The boundary between North and South Carolina is finally set. It's taken more than 20 years to clarify the colonial-era line with modern technology. Another part of that process was deciding how to deal with households and businesses that find themselves in a new state. The bill Governor McCrory signed June 22nd lays out ways to ease them into life in a different Carolina. Many are anxious about the transition.
Jeff Langley and his wife have lived in their home in Clover, South Carolina for 20 years. They knew North Carolina was close by.
Langley said, “The line was at that cherry tree when we bought it. Our deed shows the line at that cherry tree. So we were clearly in South Carolina."
And that's where they wanted to be....in a county where they thought they'd pay lower property taxes and still have better funded schools.
“We bought a house to be in South Carolina. We wanted to be in York County. Bought a house in York County, wanted to stay in York County,” said Langley.
If they ever wanted to move, they figured they could sell their home for more on the South Carolina side. That's why Langley has been fighting to stay in South Carolina since he first heard about the changes in 2011.
Come January, the redrawn line will convert 16 South Carolina households - 10 of them in York County - to North Carolina residents. Three families in North Carolina will become part of South Carolina. Many of them are going unwillingly.
South Carolina State Representative Raye Felder said negotiations were tough. “It is a major piece of legislation even though it impacts a small number of people it impacts them greatly. And we were working in two different states, in two different legislatures trying to come up with a compromise.”
Schools were a big point of contention. Many families want to stay with their districts. The compromise allows them to do that. They're also eligible for in-state tuition at colleges and universities in their original state for ten years.
As for taxes, there's no transition time. They'll begin paying the new income and property taxes right away.
Then there's the Lake Wylie Mini Mart. It's one of two businesses making the transition. At a meeting of the joint boundary commission in 2012, the gas station's owner Lewis Efird, made it clear that so much depends on its South Carolina status.
Efird said, "We invested based on the location of the property, tax rates, underground storage tank rules, alcohol availability - had this property been in North Carolina, had we known when we purchased it in the early 1990s, we certainly would not have purchased.”
The new boundary and accommodations both states have approved will allow the gas station to continue largely as if it were still in South Carolina. The store can sell gas at the lower South Carolina prices, sell fireworks not allowed in North Carolina, and sell alcohol even though that part of Gaston County is dry. Those exceptions remain in place, until the property changes hands. Many of those leaving their home state, wonder why they didn't get the same treatment.
Duke University Professor Steve Kelly studies border negotiations. He says this boundary process has actually been cleaner and more collaborative than most. “The key thing is, the two states agree, and they’ve worked together for the last twenty years. That’s very unusual. That’s not the model. The model is yelling, screaming, going to court and calling each other names. And North and South Carolina have found a better way, probably the best way,” said Kelly.
As for Langley, he ended up on the wrong side of the debate. He and his wife realize soon they’ll have to come to terms with being North Carolinians. Langley said, “We’ll swallow the bitter pill and move to North Carolina. We just don’t like it. It would’ve been so easy to not make it happen.”
But at least this move won’t require any heavy lifting.