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“Staunton” and “Augusta County” are mutually exclusive…

April 6, 2007, 10:47 AM

Katie and I went to Staunton Mall yesterday evening, and had a great time. Then we went to Applebee’s for dinner, which was fun (though we ended up having to sweeten the sweet tea!).

One thing that led to an interesting discussion was when we saw a Sheriff’s deputy’s car parked outside the mall. I made the comment about the fact that seeing that is a reminder that technically, Staunton Mall is in Augusta County, to which Katie replied, “Well, yeah, Staunton’s in Augusta County.”

My little ears kind of perked up on that one, and my mind with its background in public administration kicked right into gear. I was like, “Noooooooo… Staunton is an independent city, therefore by definition it is not part of Augusta County.” And being in the car and being on the Belk side of the mall made it much easier to describe, because the boundary roughly runs along the edge of the mall’s property on that side. What better place to have this discussion than right at the city limits, no? I was like, “We’re in the county right now, but that CVS over there is in Staunton. Therefore, if you call Staunton Police for an incident at the mall, they’re out of their jurisdiction, since that’s Augusta County. They’ll refer you to the Augusta County Sheriff’s office.

I can, however, understand why that’s a bit of a difficult concept for most people to grasp. In 49 out of 50 states, a locality that legally calls itself “city” is also part of its surrounding county. Thus the city of Rogers, Arkansas (where I once lived) is also considered part of Benton County. In fact, independent cities that are not part of any county are the exception rather than the rule. But then in Virginia, all cities are independent. Staunton and Waynesboro are NOT part of Augusta County. You enter Waynesboro, you leave Augusta County. That’s why there are no counties in the Hampton Roads area. All the counties became part of cities, so as a result, you have these giant county-sized cities down there.

And then to further muddy the waters, you have incorporated towns, such as Culpeper or Clifton Forge. Those areas are incorporated, but they’re still part of their surrounding county (i.e. Culpeper is part of Culpeper County, and Clifton Forge is part of Alleghany County).

So, yeah, it’s kind of an odd concept to grasp right away, but once you get your mind wrapped around it, it kind of makes sense. I admit it took me a while to get it figured out after we first moved to Virginia in 1992, since in all my past experience, city was part of county, and now to have city not being part of county was kind of odd.

Web site: A Wikipedia article that may help clear the waters for you on this concept...

Song: In the Metro

Quote: "That CVS over there is in Staunton, but we're in the county right now." - Me to Katie explaining the whole thing