The man touted by DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis as “the best planning director that DeKalb County has ever had” has resigned after a year on the job.
Gary A. Cornell was appointed by Ellis in January 2011 to serve as the interim director of the department of planning and sustainability.
County spokesman Burke Brennan said Cornell tendered two letters of resignation.
In the first letter, received by Ellis in December, Cornell said, “I believe the time has come for me to take a new direction in 2013.”
Cornell wrote that it was his intent to return to private practice “upon the confirmation of a successor to this position.”
A second letter, dated Jan. 4, made the resignation effective immediately.
Cornell has 33 years of professional experience in city and regional planning, including seven years as the director of Gwinnett County’s Department of Planning and Development, seven years as a principal transportation planner at the Atlanta Regional Commission, three years as planner in residence at Florida State University, and 11 years as a senior community planning consultant for Jacobs Engineering.
Cornell’s appointment met with resistance on the Board of Commissioners; some board members expressed concern that Ellis had hired an interim planning director when interim positions are usually filled by an existing employee.
“I believe this action is illegal,” said Commissioner Lee May, said at the time.
In July 2012, Cornell, along with Ellis and an associate planning director, were named in a lawsuit over a land displacement permit for a proposed North Druid Hills subdivision.
Bobby Buckler and Anthony McCullar filed the lawsuit “because they won’t let us put a cul-de-sac on our property,” Buckler said at the time.
The county recently gave Buckler permission to go proceed with part of the subdivision. The lawsuit was dropped Dec. 19, according to court records.
On Jan. 7, Ellis named Luz Borrero, the county’s deputy chief operating officer of development, as the interim planning director.
Ellis also said Borrero “has initiated a national search for a permanent planning director and anticipated that a qualified candidate should be presented to my office for consideration and presentation to the Board of Commissioners within the next 60 days.”