Councilman ‘blindsided’ by redistricting plan
Published 10:57 pm Wednesday, July 20, 2011
A working map for redistricting Suffolk’s voting boroughs draws Councilman Leroy Bennett out of the Nansemond borough he has represented for 15 years.
Bennett’s home now rests solidly in the Cypress borough, according to the preliminary plan. Vice Mayor Charles Brown represents that borough.
“I’ve been blindsided,” Bennett said after a City Council work session Wednesday on the topic. “Nobody told me a thing about it.”
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Much of what would be the new Nansemond borough used to be in the Sleepy Hole borough.
A redistricting process is required after each census to equalize the number of residents in each borough. Last’s year’s census showed significant population growth in the Nansemond, Sleepy Hole and Chuckatuck boroughs. The other boroughs grew, as well, but by smaller percentages.
As a result, the three North Suffolk boroughs must become more compact, while the others — Cypress, Suffolk, Whaleyville and Holy Neck — must grow in area in order to take in more residents.
In an effort to make the plan pass the scrutiny of the U.S. Department of Justice, three boroughs are proposed in which racial minorities are present in greater numbers than whites. Those boroughs are Cypress, Suffolk and Whaleyville.
The Sleepy Hole borough is considered a “toss-up,” with blacks having the slight majority at 48.1 percent, compared to 45.6 percent for whites.
City chief of staff Sherry Hunt said staff members used natural boundaries, such as bodies of water, roads, railways and power transmission lines, to guide many of their decisions. They worked toward a target population of 12,084 for each borough.
Mayor Linda T. Johnson said she hoped residents would bring proposals and ideas to the public meetings that will be held to discuss the redistricting proposal.
Aside from giving up all its residents south of Bridge Road or west of Bennett’s Creek, the Sleepy Hole borough does not change in the working maps.
The Nansemond borough would get significantly smaller, giving up thousands of residents to the Cypress borough.
The Suffolk borough would give up Pitchkettle Road and much of Pruden Boulevard on the west and then would jump several miles east across Wilroy Road. Those areas left that would be omitted from the new borough in the east would go to the Holy Neck borough.
In addition to growing significantly to the north, the Cypress borough would lose all of its residents on the west side of Desert Road and westward, except for a small portion of Hosier Road. All those residents would be in the Whaleyville borough, which did not change significantly otherwise.
The Chuckatuck borough would lose small slivers on its southern border to the Holy Neck borough.
City Council approved a slew of community meetings in each of the boroughs, as well as two sites in each of the boroughs for public viewing of the maps. A listing of those meetings and viewing sites appears below.
- Chuckatuck — Kings Fork High School, Aug. 23, 6 p.m.
- Holy Neck — Lakeland High School, Aug. 25, 6 p.m.
- Cypress — East Suffolk Recreation Center, Sept. 6, 6 p.m.
- Suffolk — Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts, Sept. 8, 6 p.m.
- Nansemond — Nansemond River High School, Sept. 13, 6 p.m.
- Sleepy Hole — Creekside Recreational Center at Creekside Elementary School, Sept. 15, 6 p.m.
- Whaleyville — Health & Human Services Building, Sept. 20, 6 p.m.
- Chuckatuck — King’s Fork Public Safety Center, Chuckatuck fire station
- Cypress — East Suffolk Recreation Center, White Marsh Road fire station
- Holy Neck — Holland fire station, Fleet Management Facility (120 Forest Glen Drive)
- Nansemond — Bridge Road fire station, Hoffler Apartments Family Investment Center
- Sleepy Hole — North Suffolk Library, Driver fire station
- Suffolk — Municipal Center, Morgan Memorial Library
- Whaleyville — Whaleyville fire station, Health and Human Services Building