House should approve official state line

This isn’t the 18th century. South Carolina and North Carolina ought to have a defined border they agree on.

The original 333-mile border separating the two states was surveyed only once. The project consisted of a series of measurements done in pieces between 1735 and 1815, with wars, nature and lack of money interfering in the process.

While parts of the border have been surveyed two other times, in 1905 and 1928, the states essentially relied on the original survey for more than 240 years to mark the dividing line between them. But about 20 years ago, officials from both states decided to conduct a new, definitive study that would determine, once and for all, where one state ended and the other began.

The states didn’t want to draw a new line. That would have been more costly, and Congress would have had to approve the final result.

Instead, the task was to retrace the original border from yellowing documents and other sources. Unfortunately, many of the landmarks on those original documents were piles of rocks or trees scored with hatchets, many of which had long ago disappeared.

But despite those challenges, the line was drawn. The S.C. Senate unanimously passed a bill in April approving the border that had taken 20 years to draw.

The only remaining hurdle for South Carolina is passage of the bill in the House. But state Rep. Raye Felder, R-Fort Mill, has stalled the vote.

Felder lodged an objection to the proposal, which prevented the bill from going to the House floor. She said she is representing the interests of about 14 constituents who could end up living in North Carolina if the border is approved by Legislatures in both states.

We understand her concerns. As she notes, the change can be disruptive for those who thought they were living in South Carolina, paid South Carolina taxes and chose school districts in South Carolina, only to learn that they might soon be North Carolinians.

Felder said she wants a hearing so her constituents can get explanations about how any changes would affect them. We hope that will resolve the issue to the satisfaction of all the homeowners.

The state already has carved out a special exception for at least one business, a Fort Mill gas station that has operated for years under South Carolina rules, selling beer, fireworks and gasoline that is cheaper than gas sold across the state line in North Carolina. Although that business’s property line now will be in North Carolina, in a county where selling fireworks and beer are banned, that business will be grandfathered to allow it to continue its current practices.

“That man would have gone out of business if we hadn’t done that,” said Rep. Wes Hayes, R-Rock Hill, who supports the bill.

While Felder may be protecting the interests of her constituents, we think she also needs to consider the long-term interests of both states. With the probability of significant development along both sides of the state line, a clearly defined border is crucial.

Both states have held numerous hearings at different locations to alert property owners about the possible impact of changes that might result because of the reconstructed border. Only 148 residences and four businesses ended up in the disputed areas, and none of them would have to pay back taxes because of their adjusted status.

Both states have been involved in this cooperative effort for two decades without resorting to legal battles over where the border should be. That, in itself, is a remarkable accomplishment.

While Felder’s constituents deserve to know how any changes will affect them, we hope she won’t jeopardize final approval of this bill. Without a clear state line, boundary disputes can only multiply as development increases in the future.

After more than 240 years of uncertainly, it’s time to draw the line.

In summary

State Rep. Raye Felder, R-Fort Mill, shouldn’t hold up passage in the House of an official border line with North Carolina.