Entries for 2015

Done! County Planning Commission adopts new subdivision regulations

Posted on March 25, 2015

On March 10 the Kenton County Planning Commission voted unanimously to adopt new subdivision regulations for all Kenton County jurisdictions; those new provisions became effective at midnight that night. This is the first time a comprehensive rewrite of the regulations has been pursued since they were put into effect originally in 1978.

This vote completed a year-long effort by staff, the Kenton County Mayors’ Group, and a committee of the planning commission that began with four overriding goals: to produce a document that is efficient to use for developers and staff alike; to provide greater design flexibility for developers and ultimately the buying public; to promote better coordination with other governmental agencies that play a role in the subdivision review and approval process; and most importantly, to provide greater taxpayer protection. 

The public effort began when staff posted the initial rough draft of the document online for review in December 2010. Since that time staff and a committee of planning commissioners worked through hundreds of suggested revisions made by various stakeholder groups such as the Home Builders Association and Engineering Society.

“It was a primary concern of the planning commission committee to be open to all the comments that stakeholders wanted to present,” said Scott Hiles, CPC, PDS’ director of infrastructure engineering. “Members knew that the process would be grueling but they wanted all of the groups that participated to understand that they had a voice and that their suggestions were given proper consideration.”

As this process to reach consensus moved forward, the final draft began to take shape slowly, with the exception of the proposed standards for streets and the earthwork that supports them.

“There was a major disagreement between the groups with respect to street design,” said Hiles. “The rest of the document was coming together, but no one could agree on common ground when it came to streets and particularly the drainage improvements that were needed to make them last.”

Providing new and improved street design standards was the reason for one of staff’s original and arguably most important goals—greater taxpayer protection.

“When streets fail prematurely, it’s the taxpayers that ultimately pay to fix them,” said Hiles. “Creating a set of regulations that resulted in better streets to preclude premature street failures that must be borne by the taxpayer was one of the motivations for this whole project.” 

In response to the impasse on street design, Planning Commission Chair Paul Darpel challenged a group of engineers along with representatives of the Kenton County Mayor’s Group and the Home Builders Association to tackle the issue. The group, made up of Henry Fischer, Jim Viox, Ted Vogelpohl, Joe Kramer, and Mark Brueggemann, began work in the middle of 2013 and presented its final recommendations to staff in late 2014. Those standards were endorsed by both the Mayor’s Group and planning commission committee.

“The planning commission committee and all involved were impressed with their work,” said Darpel. “They did exactly what we asked them to do. To reach consensus on such a difficult topic was no easy task. The planning commission has a great deal of appreciation for their effort and the results they achieved.”

The consensus reached on street standards was the last piece of the puzzle staff needed to move the regulations on to a public hearing and adoption. The new regulations are now viewable online and staff is available to answer questions.


Erlanger City Council vote approves Commonwealth Station form district

Posted on March 25, 2015

On March 3 the Erlanger City Council voted to approve Commonwealth Station map and text amendments. The approval of these issues will pave the way for mixed use development adjacent to the interchange of Commonwealth Avenue with I-71/75. The new regulations are a step intended to improve the look and feel of the gateway to Erlanger.

The city initiated the Commonwealth Station project in 2012. Over the course of two-and-a-half years, a group of dedicated residents, business owners, and city staff met monthly to consider the community’s vision for the 42 acres of land on Commonwealth Boulevard across from the city building. That vision was then translated into regulations designed to encourage expanded uses, increased density, smaller setbacks, and architectural consistency.

“This is a very positive step for the community,” says Andy Videkovich, AICP, PDS senior planner and project manager. “This code does not infringe on property owners’ rights to use and develop their property in an economical way. Rather, it speaks to the city’s expectation that development provide an enticement for people to want to live, work, and play in Erlanger.”

Very careful consideration was given throughout the process to give deference to existing land owners. The area currently contains a number of buildings and uses that provide needed services to the adjacent community. In recognition of the impact some of the new regulations could have on an existing property owner, several rounds of changes were made to the application and processing sections of the new code prior to its adoption.

“The vision for Commonwealth Station is long-term,” says Videkovich. “Changes will occur over time, and this code is just one tool to encourage that change. It will also take work by the residents, city staff, and city elected officials to stand by this code and its vision for it to be successful.”

 Form-based codes have become popular nationally and locally as an alternative to traditional zoning codes. Traditional zoning codes focus primarily on the separation of land uses, to the detriment of the public realm created by such codes. Form-based codes are community vision-based and focus on an integrated built form.

More information on form-based codes can be found online at the Form-Based Codes Institute (formbasedcodes.org).

Staffer scheduled to speak to national audience on Direction 2030 website

Posted on March 25, 2015

When planners from around the country gather in Seattle next month to learn about the latest innovative professional techniques and tools, Direction 2030 will be part of the program. Direction 2030 is Kenton County’s new comprehensive plan and is completely web-based—the first completely digital comprehensive plan in the region.

The online plan will be presented by James Fausz, AICP, PDS principal planner, as part of a panel discussion to educate other professionals about the benefits and challenges of digital documentation efforts. Other presenters on the team include Justin Goodwin from MKSK in Columbus, Ohio, Devayani Puranik from the City of Dublin, Ohio, and Emi Randall, AICP, from the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI).

“Throughout the creation of our regional web-based plan, we researched what others were doing and there wasn’t much out there to research,” explained Randall. “All of the presenters on our team have learned from each other about this new and interactive way to provide information to the community. We thought there were likely others around the nation who would be interested in the topic and we are all very excited to share our experiences with planners from across the country.”

The group will present and exhibit the Dublin Ohio Community Plan, OKI’s How Do We Grow from Here?, and Kenton County’s Direction 2030 comprehensive plan. The anticipated program includes how the plans originated, technical aspects of how the websites were created, live demos of the websites and interactive maps, and time for questions from the audience.

“One of the major goals we wanted to accomplish with our Direction 2030 project was to think differently about how content was conveyed, specifically looking at the document’s finished form,” said Fausz. “We haven’t been able to find many examples of other online plans outside of the three we will be presenting so we think there is going to be a lot of interest in our session.”

Their session, No Hard Copies; Creating Web-Based Plans, will be presented as part of the American Planning Association’s “The Planning Office of the Future” series. This series examines a variety of topics that relate to the planning profession in a constantly changing world of new technologies and evolving expectations from the community.



UC planning students want to engage the public on KY 536 land use issues

Posted on March 24, 2015
An important part of any public sector planning effort is the engagement of residents and incorporation of their feedback into the final recommendations. The KY 536 land use study project being undertaken by planning students from the University of Cincinnati (UC) is no different. A new and innovative approach for public engagement will be used to gather input for this critical effort.

New technology makes it possible for citizens to have their voices heard in pioneering ways. PDS, in conjunction with UC’s College of Design, Art, Architecture, and Planning will embark on an online public engagement effort for the KY 536 student project. While online public engagement has been used by PDS in the past, it has never been used as the only platform for public feedback.

This new engagement effort will allow residents to provide feedback when convenient to do so. This effort will commence later in March. Additional information will be disseminated via this newsletter, the PDS website, and social media platforms prior to the beginning of the project.

View the reference map


Urban residents, groups gear up for Direction 2030 implementation

Posted on March 02, 2015
Efforts to implement Direction 2030, Kenton County’s new comprehensive plan, are currently underway in the urban subarea of the county. The urban subarea is one of four such areas identified within Direction 2030 as having a distinct development character and associated needs. It is the second subarea targeted for implementation by PDS staff. Other subareas are rural, suburban, and first-ring suburban.

Implementation will kick off with a series of meetings with city staff, local officials, and representatives from agencies and organizations in the urban project area which includes Ludlow, Bromley, and the urban areas of Covington.

While the project has just begun recently, the primary objectives have been set. They are to focus on action-oriented tasks which directly implement the recommendations of Direction 2030. The urban areas of Kenton County currently contain a number of agencies and organizations whose missions revolve around fostering better communities. Initial work includes meeting with stakeholders to identify those areas of implementation that would accelerate redevelopment efforts within the urban core.

“The momentum that has been generated by redevelopment projects coupled with increased demand for space within urban area provides a backdrop for building a dynamic area,” said Michael Ionna, AICP, principal planner for PDS and project manager for urban implementation efforts. “We believe this can help initiate a true live, work, and play environment.”

Ionna asserts further that the subarea process allows staff to work on those key projects, across jurisdictions that will assist in creating a strong urban core.”

The initial life of the urban subarea project is anticipated to last between six to eight months. Following this phase of the project, staff will begin work on planning processes and collaborative efforts to implement solutions which provide the greatest impact to the residents of the urban subarea.

Efforts are currently underway to create a website that will provide information on all Direction 2030-related implementation efforts including those in the urban subarea and is anticipated to be launched in mid-March.

Planning manager named Outstanding Woman of Northern Kentucky

Posted on March 02, 2015
Seven Outstanding Women of Northern Kentucky for 2015 will be honored at a ceremony in April. One of them is PDS’ own Sharmili Reddy, AICP, Planning Manager.

The annual awards celebrate women who exemplify notable achievements, outstanding service in their professions or to the Northern Kentucky community, and the qualities of personal integrity, perseverance and leadership.

Toyota, the presenting sponsor of the awards, released the honorees' names Monday.

Reddy was named in the Emerging Leaders category along with Claire E. Parsons, associate, Civil Rights litigation, Adams, Stepner, Woltermann & Dusing, PLLC.

Others named for 2015 awards include: Karen Cheser, deputy superintendent of Boone County Schools; Candace S. McGraw, CEO of the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport; Kristi Nelson, general counsel and SVP of Shared Business Services; Donna Salyers, owner of Donna Salyers' Fabulous Furs; and, Dr. Lynne M. Saddler, M.D., MPH, district director of health, Northern Kentucky Health Department.

All winners will be recognized at a luncheon and awards ceremony beginning at noon April 16 at The METS Center, 3861 Olympic Blvd.

Strengthening economy, mild weather spur building permit workload

Posted on March 02, 2015
Most preseason forecasts for our winter weather seemed to include another polar vortex like what we endured last year. As of this week, however, we have had one very minor snow incident and this week’s measureable snowfall. Mild temperatures have been the norm in Kenton County. What does this mean to the construction industry? Full speed ahead.

PDS’ building department has seen an increase of 188 permits, 118 plan reviews, and 235 inspections during the three recent months of November through January from the same period the year before.  

“Typically in the winter, we have a month or two where we can play catch up on old files right before the spring busy season hits but that hasn’t occurred this year,” said Brian Sims, CBO, PDS’ chief building official. “Hopefully, that is a sign of good things to come.”

Even with the increase in workload and the enforcement of new codes that went into effect last year, PDS is maintaining its commitment to a short turnaround times on plans as well as quick inspections out in the field.

KCPC, staff see increase in applications for communications towers

Posted on March 02, 2015
There has been an increase in new cell tower applications in Kenton County. Following a five-year period during which no new cell towers were constructed, PDS staff has processed two applications within the past four months. Time will determine whether this trend continues.

Larry Perry, a nationally-recognized radio frequency engineer and consultant to PDS, states that this trend may continue as the economy improves, technology and data speeds increase, and wireless providers seek to fill the holes in their networks.

“Part of the reason the need for new towers is increasing is LTE (long-term evolution) technology that is so popular today,” says Perry. “LTE technology reduces signal coverage somewhat while increasing the speed of the data that is transmitted.”

In addition to new cell towers, PDS’ Building Codes Administration Department has also received numerous permit applications to upgrade equipment on existing cell towers and structures.

New cell towers are often the most contentious issues that a planning commission hears and decides. The two most common complaints and objections that the Kenton County Planning Commission (KCPC) hears at public hearings are the loss of property values and the aesthetics of towers.

These objections by themselves, however, are usually not sufficient for denying an application. To deny an application, the planning commission must have “substantial evidence” to deny an application. While property values and aesthetics are important concerns for residents and communities, often times little factual evidence is submitted to the planning commission as a basis for its decision.

Federal and State regulations regarding the placement of new cell towers severely limit the purview of the planning commission. The Federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 preserves the ability of the planning commission regarding the placement, construction, and modification of wireless service facilities for personal wireless service, subject to some very important federal limitations.

  • The planning commission cannot have the effect of denying Service. The KCPC cannot develop policies that have the effect of denying an application once an applicant demonstrates a need to construct a tower in a location based on coverage or capacity needs and an inability to co-locate on existing towers.
  • The planning commission cannot discriminate. The KCPC cannot favor one competitor over another competitor or, for example, base a denial because a carrier already has service in an area so there is no need for another carrier to provide service.
  • The planning commission cannot consider environmental effects. The KCPC should not allow evidence of environmental effects at the public hearing.
Kentucky law (KRS 100) states that only the planning commission has the authority to review and approve the construction of new towers. The planning commission must hold a public hearing and make its decision within 60 days of an application being received. Because of the time limits and limitations placed on the planning commission, new cell towers are often very hotly debated within the community.

“[Another reason why more new towers may be built], the FCC has authorized a total of 13 carriers for transmission of mobile data (smart phones) and currently we have only five in our area,” says Perry. “The new carriers are going to need tower space for their equipment also, thus additional potential applications.”

With smart phone technology improving and being nearly a necessity in today’s society, Kenton County is likely to see more conflicts between new cell towers and residential areas of the county.

Staffer elected chair of OKI intermodal coordinating committee

Posted on March 02, 2015
In January, members of the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments’ (OKI) Intermodal Coordinating Committee (ICC) elected James Fausz, AICP, to be their chairperson. Fausz, who is a principal planner at PDS, previously served as the group’s first vice chair.
 
“I’ve been interested in transportation of all kinds since I was very young, so it’s exciting for me to serve as the chair for a group that works on multimodal mobility,” Fausz explained. “It’s also rewarding to work on bettering our community from the regional perspective.”

Fausz has worked on transportation-related projects throughout his career, which encompasses roles in both the private and public sector.

The ICC advises the OKI Board of Directors on technical issues related to regional transportation planning. With approximately 70 members, the roster encompasses a wide range of professionals in the region.  Members include experts from local, state, and federal transportation agencies; governments from the eight-county OKI region; planning organizations; and, a wide array of business, civil, environmental, and utilities from the public and private sectors.

PDS Council welcomes new members; elects officers, board members

Posted on March 02, 2015
The impacts of November’s elections were apparent last month when the PDS Council met for its annual organizational meeting. Someone other than the elected official who sat on the council in 2014 represented eight of the Council’s 20 jurisdictions. Edgewood Mayor John Link was elected the council’s president for 2015; Lakeside Park Mayor Dave Jansing was elected vice president and Elsmere Mayor Marty Lenhof was re-elected secretary. All terms run through January next year.

In another voting procedure, councilmembers elected three individuals to serve two-year terms on the PDS Management Board. Elected were County Commissioner Beth Sewell of Covington, Covington Mayor Sherry Carran, and former Taylor Mill mayor Mark Kreimborg.
 
Four other individuals serve on the management board, having been elected in 2014 to two-year terms. They are former Fort Wright mayor Tom Litzler, Crestview Hills Mayor Paul Meier, former Fort Mitchell mayor Bill Goetz, and former Independence mayor Chris Moriconi.

As directed by the Kentucky Revised Statutes, the PDS Council provides a forum in which Kenton County planning issues can be debated and consensus can be achieved. With a membership of elected officials only, the council is also responsible for final review of the organization’s annual budget and the tax rate that funds it.

The management board is the body that sets the organization’s general direction, oversees the county’s planning staff, and develops its annual work program and budget.

Others included on the ballot for seats on the management board were former Fort Wright mayor Gene Weaver and former Villa Hills mayor Mike Martin.
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