More maps surface

Published 10:56 pm Friday, September 30, 2011

Borough boundaries in the city’s working map were adjusted to keep certain neighborhoods together based on concerns raised during community meetings, city leaders said Friday. The biggest change is the southern part of the Holy Neck borough, which would fall into the Whaleyville borough.

The process of redistricting the city’s borough boundaries took on several new dimensions Friday when both the city and the NAACP submitted modifications to their original working maps.

In addition, City Council members voted to have staff review all maps submitted by Councilman Leroy Bennett that would keep him in his district. They originally voted to have staff review one such map, but then learned there were two.

City leaders now are pressed for time to make a decision, Deputy City Attorney William Hutchings said.

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“We are now entering into a time when we’re on a tight time frame,” he cautioned City Council during a presentation at the council retreat, which ended Friday.

The city made a handful of boundary adjustments to its working map based on comments heard at the seven community meetings. The changes mean that certain neighborhoods such as Lloyd Place, Glen Forest and others could stay together, and other areas would be in a borough that maintains mostly the same character throughout.

The most dramatic change in the map is that Holy Neck’s southern border would shift north, allowing the Whaleyville borough to extend all the way to the western border of the city. Holy Neck would then take in a few more residents along its northern edge that belonged to Chuckatuck in the original working map.

The western and southern borders of the Suffolk borough also shifted somewhat, as did borders of Nansemond and Sleepy Hole. Only the Cypress borough was left unchanged from the working map.

The new working map creates four majority-minority boroughs, Hutchings said. But Johnnie Edwards, legal redress chair for the Suffolk-Nansemond chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the organization still has concerns about population deviations in the city map.

“It looks strong on paper, but it’s still a concern,” he said. “I was disappointed that the deviations were not as strong.”

The deviations meet the requirement of being within five percent either way of the target of 12,084, Hutchings said. Deviations in Suffolk and Cypress are around 4 percent.

In addition, the NAACP has modified its own map to solve some problems noted by the city in a presentation last week.

Hutchings said some boundaries in the NAACP map were improper because they used dirt paths, private roads and other such locations for boundaries. By Virginia state code, boundaries must be formed by water features, railroad tracks, public roads and other such permanent features.

The City Council also passed a motion directing staff to evaluate a second map submitted by Councilman Leroy Bennett that was created by a Norfolk State University professor with the aim of keeping Bennett in his borough. The city’s working map would oust him from his seat.

City staff was directed last week to evaluate Bennett’s map, but when they received the files on Tuesday from Norfolk State, they discovered there were two maps, City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn said. To clear up any confusion about which one was to be evaluated, council members simply passed another resolution to have them both studied.

Redistricting will be the only open-session topic of a Wednesday work session at 4 p.m. at City Council chambers, 441 Market St. A public hearing on the topic will be held during the regular meeting at 7 p.m.