IOW keeps 5 districts

Published 9:17 am Friday, April 8, 2011

ISLE OF WIGHT—The Isle of Wight County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 Thursday to retain a five-district election plan.

Supervisors Thomas Wright, Stan Clark and Kenneth Bunch supported the plan while Supervisors Al Casteen and JoAnn Hall dissented.

Citizens were split on the issue of five on the Board of Supervisors or switching to a seven-member board during a public hearing held before the vote.

Many of those in favor of a seven-district plan, like Michael Petty, president of the Gatlin Point Homeowners’ Association, pointed to a need to retain communities of interest in the county as a five-district plan would increase in area the size of districts with less dense populations.

“The needs of people in Smithfield are not necessarily aligned with the needs of people in Gatlin Point,” Petty said.

Petty also said retaining a five-member board could threaten the rural identity of the county.

Robbie Younger of the Hardy District told supervisors that a move to a seven-member board would give residents better representation.

“I feel it’s a more progressive way to be,” Younger said. “I believe it will be more futuristic. I don’t think we should wait another 10 years for this.”

Residents in favor of maintaining a five-district plan brought up concerns over a dilution of voting power among minority groups and extra costs to the county.

Isle of Wight County currently has one majority-minority district in Hardy and neither redistricting plan changes that.

In both plans Hardy’s minority voting age is above 50 percent. The five-district plan makes the minority voting age population 52.6 percent of the total population. The seven-district plan increases Hardy’s voting age minority population to 55.4 percent of the district’s total population.

Hardy District resident Otto Williams said a seven-member board would decrease the minority presence on the board from 20 percent — with one district out of five being a majority-minority district — to 14 percent.

Walters Highway resident Joe Joyner said a change from five districts to seven would increase costs by 40 percent.

“I don’t have a problem with that, but with budgets the way they are I don’t know how you can justify the increase,” Joyner said.