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Blurred boundary leads to permit, tax problems

Whether you live in Macon County or Jackson County may depend on which one you ask.


For about a year, Macon County Commissioner Jimmy Tate has been championing the cause of defining, once and for all, the county line that separates Maconians and Jacksonians.

Tate, who represents the Highlands area of Macon County, recently had a property owner approach him about the matter. The resident has nearly 10 acres of land on the border between the two counties and wants to build a house on it, except the he doesn’t know with which county to submit an application for a building permit.

“I said ‘go online and look at the maps,’” Tate said. “And they said, ‘I did that and I can’t tell.’”

Apparently the land records used by each county have conflicting information in regards to sections of the border. By some counts a handful of properties could be affected by the ambiguity.

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Since that first property owner contacted Tate, two more have come forward: one property owner thought he lived in Macon County but paid taxes to Jackson, while the other did the opposite.

Tate’s mission is to settle the issue for good, or as he puts it “to get the line straightened out.”

Stealing a few properties from the tax rolls of one county and adding them to the other, or vice versa, would most likely end up as a wash financially speaking, or give a slight advantage at best. Luckily, the counties have two of the lowest tax rates in the entire state.

 “I don’t know if it’s going to benefit Jackson County more or Macon County more,” Tate said. “But what’s fair is fair and what’s right is right.”

Defining the border could put an end to some of the confusion and possibly avoid a larger problem down the road. Macon County commissioners passed a resolution last month inviting the N.C. Geodetic Survey to define the border, using historical data and a survey.

Now, they need Jackson County commissioners to agree before the state agency will get involved. Jackson County Manager Chuck Wooten made the pitch to commissioners at their meeting last week, saying it would be good to at least hear what a survey might offer at an upcoming work session.

“It’s my recommendation that we invite the folks from the geodetic office to do a presentation and maybe a survey,” Wooten said. “Macon County feels it would be best to establish this line once and for all.”

The survey would be non-binding and free to the counties, Wooten said. He surmised that historical boundaries established along ridgelines were becoming obsolete as people build on top of the ridges and alter the landscape with development.

And though he didn’t believe that the records the Jackson County’s tax office was using were that far out of line, he acknowledged the discrepancies.

“In some cases they appear to be different,” Wooten said.

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