ATLANTIC CITY — The commission charged with developing a new city ward map in response to population changes uncovered in the 2020 U.S. Census postponed making a decision Tuesday night on new ward boundaries.
It will take time to review a map developed by resident Helen Kioukis, and the commission likely will make the decision at the next scheduled meeting Jan. 11.
The commission, made up of the four members of the Atlantic County Board of Elections and City Clerk Paula Geletei, on Tuesday night reviewed a paid consultant’s two proposals for equalizing wards as well as an unnamed citizen’s proposal.
The new map is needed because the 6th Ward, made up of most of the Chelsea neighborhood, grew to be too large, so some of its population must move to other wards.
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Both proposals developed by Kevin Zelinsky of Remington & Vernick Engineers moved a few hundred people from one existing ward to another but left the basic approach to wards intact.
The wards split the city north to south, to give each ward a section of the Boardwalk.
The Atlantic County Board of Elections will meet next Tuesday to discuss redrawing ward boun…
“That was a concern last time,” Zelinsky said of 10 years ago, when the last map was created.
“Neighborhoods are neighborhoods. Wards can change,” said Chelsea resident Carol Ruffu, who said she was speaking for herself, not in her capacity as president of the Chelsea Neighborhood Association. “It’s so important you get input from us who live here, who were born and raised here.”
Ruffu encouraged the board to wait to make a decision until it sees the map Kioukis developed, which she said focuses on keeping like neighborhoods intact in wards.
The third map considered Tuesday night, put together by the unnamed resident, put Chelsea Heights and the Boardwalk condominium area into the 6th Ward and was supported by many who called in to the meeting.
“We take the new population and divide it by the number of wards, and if any ward is 10% more than the number it should have by statute, those ward lines have to be redrawn,” Board of Elections Chair Lynn Caterson has said.
Zelinsky said each ward should have a population of between 6,171 and 6,821 people, but the 6th has 6,988. All the other wards have populations within the acceptable range.
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“That’s about 167 people over the maximum or ceiling,” Zelinsky said.
To “achieve balance,” it is necessary to change most of the wards, he said.
He said his main goal was to create compact and contiguous wards, and to not move the residence of a current member of council to a different ward. Ward boundaries must have natural or manmade features such as roads on their boundaries.
“They can’t be an arbitrary line,” Zelinsky said.
In both scenarios created by Zelinsky, two blocks of Trenton Avenue in Chelsea would move from the 6th to the 5th ward, moving 496 people. Then more moves would be made down the line to the 5th, 4th and 3rd wards. A total of about 1,400 people would be affected by each of the two scenarios.
Both of his scenarios give part of the Boardwalk to each of the six wards.
Zelinsky could not say how many people would be affected by the third scenario considered. And details of a fourth scenario from Kioukis have yet to be made public.
“Of course I like map three,” said Tom Harrell, who lives in a condominium building on Bartram Avenue. “I hate that we are not together with other condo associations.”
Beachfront condo residents have a lot of common interests and needs and should be able to advocate for their needs through council, he said.
But resident Geoff Dorsey said putting all the condos together creates a “Boardwalk empire in the 6th Ward” and changes wards too severely.
Kioukis, who promised to get her map to the commission Wednesday, said the consultant’s two maps still break up Chelsea into many wards and pair neighborhoods together that do not have similar interests.
“Venice Park is still with Ducktown. Those two communities are very different,” Kioukis said.
The board will meet at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 11 to finalize its decision. To participate virtually, click on the meeting link at atlantic-county.org/board-of-elections/meetings.asp.
REPORTER: Michelle Brunetti Post