Goshen News, Goshen, IN

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December 5, 2012

Goshen City Council tables district decision

GOSHEN — Goshen City Council members opted Tuesday to table the second reading of an ordinance concerning the redrawing of council district lines.

Council members will again review the proposal at a special meeting already set for 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 27. At that meeting, council president Tom Stump may propose amendments to the plan proposed by Mayor Allan Kauffman.

Kauffman said in an email to council members at the end of November that state statute requires the redrawing of district lines every 10 years, two years after the federal census.

“The process is made more difficult this year in that Elkhart County drew new precinct lines and re-numbered precincts in 2011,” Kauffman wrote. The mayor was not in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting.

City attorney Larry Barkes said the council needs to approve new district lines by Dec. 31, according to state statute.

“State statute requires that the districts be contiguous and as equally proportioned as possible,” Barkes told the council.

Kauffman said no exact variance percentage is dictated by state statute, but a federal case sets a precedent of 10 percent.

Goshen officials could not create a City Council district situation with 10 percent or less population variance that wouldn’t put council members Jim McKee and Ed Ahlersmeyer in the same district, according to Kauffman. That is why the proposed district lines create a 16.4 percent population variance.

Stump said he also came to a problem with his initial suggestion for an amendment, stating he found a way to create a better variance but that it would put councilwoman Julia Gautsche and councilman Everett Thomas in the same district — unless a voting precinct is split.

“The proposal I made I thought did a better job,” Stump said. “The variance was better, and some of the districts were made more equal.”

Barkes said splitting a voting precinct with a district line is allowed, but was intentionally avoided in Kauffman’s suggestion. Kauffman said in his email that state statute “specifies that precincts in each district be contiguous, that districts be relatively compact and do not cross precinct boundary lines except where necessary to provide relatively even representation.”

To allow for the potential of splitting a voting precinct, the city council needs to send notification to the county clerk and publicly advertise it 10 days before the meeting, according to Barkes. Council members decided to send notification.

Several residents cautioned the council members about passing both readings of the ordinance Tuesday evening, saying people need more time to look into alternatives and other solutions.

Fred Buttell said he has drawn boundaries before, and that there is still time left to go over details.

“I don’t think it’s been put out in the open long enough,” Buttell said.

Other business:

• Council members approved updates to the Goshen zoning ordinances concerning home occupations, manufacturing parking and solar panels, as well as approved the rezoning of 118 Hackett Road from Manufacturing M-1 to Residential R-1.

• Council members also approved an additional appropriations ordinance pertaining to retirement lines in several office budgets. City Clerk-Treasurer Tina Bontrager said the reasons for the appropriations were changes to the Indiana Public Retirement System.

• Council members also approved reappointments for Kelly Huffman to the Goshen Board of Zoning Appeals, Jim McKee to the Goshen Plan Commission and Laura Coyne and Stephen Oyer to the Goshen Redevelopment Commission. Other appointments and reappointments will be made at the Dec. 27 meeting.

 

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