At their meeting on Monday, Spartanburg City Council unanimously approved first reading of a new City Council districts map that will solidify new boundaries for the next decade. Mandated every 10 years to reflect new Federal Census data, the City's redistricting process determines which neighborhoods and communities are grouped together into a district for purposes of electing members to Spartanburg City Council.
The vote comes after months of feedback heard by Council members and City staff from city residents and local organizations in community meetings held throughout the city, with the district boundaries ultimately approved by City Council originating from that public input process. In presenting the proposed map to Council, City Manager Chris Story laid out the following principles guiding staff in creating the proposed redistricting plan:
• Districts will be drawn contiguously - all parts of the district are connected to each other
• Minimize the division of voting precincts.
• Geographically compact. Proposed districts should not sprawl.
• Respect existing districts and communities of interests
• Protect minority representation and the number of majority-minority districts
• Target 5 percent deviation range
• Public input and public review
Story said that the proposed map met all those criteria, with each district falling well below the target deviation range limit and the number of majority-minority districts preserved.
Major changes the new districts map would bring include:
1. Currently portions of Beaumont are in Districts 6 and 4. The proposed would have all of Beaumont as well as Riverwind apartments in District 6.
2. Currently most of Converse Heights is in District 4, but a rectangle bounded by Pine, Main, Mills and Palmetto is in District 3. The proposed would have all of Converse Heights, including these blocks, within District 4.
3. Currently District 5 extends east to Pine Street by including the blocks between Main and Henry. The proposed would have this area in District 3.
4. Currently portions of Hampton Heights are in Districts 5 and 3. The proposed would have all of Hampton Heights in District 3.
5. Currently downtown blocks bounded by St. John, Daniel Morgan, Henry, Church and Broad are in District 5. The proposed would have this are in District 6.
6. Currently several areas between W. Main and Wofford Street (including Summerplace Townhomes, Summerhill neighborhood, and Pineview Hills) are in District 6. The proposed would have those in District 5.
City Council will take up a second and final reading of the new district boundaries at their next meeting on Wednesday, March 29.
In other business, Council unanimously approved a framework for potential improvements to Duncan Park. At the previous City Council meeting on February 27, PAL: Play Advocate Live Well Executive Director Laura Ringo and City Parks and Recreation Director Kim Moultrie walked Council through a series of proposed improvements to City's largest park, with plans including: better connectivity to the Mary Black Foundation Rail Trail, upgraded and new trails throughout the park, new restrooms and improvements to the park's amphitheater area, a proposed traffic circle at South Converse St. and Duncan Park Dr., new activities areas and playgrounds, and numerous improvements designed to allow residents and visitors a to better enjoy Duncan Park Lake.
Begun last year with the help of a grant from the National Park Service, the proposed improvements were developed through a combination of public survey data and community stakeholder meetings and guided by a steering committee of area residents, and while a final planning and implementation strategy for the improvements hasn’t yet been undertaken, Ringo and Moultrie proposed a pilot program to allow limited non-motorized boat use of the lake, one of the most requested new options among those who provided feedback.
The City and PAL intend to seek grant funding for the pilot program, which would open Duncan Park Lake to use by canoes and kayaks on weekends beginning this fall. According to Ringo, this will allow time for the lake to be prepared for use by finding ways to increase water flow and reduce stagnant water and to construct a dock from which to launch the boats. Results from the pilot program will be used to shape a more permanent plan for activating the lake for residents and visitors.
For more from Monday's City Council meeting, see the full video below.