City Councilors are scheduled to adopt a new ward map for Commerce City on final reading at their April 3 meeting. The new map adjusts the boundary between Ward 3 and four, following the Second Creek Open Space.
Courtesy Commerce City
Commerce City councilors had a choice to make about the future of their wards and voting districts: should the redrawn wards balance the city's population as evenly as possible or should they try to follow metro district boundaries within the city?
Councilors opted to balance the population as evenly as possible, even though it splits one metro district down the middle between the new wards 3 and 4, using the Second Creek Open Space as a boundary.
I actually think east of Second Creek is the flow line," Councilor Susan Noble said.
The council is scheduled to vote on the new ward district configuration again at their April 3 meeting. City Clerk Dylan Gibson said that once it's approved, it'll be used for the city's municipal election this November.
"We'll work with community relations on public education and social media and work to identify those affected between the wards we have now and the wards councilors will adopt tonight so they are aware their wards have changed before the November 2023 election," Gibson said.
Councilors last reviewed the work at their Feb. 6 meeting, with Gibson explaining that Commerce City's population had grown from 45,913 people in 2010 to 62,418 according to the 2020 census. Most of that growth came in the northern part of the city, where Wards 3 and 4 are located.
Commerce City's four wards are meant to be roughly equal in population — within a 10% difference of each other, according to the City Charter.
Results from the 2020 census show how unbalanced the wards have become since the boundaries were last adjusted in 2013. Gibson said the goal is for each ward to have roughly 15,605 residents.
According to the old configuration, Ward 4, in the far northeastern part of the city, is the most populous, with 21,239 residents, according to the census – 5,634 people above the goal. Ward 2, in the southwestern, has the fewest residents, 12,196. That is 3,409 below the goal.
The 9,043 resident difference between those two wards represents a nearly 58% discrepancy – far beyond the 10% difference required by the charter.
The final maps need to have populations roughly equal to each other – at least within 10 percent. They also have to balance racial equity.
Both of those are requirements by law, Gibson said, but there are other factors that might not be legally required but are important. Those include compactness, trying to preserve current boundaries as much as possible and protecting communities of interest -- such as neighborhoods and special districts.
Gibson said city staff hosted five public information sessions in 2022 to find out what residents wanted and reviewed 11 maps, narrowing those down to five presented to City Councilors in February. Councilors narrowed it down to two maps at that February meeting and Gibson presented two new versions to councilors based on those maps at the March 6 meeting.
Balanced or special district
The neighborhoods east of Chambers Road between 104th and 96th avenues were the main differences between the two ward maps presented March 6.
Plan A, the one councilors ultimately chose, follows Second Creek through the area, dividing the Fronterra Village 2 and Buckley Ranch metro districts between wards 3 and 4. Everything west of Second Creek Open Space would be in Ward 3, and everything east of the creek would be in Ward 4.
That balances the districts' populations roughly equally, with a statistical deviation of about 5% between the most popular Ward 4 and the least populous Ward 1.
Plan B would have extended Ward 3 east past Second Creek and Reunion Parkway to Tower Road, moving 184 residents from Ward 3 to the already biggest Ward 4.
Either plan satisfied the city's criteria and is legal, Gibson said.
Councilor Noble said she was open to either option until the meeting Monday night, but looking at the differences convinced her that balancing the wards was the best decision.
"Two hours ago, I could have gone either way, but in looking at it now, I do think east of Second Creek is a good flow line and that folks who live in East Point see themselves as part of that continuous line that goes down Tower Road. They would be separated from that."
Councilor Craig Hurst agreed.
"I do think having a definitive landmark like Second Creek makes it much easier for us to communicate as a city and to call out where the boundaries are going to switch," he said.
Councilor Oscar Madera said his concern was how future population changes in Commerce City could skew the ward populations more quickly.
"I guess, I'm worried if we have to come back and redistrict again in three years because that deviation expands, based on where growth is happening," he said. "That's why I lean towards Option A to keep that deviation number down."