For years, hundreds of people in Dorchester County have been living a lie.
They have cheered on the Green Wave, celebrated the Flowertown Festival, complained about that new hotel that is going to turn Summerville into — gasp — Charleston.
Turns out, they’ve been wasting their time.
They are really Berkeley County residents.
Thanks to some surveying mistakes in the late 19th century, back when the Internet was really, really slow, Dorchester County was mistakenly granted an additional 3,000 acres of property that was rightfully meant to remain in Berkeley County.
See, Dorchester County was pieced together from parts of Colleton and Berkeley counties in the late 19th century when St. George residents complained that Walterboro was way too far away (or looked too much like the set of “Forrest Gump”) to be their county seat.
So the surveyors went in and made a new county. Sort of like Republicans will soon have to split the party in two.
But something went wrong and, as Bo Petersen explained in Thursday’s Post and Courier, a 13-mile swath of land from Four Holes Swamp to W. 9th N. Street was mistakenly designated Dorchester County.
Now Berkeley County wants that land back. Why?
Well, there’s property taxes in them thar subdivisions.
All these border wars go back years.
See, South Carolina is currently fighting North Carolina over the actual state line up around York County, an ongoing battle which has significant modern ramifications.
It will determine which state gets to say it is the birthplace of Andrew Jackson.
The state Legislature, in its infinite aversion to real problems, decided to resurvey some county lines a while back, particularly the Berkeley-Dorchester line. Thus the new problem was created.
Officials in Dorchester County — which could lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in property taxes — are telling folks they are welcome to stay and are eager to help them petition for annexation back into the county they thought was theirs.
Berkeley County officials have not publicly commented, but have been spotted rubbing their hands together excitedly and muttering “Excellent.”
So now a bunch of folks are going to have to determine exactly what is home, and whether those people they’ve always considered their weird neighbors are actually family.
For some, it will come down to dollars and cents. Yes, property taxes are slightly lower in Berkeley County — and that’s all some people will need to hear, especially in those parts.
Some things don’t change across county lines.
But there are other things to consider. So choose wisely, you poor political boundary refugees.
Berkeley County is the third-largest county in South Carolina by land area; Dorchester is mid-pack.
In fact, if Dorchester County loses 3,000 acres it could become smaller than even Hampton County. That would be disheartening, seeing as how they have one of the biggest cities (well, towns) in the state.
What would Berkeley gain (besides some extra tax money)? Not much. They are already pretty big and that land would not give them enough to overtake Orangeburg as the second-largest county in the state.
So it all comes down to lifestyle.
Dorchester County isn’t perfect — they like to fight over dead trees, sometimes want to censor the local arts community and have an infuriatingly confusing grid of streets in Summerville.
What’s up with West 9th Street North anyway? Which is it — west or north? Make up your mind.
But in Berkeley County, they fight about practically everything. County and schools officials are always suing each other, getting each other indicted and don’t have nearly as dominating a football legacy. And let’s be honest, this matters in the South — they are farther to the north. Practically Yankees.
Plus, who wants to drive to the county seat in Moncks Corner. You thought Walterboro was a hike ...
But for some, it will come down to those incrementally lower taxes, and maybe the idea of getting away from Coastal Carolina Fair traffic.
Ultimately, all those folks living in political no-man’s land have some soul-searching to do. They will have to figure out what they want to call home, who they want to identify with.
Of course, before making that final decision, those folks might want to keep in mind how Berkeley County’s hospitality toward refugees.
Reach Brian Hicks at email@example.com