Bill shifts power to create sanitary districts

FRONT ROYAL – A bill to give elected leaders power to create sanitary districts appears headed to Gov. Terry McAuliffe for possible approval.

The legislation comes too late to affect the Warren County’s Lake Front Royal neighborhood where homeowners and residents sparred last year over the creation of a sanitary district for the subdivision. A majority of county supervisors ultimately decided not to support property owners who wanted to abolish the special tax district.

Del. J. Randall “Randy” Minchew, R-Leesburg, sponsored House Bill 1470 that transfers authority to create or enlarge sanitary districts from the circuit court to the governing body of the county or city in which the district is located. The bill requires the governing body, at a hearing for the creation or enlargement of a sanitary district, to make a finding of fact of whether or not the action is necessary, practical, fiscally responsible and supported by at least 50 percent of people who own real property in the proposed district or, in the case of enlargement, the area sought for inclusion. The bill also gives sole power to dissolve such a sanitary district to the governing body.

The state Senate passed the bill 40-0 on Tuesday. The House of Delegates passed the bill 95-2 on Jan. 30.

Minchew represents parts of Clarke, Frederick and Loudoun counties. The delegate sponsored the bill on behalf of the Clarke County Board of Supervisors. Last year, a Clarke County Circuit Court judge dissolved the short-lived sanitary district created for the Shenandoah Farms subdivision in Clarke County. Warren County established the Shenandoah Farms Sanitary District in its jurisdiction years ago in order to help the neighborhood improve its roads. Clarke County supervisors argued such a district for its part of the subdivision would put an undue tax burden on residents.

Current Virginia law puts the power to create a sanitary district with circuit courts and the signatures of at least “qualified voters” living in a subdivision or area. Conversely, the state requires “qualified voters” obtain support from the supervisors and approval by the circuit court to abolish the district.

Warren County supervisors last year voted 3-2 against a motion to join a petition of more than 50 qualified voters who planned to ask the court to dissolve the sanitary district. Circuit Judge Ronald Napier had earlier in the year ordered the creation of the district.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com