Just because you think you live in Bluffton doesn't mean you do

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Lynne Cope Hummell

We recently received a press release here at the office addressing an issue that flares up occasionally - and almost always around election time.

It has nothing to do with political parties, who's running for what office, or even your polling place.

The concern is whether or not you live in Bluffton.

Even if you have a Bluffton address, it's quite possible you are ineligible to vote or run for office in the municipal elections, which are coming up Nov. 5.

You might live in a part of "town" that is considered unincorporated Beaufort County. That means, you live outside the Town of Bluffton limits.

For instance, if you live in The Farm, you are in. Next-door neighbors at Barton's Run are out. Windy Lakes is out, while its across-the-fence neighbors in Hidden Lakes are in.

Sandy Pointe is almost completely surrounded by the Hampton Hall and Hampton Lake communities, which are both part of the Town. But alas, Sandy Pointe residents live in a "doughnut hole," an area not annexed into the Town.

So, these residents are outside Town limits but inside parts of the Town. Kooky, isn't it?

(Fun question: Could people who live in a doughnut hole eat their way out?)

Westbury Park, you're out. But your neighbors across Buck Island Road at The Crowne are in.

Even some of the larger communities are not annexed. These include Belfair, Berkeley Hall, Colleton River, Eagle's Pointe and Island West.

The Haven, about 10 miles down Hwy. 46 from the middle of town, is part of the Town, while Lake Linden, approximately 1.2 miles from Town Hall, is not.

Geography aside, it has nothing to do with the name of your neighborhood either. Pinecrest and Pine Ridge are in. Pine Island and Pine Forest are out. Rose Dhu is in, but Rose Hill is out.

The point is, there is really no easy rhyme or reason as to which areas are annexed and which are not. It's a bit more complicated than that.

(And if you REALLY want to get yourself confused, take a look at the Hardeeville city map! Even if you establish that you are outside Town of Bluffton lines, and think you are in unincorporated Beaufort County, you might actually be in Hardeeville - which is Jasper County!)

As easy and potentially desirable as it might seem to say, "Let's just erase the lines and let everybody be part of the Town," or maybe draw a big circle on the map and call it the Town, it would be difficult to implement.

Property owners or developers must request to be annexed, according to state law. The Town leadership cannot approach a developer and say, "Hey, wouldn't you like to join us? It would make things easier for our residents. And us. And you. And the map people ... and the doughnut people."

There are various reasons some property owners choose to be inside Town limits or not. Taxes are one issue, services are another. Some prefer to have more of a voice in municipal matters, others - maybe not so much.

As for emergency services, everyone - in Town or not - is covered. Residents needn't worry about emergency calls to 911. The dispatcher will know whether to send Town of Bluffton officers or Beaufort County Sheriff's Office deputies.

And the fire department will show up anywhere in Greater Bluffton - even the doughnut holes.

So, how do you know where you live? First, look at your tax bill. It should indicate your status. If the tax bill isn't handy, visit TownofBluffton.sc.gov, click on "I want to ..." in the menu bar, and look for the pull-down link to "Find out if I live in the Town of Bluffton." Once you click the link to the map, you'll likely need to wait for the map to download.

Or you could click on "Community," then "Neighborhoods" and get a handy list of the innies and outties.

To view the Town's incorporated areas outlined on a map, visit TownofBluffton.us/gallery and click on the map titled "Annexation History." (You can also start with TownofBluffton.sc.gov, then click on Community, then Maps Gallery.)

Regarding the municipal election in November, and to be absolutely certain where (or if) you can vote, visit SCvotes.org, click on "Find my Polling Place," and input the requested information.

Your results will not only give you the precinct number and current polling place address, but other pertinent information about your voting districts for county, state and national elections.

Remember, if your postal address includes the words "Bluffton, South Carolina," you might actually live inside the Town limits.

But then again, you might not.

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