… for whatever it’s worth…

Posted on February 02, 2015
“New study results from the University of Kansas… (presented in November) at the Gerontological Society of America’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C., bolster the adage that “heart healthy is brain healthy.” The investigation shows neighborhoods that motivate walking can stave off cognitive decline in older adults.”

In a recent news release from the University of Kansas, Brendan Lynch writes of study reports showing that intricate community layouts might help to keep cognition sharp, rather than serve as a source of confusion in older adults.

If proven true, this research could provide yet another reason to support walkable communities. As always, we provide this information for whatever it’s worth.

Views expressed in this article do not reflect an official position or policy of PDS. The article is presented here to provide input for those interested in land use planning issues.

Direction 2030 implementation efforts re-engaging citizens and groups

Posted on February 02, 2015
Work on implementing Direction 2030—Kenton County’s new comprehensive plan—is now underway. Four months since its formal adoption, the plan’s vision is providing the driving force for bringing the community together again. The difference is on the focus, with implementation being the goal.

Direction 2030 identified unique needs within each of Kenton County’s four sub-areas: urban, first ring suburbs, suburban, and rural. The first area of focus for implementation is the rural sub-area. The initiative taken by the residents of southern Kenton County during preparation of the plan offered a natural progression into immediate implementation.
The South Kenton Citizens Group has organized itself around four committees that will each address one of the plan’s topics. These committees were formed in October, immediately following adoption of Direction 2030. Their goals are to pursue research and find creative ways for implementation. The topics being addressed by these committees are roads, utilities, zoning, and agricultural education and marketing. Each committee includes seven to ten residents from the area.

“The committees will get together soon to share ideas and then continue to work individually on their assigned issues. By fall every committee will have a good handle on the specific strategies that should be pursued for each of the four topic areas,” said Edward Dietrich, AICP, principal planner with PDS and project manager for rural sub-area efforts.

The zoning committee, for example, is analyzing whether zoning currently in place is effective in preserving the rural heritage of southern Kenton County. Members are also researching ways in which other communities have handled rural zoning. At the end of the process—after input from the larger community—they will focus on implementing a specific strategy that will promote the policies established by Direction 2030 for the rural sub-area.

 “We are a very active group of citizens who care deeply about our rural community. We knew it was important to get involved in the planning phase to make our voices heard. Now we are organizing ourselves around what needs to be accomplished in terms of implementation,” said Kathy Donohoue, a resident of southern Kenton County.

Partner organizations including the Northern Kentucky Water District and the Northern Kentucky Area Development District are working with PDS staff to support the group in its efforts.

Implementation efforts in the urban sub-area are anticipated to begin in late January. These efforts will be tailored specifically towards the topics of interest to urban residents and pursued through a planning process that works for the urban core.

UC planning students begin study work on land uses in KY 536 corridor

Posted on February 02, 2015

A $4,000 grant from the Murray and Agnes Seasongood Good Government Foundation will cover costs associated with an upcoming study of land uses in Kenton County’s KY 536 corridor. Work will be pursued by planning students from a University of Cincinnati studio class in the department of art, architecture, and planning.

The project entitled “Vision Plan for KY 536 Environs” is scheduled to last the entire spring semester (16 weeks) with formal class times twice a week. The final four weeks of the studio will include numerous presentations to the public and to Kenton County planning and legislative bodies.

The class’s report will be used by PDS and the Kenton County Planning Commission as the foundation for future land use and planning studies of the corridor.

“The focus of this studio is on planning and design practices at the regional scale,” said Dr. Vikas Mehta, Associate Professor with the School of Planning and faculty for the studio course. “Its main goal is to expose students to the complexity of working with multiple jurisdictions, regional spatial patterns, land use activities at regional scale, and its impacts on regional resources.”

During the semester, students will explore a number of planning issues that are critical in understanding the cultural, natural, economic, and political structure of the corridor. As an important part of the studio, students will analyze social and physical factors such as the stakeholders’ needs and interests, the natural ecology, urban growth, land use and transportation, public space, and associated patterns in the region. Learning from their analyses, the students are expected to develop a vision for the corridor. Given the significance of current discourse, this studio will emphasize the promotion of planning and design principles, policies and actions that enhance the physical conditions of the region and improve the human experience in it.

The studio will be organized into a five-step structure:

SENSING: information and data collection; mapping - people, places, phenomena;
ANALYZING: organizing, structuring and synthesizing information and data;
THEORIZING: values, goals, objectives, visions;
MAKING: processes, products; and
COMMUNICATING: writing, speaking, graphics.

“The five steps provide a basic structure for the studio. Although these are listed in a sequence, the steps do not suggest a linear process,” states Dr. Mehta.

Scheduling begins for final review and vote on new subdivision regulations

Posted on February 02, 2015
A document seven years in the making is about to be scheduled for public comment. The Subdivision Regulations Committee of the Kenton County Planning Commission will meet at 5:30 p.m. on February 3 to discuss the final draft document and vote on whether to send it forward to the full planning commission. Action to schedule it for public hearing could come as soon as the commission’s February 5 meeting.

The document may be found here. The meeting will take place in the Commission Chambers of the PDS Building in Fort Mitchell.

“It’s taken a while but in the end we’ve got a good product”, said Scott Hiles, CPC, PDS’ director of infrastructure engineering. “This is the first time the subdivision regulations have been updated comprehensively since they were adopted in the 1970s.”

PDS staff began rewriting the regulations in 2008 following a call by the Kenton County Mayors’ Group to update the document’s street construction standards. Mayors and public works officials claimed that subdivision streets were failing prematurely and cited the county’s subdivision regulations as the reason.

The first working draft of the document was released for public review in late 2010. Since that time staff and Planning Commission chair Paul Darpel have worked with various groups to develop consensus on the document’s contents. The commission’s subdivision regulations committee approved that draft a year ago excluding the street design standards and earthwork requirements.

Darpel invited a group of pavement and geotechnical engineers representing developers and the Mayors’ Group to work on those issues and present a recommendation to staff and the committee. After many months of work, that group presented the standards now included in the document. Members assert that streets built to these new standards will last a minimum of 20 years with proper maintenance.

“I recognize the work that the engineers put into providing us their street and earthwork recommendations,” said Darpel. “They did some great work and were able to find common ground on a contentious issue which provides us the last piece of the puzzle to get this project completed.”

“Our hope is that the subdivision regulations committee approves the draft with no changes,” said Hiles. “If that’s the case, the document will then be sent to the full commission for consideration and scheduling the final public hearing.”

Direction 2030 adoption prompts terminology changes in zoning ordinances

Posted on January 26, 2015
Adoption of the Direction 2030 comprehensive plan in September marked the beginning of efforts to implement it. Almost immediately, several zoning text modifications needed to be made to each of Kenton County’s 20 zoning ordinances to reflect terminology that changed in the new plan.

Key terms such as ‘urban service area’ and ‘physically restrictive development area’ have been used in Kenton County’s planning documents and zoning ordinances for decades. Direction 2030 established new terminology for these terms following calls from the community to develop new terms more reflective of the policies. Consistent terminology between the comprehensive plan and zoning ordinances is necessary to avoid confusion in administration.

Last month, the Kenton County Planning Commission approved a favorable recommendation on four zoning text amendments that are required to bring the zoning ordinance of each of Kenton County’s 20 jurisdictions into compliance with Direction 2030.

The first relates to physically restrictive development area (PRDA). This terminology was modified to developmentally sensitive area (DSA) in the comprehensive plan. References to PRDA occured mostly in the hillside related regulations and will be referenced as DSA moving forward. The intent behind this policy is to alert developers of land that may be sensitive to development based on the presence of certain geologic characteristics. During the public process, the new term was determined to be more reflective of this intent.

The second modification is related to the term ‘urban service area’. This was modified to include two terms—‘urban/suburban focus area’ and ‘rural focus area’. Again, this is reflective of conversations pursued with the community during the comprehensive plan process.

The changing nature of agricultural operations in the county requires a certain level of service. Infrastructure such as internet and cell service is vital in keeping up with modern technology used in agriculture particularly as it relates to agritourism. The new policy promotes the idea of focusing on the specific needs of each area rather than looking at services for the county as a whole.

The third and fourth requests, while not related to Direction 2030 require changes to be made to all zoning ordinances. NKAPC changed its name to Planning and Development Services of Kenton County (PDS) in July. Every zoning ordinance assigns certain responsibilities to staff and refers to NKAPC. The new name of the agency will now be reflected in ordinances following this change.

The fourth request pertains to clearly assigning the floodplain administrator in each jurisdiction.

“These amendments were anticipated during the final stages of the comprehensive plan process,” said Sharmili Reddy, AICP, PDS’ planning manager. “We’re working with our 20 legislative bodies now to act on these changes fairly soon to avoid any confusion.”

Staffers pass exam for ‘Certified Green Professional’ credential

Posted on January 26, 2015
Today’s explosion of technology almost demands that professionals seize every opportunity presented to stay abreast. That is what prompted Martin Scribner, AICP, PDS’ director of planning and zoning, and Andy Videkovich, AICP, senior planner, to attend a multi-day seminar in Indianapolis that focused on “green building” cosponsored by the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB).

Scribner and Videkovich were tested on what they learned at the conclusion of the sessions and both passed the exam. This makes them eligible for certification as a Certified Green Professional (CGP), an NAHB program aimed at fostering the construction of green buildings.

The NAHB uses the CGP designation as a way to identify builders, remodelers, manufacturers, and other professionals who are committed to green building philosophies and techniques. The course focused on an understanding that combining good, cost-effective building science with the right products and materials can help create buildings that are healthier and more efficient, while being kind to the environment. This also results in lower long-term utility costs to home owners.

By incorporating the National Green Building Standard into the curriculum, CGPs are trained to incorporate energy, water and resource efficiency, improved indoor environmental quality, and sustainable and locally sourced products into their projects. Preservation of natural contours and water quality of a site is also considered.

Because operating and maintaining a home correctly is the key to the long-term success of a green project, a large focus of the program is home owner education—from designing the space to meet specific needs and choosing the right products to making sure new owners are advised on how to ensure everything works the way it is designed.

CGPs must successfully complete 18 hours of classroom instruction and have at least two years of building industry experience before they earn their designation. They are also required to adhere to the CGP Code of Ethics and complete 12 hours of building industry and green-related continuing education every three years.
According to Scribner, “Andy and I took the opportunity to earn this credential in order to better assist with Direction2030 implementation efforts and to stay in touch with smart and innovative building trends. I feel that over the long run, this kind of information and education will pay out dividends for our community.”

PDS Board awards contract to Heritage Bank following RFP review

Posted on December 26, 2014
After reviewing four proposals for banking services to PDS for calendar years 2015 through 2017, PDS Management Board members voted unanimously last week to pursue a contract with Heritage Bank, according to the terms proposed by that contract.

“Heritage Bank was aggressive with its proposal this time,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, PDS’ executive director. “We calculate the difference to be roughly $1500 for the contract period. “And, while that might not seem like a lot, every bit counts when budgets are tight.”

Taskforce to review building permit fees, suggest changes for FY 2016

Posted on December 26, 2014
PDS’ One Stop Shop codes administration program will celebrate its tenth anniversary this coming June. As part of the agency’s look back and look forward for this popular service program, its FY15 annual work program calls for the creation of a taskforce to review fees charged by the program to pay for the services provided.

An 11-member group met this past week to begin the process of reviewing the fees along with a number of other issues specific to the program. Included among those issues are the following.

Mixed use buildings were a novel idea when the current fees schedule was created; that’s not the case today. How should PDS’ fee schedule respond to projects including mixed uses in the same building?
  • The current fee schedule is the result of adjusting the base fee schedule adopted on the inception of One Stop Shop on an annual basis with the percentage increase tied to the consumer price index promulgated each year by the Kentucky Department for Local Government. The taskforce will be asked to provide its opinion on that policy.
  • Should homeowners planning to do their own work be charged the same amount as a professional hired to do the same work?
  • Some have suggested that remodeling/rehabbing projects should be charged a lower permit and inspection fee since: (a) the base fee schedule was created with new construction in mind; (b) remodeling/rehabbing projects generally include less work than new construction projects; and (c) PDS should be encouraging remodeling/rehabbing. The taskforce will be asked to provide its opinion on this question.

Those agreeing to serve on the taskforce include: Tony Kreutzjans, Orleans Development; John Toebben, the Toebben Company; Bob Schroder, Arlinghaus Builders; Larry Klein, Covington City Manager; Jeanne Schroer, Catalytic Fund of Covington; Chris Moriconi, Independence city administrator; Chris Meyer, Covington architect; Paul Meier, Crestview Hills mayor; Josh Gunther, the Drees Company; Amanda Igo, Fischer Homes; and Chuck Eilerman, Covington Commissioner.

“I’m pleased with the caliber people we were able to enlist for this important review,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, PDS’ executive director. “I hope their work will stand the test of time as well as did their predecessors’ work completed in 2005.”

Gordon hopes the taskforce can have their review and recommendations complete by next March.

Dixie Fix Committee gears up for infusion of newly-elected officials

Posted on December 26, 2014
Nearly ten years ago, PDS and OKI embarked on a collaborative study to plan for the future of Dixie Highway. This plan, which came to be known as the Dixie Fix, examined the corridor in Boone and Kenton Counties and provided recommendations for long range congestion mitigation, improved access, and increased safety. During the approvals phase of the project, each of the ten jurisdictions in the study area adopted the plan, signifying the importance of this main route through Northern Kentucky.

Realizing a plan’s vision takes the dedication and hard work of numerous people. The Dixie Fix has been fortunate in that the corridor has benefitted from the guidance of an oversight team since the plan’s official adoption. This team, comprised of representatives from jurisdictions within the study area and associated technical groups, has worked to bring the plan’s recommendations forward to fruition. Most recently the plan guided a $75,000 pavement/paver/sidewalk project in Elsmere and realignment of the Dixie and Garvey intersection, which resulted in one less traffic signal.

Soon the study group will reconvene to discuss progress on implementing the plan, focus on opportunities for 2015, and welcome new people to the team.

“After the results of the last election were finalized there were some newly-elected officials and city administrators serving cities along the corridor,” said James Fausz, AICP, principal planner with PDS. “We’re looking forward to them meeting with the team and welcoming their participation.”

The team will meet later this winter to discuss the plan and work towards new projects to implement. If you would like to learn more about the Dixie Fix project please refer to the plan’s website.

KY 536 to be studied for new alignment and recommended land uses

Posted on December 26, 2014
A major widening of the KY 536 corridor from the Boone County Line to KY 17 has been planned for at least a decade and will provide much needed east/west connectivity to that portion of Kenton County. Extending that corridor to the Licking River and ultimately to US 27 in Campbell County is the focus of a scoping study initiated earlier this month by OKI and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

That 6.5-mile segment of KY 536 is the only remaining section of the entire corridor that does not have a preferred alternative or improvement plan in place.

“According to Transportation Cabinet officials, 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,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, PDS’ executive director.

“The crash rate for this segment of 536 is almost 3.4 times the statewide average for similar roadways across the Commonwealth. This means that drivers are more than three times as likely to have an accident on this stretch of road when compared to other similar roadways in Kentucky.”
This scoping study has been undertaken by OKI on behalf of the entire region to identify improvements that are needed to improve safety.

“We’re committed to making improvements that meet existing and future needs of the traveling public and the urban and rural communities KY 536 serves,” said Robyn Bancroft, AICP, project manager for the study at OKI.

“We are currently in the first phase of the study—data collection and analysis. Safety is our primary concern; however, traffic volumes are also being analyzed to determine not just what is needed today to make the corridor safer, but what will be needed in the future.”

This first phase of the study will identify the problems of the roadway and form the foundation upon which the study’s improvement alternatives will be drafted for public review. As the study progresses, additional information will be posted on the study’s webpage.

The KY 536 Scoping Study itself will not involve new or altered land use plans or zoning amendments for the corridor. That is a separate process. PDS planners will begin working with University of Cincinnati planning students next month to examine the potential impact that expansion of KY 536 will have on adjacent neighborhoods and communities.

This separate PDS project, which is being funded by a grant from the Murray and Agnes Seasongood Good Government Foundation, will study how the expansion of KY 536 will impact adjacent land uses. Students will document the existing conditions, explore primary planning elements (mobility, land use, environment, community facilities/utilities, concept map, economy, and housing), and address the potential for economic development, nodes of activity, connectivity, and community character.

A key component of the project will be to engage the public in these discussions, with a number of different opportunities being explored. The third year undergraduate studio work will conclude in April.

“The widening of 536 is critical to the continued economic stability of Independence,” said Chris Moriconi, Independence City Administrator. “In particular, [the KY 536 improvement project] will provide a much needed east/west corridor for our residents and businesses by providing a safe and improved corridor to  I-75.”

“This will provide a unique experience for the UC students and for PDS,” said Andy Videkovich, AICP, senior planner at PDS and project manager for this study. “The students will get to work with a number of different agencies and jurisdictions to see how they coordinate large multi-jurisdictional projects. PDS will be able to tap into the energy and enthusiasm that the students will bring and use their work to further plan for the region.”

“It’s not very often that we get to plan for a roadway corridor like this,” concluded Gordon. “Looking at transportation and land usage at the same time is the way this is supposed to be done—and everyone benefits. Unfortunately, timing rarely work out like it will with these two efforts.”
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