BTC eyes referendum for town council districts

BLYTHEWOOD – The last agenda item at Friday morning’s 4-hour town council meeting called for council members to discuss the possibility of creating election districts for the council and/or adding two additional council seats, which would bring the total number of council members from 5 to 7.

“Blythewood is at the point now where we’re over 5,000 [people] and every town our size has six members [of the council in addition to the mayor],” said Franklin, noting that three-quarters of those towns have four election districts, two at-large council seats, and a mayor who is also elected at large.

“If you have four districts, let’s say Councilman Brock and I are in the same district and we both want to run for council,” he said. “One of us can run at-large, and one can run in the district, so we might both be council members even if we’re neighbors.”

Town Administrator Carroll Williamson said that, if a referendum were to be placed on the 2023 ballot, an ordinance enabling this would have to be enacted by the end of July in order to meet an early August election deadline – and, if desired, could be brought before the council on first reading at their May meeting.

If town voters were to approve such a measure, he said, an independent agency would be responsible for drawing the district lines – and the first election impacted by the new structure would be in 2025.

Franklin also asked for input from Malcolm Gorge, a longtime public servant of the town and current chairman of the Blythewood Planning Commission. Gordge said such a measure, if approved by the voters, could have a positive impact on public participation in local government.

“I think that would be a very helpful move so residents can identify their local representative on council,” Gordge said. “It may even improve participation and hopefully understanding of how local government works overall.”

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