20211119-LOC-WardMap

Pictured is the proposed new ward map for Keene, with areas marked by diagonal stripes representing neighborhoods slated to be moved to new wards. The City Council's Finance, Organization and Personnel Committee — next scheduled to meet Tuesday — will continue the discussion on the proposed changes, and a public hearing is set for Dec. 2.

Properties on more than 60 Keene streets are looking at a possible district change as city councilors consider an ordinance that would redraw the boundaries of the city’s five wards.

The proposed ordinance was introduced to the City Council during its meeting Thursday night, where Mayor George Hansel referred it to the council’s Finance, Organization and Personnel Committee for further discussion. According to a map included in the agenda packet for Thursday’s meeting, seven neighborhoods will be moved to different wards if the ordinance is approved.

Keene’s wards are being redrawn as part of the 10-year redistricting process required by law of communities across the country. This is the first time the City Council, instead of voters, will approve the new ward lines after Keene residents approved the change via a ballot question at the municipal elections earlier this month.

Under the proposed new boundaries, only Ward 1, in the south and southeastern parts of Keene, would not lose any territory, and it would gain parts of Wards 2 and 5. The southernmost portion of Ward 2, along with neighborhoods toward its western border, would move to Ward 1, as would the southeastern corner of Ward 5. This includes portions of Winchester Street, Ralston Avenue, Emerald Street and Base Hill Road.

Ward 2 would pick up a small portion of what is now Ward 3, including parts of Washington, High and Cross streets. Ward 3 would gain part of what is currently Ward 4 (the only ward not set to gain any new territory under the proposal), including parts of Court Street, Allen Court and Evergreen Avenue.

Ward 5 would gain a small part of what is now Ward 4, including parts of Park Avenue and Summit Road. A full list of addresses that would change wards and the proposed new ward map can be viewed on the city’s website in the council’s agenda packet (https://bit.ly/3oCThNS).

The purpose of redistricting is to create wards that are similar in population size, and the city uses information from the U.S. Census Bureau to do that.

A redistricting committee of former and current elected officials and party representatives was assembled to begin determining the new ward lines after the census data was released Sept. 30. The committee’s goals included designing wards to follow physical features, maintaining a population deviant from the ideal number of 4,609 residents per ward of less than 1 percent (and not any higher than 2.5 percent) and avoiding the need to move any polling places or election officials out of their wards.

As proposed, no polling places or election officials would be removed from their ward. Though not identified as a goal, the proposed new boundaries would also keep all sitting councilors in their current wards. The changes brought to the council Thursday are all within a deviation range of 0.2 to 1.4 percent from the 4,609-resident target.

The FOP Committee will discuss the new ward proposals at its meeting Dec. 9, following a public hearing during the council's meeting Dec. 2 at 7:20 p.m.

No traction for election complaint

In other news, the council voted unanimously Thursday to dismiss a complaint from Mark J. Zuchowski — a candidate for mayor in Keene’s municipal elections earlier this month — who contested the election because the city did not host a candidates night beforehand.

However, his argument failed to persuade the council’s Planning, Licenses and Development Committee, which voted unanimously last week to recommend that the full council take no further action on his complaint. City Attorney Tom Mullins told him at that session that he wasn’t sure the city even had the authority to host a candidates night, adding that it’s “not the city’s role.”

Hansel won re-election in a landslide, 2,133-212.

This article has been changed to clarify when the Finance, Organization and Personnel Committee will discuss the proposed new districts.

Mia Summerson can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1435, or msummerson@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter @MiaSummerson