New se­nior plan­ner busy with city work

Cur­rently looking at sub­di­vi­sion reglu­a­tions

The Covington News - - Front Page - By Rachel Oswald

Michelle Larsen, the city of Cov­ing­ton’s new se­nior plan­ner, has some am­bi­tious goals for the city. Among her goals is find­ing a way to main­tain the city’s South­ern charm amidst a wave of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

“I would like to see, that as we grow as a town, that we do it in a sus­tain­able way so we’re tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion how the city will be used by fu­ture gen­er­a­tions,” Larsen said.

Larsen was hired by the city in June as part of Plan­ning and Zon­ing Di­rec­tor Shelly Stiebling’s ef­forts to tighten the city’s plan­ning codes to be ready for a wave of de­vel­op­ment city of­fi­cials be­lieve is in­evitable.

As se­nior plan­ner Larsen said she does a lot of re­search for the city on grants and zon­ing en­force­ment is­sues, writ­ing staff re­ports and site plans.

“ Since Shelly came on board, it seems more de­vel­op­ment is com­ing to the city,” Larsen said. “ It be­came ob­vi­ous to her that some­one needed to take up more of the re­search as­pects.”

Larsen earned her Mas­ters of Sci­ence in city and re­gional plan­ning from Ge­or­gia Tech af­ter com­plet­ing her un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree at Capi­tol Uni­ver­sity in Colum­bus, Ohio where she grew up. Prior to work­ing for the city, Larsen worked for a pri­vate con­sul­tant in At­lanta and a land de­vel­oper in Colum­bus.

“ I wanted to have a ca­reer where I was im­prov­ing peo­ple’s lives, tak­ing a piece of land and cre­at­ing a neigh­bor­hood,” said Larsen of what at­tracted her to the field of city plan­ning in the first place. “As op­posed to so­cial work and fix­ing peo­ple, I wanted to fix places.

Im­prov­ing the city’s “ walk- abil­ity” and mak­ing sure that there are con­nec­tions be­tween new de­vel­op­ments and the city’s heart — it’s square — are im­por­tant to Larsen, who en­joys walk­ing to work for the city from her apart­ment on Emory Street.

“ I love it,” said Larsen of Cov­ing­ton’s small town charm. “ It’s re­ally nice to have a sense of fa­mil­iar­ity.”

She is cur­rently work­ing on a grant ap­pli­ca­tion to ad­dress sub- stan­dard hous­ing in the city. If the city is awarded the grant from the Uni­ver­sity of Ge­or­gia and the Ge­or­gia Depart­ment of Com­mu­nity Af­fairs, it would al­low the city to as­sem­ble a com­mu­nity hous­ing team made up of coun­cil mem­bers, non­prof­its and de­vel­op­ers, to brain­storm so­lu­tions to bring some of the city’s hous­ing up to par.

Larsen as­sisted dur­ing the last stages of the city’s over­haul of its zon­ing or­di­nance, mak­ing sure that the city was in line with other Ge­or­gia com­mu­ni­ties and that the goals of the or­di­nance were achiev­able. She will soon be­gin tackling the city’s sub­di­vi­sion reg­u­la­tions, which the city would like to see re­vised along form- based lines.

Mandi Singer/The Cov­ing­ton News

Se­nior plan­ner: Michelle Larsen stands in front of the City of Cov­ing­ton Plan­ning and Zon­ing Depart­ment where she works as the city’s se­nior plan­ner.

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