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The Houston Area Survey
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Unincorporated area



In law, an unincorporated area is a region of land that is not governed by a local municipal corporation; similarly an unincorporated community is a settlement that is not governed by its own local municipal corporation, but rather is administered as part of larger administrative divisions, such as a township, parish, borough, county, city, canton, state, province or country. Occasionally, municipalities dissolve or disincorporate, which may happen if they become fiscally insolvent, and services become the responsibility of a higher administration. Widespread unincorporated communities and areas are a distinguishing feature of the United States and Canada. In most other countries of the world, there are either no unincorporated areas at all, or these are very rare; typically remote, outlying, sparsely populated or uninhabited areas.

Unlike many other countries, Australia has only one level of local government immediately beneath state and territorial governments. A local government area (LGA) often contains several towns and even entire cities. Thus, aside from very sparsely populated areas and a few other special cases, almost all of Australia is part of an LGA. Unincorporated areas are often in remote locations, cover vast areas or have very small populations.

The far west and north of New South Wales constitutes the Unincorporated Far West Region, which is sparsely populated and barely warrants an elected council. A civil servant in the state capital manages such matters as are necessary. The second unincorporated area of this state is Lord Howe Island.

Western Australia is exceptional in two respects. Firstly, the only remote area that is unincorporated is the Abrolhos Islands, which is officially uninhabited and controlled by the WA Department of Fisheries. Secondly, the other unincorporated areas are A-class reserves either in, or close to, the Perth metropolitan area, namely Rottnest Island (controlled by the Rottnest Island Authority) and Kings Park (Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority).

In some provinces, large tracts of undeveloped wilderness or rural country are unorganized areas that fall directly under the provincial jurisdiction. Some unincorporated settlements in such unorganized areas may have some types of municipal services provided to them by a quasi-governmental agency such as a local services board in Ontario. In New Brunswick where a significant population live in a Local Service District, taxation and services may come directly from the province.

Since Germany has no administrative level comparable to the townships of other countries, the vast majority of the country, close to 99%, is organized in municipalities (German: Gemeinde, plural Gemeinden), often consisting of multiple settlements which are not considered to be unincorporated. Because these settlements lack a council of their own, there is usually an Ortsvorsteher / Ortsvorsteherin (village chairman / chairwoman) appointed by the municipal council, except in the very smallest villages.

As of 31 December 2007, Germany had 248 uninhabited unincorporated areas (of which 214 are located in Bavaria), not belonging to any municipality, consisting mostly of forested areas, lakes and larger rivers. There were also three inhabited unincorporated areas, all of which served as military training areas: Osterheide and Lohheide in Lower Saxony, and Gutsbezirk Munsingen in Baden-Wurttemberg. They had fewer than 2,000 inhabitants in total. After losing its inhabited parts to adjacent municipalities on 1 January 2011, Gutsbezirk Munsingen is now uninhabited.

The most recent period with unincorporated land started in 1967 when the dyke around Southern Flevoland was closed. It however requires several years before the polder is genuinely accessible for cultivation and construction of roads and homes can start, as in the first years the soil is equivalent to quicksand. During the initial period of inhabitation a special, government-appointed officer was installed, known as the Landdrost. During the administrative office of a Landdrost there is no municipal council.

In Norway, Jan Mayen, Svalbard and Bouvet Island are outside the division into counties and municipalities. They are ruled directly by national authorities without any local democracy. An exception is the Longyearbyen Community Council which since 2004 in reality acts partly like a Norwegian municipality. Svalbard has a governor appointed by the government of Norway, ruling the area. Jan Mayen has no population, only radio and weather stations with staff, whose manager has the responsibility for the activities. Bouvet Island has only occasional visitors.

Most states have granted some form of home rule, so that county commissions (or boards or councils) have the same powers in these areas as city councils or town councils have in their respective incorporated areas. Some states instead put these powers in the hands of townships, which are minor civil divisions of each county, and are called "towns" in some states.

Due to differences in state laws regarding the incorporation of communities, there is a great variation in the distribution and nature of unincorporated areas. Unincorporated regions are essentially nonexistent in seven of the northeastern states. All of the land in New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island, and nearly all of the land in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Vermont, is part of an incorporated area of some type. In these areas, types (and official names) of local government entities can vary. In New England (which includes five of those eight states, plus the less fully incorporated state of Maine), local municipalities are known as towns or cities, and most towns are administered by a form of direct democracy, such as the open town meeting or representative town meeting. Larger towns in New England may be incorporated as cities, with some form of mayor-council government. In New Jersey multiple types exist as well, such as city, township, town, borough, or village, but these differences are in the structure of the legislative branches, not in the powers or functions of the entities themselves.






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