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Legislation would add two to BOC

LAWRENCEVILLE - A state legislator has had enough courtesy from the county commission.

Rep. Hugh Floyd, D-Norcross, has proposed the addition of two more members to the Gwinnett Board of Commissioners to combat district courtesy, the practice of yielding to the commissioner who represents an area in land-use decisions.

A legal advertisement about the proposed legislation appeared in Tuesday's Gwinnett Daily Post, and a bill will be introduced next week, Floyd said.

His proposal is to add two "superdistricts" on top of the four districts already in place. That would bring the number of elected representatives on the board to seven from five, including the chairman, who is elected countywide.

"I don't like this district courtesy. I think you should study this stuff and have an opinion," Floyd said, adding that the additional representative for each citizen would give people more of a say in zoning matters. "That would demand at least two people have a voice."

But commissioners said the idea is more of an admonishment than a solution. "Supercommissioners" would have to represent even more people than the nearly 200,000 residents apiece for the four district commissioners, and elections and zonings would be even more complicated, they said.

"It's challenging enough to represent one-fourth of the county. I don't see representing half the county," District 1's Lorraine Green said. "We need to move government closer to the people. This proposal only moves government further away from those we serve. Adding a new layer to government is never a good thing."

District 2 Commissioner Bert Nasuti agreed.

"We have a lot of citizens per district, but if the idea is efficiency in government, it doesn't sound any more efficient. The only thing worse than nonaction is gridlock, and I don't think our board has either symptom," he said. "I don't know if there is problem out there to fix. I wouldn't vote to support the zoning if I didn't think it was the right decision. I do give deference to the district commissioner because voters elected them to make a decision."

Boosting the board size has been bantered about for years, but a recently organized consortium of homeowners have listed it as a priority, and Floyd said he's heard concerns.

"As this county has grown, (voters) expect more of their commissioners," Floyd said, adding that some legislators have also talked about increasing the five-district school board. "In essence, people want a change, they are saying they don't have equity. ... I feel like school overcrowding may have been prevented if there were more voices."

Commissioners, though, say voters have the chance to oust unresponsive politicians during each election.

"We can all be Monday-morning quarterbacks, but District 4 elected Kevin to make the decisions," Commissioner Kevin Kenerly said.

While Chairman Charles Bannister declined to comment, all of the district commissioners said they thought the proposal was political in nature.

District 3's Mike Beaudreau called the idea "a partisan attempt to overtake the board."

Floyd is a Democrat, while all five members of the Board of Commissioners are Republican. But the Norcross man who prides himself on working across party lines said he actually drew up a proposed six district map, but got negative feedback because one of the districts could lean to the left of the political spectrum.

Kenerly said he believed Floyd picked the issue because it is a popular one in Gwinnett voting circles.

"Zoning is something that polarized people, and (legislators) don't do anything that polarizes people," he said, adding that he wouldn't oppose a map with more districts.

Floyd would need approval from the majority of the legislation delegation, which is Republican, for the bill to move forward.

But even if the proposal isn't approved during the current legislative session, Floyd said he'd like to hold hearings this summer to learn how constituents feel about the plan, and he is asking residents to contact their legislator about the idea.