Proposed map clears first hurdle in the three-step approval process as commissioners unanimously vote to accept it. Final approval expected in May.
The Ocoee City Commission Tuesday unanimously accepted a map of proposed new voting districts developed by the municipality’s Districting Commission. The document will now come under scrutiny at a soon-to-be-announced public hearing.
After that, the map will come back before the city commission for first and second readings before the new districts are finally approved for the 2023 municipal election, said City Clerk Melanie Sibbett in a phone interview. Barring unforeseen circumstances, Sibbett said she anticipates the first reading will take place on May 3 with the second reading on May 17.
Although commissioners had 60 days to examine the map before voting, they opted to vote on it immediately. “I don’t think it’s going to change,” said Mayor Rusty Johnson. Commissioner Larry Brinson, Sr., who represents District 1, made the motion to accept the map; Rosemary Wilsen, District 2 Commissioner, seconded it.
The Districting Commission — comprised of Joel Keller, Lou Forges, Adrian Davis, Thomas Lowrie and Jim Moyer with Jason Mellen and Brad Lomneck as alternates — met five times, starting in October to redraw the districts. The process occurs every 10 years following the census to ensure that each district has equal influence and power in elections. Ocoee’s population is now 47,361, according to the 2020 census. The Districting Commission was tasked with ensuring that each of the city’s four districts has about 11,840 people.
Keller, chair of the Districting Commission, presented two maps to the mayor and the city commissioners — Board Plan 1B and Board Plan 1C — with a recommendation to adopt 1C, which was unanimously backed by the chair’s colleagues. Keller said that while Board Plan 1B was “perfect for now,” Board Plan 1C “is a slightly better map for the future growth over the next 10 years.”
Careful attention was paid to District 2, which Keller described in an interview with VoxPopuli, as “landlocked” without a lot of room for growth. To ensure District 2’s population kept pace as other districts grew around it, the District Commission allotted 358 additional residents to District 2, putting it just over the 5 percent deviation permitted between districts.
“With the rest of the city growing around you, it will keep your numbers consistent with everybody else as that growth happens,” Keller explained to Wilsen and her colleagues.
Keller said that he and the others on the District Commission approached their task with a “scalpel, not a machete.”
He pointed to a single subdivision in District 4, south of Silver Star, that was shifted into District 2 as an example. This simple shift, Keller explained, allows Silver Star Road to become a true dividing line for the entire city, rather than a divider except for one area. Most of the changes were small tweaks like that, he said.
“There’s not a heckuva lotta change from start to finish,” Keller added.
Indeed, when he finally saw the map, Mayor Johnson agreed “not much changed.”