WINCHESTER — The Frederick County Board of Supervisors may not be willing to adjust the county line to accommodate property owners who had believed for decades that they lived in Warren County.
The disputed area is along Foster Hollow Road east of Middletown and is comprised of seven parcels on about 20 acres. A recent survey by Marsh and Legge PLC, coupled with data from Frederick County’s GIS map, confirmed the parcels are on Frederick’s side of its boundary with Warren County.
Information on the property deeds for the seven parcels was inaccurate or incomplete when filed, Frederick County Deputy Administrator Jay Tibbs said, leading the property owners to believe their land was in Warren County.
As a result, Tibbs wrote in a report submitted to Frederick supervisors at their meeting on Wednesday night, “The properties are currently being taxed in Warren County, the residents of the affected parcels vote in Warren County, receive services from Warren County, and their children have attended school in Warren County.”
Last year, Warren County Registrar Carol Tobin realized that people in the Foster Hollow Road area may be voting in the wrong congressional district — Warren is in the 6th District and Frederick is in the 10th — which prompted a review of the boundary line.
Once it was determined the seven parcels were in Frederick County, a meeting to discuss possible solutions was held on Feb. 28 with the affected property owners and officials from both counties.
“That meeting was sometimes emotional for folks,” said Frederick County Supervisor Bob Wells, who represents the Opequon District where the properties are located.
A particularly poignant example of how the boundary oversight impacted the property owners came from a woman whose special needs child was educated in Warren County. Wells said Frederick County Public Schools offered a program specifically designed for her son’s condition, but she was told she would have to pay an annual tuition fee of $2,000 because she lived in Warren County. The woman, whose son has since completed school, was dismayed to learn he could have enrolled in Frederick County’s program at no extra cost had the deed to her property been recorded accurately.
Wells made a motion to change the boundary line so all seven parcels, as well as an eighth parcel that is part of the 20-acre site and had correctly been recorded as being in Frederick County, officially be designated as Warren County properties, since the owners thought they lived in Warren.
“It’s the fair and right thing to do,” he said.
Tibbs noted that annual real estate taxes for each parcel are less than $1,000, so Frederick County wouldn’t gain much revenue by bringing the properties into the county.
But other supervisors at Wednesday’s meeting weren’t willing to change a boundary line that has been in place since 1836.
“There may be issues that haven’t surfaced yet,” board Chairman Charles DeHaven Jr. said. “We’re still pretty early in this.”
Wells agreed to withdraw his motion after Red Bud District Supervisor Blaine Dunn suggested tabling the item because two of the board’s seven members — Shawnee District Supervisor Shannon Trout and Gainesboro District Supervisor J. Douglas McCarthy — were not in attendance.
The board voted unanimously to delay further discussions until July 10.
DeHaven said he hopes to work with Warren County to find an amicable solution that does not involve a boundary line adjustment. He also said he would want any current students living on the seven parcels to have the option of completing their education in Warren County or transferring to Frederick County Public Schools.
Warren County has not yet expressed its preference for resolving the boundary line issue. Tibbs said its Board of Supervisors wanted to hear from Frederick County before deciding how to proceed.
Attending Wednesday’s Frederick County Board of Supervisors meeting in the County Administration Building were Chairman Charles DeHaven Jr. and supervisors Gary Lofton, Blaine Dunn, Judith McCann-Slaughter and Bob Wells. Supervisors J. Douglas McCarthy and Shannon Trout were absent.