Should Ballantyne break with Charlotte to be its own town?
County Commissioner Bill James recently suggested just that, and his remarks are causing a stir in local government.
No matter where you fall on the issue, there's nothing simple about a potential split of this magnitude, nor is there much precedent.
James broached the subject in light of Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx's recent push for city-county consolidation.
After winning re-election, Foxx proposed that city and county governments combine under one elected body, including one mayor or president, and one manager.
Foxx says the arrangement would save money when budgets are tight and help officials make better budget decisions.
James - representing District 6, which includes south Charlotte, Pineville and Matthews - says consolidation would mean higher taxes on the affluent Ballantyne area.
He says the area south of N.C. 51 between Matthews and Pineville should be given the option to form its own town and self-govern.
James says the "mostly Republican" area of Ballantyne has "zero say in city policy that is dominated by liberal Democrats that view them as merely a deep pocket to pay for their social programs."
Foxx said James's "idea of secession" is far-fetched; but he said it's important to bring the discussion about consolidation to the table so the city can get feedback from surrounding municipalities.
There currently is no mechanism in North Carolina law for local governments to break a city into multiple municipalities, said a government official. It would take an act of the N.C. General Assembly.
In a recent interview with News Channel 14, N.C. Sen. Bob Rucho, R-39th District, who represents the Ballantyne area, said he is open to the idea of Ballantyne becoming a town. "If they were to approach me, I would do what I could to assist them in that manner," he said.
But lots of questions are tied up in such a proposition.
For instance, the road improvements in Ballantyne and along Rea Road are contingent on bond packages that were issued based on the city's triple-A credit rating. And it's a gamble as to whether the city of Charlotte would cede its southern portion, then willingly provide utilities.
"When you start untangling it, there's a lot to work through," said City Council member Warren Cooksey, who represents the portion of south Charlotte including Ballantyne.
Though all of North Carolina is divided into 100 counties, not all of the state is part of a municipality, whether it's a city, town or village. The areas outside the municipalities are "unincorporated."
James argues that most suburban areas within a few miles of the center city are their own towns, such as Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville, Matthews, Pineville and Mint Hill.
These towns, however, never broke away from the city of Charlotte: They were unincorporated spaces until they became part of Mecklenburg County.