The Josephine Improvement Association has petitioned the Virginia General Assembly to grant the Josephine Street community a charter to become an independent city.
Kenneth D. Liggins, president of the Josephine Improvement Association, is asking the General Assembly to make the change so that the citizens of the proposed Josephine City community can gain access to economic value created by its founders and to reverse the Town of Berryville’s annexation of the area that he claims was illegal.
“Josephine City can become a multi-million dollar investment economic stimulus area for new development for the State of Virginia with a new tax base and job development programs as well as fair housing market for all Virginians” Liggins said in a request delivered to not only the General Assembly but also to the Town of Berryville and the Clarke County Board of Supervisors.
In the request Liggins says that Josephine City was once a self-sufficient city from 1870 thru 1989 until the Josephine City community was illegally annexed by the Town of Berryville. Liggins says that his is supported by the Virginia General Assembly’s 1987 moratorium of annexation any county by any city in recognition of the controversy such local land acquisitions had caused.
Liggins says that the expiration date for the moratorium was 2010.
“In 1987, while the General Assembly of Virginia’s moratorium was in place, the Town of Berryville proceeded with the annexation by using the Virginia Code Title 15.2-2903 -15.2-3902 which was replaced from Title 15.1-2300 -3200” according to Liggins.
While a new charter for the Josephine City community, which was founded by former slaves who purchased property in the area after the Civil War, would provide economic and political autonomy for the area, it would also address pre-Civil Rights era wounds that some members of the Josephine City community feel have never been resolved.
“From approximately 1955 to 1960 the members Josephine Improvement Association petitioned the Town of Berryville Town Council to annex Josephine City but the Town Council refused to do so” Liggins said. Liggins said that the Town instead waited until the Josephine City community had paid for their own infrastructure improvements before moving forward with the annexation, thus saving town taxpayers a significant amount of money at the expense of the Josephine City residents.
At the time, faced with a cold shoulder from the Town of Berryville on annexation, Liggins said that the Josephine Improvement Association petitioned the Federal government for a grant to install sewer and water as well as paving the road. The citizens collected money to build new sidewalks as well as provided labor equal to the dollar amount needed to build a school for the former-slaves and surrounding former-slave communities.
According to the petition, by the 1900, Josephine City had become an oasis for the County’s African-American Community. Segregation laws at the time encouraged local African American owned institutions to serve the Josephine Community including a school, grocery store, gas station, boarding house, restaurant. A one-story, two-room frame building, originally constructed in 1882, served as the cornerstone of the then-self-contained African American community.
Liggins said that because the former slaves who built the Josephine City community lacked formal education, it was impossible for them to incorporate the area despite the economic and social factors that indicated the value of such a move and believes that it’s not too late to reclaim the area’s independence and revitalize its economic viability through the requested city charter.
“By granting the Josephine City a charter jobs would be created and new business development would occur. The City of Josephine would begin to establish its administration by the Josephine Improvement Association, Inc. and establish a city office by complying with the Code of Virginia Laws of Cities” Liggins said.
“As the President of the Josephine Improvement Association, Inc. I ask that the Virginia General Assembly grant Josephine City, it city Charter by way of the Virginia Grandfather Clause due to the time frame of 118 years.” Liggins requested in the petition.