Town Incorporation of Massanutten

9.0 – What are Considerations?

This Report presented the results of a feasibility study on incorporating the community of Massanutten, Virginia into a town. Thus far, the report has provided detailed answers to three basic questions.

  1. How does a Virginia community incorporate into a town?
  2. Is it feasible for the community of Massanutten to incorporate into a town?
  3. What might the community of Massanutten look like, if incorporated into a town?

Basically, town incorporation in Virginia provides a community with a legally organized government body made up of local citizens with the authority to act in the best interest of their community. An incorporated town of Massanutten could include many different variants in terms of town boundaries, services, governmental make-up, and budgeting to include taxes. Virginia Law states that the only services that a town must provide are the services of comprehensive planning and zoning. All other legally allowable town services, such as law enforcement and road maintenance, are optional. This report delineated hypothetical town boundaries for an incorporated town of Massanutten, which were traceable to existing County comprehensive planning and zoning. With town boundaries established, different town services were evaluated and associated costs were estimated. Then, county assessments of real estate property and county tax revenues of local businesses were obtained and used, along with costs of services, to estimate town budgets with realistic town taxes and intergovernmental assistance. Since many town services are optional, five (5) alternative visions for an incorporated town of Massanutten were detailed. Each alternative had different types of town services with associated costs leading to five (5) different budgets with associated town taxes and intergovernmental assistance. Finally, the alternative mix of town services, tax structures, intergovernmental assistance, and budgets were compared with other local towns giving confidence in the study analysis.

This study proved that it was feasible for the community of Massanutten to incorporate into a town. It also provided five (5) specific visions of what Massanutten could look like, if incorporated into a town. However, this study did not identify any specific «pros» and «cons» of town incorporation. It was determined that most «pros» and «cons» of town incorporation are qualified based upon an individual’s perspective. Thus, any attempt to establish them would be biased from a given perspective and be somewhat argumentative. It is believed that citizens are fully capable of determining and weighing their own «pros» and «cons», if given enough facts.

The Massanutten community is somewhat unique in that it includes a private-gated residential community called Massanutten Village. Massanutten Village is the oldest and largest area in the Massanutten community. It is governed by the Massanutten Property Owners Association (MPOA) that privately funds and provides some essential services for property owners in Massanutten Village. This report has shown that Massanutten Village looks and acts very much like any other town in Virginia with two very important exceptions. First, MPOA cannot create and/or amend Ordinances or a Comprehensive Plan. This is currently done by Rockingham County. Second, MPOA can only levy fees on property owners to help pay for essential services. Towns in Virginia can levy a variety of taxes on its property owners, citizens, businesses, and visitors. It is also important to note that MPOA provides essential services to only the Massanutten Village area of the Massanutten Community. Yet, these MPOA essential services have been shown in this report to be significantly impacted by other areas in the Massanutten Community and significantly impacted by visitors to Massanutten Village.

The current configuration and operation of the Massanutten community has been contrasted in this report to what the community could look like, if incorporated into a town. It was determined that this «pre» and «post» incorporation contrast could be summarized to provide what considerations might be of interest to citizens, if asked whether the community of Massanutten should incorporate into a town. Thus, rather than determining «pros» and «cons» of town incorporation, which are qualified based upon an individual’s perspective. This section of the report provides considerations of interest to citizens. These considerations can then be used by each citizen to determine their own «pros» and «cons». Fourteen (14) considerations were identified and prioritized by the Massanutten Town Study Group with input from citizens of the Massanutten community.

Seven (7) of the fourteen (14) considerations were detailed and included in individual subsections below. The remaining seven (7) considerations, of lesser significance, were summarized and included in the last subsection.

It is important to note that each consideration, except where specifically noted otherwise, assumed a vision of an incorporated town of Massanutten which provided required town services of comprehensive planning and zoning, maintenance services for all qualifying town roads, maintenance services for all town parks, and law enforcement services for all town citizens. This is alternative T4 and M4 in Sections SECTION VII. Massanutten Community Government and SECTION VIII. Massanutten Community Budget of this report.