Thursday, March 10, 2005

Navigating with an Inflexible Rutter

Yesterday's Capital featured a profile of sorts on the head of the County's Planning and Zoning Department, Joe Rutter. Being an environmentalist, and someone who cares deeply about the future of land use in Anne Arundel County, I suppose I should be deeply offended by Mr. Rutter's very presence, and I that I should denounce him with every ounce of my being, as several environmentalists in the article did. But I'm not offended by his presence, and I don't feel inclined to denounce him. That isn't to say that I don't have significant disagreements with him, because I do, I generally just think the situation is more complicated than that.

From my experience of Mr. Rutter, what you see is generally what you get. He brings a concrete, inflexible mentality to planning and zoning. He wants to rewrite the zoning and subdivision codes (which needed to be done badly), and then follow the directives in those codes to the letter of the law. I don't get the sense that Mr. Rutter is someone who plays favorites, or would loosen the interpretation of the law, if given the chance. I do get the sense that he can't stand to have "looseness" built into the law. He probably has a strong disinclination towards variances and special exceptions, and sees them as evidence of poorly crafted code. He also seems not to play particularly well with others. In the article he speaks derisively of community input, offering, "It's the classic 'how you get a camel' - ask a committee to build a horse." This sort of sentiment, is I think what riles civic activists most.

Executive Owens knew what she was doing when she brought Mr. Rutter in from Howard County. She was getting a land use enforcer. Rutter seems to see things in very black and white terms, and isn't afraid to bulldoze opposition with impolitic sentiments, and he'll be able to do that as long as he retains his loyalty to his political patron, Ms. Owens. This is precisely where Mr. Rutter's achille's heel lies. He has, on numerous occassions that I've witnessed, done the bidding of "the administration" to the detriment of his own department and, what I believe, he thinks is the proper course of action for the County. Mr. Rutter is a straight-edged tool (and I don't mean that to be derogatory, quite the contrary), and the reason we keep getting designs that are out of plumb in the County is not because we lack sound instruments, it's because our carpenter is ill-trained and myopic.



Post a Comment

<< Home