Lee County approves redistricting plan
The Lee County Commission approved a proposal this week that redefines the boundaries of the five districts, evenly distributing the county’s population.
The board voted 3-2 Tuesday to approve the Alternative 9 redistricting plan.
Commissioners Tammy Hall, Ray Judah and John Manning voted in favor of the proposal, while Commissioners Brian Bigelow and Frank Mann dissented.
After each U.S. Census, Florida law and Lee County’s charter require that the county be divided into districts as nearly equal in proportion to population as possible. The 2010 census revealed Lee County’s population as 618,754.
Based on that figure, the target population per district is 123,751.
The census also found that the county’s districts ranged from 171,064 people – 38 percent over the target – to 94,635, or 23 percent under it.
Based on the new district map – Alternative 9 – the population per district will range from .13 percent under the target number to .11 percent over it.
“They’re all less than a 1 percent deviation,” Rick Burris, a principal planner for the county, said Wednesday. “Our task was primarily to equally distribute the populations in the districts – you can’t get a whole lot closer that that.”
District populations will now range from 123,590 to 123,883.
There are a few changes to the two districts that include Cape Coral.
District 1 currently covers the south Cape, Sanibel, Captiva and Pine Island, while District 4 consists of the north Cape and some of North Fort Myers.
On the new map, District 1 gains a section of the Cape located north of Veterans Parkway, east of Santa Barbara Boulevard and south of Viscaya Parkway. The section currently falls within the boundaries of District 4.
In addition, District 1 loses the Shell Point Retirement Community.
“Everything in the Shell Point area is coming out,” Burris said.
District 4, along with losing a section of the Cape to District 4, loses a portion of North Fort Myers located east of Interstate 75 and Slater Road and west of state Route 31. District 4 will now extend across the river.
An earlier version of the redistricting map split the downtown Fort Myers area, specifically the Dunbar community, between Districts 4 and 2. On the approved map, the boundaries of District 4 reach south to Winkler Avenue.
“We were able to move District 4 all the way down to the Winkler Avenue Extension and that incorporated all of the Dunbar community,” Burris said.
The NAACP had raised concerns with commissioners about splitting up the community, which prompted county staffers to rework the map. Estero and the island communities had voiced the same opposition when earlier versions of the redistricting map also left their communities split between districts.
On Tuesday, some of the communities were present for the vote.
“(They) said that they liked it,” Burris said, referring to Alternative 9. “They thought that the commission should move forward with adopting it.”
Based on the new map, District 5 loses most of the areas south of state Route 82 that are not located in Lehigh Acres to District 2. District 5 gains some of the more rural areas near Bayshore Road that sit with District 4.
“District 5 had grown the most because it had Lehigh Acres,” Burris said. “It had to lose quite a bit of its current area.”
While District 2 loses downtown Fort Myers to District 4, it retains the central Fort Myers area and gains the new developments located south of Colonial Boulevard that were annexed by the city. District 2 also gains the areas south of state Route 82 that fall within the District 5 boundaries.
District 3 gains the Shell Point Retirement area and a section near Corkscrew Road between I-75 and U.S. 41.
The changes will run in two consecutive advertisements before going into effect. Unless there is a major change to the county’s form of government, staffers will wait until the next census to review the districts’ boundaries.