Montgomery County planning director Rollin Stanley resigns

Montgomery County’s embattled planning director, Rollin Stanley, announced Thursday that he is stepping down in mid-May to take a job in another jurisdiction.

Stanley told members of the Planning Board during their regularly scheduled meeting and then met with staff. He would not specify where his new job will be, saying that his new employer hopes to make a formal announcement next week.

Stanley was appointed planning director in 2008. His resignation — first reported on the Web site Maryland Juice — comes less than a month after he issued a retraction for comments he made in a local magazine article in which he characterized a group of residents who questioned his vision for remaking the county as “rich white women” who were “sowing discord.” The article in Bethesda Magazine caused a firestorm and drew a sharp rebuke from his boss, Planning Board Chairman Francoise Carrier. Several members of the community called for his resignation. Stanley issued a retraction and said he would enroll in conflict management classes.

A spokeswoman for the Planning Board said Stanley’ s departure is unrelated. “This came up beforehand,” Valerie Berton said. “This is completely independent of that. They recruited him, and it really has nothing to do with the recent news cycle.”

Stanley, who is paid an annual salary of $185,662, is credited with shepherding through plans to remake the area around White Flint Mall and to create a “Science City” development in Gaithersburg. But his push for denser, walkable transit-oriented communities and his brusque manner often rubbed some longtime civic activists the wrong way.

“I’m a little bit surprised,’’ said Jenny Sue Dunner, one of the women Stanley was referring to in the magazine article. “I know it was a difficult time for him for a few weeks, and it seemed as though it was behind us. I certainly wish him well.”

Officials said Stanley, who oversees a staff of 140, brought new energy to Montgomery.

“I’m in mourning, actually,” said Montgomery County Council member Nancy Floreen (D-At Large). “I’m really sad that he’s abandoning us. He really has injected new blood into what had been a relatively moribund environment in terms of planning for the future.”

Stanley focused on urbanizing areas near mass transit nodes such as White Flint and Wheaton. In White Flint, he backed the developers of North Bethesda Market, a 600,000-square-foot project with a Whole Foods and 400 luxury apartments that, at 24 stories, became the county’s tallest private-sector building.

Stanley, who grew up in Ontario, frequently mentioned Canadian and European cities in arguing for Montgomery to urbanize and kept a blog where he mused and posted videos on topics including sidewalks, grocery stores, zoning and food trucks. He is fond of the phrase: “No place is worth visiting that doesn’t have a parking problem.”

Lori Aratani writes about how people live, work and play in the D.C. region for The Post’s Transportation and Development team.
Jonathan O'Connell has covered land use and development in the Washington area for more than five years.
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