By REID TUCKER
After nearly two months of discussion, the Walton County Redistricting Committee voted to present proposed map 3D to the Board of County Commissioners and School Board for final approval.
The committee’s final meeting was held Wednesday, June 29, at the city of Paxton’s Agricultural Center, which simultaneously fulfilled the intention to get public comment at meetings held in all four of Walton County’s main regions as well as to submit a final recommendation on districting by the end of June. While previous meetings indicated the committee members were already leaning in favor of 3D, it quickly became apparent that even this plan took careful consideration to put together.
The reason: the findings of the 2010 Census show that Walton County’s population grew by 14,443 people in the last 10 years, bringing the total population to 55,043. This means that the populations in four of the county’s five districts fall below the ideal split number of 11,009 residents per district, while the population of District 5, which encompasses much of south Walton, exceeds this figure by 45 percent. Ideally, the Redistricting Committee was looking for less than a 2-percent difference between those population numbers.
That said, the primary area of concern about map 3D among some in attendance was that it divides some communities of interest, particularly Sandestin, but it also splits Miramar Beach between District 4 and District 5 by stretching the former district (south across the Choctawhatchee Bay and east to Mack Bayou Road) into what is currently part of the latter.
District 5, on the other hand, would extend along the coast from Scenic Gulf Drive in Miramar Beach to Inlet Beach just south of U.S. 98. Furthermore, District 1 would extend to the west along U.S. 331 into part of what is now District 4, in the area of Co. Hwy. 83A south of SR-20.
Map 3D would also make changes to the districts north of the bay. District 2’s southernmost extremity would extend past U.S. 90 as far south as Rock Hill Road and would traverse the entire northern border of the county. Sections north of SR-2 and west of Co. Hwy 147 W would be folded into to District 3, and District 3 would have sections north of State Highway 285 S added to it as well.
In summation, 3D’s arrangement theoretically allows for three commissioners or school board members to be elected from south Walton, something that appealed to Grayton Beach attorney Lloyd Blue, a county resident in attendance at the meeting. He said having multiple commissioners represent that that end of the county could better serve the “beach communities’ issues,” specifically those dealing with coastal dune lakes, beach erosion and land development, to name just a few….
Read the full story in the July 7, 2011 edition of the Herald Breeze.