Arundel planning director leaving

Rutter oversaw rule revisions, Meade preparation

November 04, 2006|By Phillip McGowan | Phillip McGowan,sun reporter

Joseph W. Rutter Jr., Anne Arundel County's chief planner who oversaw a major revision of county land-use laws and planning for a huge military expansion around Fort Meade, will step down from his position Dec. 1, Anne Arundel County officials said yesterday.

County Executive Janet S. Owens hired Rutter away from Howard County's planning office in 2003, shortly after she won re-election. Rutter had spent 36 years in Howard's planning department, the last 12 of them as director. Owens accepted his resignation yesterday.

A statement released by the county did not disclose his future plans. Rutter did not return a phone call for comment.

Rutter has been credited with reforming a high-profile county department. Some of his decisions rankled residents, environmental activists and even developers.

"Joe is a lightning rod," Owens said. "He's sort of an equal-opportunity annoyer."

Perhaps his greatest contribution was spearheading the first rewrite of county land-use laws in 30 years. The revisions established a more usable set of rules without the inconsistencies that led to delays in the review process.

The revisions changed everything from how farmers give land to their children to how wooded land is subdivided. They also required developers to set aside 30 percent of each new residential subdivision as open space.

Rutter had argued that land-use laws needed to be simplified, consolidated and toughened.

"He laid out the basis for the future of the county," Owens said. "That rewrite could not have happened without Joe."

Rutter helped make the pitch last year to federal officials that the county had the capacity to handle the growth from thousands of new defense jobs coming over the next decade to Fort Meade. At least 20,000 jobs are expected to arrive at the Army post in the next five years, an influx that will trigger billions of dollars in residential and commercial growth in western Anne Arundel.

Rutter also personally oversaw the planning for the $400 million redevelopment of Parole Plaza, a 1960s-era shopping center that had been in disrepair. He was accused by one county council member of hiding details about the residential-retail-office project. The county approved the redevelopment last year.

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