The political geography of annexation--Roanoke, Virginia

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Virginia Tech

The evolution and relative importance of four issues -- civic boosterism and community autonomy, public services and planning, financial considerations, and race-related considerations -- were examined and analyzed as critical factors in Roanoke, Virginia's historic use of annexation. Particular attention was paid to the 1943, 1949, and 1962 annexation suits because they occurred during the period of increasing county opposition to annexation.

An historical and political geographic methodology, which focused on Guelke's idealism, was used to analyze the role of the two principal actors, city and county officials as public personae, whose actions on the four issues constituted the scenario for the city's thirteen annexation suits.

Civic boosterism and community autonomy played the initial role motivating the two principal actors in each suit. Expanding population, urbanization, and the statutory changes in Virginia’s annexation laws in 1904 increased the importance of public services and planning and financial considerations. Race-related considerations, however, were publicly ignored until the late 1960s after passage of the civic rights legislation.

Rising county opposition resulted in passage of numerous bills permitting counties to provide services and other government functions comparable to those offered by cities. This gave Roanoke County officials and their constituents an alternative to annexation. As a consequence, Roanoke County increasingly opposed the city's annexation plans. In 1980 Roanoke County gained immunity from further annexations.