Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Counties reassign boundary residents

Those living in the Hollins and Falling Creek communities are the most affected.

The Roanoke Times
Cody Lowe

Come July 1, some families are going to be moving from Roanoke County to Botetourt County -- and vice versa -- without setting foot out of their homes.

The counties announced Monday that 61 parcels will be reassigned after being identified as either being listed in the wrong county or being divided by the boundary. Most of the resulting changes will take effect July 1.

It will mark the third time in four years that corrections of decades-old boundary errors have led to involuntary moves for some residents along that county line.

New digitized mapping systems -- more accurate than older paper maps, county officials say -- led to the discovery.

David Moorman, Botetourt's deputy county administrator, said the Hollins and Falling Creek communities are the most affected. Some of the Hollins properties mistakenly have been considered to be in Roanoke County for as long as 50 years, Moorman said.

"We've been working on this off and on for about three years now," said Roanoke County Assistant Administrator John Chambliss. The review was prompted after residents of Hill Drive in the Hollins area were informed in 2003 they were not in Roanoke County but in Botetourt.

Some officials in both counties insisted the misalignments couldn't be ignored, as some have been for years, because state law requires citizens to vote and pay taxes in the localities where they live.

Engineers on both counties' staffs have since compared their digitized property maps all along their common border to find any more problems. "We didn't go out and re-survey," Chambliss said. "We've not changed the boundary line, and we've not changed anybody's individual property line."

Properties that were split by the line were assigned a dominant locality according to where the home or primary development is or, in the case of undeveloped property, where future development would most likely be, Chambliss said.

Some 31 parcels now completely in Roanoke County and 23 split parcels now governed by Roanoke County will shift to Botetourt.

Only two whole parcels and five split parcels will be transferred from Botetourt County's oversight to Roanoke County's.

Another 44 split parcels that are currently considered part of Roanoke County will remain with that county; 28 such parcels now considered part of Botetourt will remain there.

Chambliss and Moorman pointed out that 2007 taxes will be paid to the locality that is billing them now. That will change on Jan. 1, 2008.

Most changes will be relatively smooth, Chambliss said. Each county's emergency 911 calls will automatically be routed to the right facility; water and sewer services won't change; cable TV service will be unaffected; social services are largely operated by the state, although families might have to use different offices; and libraries will continue to be open to all.

Residents who are moved to Botetourt County will eventually pay much lower real estate taxes -- currently 65 cents per $100 valuation compared with Roanoke County's $1.11 -- but they will have to pay a private contractor for garbage removal. Residents shifted into Roanoke County will pay that county's higher rate.

The most vexing problem in previous, similar cases, has been where to send public school students, although both counties estimate fewer than a dozen students will be affected by the most recent shift.

Chambliss said "families will have to make arrangements for their child to be registered in the new county's school system." He said he expects both counties to consider allowing children to continue in the system they now attend by paying nonresident tuition, but "the school systems have not adopted resolutions on that, so there are no specific details yet."

Children of families whose property is split by the boundary will be able to choose which school system to attend without paying tuition, he said.

Aside from changing real estate taxes, "there should be no real cost to the property owner," Chambliss said. The counties will file affidavits in each circuit court indicating that deeds for the affected properties should be filed in the other at the time of the next sale. "It will not change where those deeds are recorded today."

Affected homeowners will receive letters by the end of the week explaining the impact of the boundary change.

An informational meeting to answer their questions will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on April 23 at Read Mountain Middle School, 182 Orchard Hill Drive, in Cloverdale. Chambliss emphasized that the meeting will not be a public hearing for "a debate about whether this should have happened or to request boundary change."

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