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(Re)drawing the line: counties turn to GIS to fix border issue

(Re)drawing the line: counties turn to GIS to fix border issue

Orange-Spotsy line sign

Orange and Spotsylvania are working to redefine the boundary between the two counties. 

For approximately 18 miles along its southeastern edge, Orange County shares a straight line border with neighboring Spotsylvania.

That line won’t look so straight in the future if the two counties adopt a proposed boundary line agreement.

Orange County staff has been working with its peers in Spotsylvania to more clearly define the boundary the localities share, since that line bisects dozens of properties.

In the proposed agreement, the new boundary line would follow parcel boundaries as established by Geographic Information System (GIS).

Orange County District 5 Supervisor Lee Frame recalled the counties considering reconciling the disputed boundary years ago, but decided it was prohibitively expensive to survey the parcels.

District 1 Supervisor Mark Johnson noted that state law changed to allow localities to use GIS instead.

“We actually petitioned to have the state law changed so we could use the GIS and do it ourselves,” county attorney Tom Lacheney added.

In a letter to affected property owners, Orange County Planning Services Manager Sandra Thornton and Spotsylvania Assistant County Administrator Wanda Parrish note that the exact location of the boundary is not currently known and the two counties recognize slightly different boundaries.

Rather than initiate a costly survey process, the counties instead are proposing to establish the boundary line by agreement using GIS mapping.

“Each county desires to limit the impact of this action on its citizens,” the letter reads. “Therefore, the proposed boundary is drawn to keep constituents in the county in which they currently vote, send their children to school and pay taxes.”

In presenting the issue to the Orange County Board of Supervisors last Tuesday, county administrator Ted Voorhees said property owners have been notified and will receive a second notice of the public hearing on the matter. He said the Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors also will schedule a public hearing.

Among the many parcels that would be affected by the change, one currently is under consideration for a special use permit (SUP) in both jurisdictions, he said.

Orange County Resorts, LLC is seeking a SUP to create an upscale RV resort on nearly 83 acres of agriculturally zoned land that straddles the Orange and Spotsylvania county line. The proposal calls for 150-175 pad sites with a camp store, clubhouse, swimming pool, snack bar and dozens of boat slips. The bulk of the tract (58.6 acres), including all its waterfront property, is located in Spotsylvania County.

“The recommended action, according to this plan, would be that parcel would go to Spotsylvania,” Voorhees told the board. “However, the applicant actually would prefer that parcel come to Orange.”

Last month, the Orange County Planning Commission unanimously recommended denial of the SUP. It has not come before the supervisors for consideration.

Voorhees said the staff recommendation regarding the boundary line adjustment doesn’t change based on that one parcel and that both counties supported the proposed agreement.

“My recommendation is to advertise the public hearing to move forward with plan as proposed that keeps to the original draft agreement,” he said.

“Did Spotsylvania hold their public hearing yet on the application?” District 3 Supervisor Teel Goodwin asked. “Did they get turned down and that’s why they want to try us?”

“That movement would involve a substantial rebalancing because the majority of those acres are in Spotsylvania,” District 2 Supervisor Jim White said. “The Orange County piece is about a third of the Spotsylvania piece. I’m not sure it makes sense to go the other way based on the way it is mapped.”

Voorhees said Thornton had advised the applicants specifically to resolve the boundary issue first so it would know which jurisdictions processes were appropriate. “The applicant apparently chose to proceed in both jurisdictions,” the county administrator added.

In the letter to landowners, Parrish and Thornton note that the having a parcel entirely within one jurisdiction is beneficial for those who build, develop or subdivide property. Currently, parcels that are bisected by the existing boundary line are subject to both counties’ zoning and subdivision regulations.

The supervisors scheduled a boundary adjustment public hearing for Tuesday, Oct. 13. The board did not schedule a public hearing on the proposed SUP application, but noted it would keep the item on its calendar until after the boundary adjustment hearing.

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