CRC Seeks Mandatory Membership Legislation

Published 2:27 pm Tuesday, January 7, 2014

FARMVILLE — The Commonwealth Regional Council (CRC) is seeking legislation that would mandate eligible localities be dues-paying members of their respective planning district commissions or regional councils.

In other words, making counties and localities that aren’t currently members of CRC, such as Cumberland, Nottoway, or the towns of Farmville and Blackstone, join and pay dues.

“During its December 5, 2013 monthly meeting, the Commonwealth Regional Council (CRC) voted to submit a letter to the Virginia Association of Planning District Commissions (VAPDC) requesting the VAPDC initiate and support legislation that would require eligible localities to be dues-paying members of their respective Planning District Commission (PDC)/Regional Council (RC),” reads a letter from CRC chairman and Buckingham District Five Supervisor Cassandra Stish dated January 2, 2014.

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The CRC voted unanimously to approve and send the letter during its January 2 meeting.

“As you are aware, a PDC/RC is a voluntary association of local governments as per the Regional Cooperation Act…The ability of each PDC/RC to provide services depends on the participation and member contributions. The Regional Cooperation Act further declares that a PDC/RC set the stage for state and local government and address regional issues…However, the success of the mission can be significantly hindered if localities elect not to participate as active members,” the letter continues.

The letter suggests that planning district 14, the membership area of the CRC, could become a “canary in a coal mine,” regarding the voluntary participation of localities as state and local government continue to “grapple with this sluggish economy…”

According to the letter, planning district 14 includes the counties of Amelia, Buckingham, Charlotte, Cumberland, Lunenburg, Nottoway, and Prince Edward, along with the towns of Farmville and Blackstone.

Because Cumberland, Nottoway, Farmville, nor Blackstone are members, “…the CRC has experienced not only limitations in addressing state and local regional issues, it also has been subjected to a limited financial capacity due to the lack of local funding/investment for all eligible members.”

“The council requests that the VAPDC initiate and champion a legislative change to the language of the Regional Cooperation Act…to ensure mandatory membership by localities to their respective PDC/RC. Such a legislative change will ensure participation by localities and financial investment toward the mission of a PDC/RC,” the letter explains.

In the letter, Stish identifies the “difficult political climate into which this request is being submitted. Mandates to localities are never popular, especially when they include funding requirements.”

“I want to say how much I appreciate this council putting this forward at a time when it is difficult to be asking for any sort of mandated anything on a locality…The services you know that we provide here are so important, and they’re becoming more so for state programs…” Stish commented after a unanimous vote was cast to send the letter.

According to Mary Hickman, the CRC’s acting president and CEO, the annual membership investment dues for each member locality are $15,700.