The Weekly Vista
Bentonville City Council OKs redistricting
BENTONVILLE — The city has redrawn the boundaries for its four City Council wards to allow for more equal representation.
The council approved the redistricting to start in 2024 at a meeting Feb. 14.
Redistricting is the process of adjusting or redrawing the geographical boundary that represents voting districts for political and/or school districts. Everyone who lives within the city limits has a district or ward assigned to them for voting and representation purposes.
City Council members are elected at large, but represent wards. There are two members from each ward. Members must live in the ward they represent, according to the city. Two council members are elected from each ward.
Ward 1 is in the northeast, Ward 2 in the northwest, Ward 3 in the southwest and Ward 4 in the southeast.
Bentonville’s current wards were created in 2017 based on a methodology focused on address points the city maintains, according to the city.
Population counts for each voting ward show Ward 1 with 11,230 people; Ward 2 with 11,235 people, Ward 3 with 18,918 residents and Ward 4 with 13,841 people.
The standard set for the deviation historically has been 10% or less, according to the city.
Redistricting for 2024 shows 17,206 residents in Ward 1, 17,281 people in Ward 2, 17,023 people in Ward 3 and 17,517 people in Ward 4.
Ward 3 Councilman Bill Burckart said redistricting was needed.
“The growth in Ward 3 has outpaced others for the last decade and our forecast is for this to continue,” he said.
“Each of us on the council have a fiduciary responsibility to every citizen and the corporation known as Bentonville,” he said. “As long as we keep this in mind, where the line is drawn should not make a difference. If it is good for Bentonville, it is good for every ward.”
In 2017, Ward 3 had half the total population of Bentonville before the wards were redrawn, Ward 3 Councilwoman Aubrey Patterson said.
“I’m really happy with the methodology used this time around, as it takes future population into account,” she said. “I think it will keep the wards balanced for much longer. Ward 3 changed the most due to the rapid growth in our area. Some Bentonville residents will see a change in their City Council representative, but since council members are elected at large, the impact to residents will be minimal.”
Ward 4 Councilman Octavio Sanchez said his ward will lose the area surrounded by Walton Boulevard, Moberly Lane, Central Avenue and and 14th Street, but gain a large section of the southeast portion of Ward 3.
Redistricting occurs after each decennial census in congressional districts and state and county legislative seats. The city adjusted ward lines in 2017 due to the city’s growth patterns. The methodology used for the current voting wards was based on the best data available in 2017. There has been significant growth in Bentonville since then, according to the city.
Bentonville GIS staff met with Stephanie Shaw of the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission in December 2021 to learn how other cities and agencies in the state have redistricted voting wards.
Shaw said redistricting is usually considered when wards or districts become disproportionate to one another — usually a 10% variance.
She said Regional Planning helped Pea Ridge redistrict recently. The city had just two wards and any major growth in one would throw the other off. Redistricting led to a third ward to accommodate growth in any ward, she said.
Fayetteville and Springdale redrew their wards last year.
The methodology adopted by many cities in Arkansas is widely used throughout the United States and combines census numbers with U.S. House and
Senate boundaries, school district boundaries and major roads where possible, according to the city.
Population numbers in this method are based solely on census data. Bentonville GIS staff created one plan for redistricting focused on this method.
The second method GIS staff used to redistrict was similar to the one used in 2017.
The address points for Bentonville were combined with new multipliers set by the 2019 five-year American Community Survey, which is conducted by the Census Bureau. Single-family residences were multiplied by 2.77 and multifamily residences were multiplied by 1.79.
This method also accounts for projected growth in Bentonville as it includes “pre-addresses” assigned to residences that haven’t been built yet but are going through the city’s permitting/planning process.
This is the plan City Council voted to accept.
“By using address points (including pre and projected) we are able to even out the population numbers so that each ward has more equal representation per capita,” wrote Bonnie Bridges, city associate staff attorney, in an email. “Using the census block method would have achieved a similar result, but would have put us behind in overall population numbers because the data is already two to three years old.”
In 2022, Position 1 in the city’s four wards were up for election. Incumbents Cindy Acree in Ward 2, Patterson in Ward 3 and Sanchez in Ward 4 were reelected. Beckie Seba was elected in Ward 2 replacing Tim Robinson, who did not seek reelection. Their terms are four years.
Position 2 seats will be up for election in 2024. Incumbents Gayatri Agnew in Ward 1, Chris Sooter in Ward 2, Burckart in Ward 3 and Holly Hook in Ward 4 will be up for reelection to four-years terms.
Ward 2 will not change dramatically as it is an area of established neighborhoods and bordered by the county, Centerton and Bella Vista, said Sooter. He praised the work city officials did to map out the city into new wards to allow for growth in the southwest quadrant in Ward 3.