Director of planning announces resignation

Cover to be partner in engineering firm

February 03, 1999|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

With his office under increased scrutiny from newly elected County Executive Janet S. Owens, the director of the county's land-use office announced yesterday he is resigning to take a job with a development engineering firm.

The departure of Steven R. Cover, director of the county's department of Planning and Code Enforcement for the past four years, comes five weeks after Owens demanded to personally review all subdivision applications before they receive Cover's approval, to prevent the possibility of any favors to developers.

Owens' Dec. 23 crackdown on the planning department was in response to a Sun article that revealed that a planning administrator was recommending waivers of county growth-control laws for a firm owned by his father-in-law.

Cover said yesterday that his decision to leave the county government the week of Feb. 17 had nothing to do with the controversy involving his employee, Mark Wedemeyer.

Cover, 42, of Arnold, said he is leaving because the Towson-based engineering firm Daft McCune Walker offered him a position as a principal partner in the company. The company specializes in large residential and commercial developments.

"Daft, McCune and Walker has one of the best reputations in Maryland, and they made me an offer I just couldn't refuse, not only financially but also in terms of my career," Cover said.

But in a letter sent to his staff yesterday, Cover lashed out at his critics and local newspapers.

"To work at PACE can, in many ways, be a thankless job because we often face citizen discontent and unwarranted criticism from the local media," Cover wrote.

Cover's departure was mourned by some observers, who praised his efforts to balance the interests of developers and environmentalists.

Cover listed his top accomplishments as reorganizing the county's planning department, speeding up the processing of building permits and helping to create small committees of citizens to advise the county on land-use issues.

Some environmentalists criticized Cover's department for not enforcing the county's growth-control laws and for being quicker to return the phone calls of builders than community activists.

Owens said Cover, who was appointed by her predecessor, John G. Gary, deserves credit for helping to revise the county's long-term land-use plan.

"He should be very proud of the work he has done in instituting our award-winning General Development Plan," Owens said.

Bob Burdon, president of the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce, praised Cover for handling a difficult job with fairness.

But Michael Shay, a spokesman for an environmental group called South Arundel Citizens for Responsible Development, said Cover allowed development to mar the county's landscape and crowd its schools.

County Councilwoman Barbara Samorajczyk, a Democrat from Annapolis, said Cover's department frustrated the efforts of community activists to view public records.

"I think our county government needs a new openness so our residents can be better informed," Samorajczyk said.

Before Cover took his job with the county in January 1995, he worked as director of planning for John E. Harms development engineering firm in Pasadena. Owens said yesterday she will name an acting director of the land-use office this week.

Pub Date: 2/03/99

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