Brian Haluska, Neighborhood Planner
Where were you born (and raised, if different)?
Born and raised in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia.
When and why did you move to the Charlottesville/Albemarle area?
I came here to go to the University of Virginia in 1997.
What neighborhood do you live in now?
Locust Grove, in the City.
Family (spouse, kids, etc.)?
I’ll have been married to my wife, Beth, for three years.
What is your alma mater and when did you graduate?
I received a Bachelor of Urban and Environmental Planning from the University of Virginia in 2001. I received a Master’s degree in Public Administration from James Madison University in 2010.
What were you doing before you came to work for the City?
I was the City Planner for Waynesboro, Virginia.
Your job title is Neighborhood Planner for the Neighborhood Development Services – what, in your own words, would you say you do?
We assist people in navigating the development review process – whether it is the general public, applicants, even Planning Commissioners and the City Council. We also work on keeping tabs on trends in planning and development nationwide, and hopefully help to put Charlottesville in a good position to react to the external forces that can shape a City.
What is the best part of your job? The most difficult part?
The most difficult part of the job is working with members of our community who have no knowledge of how government works and the regulations we enforce. Zoning regulations in America have become more complex over time, and they can be baffling to a person engaging with the process for the first time. I’m so immersed in the regulations every day, that when I have to explain them to someone who has no knowledge of them, it can feel like I’m speaking a foreign language. Nonetheless, I appreciate and enjoy every opportunity I get to educate others about the planning process and government in general, and the best part is getting the opportunity to speak to college students, community groups and others about what we do and why it is important.
How does your job most directly impact the average person?
I think we most impact the average person when an interesting or controversial project comes along. We help to explain the proposals, as well as show people how to get their voice heard.
What is the most interesting project or work experience that you’ve had while with the City?
The proposed project at 201 Avon Street, wrapping around the Beck-Cohen Building. It was going to be a nine-story, LEED Platinum Building that garnered a lot of media attention. The developer brought along one of his investors who hailed from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to a meeting with me. A highly-regarded New York City Architect was acting as the agent for the developer and made several appearances in front of the Board of Architectural Review and Planning Commission. Looking back, it sounds insane, but at the time we were getting new big project proposals of this scale every month.
The building never got built. While the change in the economy probably played a role in its demise, the fact that we started getting calls from the Secret Service regarding the developer had a lot to do with it as well. I still have one of the posters the architect created to showcase the project on the wall of my office.
What is a little-known fact about you?
I was heavily involved in my school’s drama club growing up, and I applied to UVA as a double major in theater and planning. I lost the taste for theater in the summer prior to enrolling and stayed with planning.
What do you do outside of work hours – hobbies, etc.?
My wife and I are foodies, so we enjoy cooking and dining out. We also enjoy walking with our dog around the City. I’m a fan of all UVA athletics teams, and follow them all fairly closely.