I was reading the Wikipedia article about John Entwistle who died in 2002 while staying at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. His official place of death, however, is given as “Paradise, Nevada”. Paradise is an “unincorporated town” in Clark County, Nevada. According to Wikipedia, it has a population of 223,167:
I’ve heard the expression “unincorporated area” before, but I always thought this would usually refer to a dirt road and a handful of farmhouses somewhere out in the boondocks. Why is one of the busiest, most urban places on the planet an “unincorporated town”? Why isn’t this just simply a part (actually the heart!) of Las Vegas?
Because they specifically do not want to be. Staying legally separate from the City of Las Vegas is the reason that it exists in the first place. Thinks about it. If you were part of a group of casino owners, would you want to be part of a city with all the additional costs, rules and regulations associated with that or be just outside the technical city limits where there are fewer taxes, laws and regulations?
“In 1950, mayor Ernie Cragin of Las Vegas, looking to fund an ambitious building agenda and pay down the city’s rising debt, sought to expand the city’s tax base by annexing the Las Vegas Strip which is unincorporated territory. A group of casino executives, led by Gus Greenbaum of the Flamingo, lobbied the county commissioners for township status which would prevent the city from annexing the land without the commission’s approval. The commission voted to create the unincorporated township of Paradise on December 8, 1950.”
In Florida, we have a nearly opposite arrangement: all of Duval County is incorporated into the City of Jacksonville, and the county government is also the city commission. It’s because of a number of corruption scandals in the city government which voters decided to get rid of by making it surplus to requirements.
They still have to comply with county ordinances and regulations. It removes one level of local regulation but not both.
But “unincorporated” communities at the outskirts of a larger established city are always at risk of becoming annexed as part of that bigger city, and they often take overt preemptive measures to prevent that from happening.
Consider a few cases: Much of the San Fernando Valley was unincorporated farmland, way back in the day, and a few small parts of it became cities themselves (e.g., San Fernando; Glendale). The rest eventually became part of Los Angeles. More recently, within the last few years, there has been occasional agitation for the Los Angeles parts of the Valley to secede and become a separate city (or several). Of course, the area is too deeply dependent on L. A. city services by now for that to ever happen.
Contrast the city of Cotati in Sonoma County, at the edge of featureless Rohnert Park (which itself is a sort of bland bedroom community alongside Santa Rosa). Faced with possible annexation into Rohnert Park, the community got itself incorporated as a separate city.
Currently, this is also playing out in Modesto, Stanislaus County. At the edge of Modesto is a farmland community called Wood Colony. For the past several years, there has been some talk of annexing this into Modesto, possibly to re-zone the area as light commercial or light industrial :eek: and I see some fairly recent headlines also about the idea of annexing adjacent Salida (which I always thought was already an incorporated city). The residents in those areas are dead-set against it, of course. But they have no say in the Modesto City Council, so their only power is to lobby against the moves (mainly in the form of anti-annexation signs on people’s lawns), and hope to generate enough sympathetic PR among Modesto residents to torpedo the move.
I find it odd that this Paradise area in Nevada feels “safe” from Los Vegas City as long as they remain “unincorporated”. I would expect them to feel much safer if they incorporated as an official separate city.
Incorporation would entail additional costs and the requirement to provide certain services. They would also be able to tax on top of the county tax, and it’s possible the residents didn’t want to pay the additional taxes.
Back in the middle-late 1990’s, the city of Joplin, Missouri wanted to annex a few square miles of unincorporated space adjacent to the city. The annexation would have brought a handful of businesses (a gas station here, a sex shop there) and a couple thousands residents into the city. The debate about the annexation led to one of the stupidest things ever said by anybody, that I have ever encountered: a writer to The Joplin Globe wrote a letter to the editor opposing the move because, and I’m paraphrasing here, there is more crime in bigger cities, so why would Joplin want to become a bigger city?
Funny you should mention the Modesto situation. My aunt and uncle live in Modesto and both are fierce opponents of both the Wood Colony and the Salida annexations. Both have written several letters to the editor, attended council meetings, and generally made names for themselves locally by so vehemently opposing the move.
If a town choses not to incorporate then the responsibility for typical city services falls to the county level. If the residents are happy with the level of services without incorporating into a city there is not law saying that you have to.
Incorporating a town into a city is to invite the Home Owner’s Association from Hell into your life. Petty laws and rules, minor taxes on everything. They call it a City Council but my description is more accurate.
Well, involuntary annexation rules vary from state to state, but in Nevada this appears to be the minimum level of organization necessary to defend against a hostile takeover without the additional costs of full incorporation.
On the other hand, in other states full independent long-standing incorporation as a distinct municipality isn’t enough to protect against involuntary annexation if your population is below certain levels (for example).
This varies a lot depending on the municipality laws of each state. What Paradise did was to change their status from nothing, i.e. an unincorporated area of Clark County, to “unincorporated town,” which is a specific category under Nevada law that entitles them to certain services provided by the County and a limited “town advisory board,” who may be elected or appointed by the county, and whose job is to advise the county about the town’s needs. The county may delegate certain powers to the advisory board.
“Annexation” seems to be an strange concept in the United States in this day and age. I have visions of armed men from Modesto, wearing unmarked uniforms and balaclavas who invade “Wood Colony” in the dark of night, occupying public buildings, rounding up the poor residents and forcing them to pledge allegiance to their new overlords.
Adding to the “it’s common” theme, here’s a map of Los Angeles county with unincorporated areas shown in white. If you cross reference this with a Google satellite view, you’ll see that plenty of these areas are smack in the heart of the urban-scape. (To be sure, there’s plenty of mountain and desert terrain represented in white, too.)