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June 25, 2009

City seeking two new Planning Commissioners; Lewis, Farruggio stepping down

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By Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Thursday, June 25, 2009

The City is taking applications for two vacancies on the Charlottesville Planning Commission. Commissioner Cheri Lewis has served two terms and is ineligible for reappointment, and Commissioner Michael Farruggio has decided not to see a second term. Their terms expire at the end of August.
Potential members must be Charlottesville residents who are “qualified by knowledge and experience to make decisions of community growth and development.” At least half of the Commission must consist of property owners, which means citizens who are renting are eligible to serve.

The Commission serves as an advisory body to City Council and is charged with developing and evaluating the City’s comprehensive plan. They hold one regular meeting per month, as well as one work session. Each member also takes on committee assignments and some serve on other advisory bodies throughout City government.

Recent topics that have come before the Commission include whether or not to expand Belmont’s commercial corridor to accommodate another restaurant, how to amend the City’s zoning to accommodate single resident occupancies, and a preliminary site plan application for a new Whole Foods on Hydraulic Road.

Cheri Lewis (file photo)

Lewis joined the Planning Commission soon after unsuccessfully applying to the City’s Board of Architectural Review. Because Lewis is a Republican, she did not think she had a chance of being appointed to the Commission, but was encouraged to apply by then-Mayor David Toscano and Councilor Blake Caravati.

“If anyone is reluctant to apply, I would tell them to be encouraged because their chances are probably better than mine were”, Lewis said in an e-mail to Charlottesville Tomorrow. Lewis also said that anyone appointed to the Commission must be willing to work hard and must have a significant amount of time in order to do the job.

“You must be prepared to leave your predispositions, prejudices, agendas and niche expertise at the door of City Hall,” Lewis added. “You must be willing to make sometimes unpopular decisions based on our ordinances and guidelines and on behalf of all of the citizens of our City. 

Michael Farruggio, a full-time officer with the Charlottesville Police Department, said in an e-mail to Charlottesville Tomorrow that he is stepping down in order to spend more time with his children.

Michael Farruggio (file photo)

“My kids are now 7 and 9 years old,” Farruggio said. “Four years ago they were 3 and 5 and me being away at meetings had less of an impact.” He recommended that applicants to contemplate how each developments that comes before the Planning Commission will affect the long-term future of Charlottesville.

“When it's done, and the developer has made their money and the politicians have moved on, will it be an asset or a detriment?” Farruggio asked.

Anyone wishing to apply should phone City Council Clerk Jeanne Cox at 970-3113. The deadline to apply is July 16, 2009. If Council receives enough applications to fill the two open positions, interviews with Council will likely be held in August with an appointments made later that month. Terms will begin on the first of September.


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