County gives first nod to new map

Lancaster County is one step closer to changing the lines of its seven districts.

As part of the county’s redistricting process, which involved incorporating data collected during last year’s national Census, Lancaster County Council unanimously approved first reading of a map of new council districts at its recent meeting.

Generated by suggestions and recommendations from council members, county staff members and residents alike, the proposed redistricting map shows a variety of changes, from a split Panhandle to fewer districts in the southern part of the county.

County Administrator Steve Willis explained the redistricting changes at the Sept. 26 meeting.

The most notable change is the creation of two districts in the Panhandle, split between northern and southern portions, Willis said. For the ease of numbering, the northern Panhandle district would be named District 7, while the southern Panhandle would retain its District 1 title.

The northern district, made up of 10,772 residents, would extend from the northern border of Lancaster County down to an area north of Doby’s Bridge Road, east of U.S. 521 and north of a portion of Jim Wilson Road. It would include the precincts of Pleasant Valley and Belair II.

The southern district, comprised of 10,777 residents, would be mostly the remainder of the current Panhandle district, including the precinct areas of Belair I, Van Wyck, Riverside and Jacksonham.

The new map also includes the merging of former districts 5, 6 and 7 into districts 5 and 6. Willis said the merging will pose a problem with determining which of the two school board representatives for District 5 and 7 will serve in the remaining position.

“That district is up for reelection in 2012 and we will have two incumbent school board members,” Willis said, referring to Janice Dabney and Mary Etta Taylor. “(They) will have to go head-to-head.”

During the meeting, Willis also held up a redistricting map proposed by Van Wyck resident J.R. Wilt, who prefers a west-east split of the two new districts in the panhandle. This was the only alternative map the county received, though council ultimately decided not to incorporate any of Wilt’s suggestions.

Several residents commented on the two maps during a public hearing earlier in the night.

Edenmoor resident Jan Tacy said she does not approve of Wilt’s efforts to create a rural area in Indian Land.

“I appreciate his goal of creating a rural area, but no matter how you divide the Panhandle, I don’t think you’ll achieve that,” Tacy said.

She also echoed the sentiments of many other residents in the audience who were concerned the alternative map would split the area of Sun City Carolina Lakes into two districts.

“There is a potential for Sun City to then control both district seats,” she said. “They vote far more often than any other age group. No one subdivision should be able to control an area that size. I support Sun City Carolina Lakes in one district.”

Council later voted to approve the map created by county staff members. Two more readings are required before the map becomes official. The map will then be submitted for approval by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Willis said the intent is to have the map back from DOJ by March 2012 to be used when filing begins for elections in various council districts.

By Christopher Sardelli, Staff Reporter with The Lancaster News