1980s study helps Blacksburg research town to city switch

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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) Tuesday night Blacksburg town leaders started taking a look at the potential of becoming a city. It's a conversation that started in the early '80s and hasn't resurfaced until now.

Town council reviewed a study from 1982 as a point of reference to see what challenges and advantages there are in becoming independent.

"Is it feasible, is it something the citizens of Blacksburg want to pursue," said Mayor Ron Rordam.

Mayor Ron Rordam most likely won't be in office when, and if, any major decisions are made in becoming a city, but he's taking this research very seriously.

"I probably am reluctant. But it doesn't mean that you can't give it serious consideration and if you say no, know why you're saying no," Rordam said.

He remembers the first time the town talked about this possibility and is using that discussion as a starting point.

According to the study made 35 years ago, the potential City of Blacksburg could provide services as-good-as or better than those currently provided without increasing taxes.

The study also said Montgomery County could suffer a several million dollar loss. Hurting an already strained relationship with the county may impact future interactions.

"Having a bad relationship, it's hard to state how costly that could be in terms of what happens going forward for both the county and the town of Blacksburg," said Thomas Skuzinski, an assistant professor in Urban Affairs and Planning.

In Virginia, city's are independent from counties. That requires an independent school system, law enforcement, and government system.
The switch would also require an action from the General Assembly, there is currently a moratorium on towns becoming cities.

"Of any of the towns that exist in Virginia going forward and causing that moratorium to be lifted Blacksburg would probably be in a pretty strong position for making that case," Skuzinski said.

The town is projected to grow and is already the second largest town in Virginia behind Leesburg.

The recent tense decisions on development of two former school properties in Blacksburg made by Montgomery County helped, in part, fuel these discussions.