The Hahn Commission Report


T.  MARSHALL HAHN, JR., Chairman

J. LEWIS RAWLAS, JR.. Vice-Chairman















“That government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection and security of the people, nation or corn­munity; of all the various modes and forms  of government, that is best which is capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness and safety, and is most effectually secured against the danger of maladministration; and whenever any govern­ment shall be found inadequate or contrary to these purposes, a majority of the community hath an indubitable, inalien­able and indefeasible right to reform, alter or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal.”

-Article I of  The Constitution of Virginia

Richmond. Virginia, November 15, 1967


HONORABLE MILLS E. GODWIN, JR., Governor of Virginia



It is an honor and a pleasure to transmit herewith the Report of the Virginia Metropolitan Areas Study Commission, in compliance with Chapter 479 of the 1966 Acts of the General Assembly3

The Report summarizes the increasingly critical problems facing Virginia’s growing metropolitan areas. It offers a series of recommendations, a Program for Action, through which the State can assume a positive role in encot4raging the localities in each metropolitan area to work to­gether on matters invo)Ving area-wide resources and needs, in the interest of local government, the metropolitan area, and the Commonwealth,

Much of the State’s growth during the past several decades has oc­curred in its urban areas, a trend that will intensify in the years ahead. The metropolitan area has become the heart of Virginia’s indc~stria1iznig economy. If that economy is to expand as rapidly as possible, and if Virginians are to enjoy maximum opportunities for economic advance­ment and the mast beneficial environment, then positive, constructive steps to deal more effectively with the problems of the metropolitan areas are essential.

Virginia has a unique opportunity. Although the critical problems of its urban areas are urgently in need of solution, these problems have not reached the dimensions of those in other states. There is still the opportunity to develop effective long-range solutions. in the years ahead remedial action will become increasingly difficult

The Commission wishes to express its deep appreciation to the count­less citizens, officials, and organizations who contributed so much to its work.

Respectfully submitted,




This report to the Governor, General Assembly, and citizens of the Commonwealth summarizes the findings and the recommendations of the Virginia Metropolitan Areas Study Commission. These recommendations are the result of more than a year of study, consultation, public hearings, and intensive staff work.

With their widely varying backgrounds and perspectives, all mem­bers of the Commission do not necessarily agree with every detail of every recommendation offered in this report. However, these proposals represent the best thinking of the Commission, have been adopted by it, and are strongly recommended as a program of action for Virginia’s metro­politan areas.

To some the proposals outlined in this report may seem too modest. To others too drastic. It is the strong hope of the Commission, however, that every citizen of the State will consider this report thoughtfully, and recognize that the action taken will have major impact on our lives and those of our children and their children. Delay in meeting the growing problems of urban and metropolitan Virginia will exact an immeasurable cost in money, in the well-being of many citizens, and in the economic and social development of the Commonwealth

The Virginia Metropolitan Areas Study Commission was appointed by Governor Mills EL Godwin, Jr., in accordance with an act of the 1966 General Assembly. The Commission members were drawn from various areas of the State and have represented a wide range of occupations, experience, interests, and backgrounds.

Since the summer of 1966, the Commission has devoted a great deal of time to consideration of the problems of Virginia’s metropolitan areas. It has heard consultants from state and local governments and from other organizations in Virginia and other parts of the United States and Canada. All of these consultants presented their viewpoints frankly and openly and discussed with the Commission at length the nature of metropolitan growth and its problems and possible solutions. The Commission wishes to express its deep appreciation to the many leaders who took time from their busy schedules to assist the Commission with its work.

In May, 1987, the Commission prepared and distributed throughout the State two reports, Governing the Virginia Metropolitan Areas: An Assessment and Metropolitan Virginia 1967: A Brief Assessment. These reports carefully reviewed many existing problems.

During May and June, 1067, public hearings were held in each of the State’s six existing Standard Metropolitan Statistical Areas.’ At these hearings leading representatives of local and State government, members of numerous organizations, and many private citizens exhibited sincere concern about the future of Virginia and its major metropolitan areas, as well as the cooperative attitude the Commission has consistently en­countered during its heavy work schedule.

It is impossible to acknowledge individually all of those persons who contributed significantly to the work of the Commission, since they are far too numerous and their

* Under the definition of the U.S. Bureau of The Budget and the Bureau of the Census, a Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area is “an integrated ecst one city of 50,000 inhabitants or more or “twin cities” with a combined population of at least 50000. The metropolitan nature of the surrounding or adjoining areass is established through determination that it is a place of work or residcnce for a concontration of non-agricultural workers A variety of other detailed criteria is employed in delineating Standard Metropolitan Statistical Areas.

contributions far too great to express ade­quately the appreciation they are due. The Commission can only hope this report In some measure rises to the high standard of their generosty and unstinting cooperation.

For invaluable support throughout the course of its work, including assistance with the drafting of this report, the Commiasion is indebted to Mr. S. J.. Makielski, Jr., and his assistants, Mr. Donald Dixon and Mrs. Judith Palkovitz, all members of the staff of the Institute of Gov­ernment of the University of Virginia

The Commission also wishes to express its appreciation to Mr. T. Edward Temple, Director of the Division of Planning, and his staff for invaluable support in the role of secretariat to the Commission. Especially helpful were the economic base studies undertaken for the Commission by Mr. John L. Knapp, Chief of the Research Section of the Divion of Planning. The results of these studies are available in a separate publica­tion from the Division of Planning. Projections to 1980 for Virginia Metropolitan Areas.

The Commission also is most grateful to Mr. Toy D. Savage, Jr., Legal Counsel to the Commission, and to his associates for invaluable technical and legal assistance.

Mr. Richard H. Kraft was most helpful in his role of Special Con­sultant to the Commission.

The work of the Commission and the preparation of this report were materially assisted by a Federal grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development under the Urban Planning Assistance Program, authorized by Section 701 of the Housing Act of 1954, as amended.


The recommendations of the Virginia Metropolitan Areas Study Cornmission outlined in the following pages envision a series of basic inno­vations in the relationships and functions of the various governmental units within the Commonwealth’s metropolitan areas.

Together these recommendations constitute a far-reaching approach to the problems of governing the metropolitan areas. They propose, in substance, that the State, the localities, and the proposed new area-wide agencies form effective partnerships to establish the procedures and re­sources needed to resolve the increasingly complex problems of urban Virginia.

The proposals of the Commission contain recommendations that the State assume a positive role in encouraging the localities in each metro­politan area to work together on matters involving area-wide resources and needs, in the interest of local government, the metropolitan area, and the Commonwealth, The Commission recommends this be accomplished by (1) the establishment of a new State agency, the Commission on Local Government, to provide leadership and assert the State’s concern with the sound development of its metropolitan areas; (2) the expansion of the State Division of Planning to the Division of State Planning and Com­munity Affairs, to aid localities, promote area-wide planning, and pro­vide technical staff services for the Commission on Local Government; (3) the division of the State into Planning Districts, better structured and better financed than the present scattered regional planning commissions; and (4) the provision of means for advancing from the level of a Planning District to that of a Service District, a new unit of government designed to deal effectively with area-wide problems.

In addition, it is recommended that voluntary merger or consolidation be facilitated by providing for district representation. The removal of irritants and obstacles to cooperation between localities is recommended, along with greater State financial support for certain area-wide functions.

This program for action for Virginia’s metropolitan areas is based on respect for present governmental devices and local initiative, and it moves ahead to provide for planning and governing in the new reality of rapidly growing metropolitan areas.

The task will not be easy. Even when the recommendations are trans­lated into legislation, and the legal relationships which they recommend are established, they will not, alone, solve the problems of city and suburb. Governmental structures and governmental resources are only tools. If used well, these tools will produce good results; if used badly, no matter how soundly conceived they may be, they can produce only indifferent or poor results.

The Coxnrnission’s recommendations will provide the framework for effective and necessary innovation designed to resolve many of the press­ing governmental problems in urban Virginia. They are designed with an awareness of the unique structure of Virginia local government.

These recommendations will provide the basis for workable solutions to many complex and serious problems in urban Virginia if they are conscientiously implemented. They cannot do more. The Commission can­not create the desire for progress and area-wide leadership, generate co­operation between and among officials and citizens, or provide the initia­tive and vision essential for effective action. The Commissson cannot search out skilled administrators and Insure they will act with the vigor and wisdom demanded to accomplish what must be done.

The initiative and effective action necessary for the resolution of the problems of urban Virginia must come from State and local leader­ship. Such leadership must include the officials and administrators who translate governmental concepts into everyday plans, decisions, and ac­tions.

These leaders must be willing to plan constructively, with foresight for a future that will soon be here. They must develop the plans and policies essential for orderly development and growth of any locality, any area, and the State itself. They must be willing to experiment with new ideas, new approaches, new concepts. They must translate, finally, the recommendations of this report into effective action.

Virginia has, at this time in its illustrious history, the opportunity to assert once more her national leadership! The problems confronting the Commonwealth are not Unique. Positive, aggressive steps to resolve these problems are unique, Virginia has the opportunity to make her urban areas what they are meant to be: centers for cultural politicaL, economic, and social opportunity; places where pride instead of apology is the norm.

Failure to seize this opportunity will not mean simply failure to meet the needs of urban Virginia; it will result in a growing blight spreading equally over city, suburb, and countryside; it will mean major loss to the economy and life of the Commonwealth.

The Commission believes that if this opportunity is missed, or mis­used, solution to the pressing problems of urban Virginia will become increasingly difficult in future years. But the Commission also believes Virginia and Virginians have the foresight and the courage to do what must be done.

Today the flexibility exists in Virginia to meet and guide change. Down the long road of tomorrow, as patterns of development become more firmly set, action will be more difficult. The time to act is now.


Virginia has been fortunate in the quality of local government in the metropolitan areas of the State. Counties, cities, and towns have risen to the challenge of rapidly expanding populations, increased demands for services, and pressures of urgent physical, economic, and social prob­lems. These local governmental units have been successful in dealing with local problems on an individual basis, but only limited success in meeting area-wide problems has been achieved.

Two broad factors contribute to the limited success of government in metropolitan Virginia. The first of these is the failure of the State to assume a more positive role in restructuring its political subdivisions ~tnd encouraging them to work together on matters involving area-wide resources and needs. The second is the inadequacy of local goveniments individusily to meet area-wide problems. This inadequacy stems from limited jurisdiction, limited finances, and insufficient intergovernmental cooperation.

The State

The State is sovereign, and the political subdivisions, such as counties and cities, are creatures of the State, created for the purpose of fulfilling a part of the State’s responsibility to its citizens. The General Assembly, within constitutional limitations, may revise local governmental struc­ture, abolish or create local governments, assign new functions, or remove existing ones. Although this power rests in large part on legal precedent and historical tradition, it exists also for practical reasons- The State has the geographic, economic, and social base to make broad policy decisions effective.

In Virginia this role of the State has been clearly demonstrated in public health, highways, and, increasingly, public welfare and education. In each case the General Assembly has established minimum planning, coordination, and perfonnante standards for local governments and State agencies. Generally such programs are administered by local governments, individually or in combination. To the extent this approach has been used, it has achieved greater success and more effective programs than possible by either the State or the localities, individually.

However, such action by the State has had only limited application in Virginia. Without more and better directed State resources, the State can exercise only relatively minor influence on local decision-making. Al­though Federal programs invariably provide for State participation, rela­tively little State coordination of participation by local governments in Federal programs in relation to State interests has been established.

As a result of these deficiencies in State leadership, serious problems have developed in the metropolitan areas. Key programs requiring new governmental structures and positive action are left to local initiative; too frequently inaction results. . Since the correction of a fault is always more expensive than its prevention, increased costs to the taxpayer develop. Perhaps even more serious are the growing problems of the core titles, and the inevitable spread of many of these problems to the suburbs.

All too visible are air pollution, crowded schools, traffic congestion. inadequate water supplies, polluted recrestional areas, slums and wasted or destroyed natural beauty, Equally present, although less visible. Are the out-migration of the young and talented from the cities and the State, the wasted energy and frustration of conscientious public servants, the despair of the impoverished, and the dollars wasted for basically sound programs that fail to do enough soon enough.

The Corn.rnonwealth can and should do more. It can provide the area-wide mechanisms through which basic and effective area-wide decisions can be made and successfully implemented- The State can and should provide at least some of the funds for policy-making and implementation. And the State, through appropriate existing and new programs and agencies, can and should articulate and implement State policies.

The Local Governments                                                        

Over the years the State has allocated certain governmental functions to local government and retained others. Counties have performed those limited functions needed for rural populations, towns have provided serv­ices for more densely populated areas, and cities have provided the inten­sive level of services and governmental activities required by urban pop­ulations.

In the past this allocation of functions among State, county, and municipal governments met the varying needs of a large and hetero­geneous area. Municipalities were generally isolated from one another by open areas, comparatively few people lived in urban areas, and the impact of the city, while culturally and economically great, was small in a govern­mental and social sense. Cities interacted with only small portions of surrounding counties.

However, with the rapid urbanization that has come to Virginia since the 1940’s, many traditional distinctions have become obsolete. The densely populated urban county has appeared on the scene, The city, isolated from other urban areas by rural counties, has been replaced by the city surrounded by urban counties in which economic, social, and governmental activities differ little from those in the city. With such blurring of tradi­tional distinctions, most apparent in the metropolitan areas, but also occurring throughout the State, adjustment of accepted concepts of local government is essential.

Citizens in metropolitan areas expect the same quality of services re­gardless of residence in the city or in the county. They expect to travel easily to and from places of work, commerce, and recreation. They under­stand intuitively what many governmental officials may recognize con­sciously: problems are not con~xied to local governmental boundaries.

Criminals can commute like anyone else. The person bearing tuber­culosis, venereal disease, or polio is free to move from one local govern­mental jurisdiction to another The growing problems associated with the concentration of disadvantaged persons in slum areas cannot be quaran­tined by city boundaries. Polluted air and water do not stop at city or county lines. Haphazard and uncontrolled development in one jurisdic­tion can render inoperative efforts to produce an effective traffic plan in another.

This does not indicate that local government is obsolete, but that local government based on the concept of self-contained and self-sustaining geographic areas is impossible. Certain governmental functions can be provided most efficiently by local governments. At the same time, local governments are often frustrated in the performance of obligations by conditions which they only partly control or which they refuse to confront.

Any local government, no matter how wealthy the residents of the area it represents, has at best limited financial resources. Such limits are imposed politically by the failure of local omcials to provide the leadership required to persuade the taxpayers to devote a greater share of their income and property to government. Local governments are &so restricted geographically by the limited area included withnt even the largest juris­diction. The ability of local governmental units to support services is frequently disproportionate to the need for such services. In addition, any single local government is restricted in the range of its policy making and implementation by its geographic limits, its inability to control the social and economic forces outside its boundaries, kind its consequent in­ability to plan successfully. In some cases the effectiveness of local govern­ment is impaired by intergoverrnental hostilities and failure to face realities.

Local governments cannot overcome these liimtations alone, As fondly as officials and citizens may cling to the hope that single-handed efforts will solve the problems of today and hold back the future, clearly this is a fanciful hope. What must be done is neither easy nor simple, but it is within the responsibility and capacity of State and local governments working together.

Local governments have shown repeatedly that they can support serv­ices and facilities cooperatively that would be impossible for single units alone. Joint efforts can result in enormous expansion of the financial base for the solution of a problem. Available administrative and policy talent are enlarged and benefil from exchange of information. The pros­pects for achieving mutually beneficial solutions to problems tormenting the jurisdictions are greatly enhanced.

In addition, the cooperation and coordination of local governments in resolving problems of area-wide concern free resources for meeting local problems and needs. Thus, local government as a strong pa)’tlc)pant in area-wide affairs can also mean local government with greater potential to fulfill its purely local role.

Desirable levels of local government coordination and cooperation can be achieved only through the establishment of area-wide agencies and procedures, greater State participation in community affairs, and expanded bases for interjurisdictional cooperation.


The emergence of rapidly growing urban areas is a relatively new phenomenon in the Commonwealth, and the full impact of urban growth is still to be felt. Virginia currently has six metropolitan areas. One of these, in Northern Virginia, is part of the Washington metropolitan area. The other five existing metropolitan areas are Richmond, Roanoke, Lynchburg, and the two sides of the Hampton Roads. These six metro­politan areas encompass eleven counties and twelve cities, They include twelve percent of Virginia’s land area and contain fifty-six percent of the State’s population. Dramatically underscoring the direction of future growth, eighty-five percent of the State’s entire population increase be­tween 1950 and 1960 occurred in these six metropolitan areas.

The Division of Planning undertook for the Metropolitan Areas Study Commission a year-long study of population and employment projections to 1980- The results of this study are summarized in another report, Projections to 1980 for Virginia Metropolitan Areas, available as a separate publication from the Division of Planning. These projections indicate that by 1980, in addition to the six existing metropolitan areas, four additional metropolitan areas will have emerged. These include an additional interstate area, Bristol-Kingsport, and also Charlottesville, Danville, and the Petersburg-ftopewell-Colonial Heights area.

The State’s ten existing and emerging metropolitan areas now contain a population of three million, about sixty-seven percent of all Vir­ginians. By 1980. the total population of these ten metropolitan areas is expected to reach 4.3 million and to account for nearly three-fourths of the total population of the State.

Virginia soon will have its own megalopolis extending from North­ern Virginia down the Interstate 95 corridor through Fredericksburg to Richmond, and then along the James River to Tidewater. In addition to this growing urban corridor, another is emerging along Routes 11 and Si through the Great Valley of Virginia.

It is difficult to make valid comparisons among the Virginia metro­politan areas. Each has its unique character; each has a separate history and is facing a somewhat different future. Governmental arrangements for meeting area-wide needs range from friendly cooperation to hostility. And, although each metropolitan area is UniqUe, as noted in a previous Commission report, certain major problems recur and are common to most of the metropolitan areas.

Some Critical Problems

In urban Virginia, as in the metropolitan areas of other states, per­haps the most critical and far-reaching urban problems stem from the growing concentrations of slums and core-city blight, with all accom­panying social and economic ills.

The sociological and economic problems of these areas are far different from those of more stable communities, sometimes only a few short blocks distant, and from the rapidly expanding suburbs which char­acterize modem urban growth.

The social dangers inherent in the continued deterioration of the central city have become too obvious in the waning decades of the 20th Century. Its residents, sensitive to the growing affluence surrounding them, can lose hope; their protests, incoherent and scarcely understood, can explode into violence.

Although many cities have launched ambitious redevelopment efforts, these rebuilding programs too often treat only the symptoms and not the cause of the real problems which exist. As useful as many have been, urban redevelopment programs at times lack the scope, vision, and human and financial resources required to establish the core areas as attractive centers for urban life, In addition, effective programs to retain and main­tain the present quality of many urban areas are lacking.

Any consideration of the governmental functions of a metropolitan area can ignore these problems only at the risk of serious danger. The Virginia metropolitan areas, pondering their future, must be aware of the core city, and must provide the human and financial resources neces­sary to find solutions to its pressing problems.

Rut these are only part of the difficulties inherent in rapid metro­politan growth. There is a growing awareness that a frequent cost of urban living is the loss of the amenities, pleasures, and recreational ad­vantages of the natural environment.

The need for a place to play, to walk, and to enjoy the outdoors has recently received dramatic recognition in the Commonwealth by the work of the Virginia Outdoor Recreation Commission, This is a need that some of the metropolitan areas are attempting to meet, but efforts thus far ap­pear to fall far short of what is required. The cost of open land is high, the availability of open space often is limited, and the rapid population growth is decreasing the land availability very rapidly. The unplanned and wasteful use of so vital a resource is too familiar a part of metro­politan growth

Similarly, congested streets and highways and inadequate mass transit facilities are so much a part of the metropolitan areas that little elabora­tion is required here. Virginia’s metropolitan areas without exception are struggling with these problems. State and local governments have made huge investments in street systems, often at the cost of heavy debt burdens. The increase in the number of special transportation authori­ties supported by economically expensive tolls emphasizes the scope and seriousness of the problem. Public transit systems too frequently are designed to conform to artificial boundaries rather than to the needs of area-wide populations-

Many ocher problema equally signthcant are apparent in urban Vir­ginia, problems which spilt over into less populous areas. One major 1gob-lem is water pollution, spoiling the beauty and utility of many of the State’s major streams. The growing concentrations of population, along with the Commonwealth’s rapid industrialization, continuislly intensify pollution problems.

The adequacy of sanitary sewer facilities also controls water quality and poses serious problems. Urban and suburban development is heavily influenced by patterns of sanitation arrangements; often local govern­ments are faced with enormous capital burdens from “inherited,” inade­quate systems. Waste disposal facilities have frequently been located with­out thought to area-wide planning; combined storm and sanitary sewer systems, particularly in older congested areas, contribute to pollution prob­(ems and are expensive to replace. Where comprehensive planning should take place, piecemeal development is the rule.

This same situation too often applies to local water supplies and to the development of water treatment facilities. Although all of the localities in the metropolitan areas thus far have developed generally adequate water sources, the future is far less promising. Local governments throughout the State are facing potential water shortages; the metro­politan areas are no exception.

To single out these area-wide problems is not to ignore other im­portant needs, such as community library facilities, fire protection, law enforcement, solid waste disposal, community renewal, welfare needs, edu­cational programs, and such major area-wide public facilities as airports, stitdiums, coliseums, and detention facilities. Those discussed, however, are some of the more serious problems that most of Virginia’s metro­politan areas are facing.

Government0t Considerations

A number of basic governmental problems concern the metropolitan areas in varying degrees. In some areas, annexation is a source of govern­mental tension, a barrier to coherent policy-making. Counties are quite reluctant to enter into intergovernmental agreements or to cooperate with cities, since such actions may ultimately contribute to loss of county ter­ritory in an annexation court.

Intergovernmental agreements frequently could be helpful in solving metropolitan problems. AU too often, however, they are ineffective because of the threat of annexation, Consequently, many sex-vice contracts are short-term or carry “at will” termination clauses and often are unsatis­factory to those purchasing services. These agreements frequently are not developed on a basis beneficial to an entire metropolitan area.

The fragmentation of governmental units and powers is one of the most difficult problems facing metropolitan areas throughout the nation and often results in expensive duplications of services and facilities, un­economical operating levels, and problems of coordination. Such frag­mentation is encouraged in Virginia’s metropolitan areas through the creation of special service districts, and the low population level required for town incorporation and the transition from town to city status.

Major deficiencies exist in metropolitan planning and policy-making-Planning should encompass appropriate areas, and focus not only on the orderly physical development of the metropolitan areas, but also treat comprehensively the full range of problems implicit in urban develop­ment. Planning must be more adequately financed to provide necessary professional support and, to be effective, must be more closely related to the decision-making process. In a democracy this involves political deci­sions, made by elected officials.

The demands of urban life impose an increa&ngly heavy burden on the fiscal resources of local government in the metropolitan areas. Prob­lens generated outside local boundaries become problems which local gov­ernments must solve. Services are required and serious strain is imposed on the limited financial resources of the localities. The result often is inadequate provision of necessary programs for education, welfare, public health, and other services.

The ability of local governments in Virginia’s metropolitan areas to provide appropriate services efficiently, economically, and on an equitable cost basis to their citizens is a key test of their effectiveness. The results have been mixed, varying from area to area.

With reduced annexation pressures. similar problems, a tradition of cooperation, and the willingness of officials to consider area-wide prob­lems, the Hampton-Newport News and Northern Virginia areas have made progress in meeting common needs. The Norfolk area also shows strong potential for developing area-wide solutions to its problems.

The elements of the Richmond and Roanoke metropolitan areas are in need of closer cooperation on urgent problems. Recent annexation proceedings have impaired the cooperative efforts that previously existed. The problems of the Lynchburg area are less intense but eventually may emerge as major problems if the present situation continues. The early beginnings of many of the same metropolitan problems are already evi­dent in the State’s emerging metropolitan areas.

Virginia localities theoretically possess the necessary legal powers to meet area-wide governmental and service prohlemt In actual practice truly effective area-wide policy-making for a metropolitan area does not exist. Continuity of intergovernmental agreements is shaped by personal­ities and temporary political conditions. It is a delicate thread easily broken by the uncertainty of annexation, changes in local leadership, or admin­istrative reorganization.

The growing problems of Virginia’s metropolitan areas and the manner in which these problems are being met - or neglected -  suggest the need for new approaches, new alternatives. Again it should be em­phasized that the metropolitan areas, despite their significant differences, share major common problems.

Careful analysis of those problems indicates that neither the State nor the metropolitan areas themselves can depend upon local agreements and contracts alone for solutions. A compelling need is apparent for permanent arrangements for coordinated area-wide planning, policy deci­sions, and implementation.

Such arrangements must possess the full legal, organizational, and financial base required to deal effectively with area-wide service problems. In addition, they must provide the flexibility necessary to meet the varying Local needs of each area

There is little question that solutions must be developed for the got’­ernniental problems associated with annexation, inter-governmental agree­ments, governmental fragmentation, and fiscal problems. Many of the existing service problems result in varying degree from intergovernmental difficulties. A major issue is whether or not the subdivisions of the State are designed so that they can effectively and economically provide that share of governmental responsibility expected of them in the interest of the whole State as well as in the interest of only a part­In the context of the very rapid growth of Virginia’s population and

the continued concentration of her citizens in larger urban areas in the years immediately ahead, the need for action is urgent. There is time, yet, to resolve problems which, while critical, are still manageable. In a few short years they may not be.


Many approaches aimed at resolving metropolitan problems more ef­fectively have been considered by the Commission. Various recornmenda­tions have been offered by consultants, participants at public hearings, and government officials, all of whom have given careful thought to the problems of Virginia’s metropolitan areas. Many of these concepts have been incorporated into the recommendations contained in these pages. Other approaches suggested, although utilized in other parts of the nation, were not recommended for a variety of reasons. Some of the alternative approaches considered for Virginia’s metropolitan areas can be sumrnar­ized here.

Regional Planning Commissions

Regional planning commissions may be established through voluntary intergovernmental agreements to provide some planning functions for areas involving more than one jurisdiction. These commissions seek to develop comprehensive plans for the coordination of decision-making by local governmental units.

In Virginia such commissions are composed largely of private citizens Present statutes prohibit more than one elected official from each cooperat­ing jurisdiction from serving on a regional planning commission. As an incentive to regional planning, the State is authorized to provide 11-nancial assistance not exceeding $1O.000 annually to each regional plan­ning body. Other financial support typically is made available from the local governments and by Federal grants. Available financial support, however, is often inadequate to provide necessary professional planning services.

Plans developed by regional planning commissions become effective within local governmental units only when adopted by their governing bodies. The lack of a closer relationship between the regional planning function and the political decision-making process is a serious deterrent to implementation of area-wide planning. In addition, the planning fre~ quently involves limited political and geographical areas. Regional planS ning commissions as presently utilized appear to have limited potential in the orderly development of metropolitan areas.

Councils of Government

Councils of government are voluntary associations of elected public

officials from the governmental units within a metropolitan area. Such f) councils normally have no operating functions, but rather provide forums

for discussion, research, and recommendations. Councils of government generally are financed by voluntary local support, often supplemented by matching Federal grants.

Although councils of government are entirely voluntary, a number of such associations in the nation have achieved significant results in stimulating cooperation among local governmental units within a metro­ area. The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, which includes representatives from localities in the Northern Virginia metro­politan area, has exerted a beneficial influence on that area. Because of their voluntary nature and their lack of general governmental powers. however, their contributions are limited. Dec~sion-makers for a metro­politan area can be assembled, but a mechanism is needed for positive action on an area-wide basis.

Public Service Authorities

Public service authorities normally perform governmental functions which can be financed through service and user charges. Such authorities can be either single-purpose or multi-purpose. The former provide a single, self-financing service, concerned with a single problem on an area-wide basis. Such an authority, for example, can provide water, sanitation services, regional parks, or other community needs without restriction by the boundaries of local governmental units.

The principal difficulty of this approach is that it complicates rather than simplifies governmental coordination in a metropolitan area. Heavy reliance on single-purpose authorities inevitably leads to fragmentation of governmental powers.

Within limits, single-purpose authorities can be helpful, but wide­spread creation of such authorities adds to the complexity of government in metropolitan areas and results in the inability of counties and cities to meet metropolitan problems on a coordinated and effective basis.

The tendency to rely on single-purpose authorities may indicate lack of governmental leadership and foresight, leading ultimately to serious aggravation of metropolitan problems.

        Multi-purpose service authorities are designed to provide more than one service, but these also are limited to services iinanced by service er user charges. Because they may provide more than one service, multi­purpose authorities do not lead to the extreme fragmentation of govern­mental powerz resulting from the proliferation of single-purpose au­thorities. The multi-purpose authority can provide only self-tlnancing activities, however, and its riinge of usefulness is restricted. Such au­thorities contribute to fragmentation of governmental powers in metro­~olitan areas. Their effectiveness is limited.

Abandonment of City-County Separation

There is little question of the significant advantages offered by a governmental structure in which those governmental functions which can best be provided on an area-wide basis are performed by an area-wide gov­erornental unit, and those functions which should be performed locally are retained by local governmental units. However, these advantages are lost if one layer of government is not truly area-wide. The elimination of city-county separation in Virginia generally would not result in an area-wide jurisdiction.

City-county separation on a state-wide basis is unique to Virginus. Under this system of local government cities have possessed greater pow­ers and greater freedom of administrative arrangrnents than counties. In recent years the powers of counties have been increased and the distinc­tions between counties and cities significantly reduced.

It has been suggested that the problems of local governments in Vir­ginia would be reduced with the elimination of city-county separation. Such suggestions envision that area-wide services would be provided by the county, and urban services required by city residents would be pro­vided by municipal government. Under such a system the county overlaps the municipality common and overlapping service functions are main­tained, and the legal status of the municipality is similar to that of the present Virginia town. Since the county then could levy taxes on privately-owned municipal property, it is suggested the fiscal issues of annexation might be considerably reduced.

While the elimination of city-county separation has some appeal, such a step would appear to create more problems that it would solve. All of Virginia’s metropolitan areas, except Roanoke, contain more than two counties or cities. In such metropolitan areas the elimination of city-county separation would provide no basis for an area-wide approach to metropolitan problems.

It is significant that in metropolitan areas of comparable size in other states, intergovernmental conflicts and tensions are far more serious and damaging than in Virginia where city-county separation exists. The slight advantages that might be gained by abandoning city-county sep­aration would almost certainly be offset by the confusion and cost of over­lapping levels of government, diffusion of responsibility, and duplication of functions and services that characterize local government in other states. It should be noted, in fact, that in other states county-city separa­tion is often cited as a means of reducing metropolitan problems.

Increased State ReaponsibUities

During the past several decades a trend has developed in the partial or total transfer of the responsibility for and control of some functions of local government to the State. These include the administration of public health, the county road and highway systems, and the financing of education and welfare.

It has been suggested that some metropolitan problems could be elim­inated by transferring the responsibility for additional functions from the localities to the State.

There is little question that in some instances, such as the provision of an adequate and safe highway system and a sound welfare program, it is desirable that the State’s greater financial, technical, and administra­tive resources be utilized to achieve uniform standards on a State-wide basis. It also may be reasonable for the State to assume a larger role in certain aspects of local functions, such as the training of personnel, tax equalization, and the development of an air transportation system.

However, practical considerations make it desirable that many govern­mental functions be administered at the local or area level by appro­priate political subdivisions of the State. Although greater State assistance in education, planning, recreation, and in the development of street and highway systems is clearly needed in the metropolitan areas, there is sufficient difference in demand and resources that central administration by the State is not desirable or practical.


The enlargement of a city’s boundaries by annexation of a portion of an adjoining or surrounding county provides an expanded economic base and may provide a larger development area for a city. Throughout the country annexation is frequently recommended as a solution to metro­politan problems. In most states, however, annexation is legally permitted but politically impractical. Virginia’s long-established system by which annexation may be accomplished is often envied by many political scien­tists in other states,

With the increasingly rapid development of Virginia’s urban areas, however, annexation is becoming less effective in helping to resolve the Statds metropolitan problems. The annexation process contemplates the orderly extension of municipal services to adjoining areas where a gra& ual pattern of outward growth of urban utilities and services is neces­sary. In recent years rapid and widely dispersed growth and provision of services by adjacent counties has so far outpaced the extension of city boundaries and service facilities that annexation in most cases no longer offers practical solutions to metropolitan problems.

Under current annexation guidelines, financial reimbursements to counties for annexed territory often are at levels the city is unable or unwilling to assume. As a result, the annexation process breaks down. In effect, the annexation court decides that it is necessary and expedient that a portion of the county’s ten-itory be awarded to the city, but the city is unable or unwilling to carry out the court’s judgment.

The uncertainty of future annexation efforts also is a source of inter­governmental tension. Without adequate knowledge of future boundary changes, local governmental units cannot plan wisely for major long-term development. Existing pen’nissive legislation authorized broad intergov­ernmental agreements; any two governmental units in Virgmia can per­form almost any function they can exercise separately. All too frequently, however, this approach to coordinated metropolitan action is made inef­fective because of the uncertainty or likelihood of annexation. Counties are reluctant to enter into intergovernmental agreements and 4rrangc-ments with cities for the joint performance of functions, for fear the cities can then argue dependency and community of interest in an annexatiqp proceeding.

The Virginia system of annexation has been successful in the past and may continue to have at least limited success in the future. In heavily urbanized areas present annexation procedures can become a disruptive process, resulting in enormous governmental effort and expense to achieve limited goals.


Consolidation is the merger of two or more governmental units into a single, new unit. Since it is a far-reaching process, involving a variety of complex political, legal, and social adjustments, relatively few consoli­dations have occurred in the United States.

Virginia’s record of consolidations has been remarkable. Six consoli­dations have occurred in this century, all in present metropolitan areas. Four such mergers have occurred since 1950. in three of the four recent cases it would appear that the possibility of annexation contributed to consolidation.

Consolidation reduces governmental fragmentation and provides a larger and more heterogeneous tax base. The larger area and more di­versified economic base of a consolidated governmental unit provide for the support of orderly growth and a balance of service benefits and costs.

A major advantage of consolidation is its resulting simplicity. in some cases consolidation is the ideal solution to the problems of a metro­politan area. Even though all but one of Virginia’s present metropolitan areas contain more than two units of government, consolidation can be helpful in reducing some of the problems of metropolitan areas and should be encouraged. It should be recognized that the political feasibility of consolidation is generally limited.

Summary of Alternatives

While all of the alternatives discussed here have varying degrees of merit, they have not been successful in resolving the problems of Vir­ginia’s metropolitan areas- Clearly a broader and more flexible approach is essential.


In the pages which follow the major recommendations of the Metro­politan Areas Study Commission are outlined in detail, along with appro­priate discussion of their rationale and purpose.

In developing these recommendations the Commission observed a num­ber of standards. The most important of these are listed below.

It was considered essential:

1.  That there he provided a flexible and coherent system through which the State could assume a positive role in assuring the governmental health, efficiency, and success of its metropolitan areas.

2.  That means be provided by which local citizens could partic­ipate in meaningful area-wide decision-making.

3.  To build wherever possible on the strengths and achievements of existing patterns of local government.

4.  To provide the opportunity to create and utilize new com­binations of State. local, and area-wide governmental responses to the problems of rapid urbanization.

5.  That fragmentation of governmental units and powers be dis­couraged, conflict among local governments be reduced, and intergovernmental cooperation be stimulated and encouraged.

6-  To provide for the greatest possible participation of the State, local governments, and citizens in joint efforts to meet the prob­lems and needs of modern government in a metropolitan era

The Metropolitan Areas Study Commission believes its proposed pro­gram for action conforms to these standards, and it recommends;

Divi8ion of State Planning and Community Affairs

I.    That the State Division of Planning become the Division o/ Stare Planningl end Community Affairs, with appropriate strengthening of resources and personnel to meet its added responsibilities.

The creation of the State Division of Planning by the 1966 General Assembly was an important and constructive first step in expanding the State’s role in community affairs- However, there is clear need for greater State participation which can be expressed through technical assistance formal and informal advice and recommendations, and coordination of the various programs that affect local and regional decision-making. The strengthening of the role of the Division of Planning and changing its name to the Division of State Planning and Community Affairs are es­sential to this purpose.

II.  That the Division of State Plarnning and Community Affairs shall collect from the political subdivisionsof the State information relevant to boundary changes of forms of government or of status, intergovenmenmental  agreements and arrangements, and such other information as it may deem necessary.

One of the most serious deficiencies in State and local government in Virginia is the absence of basic information from which to develop major policy decisions. The Division of State Planning and Community Affairs should become a center for basic information, technical assistance, and coordination for State and local affairs.

            Once this information is systematically reported to a single data-collecting agency, it can be made available to members of the General Assembly, political subdivisions of the State, and the Commission on Local Government proposed in a subsequent recommendation­In addition, the Division of State Planning and Community Affairs will play a vital role in providing professional staff assistance to local and area planning agencies and to the Commission on Local Government. As a result it will develop expert knowledge in such fields as annexation, area-wide planning, and governmental services.

A strong Division of State Planning and Community Affairs will also provide an improved flow of information between State and local govern­ments, an important reservoir of knowledge and skill valuable in helping to prepare legislation affecting local governments, and a more rational and efficitnt pattern of State-local relations.

Commnission on Local Government

III.   That there be established a permanent Commission on Local Government

In order to assert effectively the interest of the State in the sound development of Virginia’s metropolitan areas, there must be provided an appropriate means of developing and articulating a coherent State policy toward local and metropolitan government. While the fundamental need for data collection and analysis can be met by a strengthened Division of State Planning and Community Aftairs, the next step must be the creation of a body able to utilize this information.

A.   The Commission ott Local Government shall be composed of three members elected by the General Assembly for terms of six years. The terms of the members shall be stczggered. No person shall be selected who has then attained the age of 84 years or above.

The recommended six-year terms, with reappointment possible, would permit members of the Commission to develop a comprehensive and de­tailed knowledge of community affairs. Continuity is provided by the stag­gered terms.

The Commission on Local Government, through continued study and involvement in local and metropolitan affairs, would develop a high level of expertise. The Commission thus would serve as an impartial agency of the State and propose sound and reasonable solutions to local and metro­politan problems.

B.   The Division of State Planning and Community Affairs shall provide professional staff services to the Commission on Local Governntertt. These services shall include those necessary for the effective performance of the duties of the Commission. The Commission shall also have the power to employ its own staff and to employ special consultants front time to time as necessary.

The strength of the Commission on Local Government will be its ability to promote sound and practical solutions to metropolitan problems. This strength can be realized only if the Commission has available the most current analyses of the problems and alternatives to meeting them. To fulfill this demanding role, the Commission must have continuous access to the competence and talent within the Division of State Planning and Community Affairs. Accordingly, the Division will be the permanent and continuing staff for the Commission of Local Goveniment.

C.   On and after January 1, 1972, where Service Districts (sub­sequently recommended) have not been established, the Comtnission on Local Goverament shall replace the present specially con­stituted annexation courts for hearing and ordering annexation proposals in those Planning Districts (subsequently recom­mended) which include all or part of a Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area. In all other areas of the State, the parties to an annexation proceeding instituted on and after January 1, 1972, may by mutual agreement have the boundanj extension determined by the Commission on Local Government in lieu of the special annexation court. The principles that shall govern the Commtuion shall be the Same as those applied by the special annexation court.

In metropolitan areas the annexation process is east into a special context that brings into play complex factors that do not exist in other parts of the State. A boundary revision through annexation in a metro­politan area has great implications for the area as a whole, and a body making such determinations needs both great knowledge and experience. To answer these needs it is proposed, therefore, that the Commission on Local Government review annexation proceedings in metropolitan areas. The knowledge and experience developed by the Commission in cons~der­ing boundary extensions in the metropolitan areas also could be beneficial in annexation proceedings in other parts of the State. Since the Com­mission on Local Government will be a permanent body, it will develop competence to deal with these questions and moreover will have at its disposal the necessary staff resources,

D.    The Commission on Local Government shall approve or disap­prove incorporatsons of towns, transitions from town to city status, and transition from cities of the second class to cities of the first class. This provision shall not apply to towns which had a population of five thousand or more according to the U.S. Census of .1960 or to existing cities of the second class in 1960. Transition to city status in the case of towns with a population of five thousand or more according to the 1960 Census, and transi­tion of cities of the second class which were cities of the second class in 1960, shall be governed by the provisions of law in effect at the present time. In instances where a town, with a population of five thousand or more according to the Census of 1960, or a city of the second class in 1960, petitions the Circuit Court for transition in status, the order approving the transition shall not become effective until the Court has approved the financial ar­rangements for the transition. In all other instances in which a town or a city petitions the Commission on Local Gsvernrrtent for a change in status, the order approving the transition shall not become effective until the Commission on Local Government has approved the financial arrangements for the transition,

In metropolitan areas the transition of towns to cities, and to a lesser extent the incorporation of towns, can result in serious fragmentation of governmental units. The high level of competence achieved by the Com­mission on Local Government will be valuable in reviewing such proposed transition. While the population level is, of course, a factor in considering the desirability of such transitions, it should be recognized that other standards are important, including whether the environmental setting is urban or rural, the size and character of the adjoining county or counties, and the needs of the entire area. The Commission review of the financial arrangements for transition will assure careful and expert analysis.

According to the 1960 U. S. Census, a number of municipalities have populations which currently qualify for transition from town to city or transition from city of the second class to city of the first class. The saving clause for such municipalities is included in the previous recom­mendation to avoid an excessive number of transitions as a result of the recommendation.

E.    The Commission on Local Government shall approve or disapprove the establishment of new public authorities and special service districts which are proposed to be created under general enabling legislation, the jurisdiction of which will be either partly or wholly within a Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area, Those public authorities with the entire State as their jurisdiction shall he exceptions to this provision. In acting upon such establish­ment, the Commission on Local Government shall consider: (1) whether or not the public authority or special service district is in the best interests of the entire metropolitan area and the State as a whole; and (2) the availability in that metropolitan area of the services to he provided by the new public authority or special service district and the cost thereof.

Extensive creation of special service districts in metropolitan areas can result in unresponsive units of government removed from the people, duplication of functions, and fragmentation of governmental powers.