March 7, 2012

Peter Katz is stepping down from his post as top planner in the county. He started last October.

Peter Katz is stepping down from his post as top planner in the county. He started last October.

Peter Katz, the county’s planning director, has resigned after five months on the job, the Arlington Mercury has learned. Katz, a nationally known figure for his work in "New Urbanism," after a stint as the director for smart growth and urban planning in Sarasota County, Fla.

In a statement today, Robert Brosnan, director of the Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development, said, “Peter and we have come to a mutual agreement that his passion and energies are better suited to consulting than to staff work. Though we both worked hard to make it work, it just ultimately wasn’t the right fit, which we regret.

“The role of Planning Director is a key one in Arlington, and we will take immediate steps to fill the position.”

In an interview today, Katz said that his resignation letter to the county says much the same. He said he likes Arlington and thinks from a planning point-of-view that Arlington does many things right.

Early in the last decade, Katz helped the county develop the “Form Based Code” for Columbia Pike. The code regulates some requirements such as the height of buildings and retail space on the sidewalk level. It leaves to developers other smaller details.

In an address last November, he outlined his views that the government should give clear guidance then step back and allow the development to occur.

He told the the county’s Planning Commission that planners must move away from “obsessive focus on the curlicues on the 12th floor.”

He said that governments must regulate with clarity and precision but then let the development grow on its own.

Katz championed “New Urbanism,” a term he helped develop. It focuses on dense residential areas, mass transit and walkable streets.

He is the author of “New Urbanism: Toward the Architecture of Community,” a book some call a seminal book in planning. Others see New Urbanism with its focus on in-fill and redevelopment as a way to gentrify an area. Smaller, less desireable properties are converted to taller, more dense--and more expensive--properties.

Katz said he plans to build his consulting practice and write more.

In April, he will travel to Los Angeles for the National Planning Conference of the American Planning Association. There he will accept an award with colleagues for work they completed on the Contra Costa Centre.


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March 7, 2012

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