Border Shift Between North and South Carolina Switches States for Some

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Jeffrey Collins / AP

A car coming from North Carolina turns into the Lake Wylie Minimart in Lake Wylie, S.C. on Wednesday, March 21, 2012.

It’s rather common for people to move across state lines. But what if the state line moved across the people? That’s the trouble that some South Carolina residents are facing – specifically, the fact that they soon will be residents of North Carolina, and vice versa. The boundary between the two states, drawn up in the 1700s, was revisited recently and found to be 150 feet too far to the north.

As it turns out, the hatchet markings and chains used to calculate the border centuries ago were less than accurate. GPS systems and computer calculations determined what the boundary should be, down to the centimeter. And now the two states are making strides to relocate every last shred of grass to the proper state. But it’s not just as simple as moving the state line sign. There are 93 properties currently in one Carolina that will soon be in the other Carolina.

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It would appear that the surveyors from 1735 cut a few corners. As the Associated Press notes, the king of England asked the border to be traced between the two colonies, starting at the Atlantic, 30 miles south of the Cape Fear River, and take a straight northwest route to 35 degrees latitude. Following that, the instructions called for a boundary due west. But obstacles and inaccuracies abounded, creating a sometimes-meandering, off-target line.

And the consequences are manifesting themselves more than 200 years later. North and South Carolina agreed to create the Joint Boundary Commission to analyze the border and ensure each state got the land it was afforded, before a serious dispute rose up (a fate Michigan and Ohio couldn’t escape).

After all, the state line determines much more than just your ZIP code. It impacts every nugget of daily living, from how much sales tax you pay to who provides your cable service. No matter that the services to these houses are already connected. They’ll have to be reconnected to the other state’s utilities, though the Joint Boundary Commission is working to pass legislation allowing the services to cross state lines.

But these are mere technicalities for the residents who will be forced into a different state. The real difficulty lies in switching loyalties. “I was born a sandlapper and I want to remain a sandlapper,” said Jeff Langley, whose house is being split in two by the new border, with a majority of his house switching from South Carolina to North Carolina. “And there is no way in hell I am rooting for the [University of North Carolina] Tar Heels.” Though we’re pretty sure sports loyalties can indeed be transferred across state lines.

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