Incorporated towns with no population

Every once in a while, I hear about a very small town, one with only one or two people living in it. But they’re incorporated, so the people/person there have to perform all the functions of the town (be mayor, file reports with the state, etc.). They’re usually very rural places.

So what happens when these people pass away and their heirs don’t want to live in the town? And neither do whoever buys the place, if they can even sell it. So an incorporated town with no population. Does the state just disincorporate it?

And what about counties in the same situation? That may not have happened (yet) but may sometime in the future. Well, Kalawao County is a special situation (it’s a former leper colony that they don’t let anyone new move to) and it should be depopulated within a couple decades at most. But I’m thinking more about the High Plains area. For example, Greeley County in Kansas has less than 1300 people and is shrinking steadily. What happens if it gets too underpopulated to function as a county?

Here’s how Texas handled it once per Wikipedia:

The current population of Loving County is estimated at 134, and I remember at one time (1990 census?) it was 56

It makes sense that the state would dissolve the corporate entity and just merge it with an adjacent county, and a dissolved city would just revert back to unincorporated county land.

Countes (& towns) were created by the state; presumably the state could also decide to dissolve them/merge them with neighbors, etc. And the state almost certainly would; there are governmentl functions that need to be done. For example, in many states the county is the unit of government responsible for collecting property taxes. The state has a strong interest in seeing that this gets done.

Right. Obviously it will depend on the state’s incorporation laws. If the city government isn’t fulfilling the requirements, the state will nullify the incorporation.

Yep. The state government has absolute power to establish and abolish municipalities as they see fit. Whatever home rule privileges the town or city might have are devolved from the authority of the state legislature and can be revoked at will.

A couple of towns in my state ran into financial trouble, and disincorporated. They are now treated like rural areas. Police work is done by the county sheriff’s office, firefighting is done by a volunteer fire department.

In the Great Depression, several towns around here were disincorporated. They still had a population but had no means to carry out normal town activities.

In modern times, the requirements of state and federal laws to ensure certain actions are taken and monies allocated to them properly spent make keeping a town incorporated even harder. So some decide to disincorporate on their own. E.g., Juntura, Oregon.

Dixie, Oregon holds a place in my heart. It’s population listed on the sign was 2 in 1960. It was basically a house and a dinner. When I-80N (I-84) was being put in it was in the way so the dinner was put on wheels and moved a bit away. There it sat for a number of years. Don’t know when it was official disincorporated.

I remember a long time ago reading about the small town we fled when I was a kid and they closed down the local school. (Making it a long drive to the nearest school.) An article in the “big city” paper later on talked about how the mayor (a friend of our family) got the job since he was the only one who could be talked into taking it. The state gave the town a few hundred bucks for bicycle paths. He had on idea how he was going to legitimately spend it.

Didn’t Nevada once try to establish a county with no population? IIRC, it was around the Yucca Mountain waste disposal site, with the intention that that way, there’d be no “locals” in the county who could object to it.

City of Industry, CA was incorporated intending to have as few residents as possible.

Bullfrog County

With no residents there would be no voters or anyone to stand for office. Seems like once a mandated election rolls around and no one wins this thing will work itself out.

Must have been a really big dinner!

Right, I’d forgotten about that one. But it isn’t really what I’d had in mind for the OP.

Note that it wasn’t that there’d be no locals to vote against the waste disposal site, but rather that the state government would control it outright (there was no privately owned land in the county) and could set the tax rate to be prohibitively high.

You could have a set-up comparable to that of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the jurisdiction in which Disney World lies. Its governing body is elected by the landowners of the district, all of which are Disney employees. Even though the area is part of normal counties with normal voters in it (Osceola and Orange), it does have some public powers over the territory.

The whole thing sounds a little bit like Old Sarum, the most notorius of the pre-1832 “rotten boroughs” in the UK. Essentially it was an uninhabited hill which formed a parliamentary constituency, electing two Members of Parliament for the House of Commons. It was operating under a franchise where the tenants of certain defined plots had the right to vote; in practice, in each election the owner of the hill would assign these plots to trusted straw men, effectively holding the power to simply appoint the two MPs. Elections in Old Sarum were so absurd that towards the end, before the abolition of such boroughs in 1832, they had become a kind of tourist attraction.

I also read of a case a few years ago of an election in the US with only one legitimate voter (in some sort of subdivision of a city). It was basically a business district, and thought to have no residents. The law was that in such a subdivision, there were certain questions that could be voted on by all of the residents of the subdivision, or by all of the property owners if there were no residents. The businessmen who owned the properties wanted something about a local sales tax, and thought they’d be able to vote it in with no problem, except that it turned out that there was actually a single resident there, who therefore got to decide for herself.

I heard about the same thing, Chronos, but can’t remember much more. Pretty sure it was in California, though.

A community improvement district in Columbia, Missouri

Counties and cities are dissolved all the time. Here is a list of the counties in my state of South Dakota that were dissolved and absorbed by other counties. The list of extinct cities is even longer.

That’s true, but as far as that type of incorporation goes, Industry has been able to maintain a relatively normal existence, and doesn’t really raise any eyebrows.

In comparison, the City of Vernon, which likewise incorporated solely to serve business, and has an even lower population, (in fact, the lowest population of any incorporated city in California), has become so corrupted by these circumstances that both the California legislature and the L.A. Board of Supervisors are seeking its disincorporation. Unlike the other small, incorporated cities in this area adjacent to the southeast edge of the Los Angeles, known as “the Corridor of Corruption,” no population of real residents has ever been allowed to establish there, so there’s no way for a voting public to change anything.

The leaders of City of Commerce, City of Industry’s cousin, seem to take their duties of incorporation very seriously: (L.A. Times: “Brawl erupts at convention for local-government officials at Indian Wells resort.”)