A proposal to create a fifth district on the Jackson County Board of Commissioners got a tentative approval by the BOC at its Oct. 4 meeting.
The proposal comes following the results of the 2020 census, which showed a massive increase in the county's population over the past decade. That increasing population has, however, been uneven across the county with most of the growth happening in the Jefferson to West Jackson Area.
That dynamic makes it difficult to redraw existing county BOC district lines with just four members, officials said.
A plan presented to the board by assistant county manager Gina Roy and GIS director Joel Logan would create a fifth district in the county that would cover North Jackson and wrap around the West Jackson Area between Jefferson and Commerce.
The resulting map would have two concentrated districts — the Braselton-Hoschton area and the Jefferson Area. The existing District 2 would continue to cover the Commerce-Maysville-Harrisburg area while District 4 would continue to cover the Nicholson-South Jackson area, including Arcade.
Logan said one of the dynamics in the proposed map is to keep all towns together and not split between districts. He also pointed out that the map can't be drawn at-will and has to follow the existing lines of census tracts by keeping those tracts together.
Each of the five proposed districts would have around 15,000 citizens with a deviation between districts below 5% as required by law. The BOC chairman's seat is voted on county-wide and isn't affected by the new census numbers.
The BOC approved a resolution calling for the five districts and a companion resolution to have the county's charter updated to reflect that change. Since the board would have a total of six members under the plan, a quorum of four votes would be necessary for board actions to pass. A final map will be presented to the board in two weeks for approval.
Roy told the board that the county has to start early on the project so it can go through the legislature in January in time for the 2022 elections next spring.
According to county data, most areas of the county saw some growth over the past 10 years. But two towns in the county saw a decline in population — Arcade lost 137 people and the Jackson County part of Maysville lost 209 people (Maysville is divided between Jackson and Banks counties.)
The largest town growth was the City of Pendergrass which saw a 295% increase, from 422 people in 2010 to 1,671 in 2020.
The Jackson area of Braselton also grew significantly, from 1,763 to 3,965 people. But Braselton is larger than that given it also has citizens in Hall, Barrow and Gwinnett counties.
Jefferson was by far the largest single town in the county with a population of 13,214 in 2020, up from 9,432 in 2010, a 40% increase.
While most towns saw growth, it was the unincorporated areas of the county that saw the largest growth in terms of people. Unincorporated Jackson County gained 6,165 new residents between 2010 and 2020. In 2020, unincorporated Jackson County accounted for 60% of the county's total population, up from 56% in 2010.
According to county data, the 2020 census shows the following:
Total Population 75,907
Unincorporated 42,578 (+17%)
Arcade 1,649 (-7.7%)
Braselton (Jackson only) 3,965 (+124%)
Commerce 7,380 (+12.8%)
Hoschton 2,666 (+93.6%)
Jefferson 13,214 (+40%)
Maysville (Jackson only) 663 (-24%)
Nicholson 1,808 (+6.6%)
Pendergrass 1,671 (+295%)
Talmo 313 (+74%)