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. 


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.”

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