Uneven populations fixed by Urbana ward map changes

For the first time since 2004, the Urbana City Council wards are being revised, after the 2010 U.S. census data showed an uneven population distribution amongst the wards used for representation of the city.

Census results showed a current Urbana population of 41,250 — up from 36,395 in 2000. According to a memo from Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing, Urbana has since added an additional 135 residents as a result of annexing neighboring properties. Consequently, the average population for each of the seven wards is 5,912.

Initial investigations show the greatest deviations from this average are in Wards 4 and 6. Ward 4 currently has only 4,858 residents, while Ward 6 has 7,680 residents. By law, the new wards are required to deviate from the average by no more than ten percent, which is currently not true for these two wards.

The proposed map will balance the ward populations and satisfy the ten percent deviation requirement.

“Every ward is well within the standard of 10 percent,” Prussing said. “(The map) meets all of the standards.”

Despite some ward populations changing by over 1,000 residents, the map will actually be very similar to the current one, “especially for the student and campus areas,” said Brandon Bowersox, Ward 4.

“For me, the biggest change in this map is that there’s no change at all,” Bowersox said.

He said he attributes his ward’s apparent lack of growth to its central location within Urbana and a possible decrease in the number of people living at the Orchard Downs apartments.

Diane Marlin,Ward 7, said the large growth in Ward 6 made it appear as though the other wards had a decreasing population, but this is not the case. Southeast Urbana — where Ward 6 is located — has seen a large increase in residents because it has farmland that allows for greater residential development than most other wards.

The map allows for future growth in outer Urbana by allotting wards 5, 6 and 7 less than the average population, Prussing said.

The Urbana City Council decided at its regular meeting Monday that the issue would be left for discussion until further notice.

Prussing said she has spoken with most of the council members and that they are all in agreement with the map’s adjustments to their wards.