The Differences Between Incorporated & Unincorporated Villages

By Barbara Bean-Mellinger - Updated June 15, 2017
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A village is a group of residents living near one another who share some common services. Though there are no specific numbers of population that define a village, it is generally smaller than a town.

Villages can be incorporated or unincorporated, usually determined by their size. A small village usually doesn't have the taxable population to become incorporated, while a larger village may have enough people and resources to become incorporated if they decide to take that step.

Incorporated Villages

Incorporated villages are those that are self-governing. They have their own administrative body, and major decisions are voted upon by the people who live there. These villages also provide their own municipal services, such as fire and police. Since setting up these services and administration is time-consuming and costly, villages must have enough taxpayers to afford the expense and effort of being incorporated. Some states allow villages to incorporate but only provide some of the administrative and municipal services, allowing other services to be supplied by a larger, neighboring town.

Unincorporated Villages

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Unincorporated villages do not govern themselves or provide their own municipal services. Instead, these services are provided by a larger nearby town or perhaps the county. They also must follow the rules and regulations of the larger town or county, as they do not have their own administrative officials. Typically, unincorporated villages are very small. They may be rural areas, or small towns between larger towns. Either way, they do not have the population to sustain the expense and time required to set up all the services an incorporated village requires.

Becoming Incorporated

If a village grows enough that it could supply the administration and services an incorporated town requires, the people of the village may decide they want to become incorporated. Usually, a petition is circulated and if there is enough interest, the idea is put to a town vote. If the majority votes to incorporate, it's best to hire a lawyer with expertise in this area. Many times a lawyer would have been consulted at the beginning of the idea process so voters know what incorporation would entail in time and money. Some states have laws specifying what percentage of the population of a village needs to circulate the petition, or how many people must live in the village before they can consider incorporating.

About the Author

Barbara Bean-Mellinger is an award-winning writer in the Washington, DC area. She writes nationally for newspapers, magazines and websites on topics including careers, education, women, marketing, advertising and more. She holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Pittsburgh.

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