Supervisors chose to keep current districts

But boundaries of Columbia and Fork Union move west

By Heather Michon

The Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 on Wednesday night (Dec. 15) to adopt Redistricting Map 5, Scenario 2.

This map keeps the current districts but moves the boundaries of Columbia and Fork Union west into the more populous areas around Lake Monticello.

Supervisors have been discussing several redistricting options since census and state data were received in late October. In November, county officials generated a set of five maps, with two looking at different ways to hold at five districts, two looking at expanding to seven districts, and one looking at six districts.

Opinions differed widely among the five supervisors, with Chair Mike Sheridan (Columbia) strongly in support of seven districts, Vice Chair Tony O’Brien (Rivanna) and Supervisor Mozell Booker (Fork Union) in favor of five, and Supervisors Donald Weaver (Cunningham) and Patricia Eager (Palmyra) on record as supporting six districts.

Public comments, both during recent meetings and submitted through the county website’s “My Two Cents” portal, have heavily favored Map 5-2.

Each supervisor shared their arguments as the final discussion got underway on Wednesday night.

Sheridan said he was concerned about the unintended consequences of redistricting without clarity from the state on some key issues, including what might happen to supervisor-elect Chris Fairchild of Cunningham and school board member-elect Gequetta Murray-Key of Rivanna if they ended up on the wrong side of the new district lines.

“I see no way we can move forward not knowing what the answers are,” he said.

Assistant County Attorney Donna DeLoria said the state had not provided any guidance on those issues. However, the constitution was clear that the redistricting process needed to be complete by Dec. 31.

“We have a map that does not disrupt the people who have been voted in,” said Supervisors Mozell Booker (Fork Union). “Map 5-2 and 5-1. We have heard from the citizens. So I don’t have any desire to talk about six or seven right now.”

Booker said the argument that they needed more districts for more equal representation “makes me question, have I been doing my work as a supervisor the wrong way these 14 years?”

She listed off the different committees, boards, activities that she and other members served on both locally and regionally as examples of how they had all proven they were more than capable of serving their constituents and the county as a whole with five members.

While she said she appreciated those members of the public that had spoken in favor of the six- and seven-district maps, the majority had clearly been in favor of Map 5-2.

O’Brien said if the majority of the supervisors looked like they were going to move in the direction of six or seven districts, “I would strongly recommend we defer, given the unknowns.”

But if a majority was in favor of five districts, “then I suggest we move forward, just to get this taken care of, meet the constitutional requirements, and eliminate the angst and discussion that’s out there in the community.”

Some of that angst had come from the sense by some within the community who felt that Map 6, in particular, was designed to keep Gequetta Murray-Key from taking her seat on the School Board as the member from Rivanna District.

This idea that supervisors were “diluting minority votes or Lake votes or representation on the part of the Lake” was an issue O’Brien said he believed was “unintentional” on the part of the supervisors, but one he took seriously.

O’Brien felt the benefit of the five-district maps was “that it leaves it to the voters to decide what the future of the county looks like. By bringing [the districts] in proximity to the suburban areas, it really leaves it up to who wants to run for that seat, what their vision is for that seat, and what their support is for that seat.”

Eager said her support for Map 6 was grounded in a belief “that the Lake would want more representation and they would have two members on the board. But I guess the people don’t really want that because many of the people at the Lake came before us and said they didn’t want six.”

Sheridan maintained his support for seven districts, saying the people he had talked to in recent weeks agreed that it was the best plan for the county.

He also reiterated his belief that it was best to defer their decision until the state provided clarity on seating members, because “I want those elected to serve.”

For Donald Weaver, this was one of the last votes he would make as he completed his more than three decades on the Board of Supervisors.

He remained in support of six districts, which he felt gave citizens greater representation. He had served on the board when it had had six members and clearly believed it had been to their detriment when they reduced the number back to down five members in the 2011 redistricting.

One of the major arguments made by citizens supporting five districts was that it would add to the county payroll and the famously fiscal conservative joked “this is the first time I’ve seen so many people want to save money.”

“I love you all,” he said in conclusion. “Vote for six.”

When the discussion seemed to have reached an impasse, Eager made a motion to adopt Map 5-2. The motion was seconded by Booker and was quickly approved on a vote of 3-2, with Weaver and Sheridan voting nay.

The resolution will now be sent to the Attorney General’s office in Richmond, which is likely to approve the plan sometime in January or February. Once approved, the district lines will be fixed until 2031.

Fluvanna is also likely to change Congressional and statewide districts if the Virginia Supreme Court approves a new redistricting plan submitted to them last week.

The court handed off the job of coming up with new maps to two “special masters” after a bipartisan redistricting commission found itself deadlocked.

Under the plan, Fluvanna would move from Congressional District 5 to a new Congressional District 1, which will encompass a group of counties north of I-64 to the Chesapeake Bay. This district includes the northern suburbs of Richmond and the city of Williamsburg as its main population centers.

On the state level, Fluvanna would no longer be split between districts in the Virginia House of Delegates. The entire county will be part of District 56, which includes Buckingham, Cumberland, and Appomattox counties, along with parts of Prince Edward and Goochland.

Fluvanna would also move to a new State Senate District 10, which includes Louisa, Hanover, Cumberland, Buckingham, Appomattox, Powhatan, Goochland, and Amelia counties.

As with most issues surrounding redistricting this year, what this means for those elected in the November elections remains unclear. The state Supreme Court should make its decisions before the end of the year.

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