Entries for 2017

Building permit totals for 2016 harken back to pre-recession time

Posted on February 02, 2017
Construction activity across most of Kenton County was on the rise in 2016. In fact, it was the busiest year in the last decade for PDS inspectors. A review of permit and inspection numbers tells the story.

A total of 2,959 permits were issued last year and 5,263 inspections were performed by PDS’ certified building inspectors. This number includes building permits issued for new structures, additions, renovations, HVAC upgrades, sprinklers, fire alarms, etc.

Prior to the recession, the largest number of permits issued by PDS in a single year was 2,105 with 6,017 inspections performed during 2007. Permit numbers hit their lowest point in 2010 when only 1,463 permits were issued and 3,978 inspections were performed.

“Staff has been very busy this year keeping up with the additional work while trying to maintain a relatively short turnaround time on permits,” said Brian Sims, CBO, PDS’ chief building official.

Permit numbers are projected to increase during 2017 according to several analysts. The National Association of Home Builders cited that builder confidence is on the rise. Builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family homes jumped seven points to a level of 70 on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index. This is the highest reading since July 2005.

“We hope activity does pick up for 2017 and that the market continues to grow for the construction industry. We want to see new homes built and businesses grow here in Kenton County,” said Sims. “It will be challenge to find ways to keep up with the workload, but a worthy challenge to have.”

New subdivision regulations phase in closes; rules apply to all now

Posted on February 02, 2017
Kenton County’s new subdivision regulations adopted in March 2015 changed the way infrastructure is built in the county. Not all developers had to use the new standards right away. A phase-in period was included in the document’s text adopted by the Kenton County Planning Commission (KCPC).

“Planning commission members were concerned about subdivisions that had been approved already but not yet built when they adopted the new regulations,” said Scott Hiles, CPC, PDS’ director of infrastructure engineering. “For those developments, changing the rules that governed them mid-stream didn’t seem fair.”

The KCPC allowed a “grace period” for these subdivisions, according to Hiles. Those developments were allowed to continue using the old regulations.

“There was a lot of discussion whether or not those previously-approved developments should be allowed to continue using the old regulations indefinitely until the subdivision was complete, or if there should be a pre-determined deadline. Ultimately, the commission decided to impose a deadline.”

Commission members decided ultimately that previously-approved developments could continue using the old regulations until the end of 2016. That way, those subdivision developers had two full construction seasons to finish the required infrastructure.

Hiles said there were a total of 17 previously approved subdivisions that took advantage of the ability to continue using the old regulations. Eight of those subdivisions were located in Independence, and the others existed in unincorporated Kenton County, Erlanger, Walton, Taylor Mill and Covington.

“Developers of ten of the 17 subdivisions to which this grace period applied didn’t complete construction before the December 31st deadline,” said Hiles. “Two are in unincorporated Kenton County, six in Independence, one in Covington, and one is in Walton”.

Developers of these subdivisions will now be required to submit new improvement plans that contain upgraded infrastructure according to the new subdivision regulations. They will also be required to construct to the new standards.

“These ten developments will have a mix of old and new infrastructure,” Hiles concluded. “But at least we know that from this point forward, only the new infrastructure is permitted.”

Kenton County’s new subdivision regulations may be found online.

NKYmapLAB completes second year, shows number of successes

Posted on February 02, 2017
The Northern Kentucky Map Lab (NKYmapLAB) initiative completed its’ second year last month, having produced 23 high-quality poster map displays and online Story Maps. It has also increased the community’s—and the world beyond—awareness of the rich data that have been created within LINK-GIS and the analytical opportunities it has created. And, it’s won several awards.

Story Maps are online multi-media applications that allow users to interact with maps, images, videos, embedded websites, and other documents (think PDFs).

“From the beginning, NKYmapLAB’s goal was to highlight the analytical value of what’s been created within this GIS system,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, executive director of PDS. “Thirty years of diligent work has gone into this system. That effort has fostered tremendous capabilities to further the goals of this community. To the extent that those capabilities aren’t utilized, that work has been rendered meaningless.”

“NKYmapLAB takes the system’s data, applies them to a current issue of interest, and illustrates the results in formats that can foster community discussion. These past two years’ successes prove the value and capabilities built into this GIS.”

NKYmapLAB projects help local leaders and citizens better understand issues affecting Kenton County, while highlighting the analytic capabilities of LINK-GIS. Some of the topics covered in recent analyses include the following.

- Trails
- Landslides
- 2012 Piner Tornado
- Morning View Heritage Area
- Farmer’s Markets of NKY
- Accela/ROW Management
- Historic Licking Riverside Neighborhood
- Beyond the Curb – Ludlow tour
- Turkeyfoot Road – Thomas More Parkway Realignment
- Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky (TANK)

The NKYmapLAB team consists primarily of two GIS professionals, Louis Hill, AICP, GISP, Geospatial Data Analyst, and Ryan Kent, GISP, Principal Geospatial Analyst. The two and other PDS staff as needed have chosen topics each month that would prove useful to the public and its elected officials.

No two projects are alike. Successful projects, however, create demand for similar products. In December 2015 NKYmapLAB had just completed analytical products regarding a Buttermilk-Orphanage intersection realignment project for the City of Fort Mitchell. Armed with the Story Map and poster from this project, city officials were able to bring back $250,000 in much-needed design funds from the General Assembly for this project. This very successful result caught the attention of other jurisdictions prompting the Turkeyfoot Road NKYmapLAB project in November 2016.

Hill and Kent have been proud to share their work with GIS users from around the nation, having been selected for several recent presentation opportunities.

- A presentation at the 2016 ESRI International Users Conference in San Diego.
- A presentation at the 2016 Kentucky GIS Conference in Covington.
- A live technical webinar, produced and hosted by the American Planning Association, showing attendees how to build their own Story Map.

The NKYmapLAB initiative was recognized with a first place finish in the Map Gallery at the 2016 Kentucky GIS Conference. NKYmapLAB submitted and displayed ten of their analytical products at the 2016 ESRI International Users Conference. Several of those are now under consideration for publication in Vol. 32 of the upcoming ESRI Map Book.

The American Planning Association (APA) featured NKYmapLAB’s Story Map of Covington’s Historic Licking Riverside Neighborhood during its October celebration of National Community Planning month. APA had selected the neighborhood several years ago as one of its “Great Neighborhoods” in America.

“Being able to share some of the exciting things going on in this community and communicating the resulting analyses to people is what has made NKYmapLAB so successful,” stated Kent.

Hill added that “the third year of NKYmapLAB is underway and we’re exploring new partnerships and new project opportunities. We feel confident that we’ll be able to continue delivering useful data and analyses that can contribute to the data-driven discussions we’re promoting within the community.”

Email Louis Hill or Ryan Kent or call them at 859.331.8980 with questions or suggestions. NKYmapLAB is available online and on Twitter @NKYmapLAB.

LINK-GIS represents two collaborative partnerships. The first includes Kenton County Fiscal Court, Sanitation District #1, the Northern Kentucky Water District, and PDS. The second includes Campbell County fiscal Court, the Campbell County Property Valuation Administrator, Sanitation District #1, the Northern Kentucky Water District, and PDS.


Kenton County PLAN4Health initiative continues to provide benefits

Posted on February 02, 2017
One year after PDS and its partners received a grant to highlight and improve access to healthy food, progress can be measured. Hope can be expressed as well that the initiative helped raise the bar.

“From the start, the Kenton County team hit the ground running with a clear strategy for assessing the environment and taking a comprehensive look at the food system,” said Anna Ricklin, AICP, Manager of the Planning and Community Health Center for the American Planning Association (APA). “Their work and its results serve as excellent examples of what can happen when staff from public health and planning agencies come together with a united goal to support community needs.”

The Kenton County PLAN4Health program was established by a $135,000 grant from APA via its partnership with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The program was a collaborative effort that included professional staff from the Center for Great Neighborhoods of Covington, Inc., the American Planning Association-Kentucky Chapter, the Northern Kentucky Health Department, the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI), and PDS.

Collaborative efforts to promote healthy eating and behaviors as well as to improve food access throughout the Northern Kentucky and Greater Cincinnati Region continue following the end of the PLAN4Health initiative that concluded in May 2016. Early in the program, PDS staff and the other grant partners recognized the need to continue collaboration with other organizations. Their intent was to partner on initiatives and implementation projects in the region long after the end of the PLAN4Health program.

Since the program concluded last year, the grant partners intensified their involvement with work on the Greater Cincinnati Regional Food Policy Council. This group examines food policy from many different perspectives. Its broad mission is to define a set of collective decisions made by governments, businesses, and organizations that affect how food gets from the farm to tristate tables. The Council promotes a healthy, equitable, and sustainable food system for all within Greater Cincinnati’s ten-county region.

The grant partners are also involved with LiveWell NKY, an organization that focuses on community based implantation programs geared towards healthy lifestyles. The core focus of the group begins with healthy behaviors, which are enabled by healthy policies and environments. Their ultimate goal is making the healthy choice the easy choice everywhere we live, work, learn, play, and worship. The stated objective of LiveWell NKY is “to ignite an uprising within the community to build a movement toward a culture of health.”

The Kenton County PLAN4Health project was a yearlong planning effort to increase access to nutritious food across the county. The program worked to achieve this goal through several efforts including building a better link between urban markets and rural food producers, focusing on corner stores in urban communities, a targeted awareness campaign, and even hosting a marketing campaign as well as healthy foods summit near the end of the program.

More information about the initiative may be found online.

Lienholder registry online; joint code enforcement board compliant

Posted on February 02, 2017
The Kentucky General Assembly enacted HB422 during last year’s long session. The bill made sweeping changes to responsibilities and authority of code enforcement bodies across the commonwealth. The Kenton County Joint Code Enforcement—which serves the county and 12 of its cities—is now compliant with the all provisions of the new law.

One of the key provisions of the new law is the extension of lienholder priority to all code enforcement violations, including civil and zoning code violations. In order to obtain and maintain this lien priority, however, local governments must implement a system for notification to lienholders to allow them a timeframe to remediate or abate their violations. PDS now provides this lienholder registry service for all joint code enforcement board jurisdictions.

“PDS took on code enforcement responsibilities in a big way roughly ten years ago,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, executive director of PDS. “Providing the service was another way to support our local governments and their citizens. That’s a good thing.”

“The bad side of providing the service has been that there was no real revenue stream to fund the effort. So, as local governments do with police, fire, and ambulance services, we depended on tax dollars to administer the service. Among other things, HB422 changed that,” said Gordon.

The lienholder notification system provides lienholders and other interested parties with electronic notifications of all final orders filed by the Kenton County Joint Code Enforcement Board. Citations that are not paid or appealed within seven days of issuance automatically become a final order. Final orders prompt filing of liens against the property.

The board may also issue a final order following an appeal by the property owner. Approximately every ten days, final order information will be sent electronically (emailed) to the parties who have submitted the request form. To receive notifications of final orders issued by the Kenton County Joint Code Enforcement Board, property owners must complete the online registration form available on the PDS website.

The Kenton County Joint Code Enforcement board serves 12 cities and Kenton County. They are: Crescent Springs, Crestview Hills, Edgewood, Fort Wright, Independence, Kenton Vale, Lakeside Park, Ludlow, Park Hills, Ryland Heights, Taylor Mill, and Villa Hills.

In addition to providing professional staff support to the Kenton County Joint Code Enforcement Board and its 13 jurisdictions, PDS provides code enforcement officers to serve the Cities of Elsmere and Fort Mitchell.

For questions about these services, contact Emi Randall, AICP, RLA, PDS’ director of planning & zoning administration or Rob Himes, its codes administrator, for more information at 859.331.8980.  


GIS staffer prepares for presidency of state mapping organization

Posted on February 02, 2017
Louis Hill, AICP, GISP, a geospatial data analyst with PDS was elected recently to be the next president of the Kentucky Association of Mapping Professionals (KAMP). He will serve on the KAMP board for three years, in the role of president-elect in 2017, president in 2018 and past-president in 2019.

“KAMP continues to experience growth in its membership… which is great but can also present challenges,” said Hill. “We need to make sure that we continue to offer training, networking opportunities, and services to our members that they can’t find anywhere else.”

The Kentucky Association of Mapping Professionals was formed to:

1.    foster the understanding and improvement of the management and use of geospatial information throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky in all levels of government, academia, and the private sector; and

2.    provide a mechanism for dialogue and education regarding geospatial information issues of concern or interest to all Kentucky professionals involved in the collection, processing, analysis, use, and maintenance of geospatial information.

To further this mission, KAMP provides an annual series of low-cost and no-cost training options throughout Kentucky. The event formats vary, but they are typically webinars, formal presentations and hands-on trainings conducted by distinguished industry speakers.

“The geospatial and mapping industry is expected to see above average growth over the next decade,” according to Hill. “We want to be able to keep our membership at the front of that trend.”

This year’s conference will be held at the Galt House in Louisville on September 5, 6 and 7.

“It’s the best place to learn the latest mapping technologies, establish yourself, network, get involved, present, and contribute to the geospatial and mapping profession in the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” concluded Hill.

KAMP Executive Board: L-R, Meghan Dunn (AECOM), President; Michelle Bough (Stantec), Director; Louis Hill (PDS), President Elect; Vince DiNoto (KCTCS Jefferson), Director; David Siskin (Precision Products), Secretary; Lane Hartman (Hartman Spatial Data Consulting, LLC), Director; Angela Scott (Trideum), Treasurer; Stephen Chino (City of Paducah), Director; Tim Fields (Floyd County 911), Director; Lance Morris (Owensboro - Daviess County GIS Consortium), Past President. Not pictured: Jennifer Miller (Kentucky Division of Water), Director.

Analytics show new GIS website capabilities increase user traffic

Posted on January 03, 2017

PDS’ new LINK-GIS website experienced a 49 percent increase in unique visitors during the first quarter of FY17 compared to the first quarter of FY16, according to Google Analytics. That increase in unique visitors drove an increase in the number of sessions by 70 percent during the same period.

Unique visitors are determined by the IP or internet protocol address of the device that visits the website. Sessions are groups of pages that the user visits before exiting the site, either by going to another site or closing the browsing window.

“Our site’s new content works well on mobile devices,” said Christy Powell, GISP, PDS’ senior GIS programmer. “We’re seeing more users across more devices accessing our site. Much of that increase in sessions is attributable to visitors using the interactive maps on their mobile devices.”

The main LINK-GIS MapViewer showed a 174 percent increase in sessions for the first quarter of FY17 versus the same quarter of FY16.

Page views have increased by 44 percent during this time.

“Much of this increase is due to additional content we added during the update,” said Joe Busemeyer, PDS’ principal GIS programmer. “We wanted the end user to have better access to our maps and especially the NKYmapLAB content.”

Time spent using the MapViewer has decreased over 30 seconds on average from two minutes three seconds to one minute 28 seconds.

“Quicker load times and easier-to-use tools are responsible for getting answers to users faster,” said Powell.

Powell and Busemeyer will use the insights gained from Google Analytics to continue to improve the LINK-GIS website over the next year.


New subdivision construction approaches pre-recession levels

Posted on January 03, 2017
Subdivision construction activity in Kenton County increased in 2016 to levels not seen in almost a decade according to PDS’ Infrastructure Engineering Department. The department and its staff are responsible to review and inspect new subdivision streets and storm sewer infrastructure in those new subdivisions.

“One of the ways we track subdivision activity is by keeping track of the length of new street pavement that we inspect in subdivisions”, said Scott Hiles, CPC, PDS’ director of infrastructure engineering. “Streets have to be constructed first in order for lots to be created and new homes to be built. So when subdivision street construction is up, we know all of the activity that follows will also be up.”

There was just under 12,000 feet of new subdivision street constructed in Kenton County in 2016. This number neared levels not seen since 2007, when approximately 15,000 feet of new subdivision street was constructed. By contrast in 2015, there was 7,095 feet of new subdivision street constructed.

“The majority of these new streets were constructed in the City of Independence which has been the norm for a number of years now,” said Hiles. “Of that total constructed county-wide, almost 8,000 feet was constructed in Independence throughout nine different subdivisions.”

“We even had a small amount of street constructed in one subdivision in the unincorporated portion of the county this year,” said Hiles.

The 4,000 feet of new subdivision streets that were constructed outside Independence were located in six subdivisions located in the Cities of Lakeside Park, Taylor Mill, Erlanger, and Covington.

The subdivision streets constructed county-wide during 2016 will serve 150 acres of developed land and result in 312 new residences. “Three hundred of those residences will be single-family homes,” said Hiles. “The remaining 12 will be condominiums.”

Based on all projections, it appears subdivision activity levels should be as busy next year as they were in 2016, according to Hiles.

Villa Hills task force, staff schedule open house for planning study

Posted on January 03, 2017

The City of Villa Hills, the Benedictine Sisters of Covington, Kentucky, Inc., and PDS are nearing the completion of the Villa Hills Small Area Study after nearly a year’s work. The result of that work will be displayed and explained during an open house on January 4, 2017 from 6:30 until 8:00 p.m.

The meeting will be held in the River Ridge Elementary School cafeteria (2772 Amsterdam Road). City residents may come and go at any time during the 90-minute timeframe.

The group collaborated since early 2016 on a detailed study of land on and around the Saint Walburg Monastery property in Villa Hills. The study culminates in a plan that includes recommendations on mobility, land use, and community facilities for the site. 

A task force overseeing the study held a public meeting at the beginning of summer to learn from the community their ideas and desires for the site. Since that public meeting, the task force has worked towards developing direction for the plan and refining recommendations for the site.

Members of the Task Force also sought the expert advice of regional developers, with the goal of gathering insight and understanding regarding the types of development that would be appropriate for the site. Staff conducted interviews with regional developers and the information gathered through this process was used by the task force to help guide the direction of the final plan.  

“The interviews with regional developers allowed task force members to view the site from a developer’s perspective and get a good grasp on what may be feasible on the site”, said Craig Bohman, City Administrator/Clerk for Villa Hills. Information from the developer interviews, the public meeting, and market study were all used by the task force to help guide the direction of the study.

The task force consists of Villa Hills elected officials, city employees, citizens, Saint Walburg representatives, and Madonna Manor officials. The group worked with PDS from the beginning to provide guidance for the plan and help be a voice for the larger community.

If you are interested in learning more about the project and/or getting updates about its progress, visit the city’s website or contact Bohman at 859.341.1515


Monthly staff performance metrics will be available online soon

Posted on January 03, 2017

How many inspections does PDS staff pursue in a month? How long does it take to get a permit? How many phone calls did staff handle last month? How large is PDS’ total collection of GIS data? How many code enforcement cases is staff handling currently?

Staff gathered the answers to these and dozens of similar questions over the past 12 months. The collection of these data will become the base data in a new program being called PDS by the Numbers.

“It’s difficult at times for people to comprehend all the activities that our staff handles on an ongoing basis,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, Executive Director. “Even for those who understand our responsibilities, it’s sometimes tough to realize how quickly work numbers grow when you don’t experience them on a day-to-day basis. These situations are the reason we’re initiating PDS by the Numbers.”

Gordon names Kenton County Commissioner Joe Nienaber the catalyst for the new program.

“As a member of the PDS Council—our oversight body, Joe frequently asks about numbers of permits, processing time, customers served, and the list goes on,” according to Gordon. “We usually have answers to his questions, or at least are able to get them, but they prompted me to consider gathering those data on a more routine basis. Publishing them just adds to our transparency.”

Gordon approached PDS’ GIS programmers with some of these data earlier this year. He asked them for an effective way to present the information in an interesting way, one that would catch attention and allow for some level of interaction.

“Christy (Powell) and Joe (Busemeyer) provided me with a template in pretty short order,” said Gordon.

PDS by the Numbers’ 2016 data will appear on the agency’s website sometime in January; new numbers will be added on a monthly basis. The interactive display will provide visitors with an overview of the most important of 89 criteria gathered by staff on a monthly basis. As the program moves forward, current data will be portrayed in comparison with last year’s activities as an indicator of staff’s workload.

“At first the effort it took to collect these numbers was a bit tedious, more about remembering to do it than anything else. Once everyone made it a part of his or her routines, it became second nature,” said Gordon.

He concluded by suggesting that some of the numbers are going to surprise people.


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