The Impact of Virginia’s Annexation Moratorium
In 1950, Roanoke was the third largest city in Virginia behind Norfolk and Richmond. Roanoke’s population peaked in the mid-1970’s at about 106,000 with most growth resulting from annexation of urbanizing areas of Roanoke County. Population began declining in the 1970’s as household sizes got smaller. Modest growth trends returned in 2010. Today, Roanoke is not significantly more populous than it was in 1950.
Meanwhile, similarly situated cities to our south have grown rapidly since 1950. Back then, Charlotte was the only North Carolina city larger than Roanoke. Norfolk and Richmond were much larger than Charlotte. Since then, North Carolina allowed its cities to capture the economic activity they generate. Meanwhile, Virginia is closing in on a half century moratorium on annexation. Today, nine North Carolina cities are larger than Roanoke, five are larger than Richmond, and three are larger than Norfolk. Charlotte is larger than Roanoke, Richmond, and Norfolk combined.