As the Orange and Alamance boards of county commissioners debated altering county lines at a Monday meeting, residents and officials expressed concern over how their property lines would be affected.
“We’ve worked for four and a half years on this line,” said Bruce Walker, director of the Alamance County Geographic Information System Department. “People aren’t sure where they’re supposed to be, and they’ve had difficulty selling their property.
“This has been an issue for 161 years.”
County officials are proposing a county line that is straighter. The new line would affect about 20 properties, all within 150 feet of the current line.
Property owners can qualify to petition to stay in their original county.
Orange County staff recommends all of the properties in question be districted to Orange County, except for two property owners who have petitioned to be incorporated in Alamance County.
“The focus was on existing homeowners and businesses that were reasonably close to the original county line,” he said.
Craig Benedict, Orange County director of planning and inspections, said keeping the existing county line will continue to split individual properties down the middle.
He said that individual components of properties, such as septic systems, could be in one county while the remainder of the property is in the other, making it difficult to obtain a building permit.
“We’re suggesting the line not split houses and go between lots,” Benedict said. “If you have the county line here, it splits properties down the middle, and it’s difficult to find the house’s location.”
Benedict said a line going between lots would allow people to know where to send their children to school and what emergency services they have.
Orange County resident Jim Howard, who spoke at the meeting and whose property would be affected, said switching counties to Alamance doesn’t make sense to him.
“There was never any question if we were in Orange County until recently,” he said. “All of our services come from Orange County.”
Orange County Commissioner Steve Yuhasz said the counties should strive for a line that’s easy to recognize, but the line being straight should not be the first priority.
He stressed that officials should try to keep residents who have always lived in Orange County within that county line.
“One of the primary criteria is to respect the expectations of land owners,” he said. “The assistance of trying to maintain a straight line has taken away from the commitment we made.”
Officials said they hope the line adjustment will be institutionalized by a 2011 bill.
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