Only minor shifts expected in Fairfax board boundaries

April 10, 2011

Fairfax County voters will see changes in the shapes of their congressional and state districts, but not much is likely to change for the Board of Supervisors.

Despite an influx of more than 110,000 residents over the past decade, the county’s nine supervisor districts might shift only slightly.

An advisory committee assembled to develop proposals for redistricting submitted a report last month, and a hearing is scheduled for 4 p.m. Tuesday at the county government center in Fairfax.

Each of the 22 proposals submitted to the board of supervisors is intended to ensure that each district has roughly the same number of residents.

The board is scheduled to vote on a redistricting plan April 26.

Supervisor Jeff C. McKay (D-Lee), chairman of the legislative committee that oversees redistricting, said the report presents a range of options. The ideal plan, he said, would allow the districts to remain as close to their present boundaries as possible.

“Our goal from the beginning has been to minimize disruptions,” he said. “We work so intently at the local level that we develop relationships with people. You want to continue that” as a supervisor.

Katherine K. Hanley, a former County Board chairman who was appointed to head the advisory committee, said that census data showed population growth had spread evenly throughout the county. “The magisterial districts were not out of balance,” she said.

The committee agreed that an ideal district size would contain about 120,000 residents, which is about 13,000 more per district than in the last redistricting process in 2001.

Under the committee’s plans, each district’s population could not vary by more than 10 percent from the other districts’. That means each could have no more than 126,000 people and no fewer than about 114,000.

Hanley said the 21-member committee considered other factors when devising a redistricting plan. One was an upcoming primary election, which created a short timeline in which to enact new boundaries. Another factor was the financial impact.

“There is some cost to implementing redistricting, no matter what,” Hanley said. “The recurring costs of adding a district was something the committee considered. There was a feeling that this is not the time. These are lean times.”

Among the 22 plans in the committee’s report are 19 nine-district plans, two 10-district plans and one 11-district plan.

The nine-district plans would retain the current number of supervisors. However, the number of precincts moved to redraw the boundaries ranged from four to 38. Twelve of the 19 plans call for moving fewer than nine precincts.

The two 10-district plans would create either a new southern district called Gunston, which would absorb portions of the Mount Vernon and Springfield districts, or a central district surrounding Fairfax City, which would absorb parts of the Braddock, Hunter Mill, Providence and Springfield districts.

The 11-district plan would create districts in Herndon, which would take portions of the Sully and Hunter Mill districts, and in the southwestern portion of the county, taking portions of the Sully, Braddock and Springfield districts.

The county has not added a district in 20 years, because, McKay said, there had not been enough growth to justify it.

Some supervisors say they think even fewer moves might be necessary.

Two plans that have drawn particular interest call for moving just six or seven precincts, which would reunite communities that were broken up 10 years ago.

Each plan would slightly shift the boundaries for seven supervisory districts. The boundaries for Sully and Lee districts would remain the same under both plans.

Rex Simmons, chairman of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee, said he was looking forward to the process ending soon. “We’re waiting so that we can go ahead with our nominations,” he said.

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