2.4 – Town Chartering
Chapter 36, Title 15.2 of the VA Code establishes the legal standard for granting a Town Charter via judicial proceedings. It simply states that «at the session of the VA General Assembly following its incorporation [via judicial proceedings], the Town shall request that body to grant it a Charter». The VA Constitution also allows the VA General Assembly to directly grant a Town Charter via enactment upon presentation of legislation by one of its Members, generally precipitated by a petition from a community requesting to be incorporated.
A Charter is a special act of the General Assembly which provides for the structure of and confers power on a specific town. In general, a town charter in Virginia includes, as a minimum, declarations of incorporation, boundaries, powers, and the governing body. Most towns rely on their Charter for the authority they exercise. Where inconsistencies exist between the provisions of the Code of VA and a Town Charter, the Charter actually takes precedence.
Using the Clincho Town Charter of 1990 as an example, a town charter normally includes a declaration of incorporation and boundaries such as:
§ 1.1. Incorporation — The General Assembly incorporates the community known as Clincho, in Dickenson County, Virginia, as a town and a body politic and corporate within the boundaries provided for in § 1.2, as such boundaries are now, or may hereafter be altered and established by law. As such, the town shall have perpetual succession, may sue and be sued, plead and be impleaded, contract and be contracted with, and may have a corporate seal which it may alter, renew or amend at its pleasure by ordinance. (1990, c. 925)
§ 1.2. Boundaries — The territory embraced within the boundaries shown on that certain plat recorded in Plat Book 1, page 384 in the Clerk's Office of the Clerk for the Circuit Court for the County of Dickenson shall be the territory of the Town of Clinchco. (1990, c. 925)
Again, using the Clincho Town Charter of 1990 as an example, a town charter normally includes a declaration of powers such as:
§ 2.1. Powers of Town — The Town of Clinchco shall have all powers that may be conferred upon or delegated to towns under the Constitution and laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia, including, but not limited to, those powers set forth in §§ 15.1-837 through 15.1-907 of the Code of Virginia, as now exist and as hereafter amended, and all other powers which are now or may hereafter be conferred upon or delegated to towns under the Constitution and laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia are hereby conferred upon the Town of Clinchco, Virginia. (1990, c. 925)
And again, using the Clincho Town Charter of 1990 as an example, a town charter normally includes a declaration of the governing body such as:
§ 3.1. Election, Qualification and Term of Office —
A. The Town of Clinchco shall be governed by a town council composed of a mayor and six other members, all of whom shall be qualified voters of the town.
B. There shall be an election of a mayor and six other members of council in May 1992, and every four years thereafter at the regular May municipal election date. At such elections a mayor and six additional councilmen shall be elected to serve until their successors are duly elected and qualified.
C. The mayor shall preside at meetings of the council and shall be recognized as head of the town government for ceremonial purposes and by the Governor for the purposes of military law. He shall have the same powers and duties as other members of the council with a vote, but no veto powers. (1990, c. 925; 1992, c. 35)
§ 3.2. Vice Mayor — At its first meeting in July of every even-numbered year the council shall select from its membership one member to serve as a vice mayor. The vice mayor shall preside over meetings of council in the absence of the mayor. (1990, c. 925)
§ 3.3. Qualifications of Members — Any person qualified to vote in the town shall be eligible for the office of councilman or mayor. (1990, c. 925)
§ 3.4. Powers of Council — The council along with the mayor shall make such rules as are necessary for the orderly conduct of their business not inconsistent with the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and shall have the power in their discretion to appoint a town manager, a town attorney, a town clerk, a treasurer and a sergeant (who shall have the powers and duties provided in § 15.1-138 of the Code of Virginia).
The persons so appointed shall have such duties and shall serve for such terms and at such compensation as the council may determine. One person may be appointed to more than one office. (1990, c. 925)
§ 3.5. Vacancies — Vacancies on the council and in the office of mayor and vice mayor shall be filled for the unexpired term by a majority vote of the members of council. (1990, c. 925)