7.1 – Rockingham County Government
Rockingham County, like other counties in Virginia pursuant to VA Law, provides many services to its citizens to include health, general welfare, emergency services, law enforcement, courts, tax assessment, and voting. Most services are administered by officials elected by the citizens of Rockingham County, to include those citizens in Massanutten and those citizens in all of the County’s towns. These elected officials include:
- Rockingham County Sheriff
- Rockingham County Clerk of the Court
- Commonwealth Attorney
- Rockingham County Commissioner of Revenues
- Rockingham County Voter Registrar
It is important to note that six (6) towns in Rockingham County provide law enforcement services to their citizens which are often considered as in lieu of, but are actually in addition to, those law enforcement services provided by the Rockingham County Sheriff.
Rockingham County, like other counties in Virginia pursuant to VA Law, also provides administration and educational services to its citizens. These services are administered by officials of the County Board of Supervisors and the County School Board. These officials are also elected by the citizens of Rockingham County, to include those citizens in Massanutten and those citizens in all of the towns. However, these two Boards each consist of five (5) members, whereby one (1) member of each Board is elected by citizens in one of five (5) County voting districts. The School Board Members are primarily responsible for education policies. The Supervisors are primarily responsible for creating and amending a County Comprehensive Plan, County Ordinances, and a County Budget. The Supervisors appoint numerous citizen based committees and commissions (such as the Planning Commission) to provide advice on topics related to County services.
It is important to note that all towns in Rockingham County create and amend Town Ordinances and a Town Comprehensive Plan for their citizens, in lieu of similar services provided by the Rockingham County Supervisors. These town services, in lieu of county services, are required by the VA Code of Law to include zoning administration and enforcement.
Massanutten Village is dependent on Rockingham County to create and amend County Ordinances and the County Comprehensive Plan for its Residential Planned Community (R-4) District. It was originally envisioned to be a private-gated community governed by the Massanutten Property Owners Association (MPOA) which provided administration and essential services much like a town. The administration and essential services of law enforcement and road maintenance were to be paid for directly by property owners’ fees with the assistance of developer contributions, placing no such financial burden on the County. This was formalized by the creation of the special zoning district (R-4) and an approved master plan by the County Supervisors in 1971.
Massanutten Village comfortably operated this way for nearly twenty-five (25) years until a stark change was made in the planning of the Massanutten Community by the Rockingham County Supervisors which caused the structure of the original plan to be knocked out of balance. In 1995, Massanutten Village was less than half developed and rather than encouraging the completion of the development within the physical and financial boundaries of Massanutten Village, the Supervisors approved the developers’ plan to expand the community outside the physical boundaries of the special zoning district (R-4). This was also outside the original financial structure for funding MPOA essential services because properties in the expansion areas would not pay any fees to MPOA, and the developer did not increase its financial contribution to MPOA. As these expansion areas were populated by tourists and associated resort amenities were added, the result was that more than half of vehicles entering into Massanutten Village are now not related to MPOA with practically no associated funding for essential services. The original relatively closed financial system was significantly and permanently skewed out of balance, as well as nearly eliminating the concept of a private-gated community.
The County Supervisors were understandably acting in the best interests of all County citizens when this decision was made. Their focus was on the fact that the expansion areas were largely for tourists and tourist amenities which brought in large revenues to the County without the need for many essential services, especially since law enforcement and road maintenance services were largely provided privately by MPOA. It is likely that the financial ramifications to MPOA were not entirely understood when the decision was made, or perhaps they were never even considered. This is exemplified by the fact that the construction timelines for these expansion areas go out more than twenty-five (25) years in the future without any phasing and/or any periodic reviews. For example, the Supervisors approved six-hundred (600) tourist housing units in 1995 for the expansion areas; then the Supervisors increased that number by 50% in 2001 when less than 25% of the original approved number had been built; and, then the Supervisors increased that number again in 2003 and once then again in 2007 to a point where the original number of approved units has nearly tripled without the original 1995 number of units even having been built. And, this sequence of increasing the number of tourist housing units was for only one of the expansion areas called Woodstone Meadows. In 2008, the Supervisors approved adding even more tourist housing units to another of the expansion areas called Massanutten Station. This seems to be an aggressive planning approach without much foresight as to what is in the best interest of the immediate community, especially the impact to those essential services being provided by MPOA.