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Map moves on as first presented
Board doesnt alter proposed district lines
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Forsyth County News

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For a detailed look at the redistricting map, visit the county’s Web site at

With no discussion or changes, Forsyth County commissioners approved a potential redistricting map as first proposed in a 5-0 vote Tuesday.

Following the population findings of the 2010 U.S. Census, the county is required to redraw its five voting districts to keep each one about equal.

The county’s geographical information services department came up with the proposed map, County Attorney Ken Jarrard said.

It must next go through a long process, ultimately being reviewed by the U.S. Department of Justice prior to qualifying in April for the next local elections, Jarrard said.

Forsyth has one elected commissioner and school board representative for each of its five districts.

The 2012 election cycle will feature contests for the Districts 2, 4 and 5 posts on the county commission and Districts 3, 4 and 5 on the school board.

To get the map-approval process started, state lawmakers had indicated the county’s preliminary plan needed to be in by Aug. 15.

Residents offered input on the proposed lines at a public hearing before commissioners last week, as well as a town hall meeting Monday.

That session — organized by the local Republican, Democrat and Tea parties — drew about 100 people and four of the five commissioners.

Sharon Gunter, president of the Forsyth County Democratic Party, was one of several who had asked the commissioners to delay their decision until after that meeting.

After Tuesday’s vote, she said it didn’t seem to make a difference in the ultimate decision.

"The voice of the people obviously wanted a non-biased districting," Gunter said. "That just shows how much they listened."

As examples, she pointed to some of the jutting points within districts and proposed shifts of land where few people live.

Another resident who had previously asked commissioners to wait, Richard Ward, said he didn’t think officials had the time to make any major changes, since the deadline was Aug. 15.

Ward, who is also vice chair of the Forsyth County Republican Party, had drawn attention to one piece of property along Freedom Parkway that would move from District 5 to 1, despite having just two homes.

"The question is why? There’s no apparent reason to change this," he said. "There’s no benefit to the citizens of the county to move this.

"Other than that, I think they did a good job with the map."

He also pointed out some other changes in district lines that appeared political, such as a piece of property that includes Bethel Park in northeastern Forsyth.

The park was the subject of a contentious, years-long legal battle as the county fought to stop the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from leasing the Lake Lanier site to the YMCA of Metropolitan Atlanta.

In the end, the lease was awarded but the county gained rights to six other lakeside parks as part of a settlement agreement.

Regardless of whether those types of changes were politically motivated, Ward said he hoped the county will next time gather public input much earlier.

Commissioner Patrick Bell, who represents District 4 in north Forsyth, said he did not have any say on where the lines were drawn.

Though he initially said he would have liked to see some minor changes, Bell said the map didn’t have any issues overall.

He would have liked to encompass Hammond’s Crossing, which contains an Opportunity District he worked to create, as well as everything north of Hwy. 369, to make it easier for residents to know their district.

Another commissioner who at first voiced some concerns, Jim Boff also decided to back the original version.

"I felt there wasn’t really much room for me to do anything about it," Boff said. "We had a responsibility to turn it in to the state delegation, so I went ahead and voted for it."

The most notable difference in his area, District 5, is that part of Cumming has been removed.

Under the proposed map, all of the city would be in District 1.

Also, some residents had expressed concern about the Windermere community being in more than one district. A small portion is in District 3, though the majority is in District 5.

Boff hopes the members of the local legislative delegation, some of whom attended the town hall meeting, would also take those comments into account.

He said he had been told that the county’s geographical information services department had created the map with some guidance from the state.

Commissioners, from his understanding, were not asked for their input.

"I have reason to wonder about that," Boff said.