Town Incorporation of Massanutten

7.2 – Incorporated Town of Massanutten Government

Incorporating Massanutten into a town could provide a legally organized government body made up of local Massanutten citizens, with authority to act in the best interest of the Massanutten community. It would be able to rezone properties pursuant to VA Code of Law 15.2-2283 which states that «ordinances shall be for the general purpose of promoting the health, safety or general welfare of the public». In this case, the public would be the local citizens of an incorporated town of Massanutten, rather than all citizens of the County. The VA Code further states that ordinances should be designed to give reasonable consideration to some of the following purposes, which directly relate to an incorporated town of Massanutten that may have acted differently in the past than Rockingham County, in many instances:

  • to facilitate the creation of a convenient, attractive and harmonious community;
  • to reduce or prevent congestion in the public streets;
  • to protect against undue density of population in relation to the community facilities;
  • to protect against overcrowding of land;
  • to encourage economic development activities that enlarge the tax base;
  • to promote the creation and preservation of affordable housing; and
  • to provide for the preservation of agricultural and forestall lands.

It is very important to note that the only services which a town must provide, pursuant to the VA Code of Law, are the services of comprehensive planning and zoning ordinances. All other services, such as law enforcement and road maintenance are optional town services, not required by the VA Code. An incorporated town of Massanutten would also have the authority, pursuant to the VA Code, to levy taxes within its jurisdiction and to accept intergovernmental assistance to help fund town services. Previous sections of this feasibility study have detailed the consequences and financial inequities brought about by a stark change in Rockingham County planning and zoning enacted fifteen (15) years ago. Incorporating Massanutten into a town could allow the financial balance to be restored through town taxation and intergovernmental assistance funding, such as funding from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) for town road maintenance and funding from the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) for town law enforcement.

An incorporated town of Massanutten, with a legally organized government body made up of perhaps a Mayor, Vice Mayor, and five (5) Town Council Members (similar to other towns in Rockingham County), would also have the legal power to address problems and emergencies in the best interest of the Massanutten community. The value of this legal governmental power can be exemplified by a recent controversy between Massanutten and Rockingham County. Citizens of the Massanutten Community asked Rockingham County to amend its R-4 Zoning Ordinance to address a problem that created disharmony in the Massanutten Community. More than six-hundred (600) Massanutten citizens signed a petition toward this end and the request was formally made to the County in 2007. The request was not addressed until 2010, eventually being denied by both the County Planning Commission and then by the County Board of Supervisors. The Planning Commission Chairman stated for the record that «it is imperative that this resort community assume its rightful responsibility to oversee and enforce its rules and exercise its police power to address its problems directly — this is not the responsibility of Rockingham County». This is precisely the point of incorporation, regardless of the specific problem. Town of Massanutten officials could have reacted faster than the nearly three (3) years it took the County to act, and it may have reacted differently to «address its problems directly» via amending or creating Town Ordinances.

In the case of incorporating Massanutten into a town, there many advantages in having a legally organized government body made up of local citizens with legal authority to act in the best interest of the immediate community with regard to health, safety, and general welfare along with the legal power to address problems and emergencies. Similar legal authority and power does not exist in the present make-up of Massanutten Village governed by MPOA under the umbrella of Rockingham County. Nor would similar legal authority and legal power exist if the establishment of a sanitary district or other arrangements provided by law were considered.

Bottomline, an incorporated Town of Massanutten government would replace the Rockingham County government with respect to the required town services of comprehensive planning and zoning. This includes zoning administration and enforcement. However, an incorporated town of Massanutten government would not replace the MPOA Board of Directors with regards to the creation, amendment, administration and enforcement of MPOA Rules & Regulations which are based on its subdivision Restrictive Covenants. These Restrictive Covenants and MPOA would survive the town incorporation process. The table below summarizes responsibilities in the Massanutten Community both before and after incorporation.

Now   Post Incorporation
Rockingham County Supervisors
Rockingham County Planning Commission
Zoning Ordinances Massanutten Town Council
Massanutten Town Planning Commission
Rockingham County Zoning Administrator
Rockingham County Board of Zoning Appeals
Zoning Administration Massanutten Town Zoning Administrator
Massanutten Town Board of Zoning Appeals
MPOA Board (per Covenants) Rules & Regs MPOA Board (per Covenants)
MPOA A&EC and Rules Committees Rules Administration MPOA A&EC and Rules Committees

It is important to point out that the MPOA governs common facilities usage, member personal conduct, and private property development and maintenance by a formal set of Rules & Regulations that are based on the Restrictive Covenants of sixteen (16) different Massanutten Village subdivisions and guided by VA Code Chapter 26 of Title 55 (VA Property Owners’ Association Act). These MPOA Rules & Regulations are drafted and enforced by a volunteer Rules Committee and approved by the MPOA Board serving the best interests of property owners including both local citizens and individuals who permanent live outside the community (out-of-town owners). MPOA has a very limited means of civil enforcement through its Rules & Regulations, which carry with it associated civil liability. The VA Code states that fines for violating MPOA Rules & Regulations are limited to a maximum of $50 per offense or $10 per day for any offense of a continuing nature. An incorporated town of Massanutten could offer some more effective enforcement mechanisms and could levy fines for violations of Town Ordinances with less civil liability than those related to MPOA Rules & Regulations. VA Code 15.2-2286 states that fines for a violation of Zoning Ordinances are limited to a maximum of $1,000 — with $2,000 in specific cases regarding occupancy of a dwelling unit. A Town Zoning Administrator and Town Board of Zoning Appeals would be responsible for the enforcement of Town Zoning Ordinances with their decisions made available to the public. This should be compared to the MPOA Rules Committee decisions which are kept private and not currently available to the public or even MPOA members.

Finally, it is worth noting that towns in Virginia, including those in Rockingham County, have access to the Virginia Municipal League (VML). VML is a statewide, nonprofit, nonpartisan association of city, town and county governments established to improve and assist local governments through legislative advocacy, research, education, and other services. One such valuable service offered by VML to its members is insurance programs providing general liability coverage and specific liability coverage for public officials, law enforcement officers, vehicles, and employment as well as general coverage for vehicle physical damage, workers compensation, property, machinery, fidelity, and crime. An incorporated town of Massanutten could benefit from this resource which is not available to private corporations like MPOA.