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Where's the Union-Mecklenburg county line? Turns out, no one's quite sure.

Satellite photo
Mecklenburg County
An aerial shot of the Mecklenburg/Union county line.

Do you live in Union County or Mecklenburg County? For some residents at the county line, that simple question could soon be a lot more complex.

Mecklenburg County tax assessor Ken Joyner told county commissioners on Wednesday that the line between the two counties is in dispute because the maps they’re using don’t match. The problem first surfaced in 2001. Joyner says he doesn’t know why the issue wasn’t resolved then — and he told commissioners his office hasn't been able to locate anyone working at the time who could clarify — but it could have big consequences now.

"I did not even know that we were using a county line that was different than the one that Union County uses," said Joyner, who joined the county in 2013. The issue surfaced in his office several months ago when the Union County tax assessor contacted Joyner, he said. Union County commissioners were also informed of the issue this month.


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Joyner listed some of the possible consequences if properties switch counties.

"Public school assignments. This could affect those ... Elections, the voting. It could change that," he said. "Emergency services could be affected. Again, property taxes, where they're valued, where those are collected could change."

Commissioners from both counties will decide how to move forward in the coming months with new surveys that could shift the county line. Mecklenburg County Commissioner Susan Rodriguez-McDowell was surprised.

"OMG, like this is 20 years of this line not being correct?" she said. "This is just so, it's just so hard to believe."

Joyner clarified that the line has actually been unclear for longer than 20 years — that was just the most recent time the issue was brought up.

"It does seem unreal," Joyner said. "These things do happen over time."

More than 1,000 acres could be affected, mostly near Idlewild Road. The Shannamara subdivision appears to be the site of many of those properties, and county staff said they will produce a map showing the exact area in question. Some parcels that are split between the two counties could end up being in one or the other, or some that are not split could end up so. Others might switch entirely. The net change in acreage might be small for Mecklenburg County. Joyner estimated the county could lose a few acres but gain a bit higher tax base if parcels are switched.

Mecklenburg commission member Vilma Leake said she's wary of possibly giving up acres to Union County.

"There is a bitter taste in many mouths in Mecklenburg County when it comes to Union County. And we have to get beyond that if we're going to do anything. Marriage is what I call it, marriage, and we have to be engaged first. So I'm waiting for the ring to see what you have to offer," she said. "Give me the information, then give me a ring, and then we would talk about our wedding date."

County commission members took no action at Wednesday's meeting. Staff will gather more information on the expected impact and report back to the board soon, Joyner said.

"It doesn't matter how it impacts us, because are we not required to just discover what the boundary actually is and then adhere to it?" said commission member Leigh Altman. "I mean, we don't have any choice in the matter."

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Ely Portillo has worked as a journalist in Charlotte for over a decade. Before joining WFAE, he worked at the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute and the Charlotte Observer.