Heading into the final stages of redrawing ward lines, the Jefferson City staff is confident in the amount of public input received.
Between two open houses during the last week, about seven people showed up to discuss the potential options for new ward boundaries.
Planning manager Eric Barron said he is confident in the process.
"I'm not concerned about there not being a throng of people here," he said, "as long as the opportunity was out there."
The City Council agreed on a preferred option, which focuses on moderate population shift and corrects some currently split neighborhoods. Staff then hosted the two open houses.
Next, Barron said, the staff will proposal a bill at the Oct. 18 City Council meeting and host a public hearing where people can still provide input. The plan, he said, is to propose adopting the same option the council members agreed on previously.
However, he said, the council will hold the public hearing when the bill is first introduced rather than the following meeting, when it can be voted on.
"The idea behind having the public hearing at bill introduction is that if there is information or some reason that the proposal needs to change — the bill needs to change — then at the staff level we can put the pieces together or respond to whatever issues occur that are voiced by the public regarding that option and prepare for the next meeting," he said.
The decision to redraw ward lines was a result of the 2020 Census, which reported a higher discrepancy in population between the five wards than the 10 percent allowed.
Ward 4 is the largest ward in the city by population and grew during the last decade by 949 people, or 12 percent. Ward 3 also grew by 281 people, or 3.6 percent.
Ward 1 saw the largest loss at 5.5 percent, or 621 people; Ward 2 dropped by 3.2 percent, or 262; and Ward 5 dropped by 2.3 percent or 184 people.
Barron said the city knows populations have changed since census day — April 1, 2020 — but the census numbers have to guide the redistricting efforts.
For instance, there are new apartments going up in Ward 4 and the Jefferson City School District has demolished some houses along Union Street in Ward 2 that had residents on census day.
"It's hard to guess for the future," Barron said. "While we would want to think ahead, at the same time, the goal of the exercise is to fix today's problem, today's imbalance, not necessarily try to fix tomorrow's imbalance."
Barron said he wishes more people from the wards that might change provided input, but he's confident opportunities for input were given.
"The information is out there," he said. "If anyone was concerned about it, they had an opportunity to find that information."
When the city redrew ward lines 10 years ago, he said, about 15 people turned out for the open houses. While the number this year is lower, around seven people, it's taken less time and some might still be concerned about the pandemic.
"I've been very nervous on the planning and zoning level over the past year and a half because if we have a controversial case come forward and people's ability to comment on that is severely handicapped because of the pandemic," he said. "I think we're doing a lot better these days with everything."
Residents can still comment on the plans by emailing [email protected], calling 573-634-6410, or mailing the Department of Planning and Protective Services at 320 E. McCarty St. The Oct. 18 and Nov. 1 council meetings are open to the public.
The map options
City staff prepared four map options for review based on different criteria.
The first map, which is preferred by City Council, includes a moderate population shift and prioritizes correcting current neighborhood splits.
Currently the border between Wards 4 and 5 runs along Cedar Hill Road to Overlook Drive, which turns into Sun Meadow Lane until it reaches Southridge Drive.
Under the first map, it would start at the intersection of Stadium and Southwest boulevards to Satinwood Drive and follow along Vieth Drive.
Sun Meadow Lane is one of the local streets currently used as a ward boundary, Barron said. The issue with using local streets is it splits neighborhoods with residents on each side of the street in different wards.
The other southern section of Ward 4 up for debate is right on the edge of the city limits, which is two sides of the piece with a third the existing border with Ward 5.
The northern border would be drawn along Route C and go until the city limit.
Under the proposal, both areas would move into Ward 5.
It would also extend the Ward 2 boundary from Jackson Street to Lafayette Street, which would take area out of Ward 5, along with an area from Locust Street to Bald Hill Road with an edge along East Atchison Street would be moved into Ward 1.
The second map is similar to the first with a focus on minimizing population shift and boundary changes.
It would move the southern section of Ward 4 into Ward 5. It would still move the part of Ward 5 around Locust Street and Bald Hill Road into Ward 1.
However, the map would also move a northern section of Ward 4 into Ward 2. The area would take an area south of U.S. 50, from Dix Road to Missouri 179.
The third map would have all of the sections move and is focused on making room for Ward 4 to grow.
Barron said the city knows of several subdivisions going into Ward 4 and expect to see it grow more during the next decade.
This map, which would move more than 1,000 people out of Ward 4, would make room for continued growth in the area while keeping the city within the acceptable population range for the ward.
The fourth map is mostly the same as the third, but is less focused on equalizing the population within the other wards.
Under this proposal, Ward 4 would have the same sections taken out of it, with the northern piece going into Ward 2 and the southern pieces going into Ward 5.
However, rather than two parts of Ward 5 being taken out, it would only take out one.
It would have the area around Lincoln University, which has a high population density, move from Ward 5 and into Ward 1.