boundary line map

Questions over where the county line between Jackson and Macon arose in 2013 after it was observed that the boundary line had shifted as a result of development.

By Beth Lawrence


After eight years, Jackson County has an answer to a boundary dispute with Macon County.

The state has rendered a final decision on where the line lies and how much tax revenue each county stands to gain or lose.

One early estimate of potential property value loss to Jackson was $600 million; that is far from the actual numbers.

“We would have to give Macon County the town of Highlands and our fire service district twice to get anywhere near that,” Tax Administrator Tabitha Ashe said.

The final number on the amount of lost tax revenue is barely in the tens of thousands when property gains to the county are factored in.

The question of where the line between the two counties sits first arose in 2013 when it was observed that the boundary had shifted as a result of development on the ridge of the mountain. That caused ambiguity as to which county some homes and properties should be taxed in.

In 2013 the N.C. Department of Transportation issued LIDAR maps showing that the top of the ridge was in a different area than originally mapped in several places. According to the maps, most of the homes in the area fell within Macon County but were being taxed in Jackson.

Macon County asked the state in 2014 to perform a survey to determine the boundary, and in March 2017, state surveyors delivered preliminary results. Jackson County tax administrator’s office expressed concerns and the state began field work to reexamine their decision. In July 2020 the state issued another assessment. The tax office again dissented with conclusions on nine areas. The state asked Jackson to narrow it to three and field assessments began again.

In August, the N.C. Geological Survey stood by the original determination following another site visit, Ashe said.

The county will lose approximately $16,000 in tax revenue when everything is finalized. Two hundred and nineteen parcels were in question in the dispute, including 17 tax exempt parcels, one belonging to Western Carolina University and 16 to the U.S. Forest Service.

Eighty three Jackson land parcels will lose 68.8 acres with 21 acres coming from one parcel. Thirty eight parcels will gain 12.71 acres from Macon County. That includes 18 parcels of land ranging from .04 to 1.33 acres which had previously been taxed only in Macon.

Five houses will go to Macon and one to Jackson. Eighteen homes will be split between both counties, meaning owners will have to pay taxes to both counties. Eight houses were previously taxed only in Jackson County and nine were taxed only in Macon.

One home had not been taxed in either. Some of the property owners were already paying taxes in both counties. Now their bills will be adjusted to reflect the home being divided between counties.

“If we have 40 percent of that home in our county, we’re going to be taxing 40 percent and Macon County will be taxing 60 percent,” Ashe said.

Both tax offices will work together to determine property values for those homes.

Jackson County will lose a little over $13 million in property values on land and buildings and gain a little over $8.5 million in property values for a net loss of $4,441.145 in property values. This creates a tax revenue loss of $15,990, but that number could fluctuate during the final steps of the process, Ashe said.

Jackson County Commissioners will vote on a resolution to accept the changes on Dec. 7.

Once the changes are recorded in the Register of Deeds office, the N.C. Geological Survey will notify property owners, Ashe said.

All changes are expected to be finalized by January 2023.

Determinations as to 911 service and voter registration status will likely have to be resolved when the changes have been finalized and addresses are registered by the post office in either county, County Manager Don Adams said.