LARGO — Pinellas County commissioners approved changes and updates for single-member and at-large district maps during a Dec. 7 regular meeting.
The changes had to be approved by the end of the year as the county charter calls for any changes to be made in odd-numbered years.
Redistricting was triggered by the population changes found in the 2020 census. The Florida Constitution, state statutes, as well as the county’s charter require commission districts to be “as nearly equal in population” as practicable or possible, said Kurt Spitzer, with KSA Government Consultants, who was hired to assist the county with the redistricting process.
A group of citizens was appointed to a redistricting board that met several times to come up with recommendations for changes. The board considered 11 maps or plans including two that consisted of what Spitzer called housekeeping changes. Four of the 11 were presented to the commission for its consideration.
The first change kept the existing single-member districts intact except for two where the shape of the census block was changed by the Census Bureau. The board recommended adjusting the boundary lines to follow the 2020 census block boundaries.
The primary change in the second recommendation was moving Clearwater Beach and Island Estates out of District 4 and into District 5. The Countryside area of Clearwater would move from District 5 into District 4.
To offset the population gain in District 5, the plan had been to adjust the east-west boundary line to follow Sunset Point Road. However, Commissioner Karen Seel said that change would cause a shift in the population of unincorporated residents. She recommended moving the boundary south to follow Enterprise Road, which would keep the boundary closer to where it is now.
Commissioner Kathleen Peters favored a boundary that followed Sunset Point Road because it left a more compact district, which is one factor to consider when creating districts.
Another reason commissioners favored the boundary along Sunset Point Road was that it meant that most of Clearwater would be in the same district with the exception of the northernmost areas. Recommendations for creating districts call for keeping districts within municipal boundaries when possible. So with that goal in mind, changes were made to the boundary lines between Districts 5 and 6 and Districts 6 and 7. The changes results in all the cities of Seminole and Pinellas Park to be contained within District 6 and all of the city of Largo to be in District 5.
In the end, the commission voted 6-1 to approve the new single-member map with the boundary along Sunset Point Road with Peters voting no.
The biggest change to the at-large district map was recommended by Commissioner Charlie Justice. It moves the western end of St. Petersburg out of District 1 and into District 3. The result is that all of the residential areas of the city would be in District 3, which Justice represents. In addition, smaller boundary revisions were made accounting for the shape of the blocks created by the Census Bureau changes.
To offset the increase in population, Madeira Beach, Treasure Island and part of St. Pete Beach would be moved into District 1.
The commission voted unanimously to approve the changes to the at-large map.