City limits
Overview
 
The terms city limits and city boundary (UK English) refer to the defined boundary
Boundary (real estate)
A unit of real estate or immovable property is limited by a legal boundary. The boundary may appear as a discontinuation in the terrain: a ditch, a bank, a hedge, a wall, or similar, but essentially, a legal boundary is a conceptual entity, a social construct, adjunct to the likewise abstract...

 or border
Border
Borders define geographic boundaries of political entities or legal jurisdictions, such as governments, sovereign states, federated states and other subnational entities. Some borders—such as a state's internal administrative borders, or inter-state borders within the Schengen Area—are open and...

 of a city
City
A city is a relatively large and permanent settlement. Although there is no agreement on how a city is distinguished from a town within general English language meanings, many cities have a particular administrative, legal, or historical status based on local law.For example, in the U.S...

. The area within the city limits is sometimes called the city proper
City proper
City proper is defined as a "locality with legally fixed boundaries and an administratively recognized urban status that is usually characterized by some form of local government", or the area within the corporate limits. This definition has been consistently used since the United Nations...

. The terms town limits/boundary and village limits/boundary mean the same as city limits/boundary, but apply to town
Town
A town is a human settlement larger than a village but smaller than a city. The size a settlement must be in order to be called a "town" varies considerably in different parts of the world, so that, for example, many American "small towns" seem to British people to be no more than villages, while...

s and village
Village
A village is a clustered human settlement or community, larger than a hamlet with the population ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand , Though often located in rural areas, the term urban village is also applied to certain urban neighbourhoods, such as the West Village in Manhattan, New...

s. Similarly, the term corporate limits is a legal name that refers to the boundaries of municipal corporations.
Encyclopedia
The terms city limits and city boundary (UK English) refer to the defined boundary
Boundary (real estate)
A unit of real estate or immovable property is limited by a legal boundary. The boundary may appear as a discontinuation in the terrain: a ditch, a bank, a hedge, a wall, or similar, but essentially, a legal boundary is a conceptual entity, a social construct, adjunct to the likewise abstract...

 or border
Border
Borders define geographic boundaries of political entities or legal jurisdictions, such as governments, sovereign states, federated states and other subnational entities. Some borders—such as a state's internal administrative borders, or inter-state borders within the Schengen Area—are open and...

 of a city
City
A city is a relatively large and permanent settlement. Although there is no agreement on how a city is distinguished from a town within general English language meanings, many cities have a particular administrative, legal, or historical status based on local law.For example, in the U.S...

. The area within the city limits is sometimes called the city proper
City proper
City proper is defined as a "locality with legally fixed boundaries and an administratively recognized urban status that is usually characterized by some form of local government", or the area within the corporate limits. This definition has been consistently used since the United Nations...

. The terms town limits/boundary and village limits/boundary mean the same as city limits/boundary, but apply to town
Town
A town is a human settlement larger than a village but smaller than a city. The size a settlement must be in order to be called a "town" varies considerably in different parts of the world, so that, for example, many American "small towns" seem to British people to be no more than villages, while...

s and village
Village
A village is a clustered human settlement or community, larger than a hamlet with the population ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand , Though often located in rural areas, the term urban village is also applied to certain urban neighbourhoods, such as the West Village in Manhattan, New...

s. Similarly, the term corporate limits is a legal name that refers to the boundaries of municipal corporations. In some countries, the limits of a municipality may be expanded through annexation
Annexation
Annexation is the de jure incorporation of some territory into another geo-political entity . Usually, it is implied that the territory and population being annexed is the smaller, more peripheral, and weaker of the two merging entities, barring physical size...

.

City limits in the United States and Canada

In the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, such limits are usually formally described in a state, provincial, or territorial law (or an appropriate regulation) as being under the control of the municipal corporation
Municipal corporation
A municipal corporation is the legal term for a local governing body, including cities, counties, towns, townships, charter townships, villages, and boroughs. Municipal incorporation occurs when such municipalities become self-governing entities under the laws of the state or province in which...

 or agency
Government agency
A government or state agency is a permanent or semi-permanent organization in the machinery of government that is responsible for the oversight and administration of specific functions, such as an intelligence agency. There is a notable variety of agency types...

 that constitutes the city government. It is customary to indicate city limits with the posting of signs on major freeways, highway
Highway
A highway is any public road. In American English, the term is common and almost always designates major roads. In British English, the term designates any road open to the public. Any interconnected set of highways can be variously referred to as a "highway system", a "highway network", or a...

s, and arterial road
Arterial road
An arterial road, or arterial thoroughfare, is a high-capacity urban road. The primary function of an arterial road is to deliver traffic from collector roads to freeways, and between urban centres at the highest level of service possible. As such, many arteries are limited-access roads, or feature...

s. Note that New England states have a unique concept of "towns
New England town
The New England town is the basic unit of local government in each of the six New England states. Without a direct counterpart in most other U.S. states, New England towns are conceptually similar to civil townships in other states, but are incorporated, possessing powers like cities in other...

", which are similar in size to the civil townships in other States, but empowered with the authority exercised by municipalities in other States.

Property which within city limits is subject to city taxation and city regulation
Regulation
Regulation is administrative legislation that constitutes or constrains rights and allocates responsibilities. It can be distinguished from primary legislation on the one hand and judge-made law on the other...

, and expects city services. Areas outside of any city's limits are considered to be unincorporated
Unincorporated area
In law, an unincorporated area is a region of land that is not a part of any municipality.To "incorporate" in this context means to form a municipal corporation, a city, town, or village with its own government. An unincorporated community is usually not subject to or taxed by a municipal government...

, and in most U.S. state
U.S. state
A U.S. state is any one of the 50 federated states of the United States of America that share sovereignty with the federal government. Because of this shared sovereignty, an American is a citizen both of the federal entity and of his or her state of domicile. Four states use the official title of...

s they are by default regulated and taxed by the county
County (United States)
In the United States, a county is a geographic subdivision of a state , usually assigned some governmental authority. The term "county" is used in 48 of the 50 states; Louisiana is divided into parishes and Alaska into boroughs. Parishes and boroughs are called "county-equivalents" by the U.S...

. In others, areas outside of city limits fall within another type of local government
Local government in the United States
Local government in the United States is generally structured in accordance with the laws of the various individual states. Typically each state has at least two separate tiers: counties and municipalities. Some states have their counties divided into townships...

, such as the civil township
Civil township
A civil township is a widely used unit of local government in the United States, subordinate to, and geographic divisions of, a county. Specific responsibilities and the degree of autonomy vary based on each state. Civil townships are distinct from survey townships, but in states that have both,...

 (a division of a county). Cities and towns may have extraterritorial jurisdiction
Extraterritorial jurisdiction
Extraterritorial jurisdiction is the legal ability of a government to exercise authority beyond its normal boundaries.Any authority can, of course, claim ETJ over any external territory they wish...

 beyond their limits, typically for zoning
Zoning
Zoning is a device of land use planning used by local governments in most developed countries. The word is derived from the practice of designating permitted uses of land based on mapped zones which separate one set of land uses from another...

 purposes. The distance this extends varies based on the population or area of the city, or which "class" it is considered to be under state law.

Home rule
Home rule
Home rule is the power of a constituent part of a state to exercise such of the state's powers of governance within its own administrative area that have been devolved to it by the central government....

 within a city's limit is usually exercised by the mayor
Mayor
In many countries, a Mayor is the highest ranking officer in the municipal government of a town or a large urban city....

 (executive branch) and city council
City council
A city council or town council is the legislative body that governs a city, town, municipality or local government area.-Australia & NZ:Because of the differences in legislation between the States, the exact definition of a City Council varies...

 (legislative branch). Home rule outside the city limits is usually exercised by the county commission
County commission
A county commission is a group of elected officials charged with administering the county government in local government in some states of the United States. County commissions are usually made up of three or more individuals...

 (which is often both legislative and executive), or the township's board of supervisors. Even without home rule, the county, as a unit of state government
State government
A state government is the government of a subnational entity in a federal form of government, which shares political power with the federal or national government. A state government may have some level of political autonomy, or be subject to the direct control of the federal government...

, also has certain powers and responsibilities even within the limits of its cities, including the sheriff
Sheriff
A sheriff is in principle a legal official with responsibility for a county. In practice, the specific combination of legal, political, and ceremonial duties of a sheriff varies greatly from country to country....

 that performs eviction
Eviction
How you doing???? Eviction is the removal of a tenant from rental property by the landlord. Depending on the laws of the jurisdiction, eviction may also be known as unlawful detainer, summary possession, summary dispossess, forcible detainer, ejectment, and repossession, among other terms...

s, runs the county jail
Jail
A jail is a short-term detention facility in the United States and Canada.Jail may also refer to:In entertainment:*Jail , a 1966 Malayalam movie*Jail , a 2009 Bollywood movie...

 that all city and county police departments take arrest
Arrest
An arrest is the act of depriving a person of his or her liberty usually in relation to the purported investigation and prevention of crime and presenting into the criminal justice system or harm to oneself or others...

ed persons to, and guards the courthouse
Courthouse
A courthouse is a building that is home to a local court of law and often the regional county government as well, although this is not the case in some larger cities. The term is common in North America. In most other English speaking countries, buildings which house courts of law are simply...

 for the county's state court even though it is usually within the city limit of the county seat
County seat
A county seat is an administrative center, or seat of government, for a county or civil parish. The term is primarily used in the United States....

. Election
Election
An election is a formal decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual to hold public office. Elections have been the usual mechanism by which modern representative democracy operates since the 17th century. Elections may fill offices in the legislature, sometimes in the...

s and health department
Health department
A health department or health ministry is a part of government which focuses on issues related to the general health of the citizenry. Subnational entities, such as states, counties and cities, often also operate a health department of their own...

s are also common county responsibilities which include all cities. (City residents still pay some county taxes for these reasons.)

If a city chooses to have its own emergency services, they only have jurisdiction
Jurisdiction
Jurisdiction is the practical authority granted to a formally constituted legal body or to a political leader to deal with and make pronouncements on legal matters and, by implication, to administer justice within a defined area of responsibility...

 within the city limits, except for mutual aid
Mutual aid (emergency services)
In emergency services, mutual aid is an agreement among emergency responders to lend assistance across jurisdictional boundaries. This may occur due to an emergency response that exceeds local resources, such as a disaster or a multiple-alarm fire. Mutual aid may be ad hoc, requested only when...

 (typically among fire department
Fire department
A fire department or fire brigade is a public or private organization that provides fire protection for a certain jurisdiction, which typically is a municipality, county, or fire protection district...

s) in case of disaster
Disaster
A disaster is a natural or man-made hazard that has come to fruition, resulting in an event of substantial extent causing significant physical damage or destruction, loss of life, or drastic change to the environment...

. Telephone companies also must keep track of changing city limits to ensure that calls to 9-1-1
9-1-1
9-1-1 is the emergency telephone number for the North American Numbering Plan .It is one of eight N11 codes.The use of this number is for emergency circumstances only, and to use it for any other purpose can be a crime.-History:In the earliest days of telephone technology, prior to the...

 are routed to the appropriate public-safety answering point
Public-safety answering point
A Public Safety Answering Point , sometimes called "Public Safety Access Point", is a call center responsible for answering calls to an emergency telephone number for police, firefighting, and ambulance services. Trained telephone operators are also usually responsible for dispatching these...

, if the city operates a PSAP separate from the county. Calls from mobile phone
Mobile phone
A mobile phone is a device which can make and receive telephone calls over a radio link whilst moving around a wide geographic area. It does so by connecting to a cellular network provided by a mobile network operator...

s are usually routed based on the location of the base station
Base station
The term base station can be used in the context of land surveying and wireless communications.- Land surveying :In the context of external land surveying, a base station is a GPS receiver at an accurately-known fixed location which is used to derive correction information for nearby portable GPS...

 rather than the calling party
Calling party
The calling party is a person who initiates a telephone call over the public switched telephone network, usually by dialing a telephone number....

, so these (along with landline
Landline
A landline was originally an overland telegraph wire, as opposed to an undersea cable. Currently, landline refers to a telephone line which travels through a solid medium, either metal wire or optical fibre, as distinguished from a mobile cellular line, where transmission is via radio waves...

 calls to non-emergency telephone number
Emergency telephone number
Many countries' public telephone networks have a single emergency telephone number, sometimes known as the universal emergency telephone number or occasionally the emergency services number, that allows a caller to contact local emergency services for assistance. The emergency telephone number may...

s) must be handled manually by the telephone operator
Telephone operator
A telephone operator is either* a person who provides assistance to a telephone caller, usually in the placing of operator assisted telephone calls such as calls from a pay phone, collect calls , calls which are billed to a credit card, station-to-station and person-to-person calls, and certain...

 or dispatcher
Dispatcher
Dispatchers are communications personnel responsible for receiving and transmitting pure and reliable messages, tracking vehicles and equipment, and recording other important information...

, determining whether the caller or incident is within a particular city limit or not so that the proper authorities may be sent.

City limits may extend into more than one county, which can complicate certain matters of policing and taxation. (For example, sales tax
Sales tax
A sales tax is a tax, usually paid by the consumer at the point of purchase, itemized separately from the base price, for certain goods and services. The tax amount is usually calculated by applying a percentage rate to the taxable price of a sale....

 revenue
Revenue
In business, revenue is income that a company receives from its normal business activities, usually from the sale of goods and services to customers. In many countries, such as the United Kingdom, revenue is referred to as turnover....

 collected in a city by one county may not be spent in another part of the city outside of that county.) Where a city merges its government with that of its county to become a consolidated city-county
Consolidated city-county
In United States local government, a consolidated city–county is a city and county that have been merged into one unified jurisdiction. As such it is simultaneously a city, which is a municipal corporation, and a county, which is an administrative division of a state...

, the city limits are usually considered to be expanded to occupy all of the previously-unincorporated area of the county, while other existing municipalities continue to exist but are permanently locked into their city limits without the possibility of annexation (except possibly into a neighboring county). An independent city
Independent city
An independent city is a city that does not form part of another general-purpose local government entity. These type of cities should not be confused with city-states , which are fully sovereign cities that are not part of any other sovereign state.-Historical precursors:In the Holy Roman Empire,...

's limits separate it from being in any county at all. Similarly, cities and towns may or may not be considered part of the township[s] they are in.
City, town, and village limits are not usually coterminous with post office locations or ZIP code
ZIP Code
ZIP codes are a system of postal codes used by the United States Postal Service since 1963. The term ZIP, an acronym for Zone Improvement Plan, is properly written in capital letters and was chosen to suggest that the mail travels more efficiently, and therefore more quickly, when senders use the...

s/ postal codes, and the USPS and Canada Post
Canada Post
Canada Post Corporation, known more simply as Canada Post , is the Canadian crown corporation which functions as the country's primary postal operator...

 even considers some places to be "unacceptable" for use on mail. (For example, parts of Sandy Springs within its city limit but outside of 30328 must use "Atlanta, GA" instead.) School districts and other special-purpose district
Special-purpose district
Special-purpose districts or special district governments in the United States are independent governmental units that exist separately from, and with substantial administrative and fiscal independence from, general purpose local governments such as county, municipal, and township governments. As...

s may be overlaid on cities, or cities may choose to have their own — however, these are often under other authorities.

Town limits were often a radius
Radius
In classical geometry, a radius of a circle or sphere is any line segment from its center to its perimeter. By extension, the radius of a circle or sphere is the length of any such segment, which is half the diameter. If the object does not have an obvious center, the term may refer to its...

 from a train depot, and several still remain this way.

City Boundaries in the United Kingdom

In the UK, city boundaries are more difficult to define, since British cities are defined as any town - regardless of size - that has been granted letters patent
Letters patent
Letters patent are a type of legal instrument in the form of a published written order issued by a monarch or president, generally granting an office, right, monopoly, title, or status to a person or corporation...

. In smaller cities such as Wells
Wells
Wells is a cathedral city and civil parish in the Mendip district of Somerset, England, on the southern edge of the Mendip Hills. Although the population recorded in the 2001 census is 10,406, it has had city status since 1205...

 (pop. approx. 10,000) or Gloucester
Gloucester
Gloucester is a city, district and county town of Gloucestershire in the South West region of England. Gloucester lies close to the Welsh border, and on the River Severn, approximately north-east of Bristol, and south-southwest of Birmingham....

 (pop. approx. 100,000) the boundary will be that governed by the city council
City council
A city council or town council is the legislative body that governs a city, town, municipality or local government area.-Australia & NZ:Because of the differences in legislation between the States, the exact definition of a City Council varies...

. In the case of larger cities such as Birmingham
Birmingham
Birmingham is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands of England. It is the most populous British city outside the capital London, with a population of 1,036,900 , and lies at the heart of the West Midlands conurbation, the second most populous urban area in the United Kingdom with a...

 (pop. approx. 1,000,000), a specific metropolitan borough
Metropolitan borough
A metropolitan borough is a type of local government district in England, and is a subdivision of a metropolitan county. Created in 1974 by the Local Government Act 1972, metropolitan boroughs are defined in English law as metropolitan districts, however all of them have been granted or regranted...

 will make the definition.

Although British city boundaries are often important for defining local services such as refuse collection, schools, libraries and planning (zoning), they play little or no role in law enforcement or hospitals. Police jurisdiction and local services are generally defined by county
County
A county is a jurisdiction of local government in certain modern nations. Historically in mainland Europe, the original French term, comté, and its equivalents in other languages denoted a jurisdiction under the sovereignty of a count A county is a jurisdiction of local government in certain...

 boundaries, and people in one county may usually decide to use hospitals, libraries and schools in another without incurring any fees.

There is no concept of local taxation in the UK, other than minor differences between Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

, Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 and England and Wales
England and Wales
England and Wales is a jurisdiction within the United Kingdom. It consists of England and Wales, two of the four countries of the United Kingdom...

. Local government councils derive their income from council tax
Council tax
Council Tax is the system of local taxation used in England, Scotland and Wales to part fund the services provided by local government in each country. It was introduced in 1993 by the Local Government Finance Act 1992, as a successor to the unpopular Community Charge...

 and business rates
Business rates
Business rates is the commonly used name of non-domestic rates, a tax on the occupation of non-domestic property. Rates are a property tax with ancient roots that was formerly used to fund local services that was formalised with the Poor Law 1572 and superseded by the Poor Law of 1601...

, taxes based on the values of buildings.

Planning (zoning) law around British cities is generally determined by green belt
Green belt
A green belt or greenbelt is a policy and land use designation used in land use planning to retain areas of largely undeveloped, wild, or agricultural land surrounding or neighbouring urban areas. Similar concepts are greenways or green wedges which have a linear character and may run through an...

laws, which prevent building on the countryside immediately surrounding large and medium-sized towns and cities.
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