You may never have needed to buy gas at the Lake Wylie Minimart in Lake Wylie, S.C. but if you were driving in the area you'd have seen an awful lot of North Carolina license plates stopping there too.
That's because South Carolina gas taxes are 22 cents lower than North Carolina's and gas in South Carolina is about 30 cents less in some places.
Believe it or not, Victor Boulware, the store's owner, has just learned that, because of small errors by surveyors using stakes, hatchets, trees and mental arithmetic 240 years ago, the land where his store sits is actually in North Carolina.
According to the Associated Press, modern-day surveyors using computers and GPS systems redrew the border and narrrowed it down to the centimeter. Their results put the new state line about 150 feet south of the old one.
That's not good news for Victor. A revised state border means his gas prices will likely go up 30 cents and he can't sell fireworks any more because they are illegal in North Carolina. (Anyone who has driven I-95 knows the popularity of fireworks at the landmark "South of the Border" fireworks megastore.)
It's no joke. A revised state line impacts 93 other property owners who are now experiencing bureaucracy in overdrive. It changes the schools their kids attend; their phone number's area code; even who provides their gas and electricity. It also impacts property taxes and home values.
Apparently the problem for Boulware and the others began even before the United States were even a country, when the king of England sent surveyors to draw a boundary line between the two Carolinas. His instructions in 1735 were explicit. Start 30 miles south of the mouth of the Cape Fear River and have surveyors head northwest until they reached 35 degrees latitude.
Surveyors did not follow those instructions exactly and future instructions led to twists and turns around Charlotte and in the mountains.
The surveyors used poles and measured chains; determined what direction to head from the sun and celestial navigation; did math in their heads and put hatchet marks on trees to mark the boundary. Over time, those trees disappeared but the state line still needed to show up on maps.
Both Carolinas, reportedly, are taking measures to make the transition easier for the 93 property owners and a commission will submit the new state line to both state legislatures for approval. Naturally, a failure to approve the border by either state could result in extensive litigation.
Additionally, the AP says the survey work is not finished. A team is preparing to draw the rest of the state line all the way to the Atlantic Ocean but few problems are anticipated because the area is mostly rural land.