New Samuel Miller District Supervisor Liz Palmer has selected Karen Firehock of Howardsville to serve as the district’s member of the Albemarle County Planning Commission. Palmer said she chose Firehock because of her experience as a professional planner. Palmer said Firehock also shares her strong belief in the importance of listening to district constituents about their priorities.
Firehock said she is excited to serve as a planning commissioner and described herself as committed to protecting farmland. She said she wants to encourage suitable rural businesses while protecting the natural landscape.
“I will listen carefully and weigh the interests of all parties, while ensuring that the county’s regulations and codes are upheld,” she said. “The county faces many challenges over the coming years in incorporating new demands from growth, while also seeking to preserve the characteristics that make Albemarle a truly special place to live and work. I welcome the opportunity to make a positive difference.”
Firehock has lived in the area for 26 years and moved to southern Albemarle in 2011. She served on the Charlottesville Planning Commission for four years, where she coordinated a new river buffer ordinance for the city, creating a new infill and low-impact development ordinance; changed city zoning for parks from “residential” to “park” to ensure better land use protection; and helped update the city’s comprehensive plan, including its first environmental chapter and strategies for watershed health, energy conservation, trails and the urban forest. She received a design award from the city for her efforts. She also worked on the citywide rezoning plan, which focused on providing denser development around the university while protecting local neighborhoods. During her tenure, the city adopted new historic districts and entrance corridor standards.
Firehock currently runs a statewide nonprofit organization called the Green Infrastructure Center, based in Albemarle, that assists local governments with landscape evaluation and planning. The Center maps forests and farmlands to ensure that rural economies can thrive while also protecting natural resources. She is also an adjunct faculty member at the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture, where she teaches courses in planning and landscape architecture. She holds a Master of Planning degree from the U.Va. School of Architecture and a Bachelor’s degree in natural resources management from the University of Maryland’s School of Agriculture.
Firehock is an avid kayaker and hiker who enjoys the proximity of the James and Rockfish Rivers very near her home. She lives in an historic house, at one time one of the county’s four banks, built circa 1740, which she and her husband, Tim Lewis, have renovated.