Options for future KY536 improvement are awaiting your opinions

Posted on October 12, 2015

An open house meeting earlier this week in Independence provided citizens two options for a new alignment of KY 536 from KY 17 to the Licking River. The meeting was the last in a series of three open houses conducted this year as part of the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Government’s (OKI) KY 536 Scoping Study.

Citizens wanting to express their opinions on the two options may do so on the study’s website.

The two options are:

• On-Alignment Alternative: This option proposes to modify and improve the existing roadway and use the existing corridor as much as possible although small sections would be briefly rerouted. This option would follow KY 536 east from KY 17 and shift north onto a new segment as it approaches KY 16 (redirecting traffic north of White’s Tower Elementary School) to realign with KY 536 near Maverick Road. It would continue on until a half mile west of Klein Road, then turn north onto a new alignment that connects directly with the Visalia Bridge. This alternative is planned as a three-lane road a single lane traveling in both directions with a lane in the middle to assist with turns.

• Off-Alignment Alternative: This option follows the existing KY 536 east from KY 17 and shifts north onto a new segment as it approaches KY 16, redirecting traffic north of White’s Tower Elementary School, to realign with KY 536 near Maverick Road. It follows the existing roadway until 0.5 mile west of Staffordsburg Road where it turns north onto a new alignment that connects directly with the existing Visalia Bridge. This alternative is planned as a three-lane road, a single lane traveling in both directions and a lane in the middle to assist with turns between KY 17 and Staffordsburg Road. From Staffordsburg Road to the Campbell County line, this alternative is planned as a two-lane road with the exception of a climbing lane that would be constructed to assist trucks traveling westward from KY 17.

KY 536 Scoping Study project manager Robyn Bancroft said the corridor is recognized regionally as a critical roadway to improve access, mobility and economic vitality across Northern Kentucky.

This segment of the roadway, between KY 17 and the Kenton and Campbell County line, is the only remaining section of the entire corridor that does not have a preferred alternative or improvement plan in place. This segment was left until last because of its fragmented connections, drastic elevation changes, poor sight lines, broad range of environmental factors, and, most importantly, extremely high crash rates.

OKI’s CEO Mark Policinski said the level of public involvement in the study has been “tremendous ... possibly more so than we’ve ever had on a project like this.”

“The study team listened to what the community has said they want and refined the alternatives accordingly,” he said. “While these final two options are very different from each other; one mostly follows the existing roadway while the other would travel along a new route. Both were designed to respect the community’s desire to improve travel safety, minimize impacts to homes and property, and maintain the character of the existing area.”

“It’s important that everyone provide their input on this project,” Bancroft said. “We want to hear from those who live on KY 536, as well as those who travel the corridor and even those who avoid traveling the corridor because of safety and efficiency issues.”

The public comment period ends on November 5. The Scoping Study is scheduled to conclude this fall, once a suitable plan is chosen. The final KY 536 Scoping Study report and documentation will be posted to the website in December, Bancroft concluded.

 


NKYmapLAB receives international recognition at annual Esri conference

Posted on October 08, 2015

An initiative begun in January by two members of PDS’ GIS team achieved considerable attention during the Esri annual conference held recently in San Diego. NKYmapLAB seeks to highlight the wealth of GIS data that have been collected by the LINK-GIS/Kenton County partnership since its inception in 1985. It accomplishes this by publishing a monthly map that highlights these data as they relate to a topic of current discussion.

PDS staff and one of their entries in the “large format printed map” category earned a third place in the international completion.

“Competition for attention to your maps at this annual conference is intense,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, PDS’ executive director. “Thousands of maps from across the globe are displayed. To do something that catches the eye of your peers and prompts them to vote for your work is really tough. I’m so proud that work from our GIS professionals was recognized in such a forum.”

Esri (Environmental Systems Research Institute) is an international GIS software company that invites it’s users to share examples of their mapping work at its annual user conference which typically draws 16,000+ GIS professionals from around the world.

The Esri Map Gallery display provides an exciting and vibrant display of the very best in current cartography practices. Approximately the size of two football fields, the exhibit allows users to showcase their talents and work to other conference attendees, and acts as a barometer for the current state of mapping globally.

Map gallery entries must be created with Esri software and submitted by someone who registers for and attends the Esri user conference. The creator(s) of the map must be present for at least one hour during the map gallery opening and evening reception to discuss their maps and answer questions.

This year PDS, under the NKYmapLAB initiative, submitted four map products to be reviewed and voted on by conference attendees and Esri staff. Under the “large format printed map” category, the PDS team of Louis Hill, GISP (Geospatial Data Analyst) Ryan Kent, GISP (Principal GIS Data Analyst) and Trisha Brush, GISP (Director of GIS Administration) received third place.

“This is a huge honor as there were many wonderful and worthy maps submitted,” said Brush. “Over the last year the focus of NKYmapLAB was to battle some of the challenges with big GIS data while addressing three important elements sharing, analysis, and visualization.”

According to Hill, “This recognition is a nice acknowledgement of what we are trying to accomplish: keeping the long-range planning goals of Direction 2030 at the forefront of public discussion and making the general public more aware of the capabilities that GIS can provide to our community.”

Kent added, “To be selected by your peers, who know what you go through to create these maps, is a sort of vindication that you are doing something right. We don’t create maps that just look pretty, they need to tell a story and get a message across. The Esri Map Gallery is the perfect venue to showcase that.”

The NKYmapLAB initiative features eight story maps accompanied with large posters. A story map is a media where mapping professionals can combine authoritative maps with narrative text, images, and multimedia content. All published NKYmapLAB maps are stored here for your review and use.


Code enforcement issues, resolutions being pursued at record rates

Posted on August 28, 2015

PDS zoning officials provide code enforcement services for 15 jurisdictions covering approximately 135 square miles in Kenton County. The purpose of code enforcement is to protect the health, safety, and welfare of residents by enforcing each municipality’s codes in an efficient, consistent, and fair manner.

Since March 1 of this year, PDS zoning officials have opened 561 new code enforcement cases and closed 448 cases. Averaging five new cases per day, PDS staff has maintained a near 80 percent abatement rate for code violations.

“PDS code enforcement efforts are complaint based,” said Dennis Uchtman, PDS’ codes administrator. “As such, not every ‘wrong’ constitutes a code violation.”

PDS will continue to address issues in a prompt, professional manner while encouraging voluntary compliance and responsible property maintenance practices. If you have any questions or concerns feel free to contact PDS offices at 859.331.8980.


LINK-GIS maps now useable on iPhone, iPad, and Android devices

Posted on August 28, 2015

Stating the obvious, time flies in the world of technology. In the six years since the last major update of the LINK-GIS website, many things in the world of technology have changed. Back then the iPhone was on its 3G release. Android devices had been on the market for less than a year. And, the iPad didn’t exist yet.

According to the Pew Research Center, roughly 64 percent of American adults own a smartphone now. A majority of these adults use mobile devices to get directions and other location-based information.

Until now, the 2009 version of the LINK-GIS map viewer didn’t function on mobile devices.

Recent technological advances have enabled LINK-GIS to migrate from the older Flash player based platform to a newer JavaScript based mobile-friendly platform. The overall look and feel of the map viewer on the new JavaScript platform is similar to the old Flash platform, but with even easier access to information.

Additionally, the new technology allows for the creation of customized, specialty maps such as PDS’ new Park Finder application. This new app helps users find information about parks and recreation in just a couple clicks. More map specific applications are on the horizon.

“The new map viewer function of the LINK-GIS website is heads and shoulders above what we’ve been able to provide in the past,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, PDS’ executive director. “And, while that’s noteworthy in and of itself, the fact of which I’m most proud is that our GIS staff built it from scratch, in-house—and that took a lot of programming to accomplish.”

The new LINK-GIS map viewer is located here. PDS’ new Park Finder Application is located here.

LINK-GIS’ “Classic” map viewer will still be available to the public for a limited time so users can get acclimated to the functionality of the new JavaScript map viewer. In the coming months, PDS will hold several events to showcase the new map viewer and specialty mapping applications.

Information about these events will be available on the LINK-GIS website.


PDS Council approves FY16 budget; okays “compensating” tax rate

Posted on August 28, 2015

PDS’ budget for Fiscal Year 2016 continues a number of trends related to both revenues and expenditures for the organization. Those trends were highlighted for PDS Council members last month during the discussion that led to them approving it.

One elected representative from each of Kenton County’s 20 local governments makes up the PDS Council. These officials serve in a role defined by statute to “provide more effective representation of the various governmental units” participating in the organization’s operations. Among the group’s responsibilities is the review and approval of an annual budget and the tax rate that funds a majority of it.

According to Dennis Gordon, FAICP, PDS’ executive director, the organization’s new fiscal year budget “continues a trend the PDS Management Board initiated in FY08 and accelerated in FY10.”

“Because a good deal of the services PDS provides is driven by the economy, our budget reflects to some extent the ups and downs of the regional economy,” asserted Gordon. “Our Fiscal Year 2008 budget for example was our largest as the Great Recession took hold of everything. All budgets since then—including Fiscal Year 2016’s—have been varying numbers smaller than 2008’s”

Like most of those, FY16’s budget is being funded primarily through a “compensating tax rate” or less according to Gordon. A compensating rate is the rate that produces the same revenue as was produced by the previous year’s tax rate. The bottom line of a compensating rate budget is theoretically the same as the previous year’s assuming no other source(s) of revenue.

Among the many trends Gordon illustrated for the elected officials was an overall decrease in the budget’s bottom line.

“This new fiscal year budget is only a little larger than our Fiscal Year 2005 budget,” said Gordon. “This represents a meager ten percent budget increase over the past ten years—or put another way—an average annual increase of just one percent.”


NKYmapLAB initiative illustrates local issues, importance of GIS

Posted on August 28, 2015

PDS’ Northern Kentucky Map Lab (NKYmapLAB) initiative that was begun earlier this year is quickly developing a wealth of illustrative looks at Kenton County issues. They range from Baseball Across Northern Kentucky (a tie in to Major League Baseball’s 2015 All Star Game) to an analysis of tree canopy across the County.

NKYmapLAB’s goal is to keep residents, the business community, and elected and appointed officials informed using its wealth of data. Among its emphases are: 1) long range planning projects that are part of Direction 2030 implementation; 2) quality of life issues in cities and throughout Kenton County; and, 3) support county economic development projects as requested.

LINK-GIS has been building its data base since 1986; what started as a partnership to map utility locations for public health concerns has grown into a regional GIS system responsible for roughly six terabytes of data (6,000 gigabytes).

As the data base grows larger and more complex, it takes on some of the challenges often found with other “big data” systems. Those challenges are typically how to best share, analyze, and visualize the information that is constantly accumulating. NKYmapLAB is a direct response to that issue.

NKYmapLAB aims to analyze a wide variety of this data and present it in a more visual format that facilitates better understanding by the public and its elected leaders. Topics to date have included:

 ·        Energy Efficient Construction in Kenton County

·        Current Conditions of Kenton County Bridges

·        Walkability: Sidewalk Connectivity in Kenton County

·        Parks of Kenton County

·        KY-536 Traffic Patterns

·        Urban Tree Canopy

·        Baseball Across The Region: Northern Kentucky            

In addition to large-format maps, NKYmapLAB has started using Esri’s Story Map platform to provide users with a more interactive online experience of each topic, when appropriate. The Story Map format is valuable because it guides users through a topic sequentially, introducing key concepts and new points of information along the way.

Story Maps use geography and location (the key component of GIS) as a means of organizing and presenting information. They tell the story of a place, event, issue, trend, or pattern in a geographic context. They combine interactive maps with other rich content—text, photos, video, and audio—for a user experience that is basic and intuitive.

While many Story Maps are designed for general, non-technical audiences, some can also serve highly specialized audiences. They use the tools of GIS, and often present the results of spatial analysis, but don’t require their users to have any special knowledge or skills in GIS. This has resulted in rapid adoption of Story Maps across all industries.

For more details on NKYmapLAB, email Louis Hill, GISP, AICP, or Ryan Kent, GISP, or call them at 859.331.8980.

NKYmapLAB is also available on Twitter @NKYmapLAB.


Value of tougher subdivision regulations proven with submittal

Posted on August 28, 2015

Less than six months after adoption, Kenton County’s brand new subdivision regulations are accomplishing one of their primary goals. Streets in Crestview Hills’ newest subdivision will be built on newly-placed subsoils that will provide necessary support for the long term. The city’s taxpayers are the true beneficiaries of the changes.

“One of staff’s original objectives (in working toward new construction standards) was to extend street life and preclude the taxpayers from having to pay for premature failures,” said Scott Hiles, CPC, Director of Infrastructure Engineering. “The new regulations require an evaluation of the subgrade soils’ suitability to determine whether they can provide the strength necessary to support the pavement.”

The types of soils that are problematic and contribute to street failure are common throughout Northern Kentucky.

The first development to be submitted after the new regulations took effort was a 42-lot development on 22 acres in Crestview Hills to be named Crown Point. It includes a single new street of slightly more than 2,300 feet. Not surprisingly, when the required soil evaluation was performed, its findings identified problematic subgrade soils that would not provide the required strengths to support the pavement.

“Staff was surprised that the very first development submitted under the new regulations was located on a site with the problem soils we wanted to keep an eye-out for,” said Hiles. “But, it allowed us to quickly recognize that the process we put in place worked. Had these new regulations not been in place, we wouldn’t have known about the soils until after the streets began to fail prematurely.”

“We were quite pleased that this first subdivision proved that the new regulations brought value to the community right out of the gate.”

Hiles said the developer plans to remove the problem subgrade soils from the site and replace them with soils that will provide the support necessary for the street. The developer plans to finish the earthwork and construct the street yet this year which should result in the availability of new building lots late in 2015 or early 2016.

Adoption of the new subdivision regulations completed a multi-year effort by the Kenton County Planning Commission and PDS staff. It was kicked off in 2011 with several identified goals, the most important being to create a set of regulations that provided enhanced material specifications and design controls to ensure that new streets would last a minimum of 20 years as designed. Extending the lives of these streets would reduce the cost borne by taxpayers to repair premature and costly failures.

Working with a committee of planning commission members, engineers, local mayors, and homebuilders, staff was successful in seeing that the requirement to evaluate the strength of a development’s subgrade soils was included in the adopted regulations.

“Based on the individual circumstances and test results, when poor subgrade soils are identified by the required evaluation, the regulations establish procedures to either increase subgrade soil strengths or the design of the pavement itself,” Hiles concluded.

Kenton County’s new Subdivision Regulations can be found online.



Future KY 536 improvement alternatives are awaiting input

Posted on August 28, 2015

A study team created by the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) is now in the process of taking all of the public input received this summer on KY 536 improvements and refining the alternatives under consideration. This process is part of OKI’s KY 536 Scoping Study launched last fall.

A third and final public open house will be held on Monday, October 5, from 4-7:00 PM at the Independence Senior and Community Center, 2001 Jack Woods Parkway in Independence.

“We received great information from the community about what’s most important to them during our first open house in March,” said Kenton County Judge/Executive Kris Knochelmann, Second Vice President of the OKI Board of Directors and project development team chair for the Scoping Study. “At the second open house held on July 6th, the community reviewed and commented on eight draft improvement alternatives that were developed based on study data and public feedback.”

Improvement options range from upgrading deficiencies on the existing corridor to relocating KY 536 onto newly constructed portions of roadway and maintaining the existing corridor as a local, neighborhood street.

A final recommendation will be presented to the public for review and comments during this open house. As with each of the previous public engagement sessions, a 30-day public comment period will be open from October 5 through November 5 to receive feedback on the final recommendation via the OKI website.

OKI wants to hear from everyone. You can visit the OKI website anytime and submit comments using the text box. While you are there, share your email so OKI can keep you informed of new information and updates as soon as they are available.

KY 536 is recognized widely as a critical east-west connector in terms of mobility, connectivity, and economic vitality for Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties and the greater metropolitan area. Phased improvements are being made currently to upgrade and modernize specific sections of the corridor.

The only portion of KY 536 for which specific improvements have not yet been identified is a 6.5-mile segment that extends between KY 17 and the Kenton/Campbell County Line (Licking River).

For more information, email OKI KY 536 Scoping Study Project Manager Robyn Bancroft, AICP, or call her at 513.619.7662.


Staff asked to assist state board with new definition of land surveying

Posted on July 09, 2015

Kentucky needs a new definition for the practice of land surveying—one that will distinguish between highly-accurate GIS maps and the technical products produced by licensed land surveyors. PDS staff members Trisha Brush, GISP, GIS director, and Steve Lilly, PLS, GISP, Surveying Analyst, were members of a taskforce charged with crafting that new definition.

B. David Cox, Executive Director for the Kentucky Board of Licensure explains the issue. “Modern GIS, GPS, and mapping technologies have dramatically increased the ability of non-surveyors to create a multitude of maps for a multitude of purposes. Some states have recently addressed the issue including Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida. Their approach was basically to bring mapping professionals into surveying licensure, including a "grandfathering" period and attempt to license all as surveyors.”

The decision to rewrite the definition as opposed to including mapping professionals into surveying licensure was made because of the inherent differences of the two professions. Even though there are many similarities between the two professions, the final work product and what it represents are entirely different. It was this final work product for each profession that would lead to this new definition.

The committee from Kentucky’s Board of Licensure requested members of the Kentucky Association of Surveyors (KAPS) and the Kentucky Association of Mapping Professionals (KAMP) to assist with the new definition. Brush and Lilly were selected since both are GIS Professionals who hold the GISP certification and both are involved in KAPS and KAMP. Lilly also holds a Professional Land Surveyor (PLS) license in Kentucky.

“This effort was important to both professions,” said Lilly. “The new definition—however it’s finally crafted—will help the public understand our different roles better and that’s something that benefits everyone.”

Members of the taskforce from the State Board, KAPS, and KAMP developed a definition that they recommended to the Legislative Research Commission (LRC). The LRC will utilize the recommendation to create a new regulation in 201 KAR 18:150.

The new definition will probably become effective later this year.


Collaboration begins implementation program for Plan4Health grant

Posted on July 09, 2015

Kenton County’s Direction 2030 comprehensive plan is the first to address the topic of health in a countywide planning document. Now, just months after the plan’s adoption, PDS staff is beginning to implement those health components. Like most PDS staff efforts, this is not being done alone.

Funded by a recent $135,000 grant from the American Planning Association (APA), the collaborative effort is working to provide access to nutritious food for those across the county who are unable to do so. The grant is being administered by the Kenton County Plan4Health Coalition (KCP4H) whose members include the Center for Great Neighborhoods of Covington, Inc.; the Northern Kentucky Health Department; the OKI Regional Council of Governments; and, Planning & Development Services of Kenton County.

KCP4H efforts will include a countywide assessment of underserved neighborhoods in addition to a series of actions addressing affordability of and access to healthy food. Using dollars that were appropriated originally by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Coalition will map all the county’s full-line grocery stores, locate neighborhoods with limited access to healthy foods, and work toward increasing the supply of fresh produce for residents in need.

“There’s no question that this initiative moves in directions not taken in the past by PDS,” said PDS Executive Director Dennis Gordon, FAICP. “An important point to remember, however, is that health issues were included in Direction 2030 because of input from Kenton County citizens. As we work to implement provisions of that plan, we’re also working to build a community as envisioned by those citizens.”

The foundation for more long-term efforts will also result from this grant project. KCP4H will work over a 12-month period (ending March 2016) to lay the groundwork for a countywide food policy council to ensure that healthy and accessible food efforts continue into the future.

APA’s Plan4Health grants are being made available to combat two determinants of chronic disease – lack of physical activity and lack of access to nutritious foods.  The program is being implemented in partnership with the American Public Health Association and represents a major new collaboration between planners and public health professionals. This is the first time that APA, via funding from the CDC, has offered grants to promote healthy living. 


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