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August 03, 2011

Fifeville resident named to Planning Commission

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DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Charlottesville City Council has appointed Fifeville resident Natasha Sienitsky to an open seat on the city’s Planning Commission.

“Part of the appeal of Charlottesville is the green space, access to the mountains and the burgeoning local food movement,” Sienitsky said. “That’s part of what we want to keep.”

20110802-sienitsky
Natasha Sienitsky

Sienitsky, 31, is associate director of planning and facilities for the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, which owns and operates Monticello. She graduated from Wesleyan University in 2001 and received a master’s in planning from the University of Virginia in 2007.

Sienitsky formerly served on the Charlottesville Housing Committee and has volunteered with the Albemarle Housing Improvement Program. She was one of 12 applicants for the vacancy created when Commissioner Jason Pearson stepped down.

“It was an extremely competitive pool,” said Mayor Dave Norris. “Natasha was the consensus pick because of her experience with housing and community development issues, her involvement in the Fifeville neighborhood, and her appreciation for the diversity that makes Charlottesville a great place.”

Sienitsky’s husband, Oliver Platts-Mills, grew up in the area and graduated from Western Albemarle High School. The pair moved to Charlottesville in 2002.

“We had been living abroad and thought of Charlottesville as a stopping off point,” Sienitsky said. “We were en route to D.C., where all the big jobs were, and we just never left. We nestled in and don’t really see leaving here anytime soon.”

Sienitsky said Charlottesville is a city in transition.

“We’re not talking about New York City here — it’s still Charlottesville. We’re no longer a small town but we’re also not a megalopolis. There is a young entrepreneurial set that’s coming in and doing great things but at the same time there are older residents who still think of Charlottesville as a small town,” Sienitsky said. “There is also a big population of people living in poverty and I would like to see more equity.”

According to Sienitsky, one way to achieve that goal is to continue the city’s policy of encouraging development of more affordable housing stock.

“Right now in Charlottesville, you’re either in a single family house or an apartment building,” Sienitsky said. “There should be a greater mix of housing types.”

Sienitsky said she supports increased housing density in areas of the city where it is appropriate, particularly in the West Main corridor because of the connection between downtown and UVa.

“I would not want to see [a developer] go onto a street in Belmont and tear down all the houses and build dense apartment buildings,” Sienitsky said.

The commission is beginning the process of updating the city’s Comprehensive Plan. Sienitsky said she expects that process to inform where dense development will occur.

“It’s up to the community to decide where [density] should be through the public process,” Sienitsky said.

Sienitsky and her husband have renovated two houses in the Fifeville area.

She said she applied for the position in part to ensure the neighborhood was represented on the Planning Commission.

“A lot of people are interested in the neighborhood,” Sienitsky said. “A lot of building is going on even though things have slowed down.”

Sienitsky is a member of the Charlottesville Ultimate Disc Organization and the Charlottesville League of Urban Chicken Keepers.

“We do it for the eggs, because the eggs are delicious,” Sienitsky said.

Sienitsky will take her seat at the commission’s next meeting, on Aug. 9. Her term will expire at the end of August 2014.

 

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