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Old 03-29-2010, 06:43 AM
Location: NJ
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New Jersey has so many types of municipalities, I have always wondered what defines city vs. town, village vs. boro, etc. At first I thought it had to do with population, but West Orange has 45k population and is considered a township while Orange is considered a city with only about 30k population. And what makes West Orange a township rather than a town? I have never heard the word "township" used outside of NJ. Then you have South Orange village. What's the difference between a village and a town? And then places like Highland Park are considered a borough. What is it a borough of?
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Old 03-29-2010, 08:49 AM
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try here for some info:

New Jersey Web sites about New Jersey municipalities Genealogical Records Information
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Old 03-30-2010, 07:10 PM
Location: North Brunswick
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Funny thing about this is that the only borough I know of that has a population of less than 5,000 people is Helmetta. So do these rules still really apply?
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Old 03-30-2010, 08:00 PM
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It really has nothing to do with population nowadays. Most small towns in Ocean County, for example, are boroughs. A few miles south in Atlantic County, the small towns are cities. Townships are usually larger - but sometimes they aren't (see: Eagleswood Twp.). Cities in North Jersey are usually large, but in the aforementioned Atlantic County, small towns like Margate and Somers Point are "cities."

It mostly has to do with the incorporation of the town under the laws that set forth the forms of government at that time - and at that time, it did depend on area and population. Since the population of New Jersey has shifted since most of these laws came into place in the late 1800s and early 1900s, we have huge boroughs and small cities. The migration to the suburbs and southward towards the ocean with the opening of the Garden State Parkway and other highways has really rendered the structure of these designations pretty meaningless. Although every once in a while you'll hear about a town changing their type or form of government. Ocean County certainly wasn't larger than Union County when its towns chose their type of government, but now it is, and the types really have remained the same for no reason but the fact that they work and if a change is needed, it can be done anyway.

There are five types of municipal government and 11 forms of municipal government in New Jersey.

Here's an overview:


Last edited by GS37; 03-30-2010 at 08:11 PM..
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Old 03-30-2010, 08:48 PM
Location: New Jersey
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Yup..GS37 is correct..really its different all over..here is a post of the same question from a few years ago..I did a copy/paste not my words.

U.S. here: depending on the state they may have different powers -- taxing authority, services they're expected to provide, legislative and law enforcement powers etc. It all has to do with how the division is chartered -- in some states the founding documents go back hundreds of years.

Just for illustration, here are a couple of examples of how complicated it can get here in the Northeast. What follows is mostly right:

Here in CT the entire state is subdivided into towns, and within these towns there are cities, villages and boroughs. In some places like Bridgeport the city is coterminous with the town and the town government is essentially vestigial. Villages are geographical subdivisions of towns but that have no official/corporate existence apart from the town -- it's basically a nickname for part of a town. Boroughs are semi-autonomous divisions of towns that have limited authority on certain issues -- there aren't too many boroughs in CT. Also, CT has no county government; counties are merely geographic place names.

In NY, the entire state is subdivided into cities and towns. Some cities (e.g., the City of Rye) are surrounded by towns they were formerly part of but seceded from. Villages are distinct subdivisions that (theoretically at least) can include land from different towns. When I was growing up the Village of Mount Kisco was partly in the Town of Bedford and partly in the Town of New Castle; folks across the street from each other might have had the same police respond to a problem and have the same sanitation truck pick up their garbage but pay taxes to different entities, be subject to some different laws, etc. -- you get the idea. Later those sections composing the Village of Mt. Kisco seceded from their respective towns to form the Village-Town (or is it Town-Village?) of Mt. Kisco, which made life for those folks simpler.

NY villages have different powers and responsibilities from Towns and Cities; not all land in NY is in a village. The equivalent of a CT Village is called a "Hamlet" in NY state -- a hamlet is just a name for a geographical location (usu. a town population center) with no independent authority. NY State also has strong county governments which have responsibilities distinct from the Town/City and Village divisions (except in NYC -- see below.)

There are only 5 boroughs in NY state -- together they form NY City and each is an administrative subdivision of the larger NYC government. NYC is a strange entity in that it extends over 5 counties (basically the same as the boroughs) but in the case of the City the county government is weak or non-existent and the boroughs take up some of that slack. The NYC government does the rest for all 5 boroughs.

And I'm sure things are different in NJ, PA, VT, NH, MA, ME, etc.

This stuff dates back to colonial times so it's incredibly arcane. I believe things are much simpler once you get west of Pennsylvania.
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Old 03-30-2010, 09:29 PM
Location: Northern NJ
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It's all about government type, not population or physical characteristics. Here is another good link that solves this riddle:

NJLM - Forms of NJ Municipal Government

Really there are 4 types of government, as the village form of government is pretty much extinct, having been supplanted by the Township form of government. The only true village left is Loch Arbour in Monmouth County.
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Old 11-18-2015, 07:45 PM
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States in the South and the West don't have these vestigial intermediary forms of government, which might have made sense in the 18th and 19th centuries, when the county seat was a day's ride away but make no sense now. There's the county, and there's a city. They realized anything in between isn't needed. In unincorporated places -- ie, outside municipal boundaries -- the county is the local government, although special-purpose districts can be formed for water, sewer, roads, parks and the like. I don't think it's a coincidence that growth in population and prosperity for the past 60 years has been more in these states than in the Northeast, where old ways rule. It's even worse when it comes to tiny, highly inefficient school districts, at least where I live, the hopeless state of New York, where corruption is in the bones, the very marrow.
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