Fayette County

Growth patterns dictate redistricting for Lexington's council seats

Substantial growth in Lexington's outlying neighborhoods will spur realignment of Urban County Council's district boundaries — a process that begins next week.

New census figures show that Districts 2 and 12 have far more residents than the target number, and Districts 1 and 3 have too few residents.

District 2 includes Griffin Gate, Masterson Station and neighboring areas on the north side, and District 12 is the outer zone that encompasses both developing neighborhoods and open farmland.

District 1 is just north of downtown and District 3 just south of downtown. Both are largely older neighborhoods.

A committee of 15 members — one from each council district — will meet for the first time Thursday to begin redrawing the boundaries.

Redistricting of the 12 council districts is required every 10 years when new census figures are released.

Lexington's population is 295,805, a gain of approximately 30,000 since the 2000 census.

Boundary lines will be redrawn to achieve the mean of 24,650 people in each district, with a deviation allowed of 5 percent plus or minus that number.

Each of the 15 council members — including the three at-large members — appointed a member to the redistricting committee.

Emma Tibbs, a member of the redistricting committee 10 years ago, will serve as chairwoman.

Committee recommendations must be presented to council no later than Sept. 29. The entire process must be completed by Nov. 3.

District 1, represented by Chris Ford, has the smallest population with 18,857 residents. District 3, represented by Diane Lawless, has 20,571.

By contrast, Districts 2 and 12 have had "phenomenal growth," said Vice Mayor Linda Gorton. "Those districts will need to have several thousand people moved to other districts."

District 2, represented by Tom Blues, has 33,073 residents. District 12, represented by Ed Lane, has a population of 31,719.

Districts containing expansion areas — where future growth is planned — will be given populations in the lower range of the ideal to accommodate expected growth. Districts 2 and 12 both incorporate expansion areas, and that was the reason for their strong growth over the past decade, Gorton said.

Proposed redistricting guidelines — which the committee must approve — call for not splitting existing voting precincts, keeping districts as compact as possible and boundary lines contiguous. "No leapfrogging," Tibbs said.

Another guideline states that incumbent council members should not be moved out of their districts.

District 1, which has traditionally been heavily African-American, has seen its minority population drop to 35 percent.

Areas cannot be redistricted based on race, Tibbs said. However, in the charter establishing Lexington and Fayette County's merged government, "there's recognition for diversity and minority representation," said Ford, the district's representative.

"Hopefully, the redistricting committee will consider diversity and minority representation," he said.

Lane expressed little concern about the impact of redrawing boundary lines on his sprawling district that resembles a doughnut, taking in rural areas in addition to major subdivisions including Hartland, Firebrook, Greenbrier, Cumberland Hills, Westmorland and Hartland Gardens.

His District 12 could shrink by as many as 7,000 residents. "I have a good relationship with constituents in my district. I will be disappointed giving up some, but I have a good relationship with the remainder," he said.