Keene’s Redistribution Plan Submitted to Board Committee | Local news
Keene’s non-student population has grown by more than 1,000 over the past decade, even as its overall population shrinks, former Mayor Kendall Lane told city councilors Thursday night.
Lane, who chaired an ad hoc committee to redraw the boundaries of Keene’s neighborhoods this year, noted that the town suffered a net loss of 362 people – to 23,047 – in last year’s U.S. census. But that trend was largely due to declining enrollment at Keene State College as well as the possibility that students who attended distance school last year would fill out census information using their home address, a he declared.
The rebound in Keene’s non-student population since 2010 is the biggest increase in half a century, Lane said as he officially presented the redistribution proposal to city councilors.
“These are people who moved to Keene [and] support the local economy, ”he said. “They have helped Keene thrive for the past 10 years.”
The plan is scheduled for another hearing on Dec. 9 before the council’s finance, organization and staff committee. It should then be sent back to the full council for final approval.
In addition to Lane, the redistribution committee included Ward 1 Councilor Janis Manwaring; former Ward 3 councilor and new At-Large councilor Michael Giacomo; State Representative Sparky Von Plinsky, D-Keene; and former Cheshire County Republican Committee Chair Marilyn Huston.
Lane told councilors the group needs to expand Ward 1, in the southern and southeastern parts of Keene, as its population has fallen by around 1,300 in the past decade due to declining student populations. .
The redistribution committee aimed to distribute residents evenly among the five wards, but did not consider any effect the new wards might have on sitting councilors, according to Lane. The group also tried to avoid moving polling stations and transferring many people to new districts, he said.
“We tried not to be more disruptive than was absolutely necessary,” he said.
This is the first time that city councilors, instead of voters, will approve the new neighborhood lines, after Keene residents approved the change via a question of vote in the recent municipal election. City officials had said they could not go through the typical redistribution process due to delays related to the pandemic that caused them to receive census data several months late, resulting in the change of procedure.
Under the proposed boundaries, only Ward 1 would not lose any territory and would, in fact, gain parts of Ward 2 and 5. The southernmost part of Ward 2, as well as the neighborhoods close to its western border, would be transferred to Ward 1, as well as the southeast corner of Ward 5. This includes portions of Winchester Street, Ralston Avenue, Emerald Street and Base Hill Road.
Ward 2 would take over 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 ready to take on new territory under the proposal – including parts of Court Street, Allen Court and Evergreen Avenue.
Ward 5 would gain a small portion of what is now Ward 4, including parts of Park Avenue and Summit Road.
A full list of addresses that would change neighborhoods, along with the proposed neighborhood map, can be found in the early-month council agenda, posted on the city’s website (https://bit.ly/3rzx3zy).