in a better position now if they were not all indepentent cities. They would of had a regional transportation region with the counties, cities, and towns. South Norfolk would be a small city that worked with Norfolk county for fir, police, etc. Same goes for Virginia Beach, it would probably be the city of Virginia Beach, the city of Pembroke, and Princess Anne county.

All those things to dream about.

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Virginia has had the independent cities stuck there since 1979. Virginia passed a state law barring annexation of land by cities, but promised the cities that tthe state would pay money to cover costs and stuff in that year, but nothing from the state has been done. Nowadays, we see independent cities struggling to make ends meet and are taxing people at an unreasonably high rate to cover services. Some independent cities have lost and merged with the county. Clifton Forge once used to be independent, now merged, as true for South Boston. I remember there once used to be more than 40 independent cities, now it's at 39, and might decline in the future.

Since then, some cities outside Virginia have merged with their counties - Jacksonville, FL, Indianapolis, IN, Louisville, KY and Nashville, TN. Perhaps Virginia should learn a lesson with independent cities. :ph34r:

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Virginia has had the independent cities stuck there since 1979. Virginia passed a state law barring annexation of land by cities, but promised the cities that tthe state would pay money to cover costs and stuff in that year, but nothing from the state has been done. Nowadays, we see independent cities struggling to make ends meet and are taxing people at an unreasonably high rate to cover services. Some independent cities have lost and merged with the county. Clifton Forge once used to be independent, now merged, as true for South Boston. I remember there once used to be more than 40 independent cities, now it's at 39, and might decline in the future.

Since then, some cities outside Virginia have merged with their counties - Jacksonville, FL, Indianapolis, IN, Louisville, KY and Nashville, TN. Perhaps Virginia should learn a lesson with independent cities. :ph34r:

It is also a reason why all of NoVa's development has been in counties and none of those area are turning into cities because of what they would lose if they did. We would have some great cities if the state would let counties and cities work together.

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South Boston was once an independant city but around 1995, went back to towm status as part of Halifax County but i dont know why that happend. You can drive into South Boston on US 501 and can tell it was once a Independant City by its strange traffic signals that are not of VDOT standards.
South Boston reverted to town status because the costs of being an independent city with a dwindling tax base within its borders was taking its toll on city finances. Since the city and county were already sharing many key services, the transition was almost seamless.

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The idea of bringing the HR region together into one harmonious region is nice; however, it will never come to light. Being an independent city is like being your own state, which is to say that at some time they had a beef with their neighbors and decided to put an artificial barrier between themselves. Wherever there is a class difference or economic difference there will be that divide. Why would a prosperous city want to finance a less off city's problems? Urban areas have differences with suburban regions. They might all make up the same metro area but they are just different. I agree that it would be nice to see regional cooperation, and that a lack there of has hurt many regions like our own, but it will never occur with class differences. I wonder if those areas that have reemerged with their counties, if there was a demographic trend towards more homogeniality?

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I always hated the independent cities law in Virginia. I thought it was such a waste of money and created too much of a seperation and divide with cities, towns, and counties.

It is one of those things they should of killed in 1900.

Actually, the General Assembly made independent cities a state-wide law effective in 1900. Before that only a few cities were independent.

Fredericksburg also annexed land from Spotsylvania in 1984.

It can hurt regional cooperation, especially in Richmond where Richmond, Henrico, and Chesterfield basically compete. I still blame Chesterfield and Henrico for sucking the city of its life after not holding up their end of the annexation freeze deal. Henrico hadn't put up much of a fight in the past, but when Richmond started talking about annexing the entire county... they wouldn't have that. So Richmond looked to Chesterfield and they still are hurting from the 1970 annexation. It was pretty much an under the table thing. Its purpose was to dilute the power of the city's new black majority by annexing mostly white Chesterfield suburbs. That annexation was the second by the city of Chesterfield's land. Manchester doesn't count because it was in independent city when it was annexed.

Towns are still apart of the counties. If I can remember correctly, when Ashland in Hanover County, Va annex land in the late 90s, it promised not to seek incorporation. I don't know if Ashland thought of becoming a city.

Someone correct me, but I thought I heard Henrico couldn't become a city because of its population like Arlington can't. I know Henrico can't have incoporated towns although it has them.

There are eight cities in Hampton Roads. If they all merged, talk about a mega city. But I don't know how each of their governments get along. I thought I had heard there was an idea to merge Norfolk and Portsmouth? The city of Warwick merged with Newport News I think in the 50s, and there were other cities that did too. The county history of Hampton Roads can be confusing because there were a lot of changes down there.

It would be great if Richmond, Henrico, and Chesterfield could be reunited and could cooperate together. If there was a merger proposal, Henrico and Chesterfield would scream murder. And speaking about murder, it's because of Richmond being an independent city that is murder rate appears much worse than it is.

If there are any experts please correct anything I've said wrong.

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I never knew Richmond actually thought about annexing all of Henrico.. when was that discussed?

When I was up in Richmond, The city tried to annex the Dupont area and the company said if they did they would pack up and leave so the city left it alone. They said the city taxes would be so much more than the counties taxes. That is why so many companies choose the county due to less taxes. The same thing is happening to Philly. Alot of companies are moving to the burbs.

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Unfortunately, the city doesn't really have a choice though, because it has to provide many more services than the counties.

Unless, of course, you wouldn't mind the state giving Richmond a little more money to cover the difference :rofl:

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Well let's think of services the county doesn't have that we don't need in the city. And if we had more residents in the city, could taxes be lowered? Unfair cycle.

Richmond considered total annexation of Henrico in the late 60s.

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Well let's think of services the county doesn't have that we don't need in the city. And if we had more residents in the city, could taxes be lowered? Unfair cycle.

Richmond considered total annexation of Henrico in the late 60s.

Higher population wouldn't lower the taxes you pay very much, if at all. More people require more municipal services, which require more tax revenue. What many municipalitites attempt to do is attract commercial development to increase "rateables." Although municipalities often offer tax incentives to attract commercial investment, it is usually the hope that over time non-residential uses will carry a larger share of the tax burden.

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Cadeho, that is the main reason why everything in NoVa is just towns and counties. I think that area would stand out even more if it were cities and counties working together.

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