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Horry/Georgetown county line confusion could be first of a series of cases

(WPDE)

"Would you vote to stay in Horry County if you think you're in Horry County now?" State Senator Stephen Goldfinch asked the crowd at the Murrells Inlet Community Center. Almost every hand shot up in response.

Goldfinch's question opened a community question-and-answer session, where about 100 people living in limbo between Georgetown County and Horry County were told how their predicament came about.

Earlier this year, officials discovered more than 200 households that were believed to be in Horry County were actually in Georgetown County.

RELATED: Almost 200 homes could change counties due to boundary mix-up

In addition, six parcels of land that had been paying Georgetown County taxes really belonged to Horry County.

Officials said they made their discovery while investigating the off-shore state line. They said the original boundary was marked by a cedar stake on the ocean side, and a "point" on the river, which possibly confused surveyors in the 1990's when they didn't account for tides.

"There are problems all over the state that are similar to this," David Ballard, with the South Carolina Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office, warned. He said most issues had to do with school districts or other, less significant boundaries.

He said one thing was unprecedented: that the residents would choose which county they would join in an upcoming referendum.

Previously, Ballard explained, counties wanted to keep the surprise extra tax revenue.

He said his office was trying to make sure all county lines were accurate by the 2030 census, but the work was just beginning.

"Marlboro County's boundary -- their statutory language is over 150 years old and it still includes a dead pine tree as one of the markers on their boundary," he explained.

Last year, North Carolina and South Carolina leaders permanently settled the states' boundary, as the original was defined by a series of tree stumps, fence posts, and buggy axles.

As for the Horry-Georgetown county referendum, leaders said they still aren't sure when it will happen.

While the preference was that a special referendum would be held for only the eligible households to vote, officials say the law might require the question to appear on a general election ballot.

In that case, those households would vote in the November 2019 election.

Until then, Goldfinch explained that the households would maintain the status quo. People who believed they lived in Horry County would continue to send their children to Horry County schools, and pay Horry County taxes.

Officials said no registered voters lived in the homes that originally belonged to Georgetown County.

As for why a referendum is needed when the support is nearly unanimous? It's the law.

"It's not fun, it's not cheap, but unfortunately, that's the way it is," Goldfinch said.

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