Peter E. Auchincloss, former city Planning Commission chair and water treatment specialist, dies

Peter Eric Auchincloss, past chairman of the Baltimore City Planning Commission and a specialist in the water purification industry, died of an apparent heart attack Oct. 17 at Beebe Healthcare in Lewes, Del. The Dickeyville resident was 57.

His daughter, Sara Auchincloss Goberdhansingh, said her father was on a vacation at Rehoboth Beach, Del., when he began to display symptoms of an acute cardiac incident.

“Peter was able to see issues clearly,” said former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. “He could also get others to see there was a way forward. He lived large, and loved his family and his city and was focused on giving back. He was a model of civic engagement.”

Born in Manchester, Conn., he was the son of Eric E. Auchincloss, a salesman for G. Fox & Co. department stores, and his wife, Barbara J. Perkin, an executive assistant at Loctite glue.

He was a 1978 graduate of the Kingswood Oxford School in West Hartford, Conn., where he was president of a student organization, Shield and Dragon.

He joined the old Merry-Go-Round clothing stores as a 19-year-old and rose through the organization, which was headquartered in Baltimore. He settled in Dickeyville and later left the apparel industry.

He became active in the industrial water purification and treatment business, working for Schumacher and Seiler. He later was a manufacturer’s representative for industrial water filters, pumps and tanks.

He was president and chief executive officer at HydroSource, and in 1992 became president of the Watermark Corp., a firm he founded. He held four patents, two trademarks and copyrights in the field.

Then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer tapped Mr. Auchincloss, a Republican, to sit on the city’s Planning Commission. Mr. Auchincloss went on to be Planning Commission chairman from 1996 to 2008. In 2010, he became chairman of the Parking Authority of Baltimore City, holding the post until 2017.

“He had an unparalleled sense of humor that he used to bring disputing parties to the table,” said William H. Cole, a friend and the president of the Baltimore Development Corp. “To Peter, it was an art form. I watched him employ it many times.”

Mr. Auchincloss worked to get a new master plan for Baltimore City approved in 2005. "What we want to do is develop a useful working document that transcends politics,” he said in an article in The Baltimore Sun.

City Councilman Eric T. Costello, another friend, called Mr. Auchincloss “caring, kind, funny and sharp-witted. He was a guy who always brought a smile to my face, and the faces of so many others. He was insanely loyal and selfless.”

“He was a businessman who threw himself into the civic life of Baltimore with gusto,” said Mr. Costello. “He was a great convener, someone who had the rarest of abilities to bring any group of people together, no matter how far apart they were. It took a lot of energy to keep up with him. He was truly one of a kind.”

A 2007 article in The Sun described how Mr. Auchincloss eked out a compromise between the Seton Hill Association and BGE, which had planned a brick-walled substation in the historic community. The article said Mr. Auchincloss issued an ultimatum. The sparring parties had one month to find a mutually acceptable design.

"If, in a month, people do not come in here hugging, kissing and singing ‘Kumbaya,’ then this chair will design the wall," he was quoted in the article. “And believe me, I don't use a crayon real well."

When a new plan for Seton Hill was approved, Mr. Auchincloss brought a compact disc player with “Kumbaya” and a box of crayons.

“Peter loved life, he loved his friends,” said attorney William E. Carlson. “If you met him once, he was your friend, and he would do anything for his friends. He was a classic raconteur although the stories that he would weave would be about you and him — not about himself.”

Mr. Auchincloss was president of the Dickeyville Community Association from 1991 to 2001. He was a member of the board of trustees of Living Classrooms Foundation from 2015 to 2017.

He was a fan of the Baltimore Ravens and was a regular presence at Orioles opening days. He was fan of Stevie Wonder and Bruce Springsteen.

Mr. Auchincloss was also a donor to the William S. Baer School in West Baltimore. A memorial fund, Gab for Baer, has been established there in his name.

Plans for a memorial service are incomplete.

In addition to his daughter, survivors include his wife of 11 years, Lisa Miller, an academic program assistant in the Johns Hopkins University’s department of psychological and brain sciences; another daughter, Gabrielle Auchincloss, a student at St. Andrew’s University in Scotland; his mother, Barbara, of Baltimore; a half-brother, Jeremy Auchincloss of Scotland; and a granddaughter. Previous marriages ended in divorce.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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