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Round Towns
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ROUND TOWNS H o w a r d A. S c h r e t t e r Institute of Community and Area Development University of Georgia The Nature of Municipal Limits: There are some seventeen thousand localities: in the United States which have met the legal requirements of their respective states for municipal status and have formally incorporated for more effective regulations of their local and internal affairs. Although the requirements for incorporation vary from state to state and between the several ranks of municipalities, there exists an unequivocal requisite for all places seeking municipal charters. “All municipal incorporations must have legally prescribed boundaries,” . . . and, “These boundaries must be fixed, definite and certain in order that they may be identified, and that all may know the exact scope, selection of territory or geographic division embraced within the cor­ porate limits. . . Only thirteen states have further refined these general requirements for boundaries by prescribing total area limitations, and only two of these, by actually specifying shapes. In both Kentucky and New Mexico long standing statutes call for the assumption of rectangular limits by newly formed small incorporations. In all other states it would appear that the question of shape has been left to the discretion of the in­ dividual locality and to the judgment of the incorporating authority.2 Although such factors as situation, site and urban growth have con­ tributed to a great diversity in the corporate shapes of larger urban places, there appears to be a marked degree of uniformity in the political outlines of smaller localities. Two shapes, the rectangle and the circle, are repeated as corporate limits in an impressive number of instances, and in effect, are the only alternatives to an irregular metes and bounds shape, defying generalization.3 The rectangle is the form most often employed as a boundary by small communities. Its unsuitability and therefore nonuse by larger urban places is apparently a consequence of the irregular and discontinuous process of urbanization and municipal expansion. The circle, though less frequent in its application, is the second most prevalent boundary shape in use by small municipalities. However, in contrast with the widely distributed rectangular boundary form, use of circular limits is limited to but a few contiguous states. In addition, while use of a rectangular shape can be logically attributed to the ease of straight line surveying and a tradition of rectangular land division over most of the United States, no such clear bases for use of circular limits are evident. 46 The Distribution of Circularly Bounded Communities: The circular corporate limit is a phenomenon of the Southeastern United States, with all hut twelve of the total 620 places bounded by circles located in the seaboard states from Maryland to Alabama.4 Distribution of Circular Places By States, 1957 State Circular Incorporations Maryland 1 Virginia 5 North Carolina 62 South Carolina 124 Georgia 379 Alabama 37 Mississippi 2 Kentucky 6 Texas 4 A map of the actual location of circular places is even more revealing. Here is clearly evident a concentration of circularly bounded incorpora* tions in northeast Georgia; a pronounced diminution in number to the south, west and northwest, and a more gradual decrease to the northeast into South and North Carolina. Relative to all incorporated places, over two-thirds of the municipalities on the Inner Coastal Plain and Pied­ mont of Georgia presently are of circular outline, while virtually all re­ maining portions of Georgia and South Carolina have more than a forty-seven per cent density of circular places. Reasons For Use of Circular Corporate Limits: Since no evidence can be found to indicate that the use of circular limits ever has been dictated by law or other directives, it may be assumed that their use has been by choice, possibly prompted by advantages of the form over other boundary shapes. The results of a survey of those places with circular limits today, reveals three characteristics of the shape which have made it desirable as a corporate boundary. These are; complete directional imparitality, explicit verbal clarity, and extreme ease in establishment. Majority approval by an included population is necessary for munici­ pal organization. Therefore, the proposal of corporate limits agreeable to...