Governor signs PDS-sponsored bill

Posted on May 14, 2018
Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin signed House Bill 138 April 10th enacting provisions approved earlier by the General Assembly. The bill, proposed by PDS of Kenton County and sponsored by Rep. Adam Koenig of Erlanger, authorizes local communities to band together to create joint boards of adjustment that will be made up of an appointee from each jurisdiction. The new law takes effect July 1.

“The catalyst for this bill came from our local officials,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, executive director at PDS. “Many of our local officials are finding it more and more difficult to justify the cost of standalone boards that might meet a couple times a year. They’re also finding fewer and fewer people who are willing to give up time with family to sit on a public board.”

Collaborative boards with neighboring communities solve both problems. PDS suggested a similar bill several years ago involving code enforcement boards. There were 14 code enforcement boards in Kenton County at the time. Today there are four, one being a joint board serving Kenton County and 13 cities.

“I believe every community has found this to be a win-win collaboration,” stated Gordon. “The increased workload of a joint board necessitates monthly meetings which in turn facilitates members becoming more familiar with their responsibilities. Better-informed members tend to make more legally-defensible decisions which results in lower liability and costs for municipal budgets.”

Gordon reports that Kenton County has 13 boards of adjustment currently. He concludes with the hope that that number will dwindle as mayors become more comfortable with the concept and the ability to appoint their own members and save dollars.



Kenton Connects ready for review

Posted on May 14, 2018
The Kenton Connects Advisory Committee invites Kenton County residents to a Public Open House on May 16 from 6 – 7:30 p.m. The forum will be held in the Dixie Heights High School cafeteria (3010 Dixie Highway).

Residents may come and go at their leisure.

“Public input and feedback is a critical part of creating successful bicycle and pedestrian policies for our communities,” explained Chris Schneider, AICP, Principal Planner for PDS and project manager for the study. “We’re pleased with the input that led to the draft and hope a large turnout will provide feedback from residents.”

The Kenton Connects study began last summer with the goal of updating the county’s most recent bicycle plan (1999) and pedestrian plan (2001) and encouraging these modes of transportation in Kenton County. The study’s Advisory Committee is comprised of residents, business owners, elected officials, and professionals to provide staff oversight and guidance to the study.

A public survey conducted in October 2017 provided initial direction for the study and the resulting plan was built on that input. The study focuses on bicycle and pedestrian safety, usage, infrastructure, and education. The resulting plan is the months-long efforts by the Advisory Committee and PDS staff.

The Public Open House will give attendees an understanding of the work and research that went into the study and the draft recommendations, and an opportunity to provide feedback.

“We’ve learned a great deal from the community and believe the draft plan presents an accurate vision for bicycle and pedestrian issues,” said Jason Reser, Advisory Committee member. “This Open House is a great opportunity to learn more about the Kenton Connects study and to contribute to making cycling and walking better in Kenton County.”

Committee members will review feedback and begin finalizing the plan following the Open House.

While the plan might be nearing completion, there is still much work to do before the final approval process. Visit www.KentonConnects.org or email Chris Schneider at PDS or call him at 859.331.8980 for more information on ways you can play a role.

Origin of Area Planning: May 4, 1961

Posted on May 04, 2018
On this date in 1961, elected officials from Kenton and Campbell County Fiscal Courts and the Cities of Covington, Erlanger, Taylor Mill, Winston Park, Elsmere, South Fort Mitchell, Bromley, Newport, Fort Thomas, Dayton, Crestview, Woodlawn, and Southgate gathered at Covington City Hall to execute a contract establishing an area planning council and commission pursuant to legislation enacted the previous year by the Kentucky General Assembly.

They elected officers for the Council—Charles Kuhn of Fort Thomas was chosen the first president—and the first eight members to serve on the Area Planning Commission: George Nelson (community unknown); June Lukowski (Fort Mitchell); Paul Swanson (Erlanger); E.R. Morlidge (Fort Thomas); Charles Creekmore (Taylor Mill); Edward Beiting (Alexandria); George Neack (Newport); and, Lawrence Rechtin (Dayton).

Those actions capped off a several-year effort by members of the several chambers of commerce, the Home Builder’s Association of Northern Kentucky, local elected officials, members of the 23 local planning commissions that existed across the three northern Kentucky counties, and ultimately the area’s legislative delegation to the General Assembly to provide for “a more efficient planning operation.” (KRS 147.610)

The post-World War II explosion of suburban development was in full swing.  Bulldozers and other heavy equipment were on the move, connecting Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky to the brand-new Eisenhower interstate highway system. And, many were worried that without coordination and the technical support of a professional staff, Northern Kentucky would fail to capture the opportunities presenting themselves through new growth and development.

So, thank you to those far-sighted individuals and the history they initiated that Thursday evening. Thank you to all who have served on the Council and Board these past 57 years. Thank you to those who have filled positions we hold now, who have built the foundation on which we pursue our responsibilities today. And thank you to the Kenton County of 2018, a community much better off than what it would have been without the collective effort of those who came before us.

Update to PDS Management Board

Posted on May 03, 2018
Members of the PDS Management Board met on May 1st for the board’s annual organizational session. Among the actions taken were the swearing in of recently-elected members and the election of officers for the next 12 months. Of the four members sworn in was first-time member and Erlanger Councilwoman Jessica Fette. Her election and oath of office represent the first time in the organization’s 57-year history that three women hold seats on the seven-member board; former-Covington Mayor Sherry Carran and Kenton County Commissioner Beth Sewell are also members.

The three other newly-elected board members were former Fort Wright mayor Tom Litzler, Crestview Hills Mayor Paul Meier, and Park Hills Mayor Matt Mattone. Carran, Sewell, and Fort Wright Councilman Bernie Wessels round out the board’s seven members.

Litzler and Meier were reelected chairman and vice chairman respectively of the board. Sewell was elected treasurer.

The PDS Management Board serves in an oversight role to the organization’s staff and an administrative role involving its budget. Board members are elected by a formal group made up of one elected representative from each of Kenton County’s 20 local governments. The staff provides technical support to the Kenton County Planning Commission and serves a number of service roles for those 20 local governments.

New Duke Energy Solar Power Facility

Posted on April 25, 2018
Duke Energy customers will soon benefit from their new solar power plant unveiled in Walton today. The facility is designed to provide clean, renewable energy to meet a growing demand for solar power. The 60-acre site has approximately 19,000 solar panels and will produce about 4 megawatts of electricity which is enough to power 900 homes annually. On April 24th, local officials were present for the ribbon cutting ceremony and Duke Energy representatives answered questions about the facility. Electricity created at the site will be fed into Duke Energy’s electric grid and delivered to customers in the area.

  


PDS In the Field

Posted on April 16, 2018
John Lauber, PDS Senior Building Official, was called by Kenton County dispatch on 8:51 Saturday morning (April 14). Thirty minutes later he arrived at 1204 Scott Boulevard in Covington and met with the fire department, property owner and city engineer to evaluate the building. Electric and gas was shut off as a precautionary measure. Occupants were evacuated. A contractor was called by the fire department and showed up about 10:45. The city engineer and Lauber discussed / decided what and how the building was to be temporarily shored. He waited for the contractor to get materials, install the shoring and board up the building, and stayed toward the end of the process. This is the second time this building has been involved in a collision.

House Bill 138 - Update

Posted on April 12, 2018
Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin signed House Bill 138 Tuesday enacting provisions approved earlier by the General Assembly. The bill, proposed by PDS of Kenton County and sponsored by Rep. Adam Koenig of Erlanger, authorizes local communities to band together to create joint boards of adjustment that will be made up of an appointee from each jurisdiction. The new law takes effect July 1.

“The catalyst for this bill came from our local officials,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, executive director at PDS. “Many of our local officials are finding it more and more difficult to justify the cost of standalone boards that might meet a couple times a year. They’re also finding fewer and fewer people who are willing to give up time with family to sit on a public board.”

Collaborative boards with neighboring communities solve both problems. PDS suggested a similar bill several years ago involving code enforcement boards. There were 14 code enforcement boards in Kenton County at the time. Today there are four, one being a joint board serving Kenton County and 13 cities.

“I believe every community has found this to be a win-win collaboration,” stated Gordon. “The increased workload of a joint board necessitates monthly meetings which in turn facilitates members becoming more familiar with their responsibilities. Better-informed members tend to make more legally-defensible decisions which results in lower liability and costs for municipal budgets.”

Gordon reports that Kenton County has 13 boards of adjustment currently. He concludes with the hope that that number will dwindle as mayors become more comfortable with the concept and the ability to appoint their own members and save dollars.

 



'PDS by the Numbers' now online

Posted on April 02, 2018

‘PDS by the Numbers’ now online

More than ever before, ‘transparency’ and ‘accountability’ are goals being pursued by public agencies at all levels. PDS is no different, uploading its most up-to-date effort last month—an online collaboration with OpenGov.com—to keep those it serves updated.

“PDS has a long history of openness and transparency,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, Executive Director. “And, as sincere as that effort has been, the pace of life today has made it more difficult for citizens to find the time to ask their questions.”

Last summer, Gordon and members of PDS’ management board agreed that the organization needed to update the way it provided accountability to those it serves.  They came to agreement quickly that OpenGov, an online platform designed to help build bridges of information, was the solution. Kenton County, Covington, Park Hills, Fort Wright, Edgewood, and Independence also use the tool.

“Several of OpenGov’s capabilities convinced me that this was the way we needed to go,” said Gordon. “OpenGov is interactive which gives viewers the ability to slide and dice data to get answers to their specific questions. It also provides the capability to serve up all kinds of other data, not just financial reports. To me, this was the capability that sold me on the product.”

Gordon and his staff began gathering data on all sorts of PDS staff activities in January 2016.  In all, they collect over 90 metrics each month ranging from number of phone calls answered to linear feet of GIS maps produced to the number of inspections completed.  He says many of these numbers are now part of the agency’s monthly ‘PDS by the Numbers’ reports.

“To me, being able to provide all facets of our operations—funds expended, and services provided—gives citizens an honest picture of what we do and what its cots,” said Gordon. “I don’t have anything against just providing financial reports except that it only provides part of the picture. ‘PDS by the Numbers’ gives the complete story… and I believe this is a much better level of transparency than serving up just one of them alone.”

‘PDS by the Numbers’ data can be accessed by way of the PDS flagship website.


Zoning for the 21st Century videos

Posted on January 30, 2018
Kenton County’s 19 zoning ordinances were developed during the early 1980s based on a “model” ordinance crafted by PDS’ predecessor organization. Except for the City of Covington which rewrote its ordinance during the mid-2000s, these ordinances have not been updated in a comprehensive manner since then.

Most of these ordinances continue to regulate with their original administrative policies and protocols. While close to 80 percent of their texts remain nearly identical, individual differences have been pursued by local governments in the form of over 700 text amendments just since 2000. Almost all of these were undertaken on a reactionary basis, addressing new development trends or specific issues that were unique to them.

The Kenton County Planning Commission adopted Direction 2030: Your Voice, Your Choice, the county’s comprehensive plan, in 2014. This was the first wholesale rewriting of the communities’ comprehensive plan since their first was adopted in the early 1970s. The process that led to this new plan included over 100 opportunities for input from the public, staff from the county and cities, elected officials, developers, and other interested parties. Numerous goals, objectives, recommendations, and tasks resulted from that input, voicing the need for updating the various jurisdictions’ zoning ordinances.

PDS embarked on a project in 2016 to accomplish this—to create Zoning for the 21st Century (Z21).

Part 1: The Zoning Code Audit
Part 1 of this 3-part series summarizes PDS’ consultant team’s approach to the zoning audit process and what it looked for when it reviewed Kenton County’s zoning ordinances. This process resulted in detailed recommendations for updating those ordinances. (The full presentation was presented originally to the Z21 Task Force on June 20, 2017.)

Part 2: Analysis and Overall Recommendations
Part 2 of this 3-part series explains the consultant team’s 30,000-foot-view recommendations for Kenton County’s zoning ordinances. These recommendations were based on the team’s analysis as described in Part 1. (The full presentation was presented originally to the Z21 Task Force on September 20, 2017.)

Part 3: Detailed Recommendations
Part 3 of this 3-part series describes the consultant team’s detailed recommendations for Kenton County’s zoning ordinances. These recommendations build on the 30,000-foot-view recommendations discussed in Part 2. (The full presentation was presented originally to the Z21 Task Force on January 17, 2018.)

Vacant foreclosed property registry succeeding after first year

Posted on January 25, 2018
The countywide Kenton County Vacant Foreclosed Property Registration (VFPR) ordinance has been in place for over a year now. After starting slowly, registrations have grown steadily with PDS having registered 217 vacant foreclosed properties in 19 jurisdictions to date.

Kenton County Fiscal Court enacted the ordinance in November 2016. The program, which became effective December 9, 2016, increased the tools available to PDS staff for effective code enforcement activities. Most Kenton County cities advocated for the approval since early 2016.

Implementation of the new program saved tax dollars for PDS’ 16 One Stop Shop program jurisdictions by requiring lenders pursuing foreclosures to register a responsible party to maintain the vacant property. Knowing whom to contact reduces the time spent locating a responsible party when violations arise. The ordinance applies to all Kenton County communities regardless of whether they’re part of the PDS program.

The cost of administering this program is the responsibility of the banks and lending institutions that must maintain these foreclosed properties. The program is funded through a required $150 property registration fee. In addition, the registration reduces costs related to code enforcement activities by increasing staff efficiency in dealing with vacant and foreclosed properties.

“Requiring a local contact for these properties allows us to contact a person who has the authority to address issues such as tall grass or maintenance violations in a timely manner,” said Rob Himes, PDS’ codes administrator. “Under the old system, code enforcement officials’ only option was to mail a violation letter to the lending institution which is often out of state and that rarely yields results.”

Lenders, servicing companies, and local realtors/maintenance providers have been very receptive and supportive of the program, according to Himes. He and Safeguard Properties’ Heather Lazar and Michael Halpern presented on the subject during the American Association of Code Enforcement’s Annual Education Conference late last year. Safeguard Properties, headquartered in Cleveland, is the mortgage field services’ industry leader, preserving vacant and foreclosed properties across the U.S., Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, and Guam.

When speaking of Kenton County’s ordinance, Anne Salvatore of Safeguard Properties stated, “Quite frequently I have a great deal of difficulty determining the intent of an ordinance’s provisions and need to contact the jurisdiction for clarification.”

“Oftentimes it’s a challenge to find anyone able to assist me as the persons implementing the registration program are not the same as the persons that established the requirements. Your ordinance is clear, cohesive in its elements, and consistent with the information required on the form.”

Kenton County’s VFPR program has been well-received by staff and property stakeholders; the program has opened communication regarding these foreclosed properties, lessening the number of code enforcement complaints due to property preservation or maintenance issues.

PDS staff recently sent out the first round of annual renewal notices for the program.

“We’re looking forward to a successful 2018. The VFPR program promotes communication between staff and lenders/servicing companies, ensuring that foreclosed properties are maintained in a manner that protects the integrity of our neighborhoods,” concluded Himes.

Email Rob Himes or call him at 859.331.8980 for more information on the registration program.


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