A. No locality or person shall file any action in any court in Virginia to annex territory, to have an area declared immune from annexation based upon provision of urban-type services, to establish an independent city, to consolidate two or more localities, at least one of which is a county, into a city, to make a transition from a county to a city or to make a transition from city status to town status, without first notifying the Commission and all local governments located within or contiguous to, or sharing functions, revenue, or tax sources with, the locality proposing such action. Upon receipt of the notice the Commission shall hold hearings, make investigations, analyze local needs and make findings of facts and recommendations, which may, in cases where immunity or annexation is sought, recommend a grant of immunity or annexation of a greater or smaller area than that proposed by the locality pursuant to the procedures of this chapter. Such findings shall be rendered within six months after the Commission receives notice from the locality intending to file court action, provided that the Commission on its own motion may extend the period for filing its report by no more than sixty days. No further extension thereafter of the time for filing shall be made by the Commission without the agreement of the parties. No court action may be filed until the Commission has made its findings of facts. Unless the parties agree otherwise, no court action may be filed more than 180 days after the Commission renders its final report as provided for in this section. While the matter is before the Commission, the Commission may actively seek to negotiate a settlement of the proposed action between the affected localities. The Commission may direct that the conduct of the negotiations be in executive session. In addition, the Commission may, with the agreement of the parties, appoint an independent mediator, who shall be compensated as agreed to by the parties. Offers and statements made in negotiations shall not be reported in the finding of facts or introduced in evidence in any subsequent court proceedings between the parties.
B. The Commission shall report, in writing, its findings and recommendations to the affected localities, any other localities likely to be affected by such proposed action, and to any court which may subsequently consider the action. The report shall be based upon the criteria and standards established by law for any such proposed action. The report, or any copy thereof, bearing the signature of the chairman of the Commission shall be admissible in evidence in any subsequent proceeding relating to the subject matter thereof. The court in any such proceeding shall consider the report but shall not be bound by the report’s findings or recommendations.Before making the report the Commission shall conduct hearings at which any interested person may testify. Prior to the hearing, the Commission shall publish a notice of the hearing once a week for two successive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in the affected counties and cities. The second advertisement shall appear not less than six days nor more than twenty-one days prior to the hearing.
C. A court on motion of any party or of the Commission may for cause shown extend the time for filing of the Commission’s report but no such extension of time shall exceed ninety days unless the parties agree otherwise.
D. Except for any hearing or meeting specifically required by law, Chapter 37 (§ 2.2-3700 et seq.) of Title 2.2 shall not be applicable to the Commission nor meetings convened by members of the Commission, its employees, or by its designated mediators with local governing bodies or members thereof, nor shall such chapter be applicable to meetings of local governing bodies, or members thereof, held for purpose of negotiating any issues which are or would be subject to the Commission’s review. Offers and statements made in any negotiation or mediation activity conducted under the direction of the Commission shall not be recorded in any report issued by the Commission, nor shall they be introduced in evidence in any subsequent court proceeding by the Commission or any other party.
E. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any locality, either prior or subsequent to the filing of any annexation or partial immunity suit in any court of this Commonwealth in which it is one of the parties, may notify the Commission on Local Government that it desires to attempt to negotiate an agreement with one or more adjacent localities relative to annexation or partial immunity under the direction of the Commission. A copy of the notice shall be served on all adjacent localities. The affected localities shall then attempt to resolve their differences relative to annexation or partial immunity, and shall keep the Commission advised of the progress being made. The Commission, or its designee, may serve as a mediator and the Commission’s staff and resources shall be available to the negotiating localities. All expenses of the negotiations, including expenses of the Commission or its staff incurred in the negotiations, shall be borne by the parties initiating the notice unless otherwise agreed by the parties. All suits for either annexation or partial immunity by or against any locality involved in such negotiations shall be stayed while the negotiations are in progress. If, after a hearing, the Commission finds that none of the parties is willing to continue to negotiate, or if it finds that three months have elapsed with no substantial progress toward settlement, it shall declare the negotiations to be terminated. Unless the parties agree otherwise, negotiations shall in any event terminate twelve months from the date the initial notice was given to the Commission. Immediately upon such finding and declaration by the Commission, or upon the expiration of twelve months from the initial notice or any agreed extension thereof, whichever first occurs, any stay of a pending suit for annexation or partial immunity entered under this section shall automatically terminate and no new notice to negotiate shall thereafter be filed by any party.
1980, c. 558, 577, 592, § 15.1-945.7; 1983, c. 217; 1985, c. 478; 1988, c. 881; 1997, c. 587.