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Council tackles annexation this week

 

Jason Browne

 

Annexation talks are back after a taking a break for the past few months. 

 

The city council will meet Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. at the Municipal Complex to discuss the possibility of annexing several areas into the city. Mayor Robert Smith identified the east side of Lehmberg Road, a stretch of Highway 50 east of Columbus and a stretch of Highway 12 north of Columbus as possibilities. 

 

Chris Watson, of Bridge and Watson Planning Consultants in Oxford, has been working with the city for months identifying areas for possible expansion, but none have been deemed economically feasible to this point. 

 

Smith spoke with Watson at the city''s last comprehensive plan meeting and organized a meeting with the council. He pointed out Friday the east side of North Lehmberg would be least expensive to annex because the city already provides water to the area and sewage to some apartment complexes. 

 

The areas along Highways 50 and 45, he said, would be mostly commercial. 

 

If annexed, the expanded areas would fall within Ward 3. But Ward 3 Councilman Charlie Box is concerned the annexation of the east side of Lehmberg, which is predominantly populated by black people, would shift the racial complexion of the ward. 

 

"If we annex Lehmberg we would have to move my ward lines to bring in enough white people to balance," he said. 

 

Box estimates Ward 3 is approximately 65 percent white. 

 

Columbus'' current ward configuration was drawn in 2003 and will have to be redrawn before the next city election using data from the 2010 census. Approval from the U.S. Department of Justice is required before any annexation and redistricting can take place. 

 

Election Commission Chairman Leon Speck asserts the Justice Department won''t approve the new wards unless three of Columbus'' six wards remain minority districts. Blacks are in the majority in Columbus but are referred to as "minority" based on national demographics. 

 

The city won''t know the location of all its minorities until completed census data is received because race is no longer included in voting rolls. 

 

Each ward must also include an equal number of registered voters. 

 

City Attorney Jeff Turnage says the process of satisfying all Department of Justice demands is already difficult, but were the citizens of a particular ward to file a protest, it would draw greater scrutiny of the city''s ward proposal.

 

 

 

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Reader Comments

Article Comment walter commented at 11/29/2010 11:55:00 AM:

Greater scrutiny in a democratic system isn't such a bad idea. Or, is it? The greater the scrutiny, the greater the democracy.

 

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