2.1 – Town Incorporation via VA General Assembly Enactmen
The VA Constitution provides the legal process and procedural guidelines for direct town incorporation by VA General Assembly enactment. In Section 1, the VA Constitution states the definition of «special act» to mean «a law applicable to a county, city, town, or regional government and for enactment shall require an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the members elected to each house of the General Assembly». Therefore, a member(s) of the VA General Assembly may propose legislation for enactment which incorporates a community into a town. Specifically, such legislation for enactment would actually be a town charter. The town charter must then be passed by each house of the VA General Assembly and signed by the Governor for it to be enacted into law. An example of this type of town incorporation is the Clincho Town Charter (included as a Reference).
It should be noted that Section 1 of the VA Constitution states the definition of «town» to mean «any existing town or an incorporated community within one or more counties which became a town before noon, July one, nineteen hundred seventy-one, as provided by law or which has within defined boundaries a population of 1,000 or more and which has become a town as provided by law». Research (confirmed by officials at the VA CLG) found this definition to state the only apparent requirement for direct town incorporation via VA General Assembly enactment — that is, the requirement for «a population of 1,000 or more». However, it should also be noted that Clincho had a population of only 424 people at the time of its incorporation — significantly less than the requirement of 1,000 — thus, the word «apparent» was chosen to characterize «requirement».
A basic town charter in Virginia includes, as a minimum, declarations of incorporation, boundaries, powers, and the governing body. In preparation for direct town incorporation via VA General Assembly enactment, such a charter could be easily developed by community citizens using existing town charters as a guide and amended by legal counsel at a minimal cost. However, a plat delineating the town boundaries must be filed with the local County Clerk of the Circuit Court prior to the town charter being enacted into law. Research found there are several different types of plats which may meet the requirement for enactment:
- Original Survey Plat — a plat of the town boundaries produced by a surveyor who physically goes out and surveys the town boundary properties.
- Compilation Survey Plat — a plat of the town boundaries produced by a surveyor who utilizes existing plats along with any necessary physical surveying of the town boundary properties.
- Tax Plat — a plat of the town boundaries produced by utilizing existing county tax information and maps.
- GIS Plat — a plat of the town boundaries produced by utilizing GIS coordinates property and mapping.
The Town of Clincho prepared an original survey plat for their town chartering purposes — although they could not cite any specific requirement for an original survey plat. The VA CLG stated that for the purposes of town incorporation via judicial proceeding an original survey plat was required — although, they also could not cite traceability to any law/regulation requiring an original survey plat. The VA Board for Architects, Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, Certified Interior Designers and Landscape Architects (APELSCIDLA) stated they do not have any regulation requiring a specific type of plat for town incorporation — or, for that matter, town annexations. However, our research found in discussions with a local surveying company that two local towns recently annexed land requiring a plat of the new town boundaries to be filed with the County Clerk of the Circuit Court. In both cases, county tax maps were used in the production of the court filed boundary plats.
In the case of incorporating Massanutten into a town, an estimate of $75,000 was obtained from a local registered surveyor (who has surveyed Massanutten properties in the past) for producing an original survey plat. However, it seems more reasonable that for purposes of directly incorporating the town via VA General Assembly enactment, a plat based on county tax information and maps could be readily produced by citizens and certified by a registered surveyor at a modest cost (less than $5,000). This plat could be filed with the Rockingham County Clerk of the Circuit Court prior to and for the purposes of the VA General Assembly enactment. If necessary, following the incorporation enactment, an original survey plat (paid for by town tax revenues) could be produced and re-filed with the Clerk. This type of «platting» follows the procedure local towns took relative to their recent annexations.
In addition to the town charter and plat, additional information will likely be needed to politically convince members of the VA General Assembly that the community is worthy of incorporation and the reasons why it should be. The additional information may include some of the items delineated in the next section for town incorporation via judicial proceedings. The author of this report believes that much, if not all, of the information necessary to demonstrate worthiness of and reasoning for incorporation are contained herein. It would be of significant additional value for the community to have a signed petition by numerous citizens or results of a community referendum demonstrating that incorporation would be in the best interest of its inhabitants.