Amanda Burbage, Senior Planner, Albemarle County
Where were you born (and raised, if different)?
I was born in Charlotte, North Carolina and raised in Athens, Georgia.
When and why did you move to the Charlottesville/Albemarle area?
I originally moved here for school in 1994. Although I was living in Georgia at the time, I had lived in the Shenandoah Valley as a kid, and Virginia always felt most like home to me. I was thrilled when I got into the University of Virginia and had an excuse to return.
What neighborhood do you live in now?
I live in Locust Grove.
Family (spouse, kids, etc.)?
What is your alma mater and when did you graduate?
My alma mater is the University of Virginia; I got my BA in Environmental Science in 1998 and my masters in Urban and Environmental Planning in 2004.
What were you doing before you came to work for the county?
I was working at the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission on the Livable Communities Project, coordinating community outreach and engagement in Charlottesville and Albemarle County’s Comprehensive Plan updates.
Your job title is Senior Planner – what, in your own words, would you say you do?
I spend most of my time working with the zoning ordinance—a set of regulations that governs land use in Albemarle County. The ordinance is over 30 years old, so it is constantly in need of revision and updating. Part of my job involves researching what other localities are doing and proposing changes that reflect the ways that the County is evolving and that keep the ordinance consistent with the Comprehensive Plan. Since changing the ordinance is a process requiring review by the public, the Planning Commission, and the Board of Supervisors, I am responsible for explaining the what and why of the proposed changes and incorporating everyone’s feedback throughout the process.
What is the best part of your job? The most difficult part?
I love the variety of things I get to work on. One day I get to be an expert on junk cars, another day on the biotech industry. It definitely keeps the workflow interesting. For me, the greatest challenge is that the majority of my work requires sitting in front of a computer when it’s really more in my nature to be up and moving around as much as possible.
How does your job most directly impact the average person?
Although we may not realize it, zoning touches just about everything we experience in our surroundings. It informs what types of land use can exist in certain areas, where buildings can go, how much density is allowed, and what kinds of amenities (trees, sidewalks, parking, etc.) need to be provided. It’s easy to take these things for granted because you don’t notice them when it’s working well. Zoning is about striking a balance between respecting the rights of individual property owners and safeguarding the interests of the larger community when regulating the built environment.
What is the most interesting project or work experience that you’ve had while with the county?
I really enjoy the correlation between our ordinance work and the immediate impact it can have once changes have been adopted by the Board. For example, earlier this year we worked on updating our industrial land use regulations to protect the County’s limited supply of industrial land and better accommodate the target industries the County is trying to attract. So now if a brewery or biotech startup was looking to locate somewhere in the County, they would hopefully find a lot more options to choose from and a more straightforward approval process.
What is a little-known fact about you?
I have driven a school bus from Charlottesville to Mexico.
What do you do outside of work hours – hobbies, etc.?
I enjoy cooking, gardening, soccer, traveling, and exploring in the woods.