GIS data being merged with Minecraft—yes THAT Minecraft

Posted on June 30, 2017

Fifty-five million people a month play the video game sensation Minecraft. Created and designed by Swedish game designer Notch Persson, and later fully developed and published by Mojang, its creative and building aspects enable players to build constructions out of textured cubes in a 3D-generated world. Soon, players will be able to use Kenton County as a base for their creative talents.

With guidance from GIS staff, Ethan Paff, a recent graduate of Scott High School and Kenton County Academies’ Bio Medical program, created a block-by-block Minecraft replica of Kenton County that will be available to the public soon.

“Ethan suggested building Kenton County in Minecraft shortly after he arrived last fall,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, Executive Director of PDS. “He’d spent time with our GIS staff and recognized quickly that he could create Kenton County within the digital world of Minecraft. As we discussed what benefits we’d realize from his efforts, we quickly came to the conclusion that the video game would help children understand the value of GIS.”

Gordon says it took Paff most of the school year to merge GIS data into the Minecraft realm, working several hours a week on it. He’s working part-time this summer on the project, attempting to complete the Kenton County base before he heads for Brown University this fall.

In recent years Minecraft has been used to teach children math, environmental science, and programming. Paff’s project will help the public understand how to view their county, how they can work to alter their surroundings, and how to plan better communities.

Minecraft is an open world sandbox video game where players can build, create, and change the world around them. It’s played by people of all ages with a core demographic under 21. With over 100 million registered users worldwide, it is the second bestselling video game of all time, falling behind only to Tetris.

Staff expects the full version of Minecraft/Kenton County to be released by the end of this summer. For more information on this project contact Ryan Hermann at rhermann@pdskc.org.

New subdivisions springing up in “built-out” communities

Posted on June 30, 2017
Fort Mitchell, Lakeside Park, and Park Hills—three communities that most would agree are “built out”—have joined Independence as locations for new residential development. Over the course of the last 12 months PDS staff has seen developers propose subdivisions in those cities to meet demand for locations in more established areas.

“The majority of new subdivision development that we see occurs in the City of Independence,” said Scott Hiles, CPC, Director of Infrastructure Engineering. “On average, we see about one-half to two-thirds of all subdivision development occur in Independence on large acreage tracts that were generally farm or pasture land. The bulk of the remaining subdivisions occur in Erlanger, Taylor Mill, and South Covington.”

During the past year, however, staff has reviewed three developments proposed in unlikely cities.

“Staff saw new subdivisions proposed in Fort Mitchell, Lakeside Park, and Park Hills,” said Hiles. “The new subdivision in Fort Mitchell was very recent. In fact, we’ve just had an initial meeting with the developer and we’re told that the plans are currently being drawn to submit to staff. The new subdivision in Lakeside Park was approved in June of 2016 and the one in Park Hills was approved in October of 2016.”

Since these are in-fill developments, they tend to occur on smaller tracts of land as opposed to those staff sees normally. Hiles says a typical development in the cities in which subdivisions routinely occur may be as many as 50 acres at a time. But the largest of the recent in-fill developments is ten acres and the smallest is just over four acres in size.

The eight-acre subdivision in Park Hills called Audubon Forest is along Audubon Road and has been approved for 25 single-family lots. The four-acre subdivision in Lakeside Park called Saint James Place is along Turkeyfoot Road and has been approved for seven single-family lots.

“Because Saint James Place was a relatively small subdivision, all of the infrastructure and lot creation was completed by the end of 2016. Homes are ready to be built along this new street in Lakeside Park today,” said Hiles.

Staff noted that the exact details for the new subdivision in Fort Mitchell aren’t available since the formal development plan hasn’t been submitted, but the subdivision will likely not exceed ten new home sites.

“Of the three communities where these in-fill developments are occurring, there hasn’t been a new development in well over a decade,” said Hiles. “In the case of one of the communities, it’s been 20 years since that community has seen a new subdivision.”

For a list of approved, ongoing subdivisions as well as the status of their progress—including how many lots have been approved and created—visit the LINK-GIS website.

Summer interns and co-op students help get the work done

Posted on June 30, 2017
When you think of summer you think of going to the beach, swimming, picnics and eating al fresco. But if you’re a high school or college student you think about summer jobs or internships. PDS is supporting students this summer with employment for four special student interns.

Two of PDS’ interns have joined staff for a second time. Aileen Lawson is a student from the University of Cincinnati’s Department of Design, Art, Architecture, and Planning who is again working with the PDS’ planning staff. She says, “The Planning and Zoning department here serves such a wide variety of work, from small area studies to Kenton County Planning Commission issues to day-to-day services for all of Kenton County’s jurisdictions. My experience here has been so diverse; I’ve gotten a richer experience that will serve me well when I enter the workforce after graduation.”

Also returning is Mitchell Masarik, a recent graduate from the University of Louisville’s GIS program. He said, "When I first started at PDS last summer I was nervous and anxious as I began my first few days in the office. However, after meeting and getting to know staff members, I immediately felt at home and that I was truly part of something bigger than myself, a team, striving to give the best products and services to the customers that we serve.”

He goes on to say, “I can honestly say that thanks to PDS and its amazing staff I’m constantly putting my skills to the test in new scenarios and never feeling left out of the overall conversation of success that our team tries to deliver on a daily basis."

The other two interns are first timers to PDS. Dillion Rhodus, a GIS intern, attends Virginia Tech and is trying Cincinnati on for size with thoughts of relocating here after graduation. Many say that Cincinnati is a “hungry” city for new talent, according to Rhodus.

"I’m very excited to be working with LINK-GIS this summer. I’m eager to not only apply my skills that I've learned at Virginia Tech but also to see what I can contribute to the team and how I can grow as an individual through this opportunity,” states Dillon about his internship with PDS.

Ethan Paff, a recent graduate from Scott High School and Kenton County Academies’ Bio Medical program, is pursuing his first paid internship out of school in GIS. Ethan will be heading to Brown University in the fall. Paff said, "Having an internship means having the ability to experiment with one's own future, to walk several paths before deciding on one."

The real work and résumé builders that PDS interns are pursuing consists of many projects; addressing, land use inventories, small area studies, rights-of-way and easements, and economic development to name a few. “Having interns is essential for PDS to help us learn how to bridge our demographic gaps in reaching our audience,” said Trisha Brush, GISP, Director of GIS Administration.

While working closely with our staff, interns receive on-the-job training and knowledge. In turn, PDS gains different perspectives and fresh ideas that help bridge the generational gaps.

All in all, having interns join staff offers new energy and awareness as PDS does its share to contribute to the workforce readiness movement.

Kenton County’s new CodeRED™ program built atop GIS data

Posted on June 30, 2017

Until recently, the only ways local governments had to warn their citizens of emergencies were through radio and television stations and local sirens. Kenton County residents are now also able to receive those warnings via telephone, text message, or email through the CodeRED™ program, a recent addition approved and implemented by Kenton Fiscal Court.

CodeRED™ is an emergency notification system tailored to address-specific locations. When emergency situations arise, notices are sent to those in the area who might be affected. Kenton County’s GIS data, which is managed by PDS, provides the basis for these notifications.

At the request of Tommy Thompson, Executive Director of Kenton County Emergency Communications, LINK-GIS has provided address points, road centerlines, and county boundary information to be used in this emergency notification system, a joint effort between Kenton and Boone Counties. PDS will maintain the address database from which the Kenton County system operates.

Here’s how it works –

Citizens sign up for the free service by providing the address of their residence and/or place of business, phone number(s) and email address(es). When there is an emergency near those address, notifications are sent. Some situations which might trigger notifications include:

• fires;
• floods;
• amber alerts;
• boil water notices;
• shelter-in-place warnings; and
• evacuations.

Accurate notifications can only happen if you keep your information current. As Kenton County Homeland Security & Emergency Management Director Steve Hensley stated, “We need all residents to take the time to update their information. The success of this system is dependent upon citizens entering their information. The more accurate contacts we have, the better we can notify county residents of emergencies.”

Those who want to learn more can find it on Kenton County’s website. To update contact information, use this link and follow the given instructions.

Take time to protect yourself and your loved ones today!


Z21; it’s all about bringing zoning codes into the 21st Century

Posted on June 30, 2017

You’re the owner of a retail business created 30 years ago. You’ve operated continuously—and successfully—under the same business plan since you first opened your doors. But, because retail today is different than back in 1987, your business is: (1) losing out on growth opportunities; (2) having difficulties in addressing new trends; and (3) finding that new fixes are only good enough to address the current problem at hand. The world has changed but you haven’t. What do you do?

Now, consider you’re an elected leader of a community. You’ve operated under a zoning ordinance that was adopted 30 years ago to guide the growth of your city. But, because citizen expectations today are different than back in 1987, your community is: (1) experiencing a surge in residential remodeling and updating in place of constructing new bigger homes; (2) receiving increasing requests for “unique and different places;” and (3) facing new calls for flexibility and efficiencies in your development review processes from businesses and developers who want to meet these new demands. The world has changed but your community hasn’t. What do you do?

The obvious answer in both scenarios is to update your plans and ways of doing business.

The second scenario is reality in most Kenton County jurisdictions. And just like in the retail business scenario, growth and development/redevelopment is sometimes hampered by outdated regulations.

PDS staff is embarking on a much-needed multi-year project to review and update many of Kenton County’s zoning ordinances. Most have served as regulatory infrastructure for nearly 40 years. And, like all aging infrastructure, they’re beginning to create problems. Almost everything has changed since the 1980s and the ordinances’ deficiencies are becoming more and more apparent.

As evidence of this point, public discussion leading to Kenton County's comprehensive plan, Direction 2030: Your Voice. Your Choice, included numerous calls for updated regulations. Those calls prompted planners to include the issue within several goals, objectives, and recommendations of that plan.

Like the efforts that created the 1980s model, this initiative will affect the county's future for years.

PDS has contracted with Rundell Ernstberger Associates out of Indianapolis to work with each of the 12 participating  jurisdictions. This collaborative process will review the current zoning ordinances and the degree to which they are meeting each jurisdictions’ development goals and those expressed in Direction 2030. It will also provide individualized reports to each jurisdiction for its review and discussion.

This information and the resulting conclusions can then be used as a guide to inform each jurisdiction where changes and updates need to occur. PDS staff will then work with each to craft tailored regulations.

The principal goal of this project, a purpose that is supported by Direction 2030, is to bring Kenton County’s zoning ordinances into the 21st Century so they can once again meet the expectations of local businesses, residents, and elected officials.


Building Safety Month focuses on benefits of building codes

Posted on June 01, 2017

May is Building Safety Month. Sponsored by the International Code Council and International Code Council Foundation, the annual campaign to highlight building safety reminds the public about the critical role of our communities’ largely unknown guardians of public safety––our local code officials––who assure us of safe, efficient, and livable buildings.

“Code Officials-Partners in Community Safety and Economic Growth” is the theme for Building Safety Month in 2017. It encourages all Americans to raise awareness of the importance of building safety; green and sustainable building; pool, spa and hot tub safety; and new technologies in the construction industry.

During its May business meeting, Kenton County Fiscal Court and Judge/Executive Kris Knochelmann presented PDS’ Brian Sims, Chief Building Officer for PDS, with a proclamation declaring May 2017 as Building Safety Month (photo).

PDS encourages Kenton County citizens to join with their communities in participation in Building Safety Month activities.



Geotechnical requirements providing guidance for new streets

Posted on June 01, 2017

Much has been written and said about Kenton County’s now two-year-old subdivision regulations and the specifications it includes for new street construction. One of the main reasons for the increased focus is the application of geotechnical engineering testing and reporting standards included in the regulations.

“Staff recommended increasing the geotechnical engineering standards in the subdivision development process from the beginning of the effort to write the new regulations,” said Scott Hiles, CPC, Director of Infrastructure Engineering. “We knew that getting the geotechnical engineer involved to evaluate the suitability of the soils that supported the pavements was an important part of providing pavements that didn’t break down prematurely.”

The results of the new standards are becoming apparent just now.

“The Kenton County Planning Commission was concerned about subdivisions that had already been approved at the time the new regulations were adopted,” said Hiles. “For those developments, changing the rules that governed them mid-stream didn’t seem fair.”

Members of the planning commission approved a grace period for most subdivisions that were approved at the time the new regulations were adopted. Those developments were allowed to continue using the old regulations under certain conditions.

“That meant those previously-approved developments didn’t have to provide the additional engineering to evaluate the suitability of the soils,” said Hiles. This grace period initially limited the number of subdivision developments that were required to have the additional geotechnical engineering.

Even with the grace period, there have been 13 subdivisions since the increased standards were adopted that were required to get a geotechnical engineer’s report that evaluated the soils.

“Staff had long suspected that a major contributing factor to premature street failure was the presence of poor soils incapable of supporting the standard pavement design,” said Hiles. “But without the geotechnical assessment and oversight there was no way to require that the poor soils supporting the new streets be improved.”

Of the 13 subdivisions required to get a geotechnical engineer’s report, eight were identified as containing problem soils that would not produce the strengths necessary to adequately support the street pavements.

“That means that without the additional geotechnical engineering required by the new regulations, some of the new streets would have been constructed on soils incapable of providing proper support. Those streets could have failed prematurely because of those poor soils.”

Hiles said that of the eight subdivisions where poor soils were identified, the recommendations to remedy the issue ranged between a combination of undercutting the poor soils and replacing them with new soil capable of producing adequate strengths, to chemical stabilization of the poor soils.


GIS staffer recognized for design work in national competition

Posted on June 01, 2017

A national panel of judges selected an entry designed by Louis Hill, AICP, GISP, PDS’ geospatial data analyst, as the best in this year’s GIS Certification Institute’s annual map competition. The theme of this year’s contest was “Disaster Response” and entries were required to show how GIS could be, or has been used in a disaster response scenario.

Maps could show disaster preparation; the use of GIS during a disaster to manage emergencies, people, supplies, etc.; or, the use of GIS during post-disaster recovery efforts.

The winning entry was titled “Piner, KY Tornado 2012” The 36 x 48-inch poster map demonstrated the storm’s impacts in detail and how GIS was used by field inspection teams for damage assessment after the EF-4 tornado struck southern Kenton County.

“We didn’t take this topic lightly when choosing to enter this map,” said Hill. “While we're very much aware that four people died as a direct result of this storm, we felt that this was an opportunity to continue generating positive outcomes from this negative event.”

The most important of these positives was a new emergency warning siren installed in the Piner community. Much of this project was funded with donations from Duke Energy, Owen Electric Cooperative, and the Rotary Club of Kenton County. Before the March 2nd tornado, no emergency warning siren or system existed in the impacted area.

The Piner-Fiskburg Fire Department applied for and received a grant to purchase a new backup generator for the fire station, which did not have one previously. When the storm hit southern Kenton County, most fire stations were without power.

Finally, the paper damage assessment forms used by the Kentucky Emergency Management team to survey field damage have been upgraded to digital forms. First responders can now access the forms on tablet devices such as iPads to record field damage without the need to transfer the information from paper forms to spreadsheets.

The winning map is one in PDS’ series of analytical maps produced through its NKYmapLAB initiative. The initiative analyzes a wide variety of tabular data on a regular basis and presents them in a more visual format that facilitates understanding by the public and its elected leaders.

The Piner Tornado entry was awarded $250 which will be donated to the Kentucky Association of Mapping Professionals (KAMP) Student Scholarship Fund. Hill currently serves as president-elect of KAMP.

For additional information about this project contact Louis Hill, AICP, GISP. The Piner Tornado map and other NKYmapLAB products are available online and on Twitter @NKYmapLAB.



Staff assumes role with county economic development group

Posted on June 01, 2017

Kenton County Judge/Executive Kris Knochelmann formed a site readiness taskforce in 2016 to analyze land in the county and identify parcels for industrial development. The taskforce membership includes representatives from Kenton County Fiscal Court, PDS, Northern Kentucky Tri-ED, the Northern Kentucky Water District, Duke Energy, REDI Cincinnati, SD1, and citizen stakeholders.

PDS and TRI-ED have been tasked with looking at areas in Kenton County for future industrial development.

“The goal is to determine where industrial development is most appropriate for the future and change the future land use vision for those areas in Direction 2030, the county’s comprehensive plan. If we set these areas aside now and plan for the necessary infrastructure to support manufacturing, we’ll provide future generations with job opportunities,” said Emi Randall, AICP, RLA, Director of Planning and Zoning Administration.

PDS planners and GIS staff have worked with Tri-ED to conduct an examination of all 62,206 Kenton County parcels. Through careful analysis of multiple characteristics, certain parcels were identified as having industrial potential. Parcels that were unsuited due to parcel size, existing buildings, developmentally-sensitive areas (environmental concerns), zoning, access to major roads, and access to water and sewer infrastructure were eliminated.

The analysis confirmed what many suspected; there is little land available in Kenton County for manufacturing. The initial GIS analysis yielded only 20 parcels in the county that meet all identified real estate criteria for industrial development. Among those, only six parcels can be made ready for industrial development within the next five years.

Furthermore, the only site on the list that is ready today for industrial development is the Showcase Cinemas Site in Erlanger, which is currently under contract for development.

Through the generous support of Duke Energy, nationally-renowned site selection consultant McCullum Sweeney, was contracted to provide guidance to Tri-ED for these six sites. Upon further scrutiny, there is much work needed to get these sites prepared for economic development.

“Not only do we have very few sites available for industrial development, we have very high development costs to get those sites build-pad ready,” said Wade Williams, Senior Vice President of Tri-ED. “Environmental mitigation costs are extremely high and these sites still need utility improvements and grading. They’re not ready today.”

Kenton County is home to numerous development patterns and land uses within its boundaries. The land use element of Direction 2030 states the following; “There is a need for land which has the appropriate infrastructure in place to support industrial uses. Large parcels (50 acres or more) of ready to build upon land are in particularly short supply and efforts should be made to increase the amount of such land in the county.”

The taskforce will work over the course of 2017 to develop a strategy to bring additional sites into the short-term pipeline for industrial development.

 



Small area study, cell tower regulations take top state honors

Posted on June 01, 2017

The Kenton County Planning Commission (KCPC) has shown once again that it is a leader in planning in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Two major PDS-managed projects won top honors from the American Planning Association Kentucky Chapter (APA-KY) in its 2017 annual planning awards competition.

Kenton County’s Regulations for Cellular Antenna Towers and Small Cell System Towers earned the Outstanding Project/Program Tool Award and the recently-adopted Villa Hills Study earned state recognition for Outstanding Achievement in a Small Jurisdiction. Both awards reflect the excellent planning efforts that were undertaken in Kenton County in 2016-2017. The two projects represented major parts of the PDS work program accomplished within the last year.

“We’re humbled that our peers selected to recognize these projects,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, Executive Director of PDS. “Our efforts are always pursued with others in mind. Whether we’re talking about the planning commission [for the cell tower regulations], the City of Villa Hills and the Benedictine Sisters [for the Villa Hills Study], or those who call Kenton County home. At the end of the day, we work to help combine ideas… to create a vision. These awards really belong to KCPC and Villa Hills.”

In response to rapid changes and growing demand of personal cell services in Kenton County, KCPC facilitated and adopted new cell tower regulations. Adopted in May 2016, these regulations represent the first update to any aspect of the regulations in nearly 15 years.

“While the personal cell service industry has advanced technology over the past 20 years, little has been done locally or statewide to address these changes,” said Andy Videkovich, AICP, PDS’ current planning manager. “KCPC recognized the paradigm shift coming and responded. It was critical to take the lead on this issue.”

The regulations were developed over a six-month period under the guidance of the planning commission. The process included input from Kenton County jurisdictions and industry experts. Through careful planning and involving many stakeholders, the resulting cell tower regulations are meeting the expectations and goals that the planning commission set out to address.

“Several jurisdictions outside of Kenton County have used components of KCPC’s regulations in their efforts,” Videkovich added.

The Villa Hills Study was a 15-month planning process that examined some of the last land within Villa Hills suitable for improvements. The planning process reviewed 240 acres within the predominantly built out community and crafted recommendations for strategic change. The final plan is different because its planning horizon is only few years rather than the several decades traditional plans examine.

The Villa Hills Study is currently moving towards implementation. The Benedictine Sisters of Covington, the major property owner in the study area, closed a request for proposals window for the sale of the property in April 2017. The Sisters are currently working through the proposals to determine the future of the site. PDS staff anticipates working with the new property owner and the city on any necessary zoning amendments in the coming months.

“We look forward to continuing this award-winning standard for all our future efforts. Even if those projects aren’t recognized formally, we see it as our responsibility to provide our communities and residents with the same standard of work,” Gordon concluded.

 



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