The Howard County Council will conduct a public hearing next month to discuss council district boundaries proposed by an independent panel.

The hearing Dec. 19 will be the second opportunity for residents to speak before the council on a map recommended by a seven-member redistricting commission last month. At a previous hearing this month, residents, mostly from the Wheatfield and Brampton Hills neighborhoods of Ellicott City, complained that the plan would split their community over two districts.

The map would move some residents in Ellicott City from Councilwoman Courtney Watson's district to neighboring District 2, represented by Council Chairman Calvin Ball. The plan would also shift the Dorsey Hall neighborhood from Mary Kay Sigaty's district in Columbia to Watson's, among other changes.

Watson's district is the most populous of Howard's five council districts, meaning it will have to shrink to make the other districts even. The proposed plan would move 2,381 residents from her district.

If the council does not adopt changes to the map by March 15, the commission's plan becomes law.

After the first hearing, councilmembers discussed revising the map based on public feedback before conducting more hearings. However, the legislation currently under consideration still reflects the original proposed map, Ball said, in an effort to keep discussion transparent.

"It is an appropriate starting place," he said, saying the recommended map has been seen the most, rather than proposing a new map previously unseen by residents. He said the proposed map can go through the legislative process, where changes can be discussed among council members at public hearings.

The public hearing is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in the Banneker Room of the George Howard Building, 3430 Courthouse Drive in Ellicott City. The map can be seen at http://cc.howardcountymd.gov/CB57-2011.pdf

jkanderson@baltsun.com

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