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Richmond Officials Want The General Assembly To Decide On City Council Residency Rules

Richmond city leaders and state representatives attended a legislative summit at the Library of Virginia on Wednesday afternoon. (Roberto Roldan/VPM)
Richmond city leaders and state representatives attended a legislative summit at the Library of Virginia on Wednesday afternoon. (Roberto Roldan/VPM)

Richmond City Council and Mayor Levar Stoney want to change the city charter to make the residency requirements for council members more clear.

Virginia law requires the state legislature to approve any modifications to the city charter, which sets out the rules for how a city operates. The request comes after City Councilman Parker Agelasto moved out of his district late last year, arguing that he only needed to reside in his district during the election. He then agreed to step down after two lawsuits were filed against him.

At a legislative summit on Wednesday, Agelasto said clarification is needed to avoid a similar situation in the future.

“It can lead to confusion and we don’t want future people to have confusion,” he said. “Let’s go ahead and clear this up.”

City officials want the General Assembly to decide if council members need to live in their district for their full term. They are not taking a firm position on what they’d like the eventual outcome to be.

Richmond City Council also wants to lobby for other changes to the city charter. They include hiring separate attorneys for the council and mayor and allowing city council to propose amendments to the mayor’s budget after it’s adopted. But the mayor and city council are at odds over these changes.

Lincoln Saunders, the chief of staff for Mayor Levar Stoney, said that his administration and city council will meet in the coming weeks to try to hash out their disagreement.

“We’re just looking forward to further dialogue to see whether there is any consensus on any adjustments,” he said.

Saunders hinted at the possibility of putting together a charter commission that could create a comprehensive list of proposed changes. Something like that, though, couldn’t be done by the next General Assembly session in January.

Five Richmond-area delegates attended the legislative summit: Del. Delores McQuinn, Del. Betsy Carr, Del. Dawn Adams, Del. Jeff Bourne and Del. Lamont Bagby. They warned Richmond officials to find agreement on any proposals they want to bring to the legislature.

“To the greatest extent possible, be unified when you come to the General Assembly,” said Bourne. “The people who are sitting here right now can fight as hard as we want, but if there’s the perception that the council and the mayor are at odds, nothing will happen.”

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