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Wednesday, March 29, 2023
Like a magician, General Assembly makes town disappear

Like a magician, General Assembly makes town disappear

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The 2022 General Assembly session has left Virginia with one less town than it previously had, and another given a reprieve to try and get its municipal act together.

The one that died – St. Charles – was located in Lee County, not far from the North Carolina border.

The town, with a population of about 130, was created by the Circuit Court in 1914 but never received a General Assembly charter, which current state law requires.

There is no current town council; in 2016, when no candidates ran for office, there were seven write-ins cast but no one took office. No voters or candidates turned up in subsequent elections.


Despite that, “it still costs the county money to hold these elections,” said Del. Terry Kilgore (R-Gate City), who patroned the bill on behalf of county officials.

On unanimous votes in each house of the legislature, the measure was sent to Gov. Youngkin. With his signature, the Town of St. Charles will be no more.

The more complicated situation was faced when it came to the town of Pound, a community of just under 1,000 residents located in Wise County in the southwestern part of the state.

First inhabited by settlers in the late 1700s, Pound was incorporated as a town in 1950. For reasons that are best left to the media there to untangle, the last two years of town governance have proved “really a comedy of errors,” said Kilgore, the House Majority Leader, who also patroned this legislation.

As for the Town Council, “they don’t have a quorum,” Kilgore said. “They had an election this year and had a quorum, then two people resigned as soon as they had their first meeting. The police [force] was disbanded” and residents “didn’t know what their taxes were going for.”

(In Virginia, residents of towns pay supplemental property taxes, on top of those paid to the county. That arrangement is in place for the towns of Vienna, Herndon and Clifton in Fairfax County; Arlington has no independent towns within its cozy confines.)

Del. Danica Roem (D-Prince William), who has followed the situation, didn’t disagree that Pound had governance problems.

“It did seem that there was genuine dysfunction,” Roem said.

But when they heard that their town might be disbanded, some residents embarked on an e-mail campaign to stop the bill. Their efforts at least brought a stay of execution.

Kilgore proposed that the bill have an effective date of July 2023, a year later than ordinarily would be the case with legislation passed this session.

“We’re going to try and give them a chance to get their house in order,” he said. “This is the most fair way.”

The state Senate amended the House version to change the effective date to November 2023, which House members agreed to. The final votes on the bill were 38-2 in the Senate and 97-1 in the House.

It now awaits Gov. Youngkin’s signature.

Given the plot twists and turns, stay tuned over the coming year.

As to the fate of Pound? “I don’t know what will happen,” Kilgore acknowledged, but said if the ship could be righted, he would return with legislation in 2023 to counteract the town’s projected demise.

The bills were HB83 (St. Charles) and HB904 (Pound).

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