HJR 432

Commission on the Condition and Future of Virginia's Cities

November 5, 1998, Danville

Commission members received presentations from a variety of persons interested in the future of Virginia's cities, including representatives from the Cities of Danville, Martinsville, and Petersburg and Pittsylvania County. Other represented interests included local business and economic development organizations, the Southern Virginia Mental Health Institute, Danville Community College, Averett College and the Danville and Pittsylvania public schools.


Presenters raised many issues of importance to Virginia's cities, including the need for Virginia to keep its commitments to localities. Specific commitments mentioned included HB 599 funding, library funding, the comprehensive services act and education funding. These commitments are especially important to older cities such as Danville, the commission was told, since such cities are often getting older and poorer and are under greater fiscal stress than localities as a whole.

Several speakers stressed the need for greater regional cooperation and argued that the state places many barriers in the way of such cooperation. Examples of such barriers include Virginia's unique structure of independent cities, a strict interpretation of the Dillon Rule and different treatment of cities and counties with regard to taxing and borrowing authority. Such barriers actually encourage competition rather than cooperation within a region, according to several speakers. Other issues raised before the commission included inadequate housing for low-income individuals, lack of incentives for existing industries to stay in Virginia and an archaic tax system.

Finally, many speakers mentioned the inability of Virginia's cities to annex land from the surrounding counties. Although none of the speakers advocated a return to the old method of "winner take all" annexation, the commission was urged to consider some other method of allowing cities to expand their boundaries or otherwise share in the growth occurring beyond city boundaries. The annexation laws of other states, such as North Carolina, were touted as a major reason cities such as Charlotte have thrived, while many Virginia cities have struggled. One speaker suggested encouraging brownfields redevelopment projects as a substitute to annexation.

Future Meetings

The commission will meet in Alexandria on December 2, 1998, and in Richmond on January 5, 1999.

The Honorable Thomas W. Moss, Jr., Chairman
Legislative Services contact: Jeff Sharp