This Report presents the results of a feasibility study on incorporating the community of Massanutten, Virginia into a town. The feasibility study was conducted by a volunteer group of concerned Massanutten citizens as a service to local citizens and elected officials to provide factual information about town incorporation in Virginia. The study provides detailed answers to four basic questions.
- How does a Virginia community incorporate into a town?
- Is it feasible for the community of Massanutten to incorporate into a town?
- What might the community of Massanutten look like, if incorporated into a town?
- What considerations might be of interest to citizens, if asked whether the community of Massanutten should incorporate 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. Prior to conducting this study, there was much misinformation and general lack of knowledge in the Massanutten Community about town incorporation in Virginia. Before citizens can provide an informed opinion on the subject of town incorporation, they should be educated on the facts. It is hoped that this report will fill that need and help citizens become more informed about town incorporation in Virginia, specifically providing facts about incorporating the Massanutten Community. It is believed that the methodology of the study could be applied to any community in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
An incorporated town in Virginia can include many different variants in terms of town boundaries, services, governmental make-up, and budgeting to include taxes. This would hold true if the community of Massanutten incorporated into a town. 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. The feasibility study began by establishing hypothetical town boundaries for an incorporated town of Massanutten. These boundaries 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 were 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 examined. 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 feasibility study analysis. The alternative visions for an incorporated town of Massanutten answer not only whether Massanutten could incorporate, but also what Massanutten might look like, if it incorporated.
It is important to point out that the mix of services to be provided by an incorporated town of Massanutten is highly dependent on what services would be needed for the Massanutten Village area. Massanutten Village is the oldest and largest district in the Massanutten Community. It is a private-gated residential district governed by the Massanutten Property Owners Association (MPOA). MPOA privately funds and provides some essential services for Massanutten Village which looks and acts very much like any other town in Virginia with one very important exception — it cannot create and/or amend Ordinances or a Comprehensive Plan, pursuant to Virginia Law. What services an incorporated town of Massanutten may provide is dependent on what service functions and assets would be turned over or transferred to the incorporated town by MPOA.
This feasibility 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. However, several considerations were developed to provide a pre and post incorporation view for Massanutten citizens to evaluate. This feasibility study also did not include any public opinion polls or surveys. Feasibility studies are intentionally objective in nature. Public opinion polls and surveys are subjective in nature. Therefore, this feasibility study did not include either.
The author and editor of this report are residents of Massanutten Village and members of MPOA. They and all contributors did not have any preconceived notions about whether or not to incorporate the Massanutten Community when the study began. They merely hoped to present facts as a service to the community. The study formally began in late 2009 — although, the author actually became interested in town incorporation in 2004, while serving the county on a planning committee. This study was largely driven by the absence of a similar effort which had been done by MPOA in the past, every ten years — one was done in 1989 and then again in 1999. The initial phase of the study efforts resulted in an interim report which was completed in August 2010 and presented to the community for comment. Specifically, it was presented on a website and in several community meetings. Many comments from the community were received and included in this Final Report.
The entire Final Report has been placed on a website addressed www.townofmassanutten.org. The website offers the Final Report in webpage format, the ability to zoom many maps and figures, links to all references, and summary videos. An electronic copy of the Final Report to include electronic copies of all references have been given to the MPOA Administrator, 3980 Massanutten Drive, Massanutten, Virginia 22840. Hard copies are available to the general public upon request for a minimal charge. Please send any comments via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gene E. Hauze
Author and Principle Investigator
September 30, 2011
Janet B. Lorette
September 30, 2011