-Sherry Devlin reporting for the Missoula Current
MISSOULA – Head’s up, Missoula voters. You may live in a new ward, so might need to pay attention to a different City Council race this fall.
In a unanimous vote and with no comments “yea” or “nay” from the public, council members approved changes to wards 2, 4, 5 and 6 during Monday night’s meeting.
The culprit: Missoula’s annexation of the airport and nearby Canyon Creek Village subdivision late last year and rapid, high-density growth in the Mullan Road area.
Development Services director Mike Haynes explained that the city reassesses ward boundaries every two years to “maintain practical equality of population by ward.”
This year, that meant all six wards needed to be within 382 residents of one another. Only wards 1 and 3 remained in alignment this go-round. Wards 4, 5 and 6 needed to pick up more residents, and Ward 2 needed to be significantly smaller.
Ward 2 includes both the newly annexed Canyon Creek neighborhood, which added 774 residents to the ward, and a number of apartment complexes along Mullan Road. In all, Ward 2 grew by more than 1,800 residents in 2017 and 2018, putting it more than 1,600 residents over the average per ward.
Thus, Monday night’s redistricting decision.
The biggest change, then, was an extension of Ward 6 across the Clark Fork River – west of Broadway and north of Mullan Road. About 1,300 people live in that area.
In addition, Ward 5 expanded into Ward 6, and Ward 4 shifted into Ward 5.
Once all the lines were redrawn, the new ward map, brought 171 residents into Ward 4, another 758 residents into Ward 5, and 371 more people into Ward 6.
Haynes estimated the city’s population – based on building permits issued in 2017 and 2018 – at 76,383. He’ll have a more definitive number before the 2021 redistricting, courtesy of next year’s U.S. Census.
The city general election is November 5, at which time six of the 12 City Council seats will be up for grabs – one seat from each of the wards.