Stallings looks at voting district changes

STALLINGS – Leaders in Stallings are in discussion to reorganize town voting districts and the way elections are handled.

At a town planning board meeting, Jan. 11 and 12, council members voiced the need to improve upon Stallings’s current six-district voting system to provide better representation to town residents. Stallings elections are set up so only residents in each district can run for a seat in that district, even though residents can vote in any council seat race regardless of where they live in town. Many towns and cities only allow residents to vote in races for the district where they live, as well as in “at-large” races that don’t cover one specific district.

Discussions so far have centered on possibly changing district boundary lines while still letting residents vote for all districts. At least one council member feels leaving it that way will require candidates to feel a responsibility to all parts of town instead of just their individual district.

“When I ran, because I knew that I had to represent the whole town, I campaigned throughout the whole town,” Councilman Paul Frost said.  “If I had only stayed in my own district I wouldn’t have known anything about the north side of town.”

While he is not in favor of changing voting laws, Frost does feel the town could benefit from moving from six districts to four and adding two at-large seats to the council.  He says this would help even out the districts and eliminate a scenario where some districts only have one candidate while others have multiple options.

“In prior elections you have sitting council members who had no one run against them, but you had other districts with many people running,” he said.  “… Unfortunately, I don’t think there is going to be council support for the two at-large seats, but I do think it’s something we could benefit from.”

Regardless of the direction council decides to go, Frost does feel that “at the very bare minimum there needs to be a rebalancing of districts.”  According to Frost, District 4 and District 5 have traditionally seen low competition. Rebalancing the districts could solve this problem.

The districts range in population with the smallest being District 2, with 1,288 residents, and the largest being District 6, with 2,665 residents.  Council members hope reorganizing the election structure in Stallings will give those who are currently in large districts with high levels of competition a better chance when running for office.

Council also began discussions this week on creating a Downtown Master Plan, something they’ve been planning to do for some time.

“The town has always wanted to create a town center, and we have been held back from that, with one of the biggest factors being the infrastructure in that part of town,” Mayor Lynda Paxton said.

Downtown Stallings currently has small sewer lines that would not be able to support a lot of growth and commercial development in the area.  Union County has agreed to partially update the sewer lines, and the town has permission from the North Carolina Department of Transportation to update the intersection between Pleasant Plains and Potter roads by adding turn lanes in all directions.  Other discussions on the Downtown Master Plan will continue later this month.

Council also voted not to take part in the Monroe Union Economic Development Plan, an effort to bring more commercial business to Union County and level out the residential-to-commercial tax base in the area.  However, Stallings does plan to continue discussions of a joint effort with Matthews, Mint Hill and Indian Trail for economic development.

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