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. 


Parks initiative kicks off comprehensive plan’s urban implementation

Posted on July 09, 2015
PDS staff embarked recently on an effort to help inventory and improve Kenton County’s urban parks. The project is a collaborative effort with the Cities of Covington, Ludlow, and Bromley and marks a major step forward for implementation of Kenton County’s Direction 2030: Your Voice, Your Choice comprehensive plan.

The first step of the project involved identifying the location of all park facilities, inventorying the types of amenities provided at each location, and documenting the condition of all existing equipment and structures. This was completed in May.

The second phase of the project focuses on providing a website meant for use as an ongoing public resource and input tool.

“Throughout the Direction 2030 process, we focused on having conversations with citizens to learn what they wanted in the future. This input was a great asset to the plan and provided a springboard for what we’re pursuing now with this urban sub area parks project,” said Michael Ionna, AICP, a principal planner with PDS. “The new website will be a great way for us to continue those conversations and to learn how they feel about park improvements.”

The new website is dedicated solely to the urban parks project. One of its primary features is a survey to gather public input that will serve as a guide for future investment and improvements. Another is an interactive map that will display each park’s location, a corresponding picture, and a description and list of amenities and provided at that location.

“While the site provides a mechanism for collecting public input, it also provides information on the parks themselves,” Ionna elaborated. “We encourage residents to visit RiverCityParks.org to check out the features of the interactive map and to take the survey to “Help Plan Your Parks!”

Watch for future reports on the progress of the plan and be sure to visit the website for more information. For more details on the project, contact Michael Ionna at mionna@pdskc.org or 859.331.8980.


Direction 2030, new subdivision regulations awarded top honors

Posted on July 09, 2015
The Kenton County Planning Commission accomplished even more than it thought when it adopted a new comprehensive plan and new subdivision regulations for Kenton County earlier this year. PDS staff’s crafting and the planning commission’s adoption of the two documents garnered top honors at this year’s awards program of the Kentucky Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA-KY).

The 2015 APA-KY Outstanding Comprehensive Plan Award was given to Direction 2030: Your Voice, Your Choice and the Outstanding Project/Program/Tool Award was granted to Kenton County’s Subdivision Regulations. Both awards cap off years’-long efforts by staff and the planing commission to replace documents that were adopted initially during the 1970s.

Earning both awards puts PDS and the planning commission in a unique position. To the best of recollections by current APA-KY leaders, this is the first time that a jurisdiction has taken home the chapter’s two top honors in a single year.

The September 2014 adoption of Direction 2030: Your Voice, Your Choice put in place a new comprehensive plan for the county and did so while realizing several challenging achievements. This nearly-three-year effort was accomplished with the unanimous support of Kenton County’s 20 jurisdictions in the first update of the countywide Goals & Objectives in more than 40 years. It also accomplished what few communities (if any) have done before. Direction 2030 and its interactive mapping format is entirely web based; no single printed document was produced.

“Kenton County’s new comprehensive plan is the product of strong relationships—both pre-existing and newly-created—between PDS staff, members of the Planning Commission, and stakeholders from throughout the community,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, PDS’ executive director. “Without the creative, diligent, and persevering efforts of these relationships, this plan and the recognition it’s received now wouldn’t have been possible.”

Direction 2030: Your Voice, Your Choice can be accessed here. A website dedicated to implementation efforts for the plan will be put online soon. Watch this space or the PDS website for news about that effort. Contact James Fausz, AICP, a PDS principal planner, at jfausz@pdskc.org or 859.331.8980 for more information.

The effort to rewrite Kenton County’s subdivision regulations—a document which impacts all 20 local jurisdictions—began in the fall of 2009. It concluded this past March 10th when the Kenton County Planning Commission voted unanimously to adopt the new regulations. That action ended implementation of regulations that were adopted first in 1978.

This vote completed an arduous effort by PDS staff, KCPC, the Kenton County Mayors’ Group, and local development and home building interests to: produce a document that is efficient for use by both developers and staff; provide greater design flexibility for developers and ultimately the buying public; promote better coordination with governmental agencies that play a role in the subdivision review and approval process; and most importantly, to provide taxpayer protection to those who will have to maintain the streets that serve these developments. 

“The planning commission’s primary concern was to hear and consider every suggestion that was made,” said Gordon. “Members knew that they wouldn’t be able to incorporate all of the suggestions but were committed to making all of the groups that participated feel like they had had a voice and that their suggestions were given proper consideration.”

“To be recognized for this accomplishment is icing on the cake,” he concluded.

The newly-adopted Kenton County Subdivision Regulations can be found here. Contact Scott Hiles, CPC, PDS’ director of infrastructure engineering, at shiles@pdskc.org or 859.331.8980 for more information.


UC planning students crafting recommendations for KY 536 land

Posted on May 05, 2015
PDS planners are facilitating work by University of Cincinnati planning students to analyze some of the potential impacts improvement of KY 536 will have on adjacent communities. The roadway project, which has been planned for at least a decade, will provide much needed east/west connectivity in central and southern Kenton County.

“This project was meant to provide UC students real-world experience in planning issues that exist in our community. It was also designed to provide our community leaders with an insight into the possibilities for the corridor,” said Sharmili Reddy, AICP, planning manager at PDS.

Over the past several weeks, the class has presented its preliminary reports to the Kenton County Planning Commission, the Independence City Council, the PDS Management Board, and Kenton County Fiscal Court. These presentations were meant to update the boards on the progress of the project, to discuss a few of the preliminary recommendations, and to obtain feedback and thoughts about the project which will be merged into the final reports.

Based upon the students’ efforts and analysis, the class is formulating ideas now for the values, goals, vision, and mission for their final reports. Some preliminary ideas presented thus far include:

    •    creating a harmonious transition between the historic downtown Independence, suburban, and rural landscapes around KY 536, balancing the unique needs of each type of development;
    •    improving multimodal access to existing developments and amenities locally and regionally; and
    •    celebrating the unique character of Southern Kenton County through policies, programs, and activities that recognize and enhance the rural heritage.

As the class nears completion, students will be refining their recommendations and presenting their final reports to staff and faculty. Their final reports will be available on the project’s website.

“We’ve heard many positive comments that the students did a great job capturing the community’s sentiments,” said Reddy. “We hope this experience will help them when they start their professional careers.”

Direction 2030 implementation efforts continue to build momentum

Posted on May 05, 2015
Steps taken by PDS staff during the crafting of Direction 2030 paved the way for implementation efforts now underway across Kenton County. Breaking the citizen input received through the Kenton County Planning Commission’s aggressive public outreach into subareas of the county is paying off now as planners work with local groups to take steps towards accomplishing the comprehensive plan’s goals.

Current efforts are focused primarily on the urban and rural subareas. There are two major advantages to this approach. First, it promotes coordination and collaboration amongst multiple jurisdictions which share a common vision and are working towards implementing similar projects. Secondly, it allows for continued public dialogue around issues that have been identified in the plan as a priority and engages the community in finding solutions. The urban and rural subarea implementation efforts are doing just that.

“Our citizen partners are very enthusiastic about these projects since the focus is finally on implementation,” said Michael Ionna, AICP, a PDS principal planner. Ionna is facilitating implementation efforts being pursued in the urban subarea. “We anticipate that in six months we will have made significant progress on the recommendations.”

Following preliminary meetings with key stakeholders and examination of available resources, the urban subarea project team has identified three projects which implement recommendations of Direction 2030. The current list includes: an inventory and analysis of existing and potential park and recreation facilities; an evaluation and streamlining of zoning regulations and permitting processes; and, development of a tool for documenting current, completed, and potential development projects and initiatives within the urban core of Kenton County.

Work has begun on the parks and recreation project. Over the course of the next few months the project partners will work to inventory recreation facilities and locations to identify the types of amenities being provided as well as the area and population each facility serves.

This information will be put into a digital format to be published online as a public resource as well as a tool to provide input to guide new investments into the system. This project is a collaborative effort between PDS planning and GIS staffs and Kenton County’s river cities.

Work on rural subarea implementation continues with the work of the South Kenton County Citizens Group. Each committee (roads, agricultural heritage, services, and zoning) has met at least twice over the past two months. Ed Dietrich, PDS principal planner, is facilitating this subarea’s implementation efforts.

The services committee has met with the Northern Kentucky Water District to discuss water extension to the remaining residents of southern Kenton County. The committee has also met with the Telecommunications Board and learned about increasing the coverage of its broadcast. The roads committee met with Kenton County’s chief of police and public works director to talk about improving the safety of roadways.

The agricultural heritage committee has discussed various options to promote agriculture. The committee will discuss strategies to attract young people to farming at their upcoming meeting in May. The zoning committee is working with PDS on various zoning options to keep south Kenton County rural.

The citizens group is planning a public meeting on June 15th to receive the general public’s thoughts about the work that has been accomplished so far.

For more information about projects being pursued in these two subareas, contact Ionna at mionna@pdskc.org and Dietrich at edietrich@pdskc.org.
 
 

Demand for lots, spring weather prompt more subdivision plats

Posted on May 05, 2015
Developers have submitted three new preliminary subdivision plans over the last several months; each represents a significant addition to existing developments. Additionally, other developers have submitted plans for subdivisions that received approval in prior years.

“We’re seeing more residential development activity right now than we’ve seen in years,” said Scott Hiles, CPC, director of infrastructure engineering with PDS. “Based on what’s already been submitted and what we’re hearing is on the way, we’re planning for a very busy year.”

Much of this new activity is centered in the Cities of Taylor Mill and Independence. Taylor Creek Subdivision, whose entrance is along Pride Parkway in Taylor Mill, will gain 20 lots. This preliminary subdivision plan is the first submitted since Kenton County’s new subdivision regulations took effect last month. The approximate 400 feet of proposed new street will be the first built under the county’s new street construction standards.

The second new development—also in Taylor Mill—is a 60-lot addition to High Ridge Park. The entrance to High Ridge Park is along Wayman Branch Road very near to the point at which Wayman Branch intersects Pride Parkway. This development, which is just south of Taylor Creek Subdivision, will result in almost 2,500 feet of new public street.

The other of these newest new development plans is for land in the City of Independence; it will add 23 new lots to the Spring Meadows Subdivision. Its entrance is along Lakefield Drive just east of Taylor Mill Road. The infrastructure for this addition is already in place so this will include an addition of lots, not street.

In other recent submittals, Ashford Village, whose original preliminary subdivision approval dates back to 2002, will soon see the addition of approximately 350 feet of new public street and ten new lots. The entrance to Ashford Village is along Mills Road, opposite Mills Park. The entrance to Ashford Village is what prompted the city to make this new intersection a three-way stop controlled intersection.

Staff has also spoken with developers about two additional subdivisions in Independence that have yet to be submitted but are expected in the next couple of months.

Independence and Taylor Mill are not the only cities seeing new subdivision activity. Other previously approved subdivisions are moving forward in Covington and Erlanger, and most notably, Crestview Hills. Although a subdivision plan hasn’t been submitted yet formally, staff is aware of a new 43-lot subdivision that will include over 2,000 feet of new public street, all of which will be constructed to the new street standards.

Subdivision activity last year in Kenton County showed a marked increase over the last several years and the activity PDS is seeing early this year is a good indication that it’s likely to continue.


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