Town

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps
 
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A civil and political subdivision of a state, which varies in size and significance according to location but is ordinarily a division of a county.

A town, which is a type of MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, can be formed by a state legislature when a large number of dwellings have concentrated in a particular location. A town is a creation of the state, designed and authorized to perform certain governmental functions on the local level. Its main purpose is to exercise the power of the state to promote greater prosperity, safety, convenience, health, and the common good of the general community.

The terms township and town are frequently used interchangeably in certain geographic locations, although in some parts of the United States the term township denotes a group of several towns.

Since towns can be formed only from contiguous territory, tracts of land that are entirely separate cannot be included in a town. Subject to constitutional restrictions, ordinarily, the state legislature has full power to create, enlarge, diminish, consolidate, and otherwise alter the boundaries of towns without the consent of those affected.

Powers

In general, towns have only the powers conferred upon them by the state legislature. However, the capacity of a town to acquire and hold real property has long been recognized under English COMMON LAW. Towns are, therefore, generally given the power to construct their own public buildings and usually have the power to lease their property.

Towns are ordinarily granted the power to enact ordinances concerning local matters, provided the ordinances are reasonable and protect the GENERAL WELFARE of the public to an appreciable degree. For example, a town might enact ZONING ordinances to restrict the use of land in

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certain designated areas to safeguard the public health and safety.

Ordinances enacted by a town are subject to JUDICIAL REVIEW, especially concerning their reasonableness.

Meetings

Town meetings or boards are the primary vehicles by which a town governs itself since in many states a town exercises its powers by vote of a town meeting or a town council. Town meetings serve both legislative and executive functions; qualified residents meet to discuss and vote, if necessary, on matters dealing with their self-government. In most states, a person who pays town taxes is eligible to vote at the town...

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