After nearly a year, the city of Gaithersburg has named a new director of planning and code administration.
John Schlichting, a Kentlands resident, former Gaithersburg City Council member, and former executive and partner with The JBG Companies — a diversified commercial real estate company based in the Washington area — is scheduled to start work July 9. He will be formally introduced at the Mayor and Council meeting on July 16.
In an interview with The Town Courier, the longtime Gaithersburg resident with strong community credentials (six years on the city’s Planning Commission, then six years on the City Council) sounds excited about his next endeavor. Hearing him, one wonders whether it might be difficult for him to wait until July 9.
He describes the job as dual in nature.
“The job is code administration and planning. The code administration element is new to me in many ways.” He sounds glad to have new things to learn.
On the other hand, he said, “I have been passionate about planning from the beginning and throughout my entire career.” He sounds passionate.
Schlichting’s appointment was announced by the city on June 18 after 10 months, a national search, the screening of more than 60 initial candidates, and a winnowing process that narrowed to five candidates by mid-May.
Schlichting, 52, says his first priority will be learning. “The Planning and Code Administration encompasses six divisions,” he said. “There are also 46 positions, and it will be exciting for me to get to know each and every individual.”
In addition, Schlichting says he wants to understand how the other city departments work and how they relate to the Code and Planning Administration Department.
Looking ahead at planning challenges, Schlichting named three “terrific frontiers: the Montgomery County Fairgrounds, Lakeforest Mall and the Kentlands Downtown.”
In May the Montgomery County Agricultural Center Inc., the nonprofit owner/operator of the 63-acre Gaithersburg fairgrounds got approval from city planners to rezone the spread — bordered by Perry Parkway and Chestnut Street in Gaithersburg’s Olde Towne — from residential to mixed use.
“The fairgrounds represent a potential tremendous extension of the fabric of Olde Towne Gaithersburg,” Schlichting said, adding that public transit is a key element.
Lakeforest Mall is an enclosed, four-anchor shopping center of over a million square feet adjacent to Old Towne Gaithersburg. It is currently for sale, a situation complicated by the fact that each of the four anchor department stores owns its own space.
Schlichting is undaunted. “Lakeforest Mall, the search for a way to revise the traditional suburban mall concept, is very much a 21st century challenge,” he said.
Schlichting’s third named frontier is Kentlands Downtown. He points to the 2007 Kentlands Boulevard Charrette as a source of “tremendous ideas” for the future — and to the advent of the CCT as an impetus for growth.
The six divisions within the Department of Planning and Code Administration include Community Planning, Long-Range Planning, Neighborhood Services, Permits and Inspections, Environmental Services and Animal Control.
John Schlichting has an undergraduate degree in architecture from the University of Virginia and an MBA with concentrations in urban planning and real estate from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He is chair of the Kentlands Community Foundation, a regional nonprofit, philanthropic organization based in Kentlands; a member of the Washington Architectural Foundation; and a former board member of the Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments.
Schlichting will earn an annual salary of $140,000 in his new position as Gaithersburg’s planning and code administration director.
A press release issued by the city invites the public to stop by City Hall to meet Schlichting during his first few weeks of employment. For more information contact the City Manager’s Office at 301.258.6310 or the Planning and Code Administration at 301.258.6330, or visit the city’s website at www.gaithersburgmd.gov.