Could Richmond soon annex Henrico and/or Chesterfield land? Maybe we could take Willow Lawn, or wait until Chesterfield redevelops Cloverleaf, then we can take that too.

Don’t count on that happening, but Gov. Kaine may have cleared the way for the possibility.

Currently cities are forbidden from annexing land from neighboring counties. As I understand the history, originally cities were able to annex county land to keep residential and commercial properties within city limits, and to keep counties rural. For various reasons (some blatantly racist), this policy was changed and cities were prohibited from growing physically. (Corrections anyone?)

During this legislative session, a republican-authored bill passed both the House and the Senate to extend the ban on annexation to 2020. The Times-Dispatch reports that Kaine vetoed this bill (they really buried this info, there’s one paragraph about it near the bottom of the page). The full text of the bill is available at Richmond Sunlight (who says Kaine vetoed this in February- is the TD really far behind or is that date incorrect?).

So what’s the benefit of annexation? Usually increasing tax revenue. It allows cities to expand their tax base by taking vacant, commercial, or industrial land. Residential properties don’t generate enough taxes to pay for the services required (schools, police, fire, roads, etc.), and local governments rely on taxes on businesses to make up the difference. Since cities generally have little or no vacant land to develop, they can’t easily correct for imbalances in land-use and the resulting deficiencies in tax collections.

Here’s a pic of Los Angeles- you can see how odd the city boundaries are:

LA Annexation

At some point the city decided it needed access to a harbor, so they annexed a little “shoestring” of land down to the waterfront.

I’m not sure annexation would be necessary in Richmond. But in some small cities it might be very beneficial. Winchester, VA, for example, has very little land to develop, and the neighboring county has built lots of big-box retail right on the city border, basically killing the downtown and taking the retail tax revenues from the city. So annexation could solve some issues there, but certainly wouldn’t be easy politically.

But it could be fun to think about annexing some of the suburbs here in Richmond. I propose Richmond takes over Willow Lawn first. I’m sure it would improve relations between the city and the county, nothing promotes regionalism like taking each other’s land!  Where do you think Richmond should start annexing?

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