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Ulman goes against council's redistricting plan

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman announced Thursday that he would not sign off on a County Council bill redrawing district boundaries, instead endorsing a map supported by an appointed bipartisan commission.

Under the new boundaries, the Columbia Association will be represented by an additional council district; two Ellicott City neighborhoods will move from their current district, despite residents' protests before the council; and parts of Elkridge will continue to bleed into District 2. The newly drawn council districts will take effect for the 2014 council elections.

"While members of the County Council made strong arguments for several different district boundary alignments, the map presented by the bi-partisan Commission, vetted through three public hearings and five work sessions, is better for Howard County as a whole," Ulman said in a statement.

The council had created several maps in an attempt to address residents' concerns over the draft submitted in November by the seven-member commission. For the past four months, the council has wrestled with adopting a new plan.

Those from the Ellicott City neighborhoods of Wheatfield and Brampton Hills were disappointed after they protested the commission's map that moved them from District 1, represented by Democrat Courtney Watson. They will join District 2, represented by east Columbia Democrat Calvin Ball.

"There were many people who were involved in this process and feel our voices were not listened to," said Debbie Bures-Walker, a Wheatfield resident.

Under the new boundaries, Ball's district will also gain residents in Elkridge, shuffling residents from Watson's District 1.

Howard Johnson, president of the Greater Elkridge Community Association, said, "We look forward to having more interaction with our District 2 representative to make things better in Elkridge."

While Elkridge has always been split between the two districts, he said more voices will move to District 2, gaining more influence in the district.

Council Chairwoman Mary Kay Sigaty, a Democrat whose district is largely made up of Columbia, said she's disappointed to lose Dorsey's Search Village, which will move to District 1, largely made up of Ellicott City residents. Sigaty's District 4 will gain parts of Laurel.

"It's certainly a new area I will need to get to know," she said.

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