Berkeley-Dorchester boundary line shifting soon

Traffic flows on Summervill’s North Main Street where Dorchester and Berkeley counties meet.

Berkeley County is expected to soon gain more than 200 residences and more than $250,000 in annual property tax after a boundary line shift with neighboring Dorchester County is anticipated to go into effect early next month.

The South Carolina Geodetic Survey (SCGS) is recording the updated plats with the register of deeds offices in both counties, and Nov. 7 is the planned date for Berkeley County to “take responsibility and assume control of the area in transition,” according to Hannah Moldenhauer, Berkeley County’s public information officer.

“Berkeley County and Dorchester County assessors have reached an agreement on how to bill the parcels,” she said.

During Berkeley County Council’s Oct. 22 meeting, the county’s director of real property services, Wilson Baggett, presented the governing body with updates on the matter and said he’s relieved the decades-old dilemma is finally culminating in compromise.

“This has been going on quite a while, at least 20 years of my tenure here, and thank goodness we’re coming to the end of it,” he said.

Baggett is referring to a boundary dispute that’s been ongoing for years about where the Berkeley-Dorchester line is supposed to be. The South Carolina Geodetic Survey Office outlined the parcel in 1997 and again in 2005 in connection to a boundary line mistake that Dorchester County officials said they attribute to the county’s first supervisor Hamilton Knight.

In 1900, Knight is believed to have incorrectly plotted roads, creeks, branches and other features on a map, according to Dorchester County officials. And over the years, the map has been recycled as a geographical reference.

In 1998, the SCGS office issued a letter about the matter to both parties, and meetings between both counties’ officials ensued; but they were unable to reach an immediate resolution. The request was later renewed, and last year the state office agreed to re-certify a re-established survey, Moldenhauer said.

The change will specifically move the Berkeley County line south of its current line—Baggett likening the shape of the property the county is gaining to that of an “icicle.”

“The further north you go, the more land we gain,” he said.

The area is a thin, triangular mass just under 3,000 acres, stretching northwest from near West 9th North Street in Summerville to Four Holes Swamp.

According to Baggett, approximately 200 houses and 75 mobile homes will transition from Dorchester County to Berkeley County, which will also gain three apartment buildings that together consist of 24 units.

With regard to homes that the new boundary line will split, assessors in both counties studied location on an individual basis and assigned each home to the county where the majority of its property falls.

“Properties that were split needed to be agreed upon which county would be best to serve (homeowners’) needs…and some of them were tough,” Baggett said.

He compared the matter to a prior one affecting Hanahan properties located along the Berkeley-Charleston boundary. Baggett said in that case, instead of changing the county line, both counties agreed to assign affected homes different taxing authorities.

While the SCGS office will notify all Berkeley County homeowners of the Berkeley-Dorchester line shift, county staff will also help to alert residents.

“We (will) continue to push messaging, including but not limited to, the Berkeley County website and social media platforms,” Moldenhauer said.

However, commercial businesses in each county will be minimally affected by the shift. Moldenhauer said that includes just five properties apiece in Berkeley and Dorchester counties. And while the new line will also split certain businesses, all but two locations, including Cypress Campground and Farmington Village Apartments—near the Lowe’s and Home Depot stores in Summerville—were left alone.

“We didn’t do anything with commercial,” Baggett said.

Due to the campground’s historic significance, Berkeley County officials said they wanted to keep the entire property together and in its currently assigned Dorchester County location.

The line change will also affect voting precincts, but not until 2019—since changes will be filed the day after next month’s midterm elections—and school districting.

However, Berkeley County staff said they plan to let school district officials in each county determine how to handle any school-related changes.