Essay Council Reviews
Such a construction facially has no application to monuments erected previously under a different grant of authority. any engagement of such war or conflict,” though it still includes a list of well-known conflicts as examples. Additionally, the statute enables a locality to erect such monuments anywhere within its “geographical limits” and not just upon its own property. The amendments also added a definition of “disturb or interfere,” which notably includes “removal” and “placement of Union markings or monuments on previously designated Confederate memorials” and vice versa, though it does not explicitly include relocation. Most importantly, while the General Assembly yet again broadened the statute, it kept the same conditional, prospective phrasing. The common sense reading of the statute remained, and still remains to this day, that the limitations on removal imposed by the statute apply exclusively to those memorials erected under the statute’s authority—not to those erected prior to the passage of the statute. § 15.2-1812 makes it impossible to apply the removal restrictions to monuments built under other grants of authority. If a monument was built under no grant of authority, the above statute, and the prior authorities, certainly do not retroactively authorize the illegally built statue and then restrict its removal.
They are unique to each community’s specific history and the specific monument or memorial being discussed.
Code § 15.2-1812 to be inapplicable, and solely consider the legality of the removal based on other possible restrictions (if any) in balance with the city’s affirmative defenses.
The ability of Virginian cities to create and remove memorials has changed over time and is limited, first and foremost, by Virginia’s adoption of Dillon’s Rule, an interpretive methodology for municipal authority which “limits the power of local governments to those expressly granted by the state or those necessarily implied or essential to express powers.” Thus, “[w]hen a local ordinance exceeds the scope of this authority, the ordinance is invalid.” Should it be reasonably unclear whether a locality, such as a city or county, has a power or not, “the doubt must be resolved against the local governing body.” In other words, if a city wants to create a memorial of any kind, it must first find the authority to do so in an existing state law or ask the state legislature for permission.
Virginia is a Dillon’s Rule state, meaning local governments may only exercise those powers expressly granted to them.
This includes the authority to construct war memorials, which was first granted to all Virginia counties in 1904 and then all localities (adding cities and towns) in 1997 through various versions of Va. Prior to the statute, localities were required to request a specific grant of authority—an Act of Assembly or Joint Resolution from the Virginia legislature—to construct such memorials.