Boundary dispute causes concern and confusion for Arlington residents

Published: Apr. 25, 2022 at 10:18 PM CDT
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ARLINGTON, Tenn. (WMC) - A brewing boundary battle has hundreds of Mid-South homeowners questioning which county they live in and where their tax money may be going.

This all started when a Tennessee General Assembly attorney questioned the eligibility of a candidate running for a House seat in Shelby County. State election officials say the candidate cannot run because a county boundary shows he lives in Fayette County.

The number of questions is growing from Arlington residents who say they’ve been paying Shelby County taxes and sending their kids to Shelby County schools.

A letter from the Tennessee Coordinator of Elections is causing concern and confusion for Arlington residents like Christopher Adair.

“I bought my home seven months ago and it was specifically for schools with a small family that’s growing and I wanted to make sure they took part in good schools,” said resident Christopher Adair. “This is obviously extremely frustrating.”

The letter was sent to Lee Mills, who plans to run in the Republican primary for the 99th Congressional seat in Shelby County

“There’s no question we live in Shelby County,” said Mills. “We’ve been paying Shelby County taxes. Our kids go to Shelby County schools. Our licenses are registered in Shelby County so we’re confident the law’s on our side, but we don’t really know how we got here.”

According to the letter, Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins says an attorney who worked on the 2020 House redistricting legislation, Doug Himes, says Mills does not live in Shelby County, but instead lives in Fayette County based on a 2020 census redistricting map.

Mills says he moved into the home in question in 2015.

“It’s a big surprise to a lot of people,” said Mills, “approximately 200 homes in fact.”

Adair and his family are among those hundreds of families who the state says live in Fayette County, leaving them all wondering what to do next.

“There’s a fee of $5,000 annually per child to get them in the schools if we’re coming from out of county,” said Adair. “So definitely extremely worrisome for me in that perspective.”

The Town of Arlington disagrees with the state’s position. In a statement, Arlington Mayor Mike Wissman said in part:

“It is the Town of Arlington’s position these census block boundaries are inaccurate as to the location of the Shelby/Fayette County boundary.”

Monday, the Shelby County Election Commission unanimously voted to turn Mills’ candidacy eligibility matter over to Chancery Court to decide his eligibility.

Also up in the air, Mills’ wife is Shelby County Commissioner Amber Mills. Action News 5 asked the Secretary of State’s office if this boundary issue also impacts her eligibility to serve.

The state said it would be “inappropriate to comment” because this is now a legal matter.

We’ll keep you updated as this story develops.

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