Independence disbands adjustment and code enforcement boards

Posted on December 26, 2014
Following the decision by its City Council to join the PDS One Stop Shop program, the City of Independence has dissolve its Board of Adjustment and Code Enforcement Board in favor of joining the respective Kenton County boards.
Many of the cities in Kenton County find it difficult to maintain their own boards for several reasons. Keeping the appointed members on these boards can be problematic because of the thankless nature of the job, the time commitment, plus the requirement of ongoing planning education.

Many of the smaller communities in Kenton County have an ongoing problem finding volunteers, not to mention keeping those appointees compliant with the state-mandated education requirements. There is also a cost incurred by each city to support those boards in the way of staff costs, attorney fees, notification fees, and stipends to the board members.

Fortunately, cities have an alternative in the way of joining the boards that are maintained by Kenton County and PDS. These boards carry no costs to the cities themselves beyond the regular One Stop Shop program costs. For the board of adjustment, if a city chooses to dissolve its board, their community automatically becomes a participant in the Kenton County Board of Adjustment, for which, application fees and the Fiscal Court carry the cost.

The Kenton County Joint Code Enforcement Board is enabled by an interlocal agreement between the participating local governments and supported by PDS and the fines collected by the board. Each participating government appoints one member to the board. The participating cities have not only eliminated the difficulty of managing the board and its members, but also see a real cost savings as well, which can be passed along to residents.

The added advantage to these boards is that, considering the small nature of many of the Kenton County cities, the county-wide boards offer a more diverse makeup and the reduced likelihood of a member actually knowing an applicant appearing before them, a relatively common occurrence in many of Kenton County’s cities.

“While our local BoA and CEB have done an outstanding job over the years, it became more cost effective to utilize the county boards when we opted to go with the One Stop Shop,” said Independence Mayor-Elect Chris Reinersman. “In addition, Independence is hopeful that, by virtue of the greater number of cases heard and frequency of meetings, board members will benefit from a broader knowledge base and level of objectivity.”

Independence has taken the necessary steps to utilize the Kenton County Board of Adjustment immediately and to participate in the Kenton County Joint Code Enforcement Board beginning in January. provides interactive maps for those with questions

Posted on December 01, 2014
Direction 2030, Kenton County’s first completely new comprehensive plan since 1972 and PDS’ first completely digital comprehensive plan was adopted three months ago. If you haven’t yet visited the website, take a few minutes to learn more about the vision for the community and interact with the electronic plan.

The online format allows users to navigate easily through the entire comprehensive plan in a way that was not possible previously using a hardcopy plan.

One of the more exciting features incorporated with the Direction 2030 website is the addition of interactive maps that correspond with the plan’s different elements. Each map was customized to incorporate geographic features important to the element of the comprehensive plan they are supporting. Users can navigate in and around Kenton County and simply click on features in the map to find out more information.

The Direction 2030 website marks the first time PDS has incorporated interactive mapping directly into an adopted plan or study. PDS has used similar technology in the past on the LINK-GIS website. This new approach, however, combines new mapping technology with a completely digital plan. The final product enables planners to reach a broader audience and empower the people of Kenton County to learn more about what the comprehensive plan means to them and their community.
“Our primary goal with the web-based plan was to use the power of technology to create a user-friendly experience for a plan that can otherwise be daunting,” explained Sharmili Reddy, AICP, planning manager for PDS and project manager for the comprehensive plan. “For instance, if you’re interested in learning more about the location of parks in the Community Facilities element of the plan, you can use the map feature, zoom into different areas, and get more information about the park, all on the same page.”

While users can view the embedded map with the associated text, there are more features just a click away. A link to a larger interactive map is available under the embedded maps on the website. Clicking the link for the larger interactive map opens a full screen sized map that not only provides the user a larger view but also offers the ability to turn layers on and off and measure features on the map.
In total there are ten interactive maps embedded in the comprehensive plan that include topics ranging from Environment to the Economy and everything in between.  

Visit to interact with the maps and learn more about Kenton County’s revolutionary new plan.

Delivery of GIS data provides community with tree canopy inventory

Posted on December 01, 2014
A recent grant from the USDA Forest Service through the Kentucky Division of Forestry to the Northern Kentucky Urban and Community Forestry Council has provided LINK-GIS partners with high resolution data on tree cover. SavATree, in collaboration with the University of Vermont’s Spatial Analysis Laboratory, mapped Northern Kentucky’s land cover.

“We’re pleased to receive these new data,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, PDS executive director and managing partner of the LINK-GIS partnerships. “This collaborative effort with Northern Kentucky’s Urban and Community Forestry Council will be extremely helpful to PDS and our GIS partners as more and more emphasis is focused on air and water quality issues.”

The project succeeded in mapping land cover for Northern Kentucky with a high level of accuracy. The project was able to achieve its goals by leveraging existing data provided by LINK-GIS. The 7-class land cover will be useful for producing tree canopy and land cover metrics. The percent of forest was broken down for each city, watershed, block group, and even down to the parcel level.

Tree canopy data is now available on the base map of the LINK-GIS website. Questions should be addressed to the GIS staff at PDS.

Residential street construction increases since end of the recession

Posted on December 01, 2014
Subdivision development and new street construction during 2014 showed an increase over 2013 and a dramatic increase when compared to levels of activity only a few years ago. What’s more, even with a colder than normal fall the activity is expected to continue late into the year.

“There’s always the risk that street construction will slow down or stop when temperatures drop sooner than expected. But as long as they remain above freezing we know of at least two developments that are working toward adding more street before the end of the year,” said Scott Hiles, CPC, director of PDS’ infrastructure engineering department.

Subdivisions in unincorporated Kenton County and the cities of Erlanger, Covington, and Independence all saw new street construction in 2014. The majority of streets were located in the City of Independence.  

“We haven’t seen this level of street construction since well before the recession,” said Hiles. “In looking back through our records, the amount of new street that was constructed this year quadrupled the amount we saw constructed just four years ago, and we’re not finished yet.”

Staff is also seeing signs that the upward trend in subdivision development will likely continue. In 2014 over 200 new lots were proposed and approved along new streets. In a few cases, construction was started this year on those new subdivisions but in no cases were any of these developments completed.

“Because we had more lots and street approved this year than was completed, we’re confident that this will carry over to next year and mean a busy 2015,” said Hiles.

One reason in particular to recognize the increase in street construction is its relation to the new subdivision regulations that are currently being written.

“A primary focus of the new regulations is better, longer lasting streets,” said Hiles. “It’s important to get these new regulations adopted so that all of the benefits to the community that they’ll bring can be incorporated into these new subdivisions.”

Hiles said that staff is continuing to work with a committee of engineers to reach consensus on a final recommendation to the Kenton County Planning Commission.

“Everyone is in agreement with most of the important issues. We’re working to finalize the last of the outstanding items and tie up some loose ends at this point. We understand the importance of getting the process finished but more important is making sure the regulations are enforceable in the way staff needs them to be.”

Hiles said that he is confident that the new regulations will be finished and adopted by the planning commission before the beginning of the 2015 development season.

PDS to provide required continuing education for boards of adjustment

Posted on November 06, 2014

In an effort to make it as easy as possible for board of adjustment members to stay current with state-mandated continuing education, PDS staff and Louisville area attorney, David Pike, will host a four-hour training session at 8 AM on November 1st. The training will be provided at the PDS offices in Fort Mitchell.

This is part of an ongoing effort to support Kenton County city boards and provide training free of cost to their appointed members.

State law requires that members of planning commissions, boards of adjustment, and professional planners throughout the commonwealth pursue continuing education on an annual basis. This training is being geared toward new board members and as a refresher for members whose boards don’t meet regularly.

“We will be covering the role and responsibilities of the board of adjustment and its members,” said Martin Scribner, AICP, Director of Planning and Zoning Administration for PDS. “We will go over possible legal issues and case studies for each one of the four types of issues the boards are authorized to decide.”

Board of adjustment members typically meet a few times a year when they have applications for conditional use permits, variances, appeals of administrator decisions, and to approve applications for changes from one non-conforming use to another.

The PDS-sponsored training will provide four hours of required orientation credit for new members and half of the required credit existing members need for a two-year term.

TBNK personnel will videotape the training session for any members not in attendance. Scribner stated, “We usually have a pretty good turnout and plan to provide a DVD of the session to all of the municipalities in Kenton County.”

PDS also hosts regular continuing education webinars on varying subjects that are provided by groups such as the American Planning Association.

In the past, this training has been well attended. “We do it free of charge,” said Scribner. “It can be expensive to send board members to training around the region, so we’re happy to serve our communities and do it locally.”

Senior staffer’s service nets President’s Award at annual KAMP conference

Posted on November 06, 2014

During the Kentucky Association of Mapping Professionals’ (KAMP) annual conference in Louisville in September, PDS Senior GIS Specialist Tom East, GISP, was awarded KAMP’s first ever President’s Award.

According to the KAMP website, “This award is not presented yearly but at the discretion of the current President. This award recognizes extraordinary service to the KAMP Executive Board and members.”

East has served as the treasurer for KAMP since 2012 and has initiated several efforts improving the record management, membership management, and financial management of the organization. KAMP is an organization of almost 400 professionals involved in the mapping sciences, with the stated purpose of fostering understanding and improved management and use of geospatial information throughout the Commonwealth. It also seeks to provide a mechanism for dialogue and education regarding geospatial information issues by professionals.

Along with East, other PDS staff members also participated in the conference. Senior GIS Programmer/Specialist Christy Powell, GISP, led a workshop on mobile data collection for GIS and, along with Principal GIS Programmer/Specialist Joe Busemeyer, GISP, and Principal Planner James Fausz, AICP, made a presentation about the creation of the new, all-digital, Direction 2030 comprehensive plan website.

Trisha Brush, GISP, Director of GIS Administration presented a session on the marketing of GIS services through social media. East also presented an informational session on Next Generation 9-1-1 and the essential role GIS will play in its operation.

Building department recertified to pursue state-level building projects

Posted on November 06, 2014

PDS has once again demonstrated to Kentucky’s Department of Housing, Buildings and Construction (DHBC) that it maintains the certification and knowledge to handle larger projects within Kenton County. The agency was granted its renewal recently for the expanded jurisdiction program for all of Kenton County absent Erlanger that has its own program.

To gain expanded jurisdiction, local building departments must demonstrate that they have the manpower, certification, and knowledge to handle larger construction projects. These projects are those with an occupant load of at least 100 or more persons. Office buildings of 10,000 square feet, industrial buildings larger than 20,000 square feet, and residential buildings larger than 20,000 square feet or three stories are some examples of buildings that fall under this criterion.

“I’m proud to acknowledge once again that our building inspection team has earned Frankfort’s trust,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, PDS’ executive director. “Our office personnel and field inspectors work hard to justify this trust. They also work closely with building contractors to help them achieve their goals within the parameters set by the state building code.”

PDS first acquired expanded jurisdiction from the state in 1998 and has renewed it every three years since through an audit process. The resulting contract gives DHBC control over how the program is run and the ability to terminate the program if the local department fails to live up to state standards.

DHBC personnel visit the local jurisdictions after the application process and verify in the field that all parameters of KRS 198B.060(5) are met. Once the Department is satisfied that the local jurisdiction is maintaining proper procedures and meeting state standards, it makes sure all local ordinances and agreements are in place lawfully and then signs the contract for the next three years.

With PDS performing these larger projects locally, dollars spent on permits are kept locally and not returned back to Frankfort for dispersion throughout the commonwealth. It also allows for projects to occur quicker. Typically, inspections are provided with 24 hours’ notice and plans are reviewed in seven to eight business days if not sooner where it can be up to a month or more for a plan review at DHBC.

GIS department provides HBA information on available subdivision lots

Posted on November 06, 2014

The PDS GIS department worked closely recently with the Homebuilders Association of Northern Kentucky (HBA) on a project to determine the number of “finished” subdivided lots in Kenton County.

Finished lots are vacant lots ready to be sold but without an existing structure.

Additional lot definitions utilized in this project fell under several categories: lots with water and sewer access, lots with just water access, lots with only sewer access, and lots without access to either utility. The analysis also took into consideration the zoning of the property; residential, commercial or industrial.

“This analysis is exactly the type that GIS is built to report,” commented Trisha Brush, GISP, Director of GIS at PDS. “We were happy to share these data with the HBA, and look forward to serving the association in the future as needs arise.”

Due to the scale of the project, the PDS team delivered the analyzed data in three maps. The maps were broken down as Urban (the Ohio River to I-275), suburban (I-275 to KY536), and rural (KY536 to the southern Kenton County boundary).

Staff’s goal in moving forward is to have these data and more available on the fly or on an as needed basis. There have been some discussions of building a website just for HBA’s needs with a secure login, but for now that is purely conceptual.

Independence becomes 17th participant in One Stop Shop program

Posted on November 06, 2014

Independence City Council and Planning and Development Services of Kenton County entered into an interlocal agreement recently that delegates the city’s zoning ordinance and property maintenance code administration to PDS; the agreement becomes effective on Monday, November 3rd. Independence is the 17th Kenton County jurisdiction (out of 20) to be part of PDS’ collaborative One Stop Shop program.

The program is built on PDS’ “critical mass” of professionals, providing economies of scale that are impossible for local jurisdictions to match and levels of service the local jurisdictions can’t afford.

The city is also opting to disband its own board of adjustment and code enforcement board in favor of participation in the Kenton County joint board of adjustment and Kenton County joint code enforcement board. These moves are expected to save the city even more public funds.

“We’re pleased to welcome Independence to the program,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, executive director. “Mayor Donna Yeager and City Administrator Chris Moriconi have talked with us over the past several weeks about the city’s priorities; we understand them clearly and intend to hit the ground running.”

Filing code enforcement complaints, seeking information about subsequent inspections, and searching for a property’s zoning classification is now one phone call away for Independence residents. PDS can be reached at 331.8980 between 8 and 5 Monday through Friday. A PDS code enforcement official will also be available part-time on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in the city building for anyone from Independence and southern Kenton County who needs assistance.

Information in this regard is also available on the PDS website and the new One Stop Shop website.

“The One Stop Shop program has helped a number of cities increase service levels for their citizens and reduce costs since 2004. We’re looking forward to providing those benefits to Independence and its citizens,” concluded Gordon.

Direction 2030 plan adopted 19-0; effort begins to implement it

Posted on November 06, 2014

After 40 years of amendments to its 1972 edition, Kenton County has a brand new comprehensive plan. The Kenton County Planning Commission unanimously approved the new plan titled Direction 2030: Your Voice, Your Choice on September 4. The new plan was created after seven public meetings and over 110 small group meetings over a period of two years.

Direction 2030
is based on a new statement of goals and objectives and is the first web-based plan in the metro region. Adoption of the plan not only paves the way for newer considerations to be taken into account during the development process, it also encourages greater community conversation within each of the plan’s four designated subareas - urban, first-ring, suburban, and rural.

Direction 2030 includes recommendations that take into consideration the demographic shifts that are happening, the comments we heard from residents, and the processes we need to look at with a fresh perspective,” said Martin Scribner, AICP, Director of Planning and Zoning at PDS. “Now that the plan is adopted, we’re gearing up to focus our efforts on implementation.”

Two primary projects under consideration include implementation by subarea and evaluating zoning changes needed to bring regulations into compliance with the new comprehensive plan.

The subarea process was built into Direction 2030 based on the recognition that each area of the county has unique needs. The focus in the urban area will be to strengthen the vitality of the urban core through historic preservation, infill development on vacant and underutilized properties, and to build upon the strong sense of neighborhood and community.

The goal in the rural area will be to preserve and enhance the viability of the rural heritage, to encourage the preservation of the rural character, and to remove barriers to support local agricultural operations.

“Our subarea processes will be action-oriented within each of the four areas. This effort will allow us to work with residents, cities, and other partners to prioritize the recommendations made in Direction 2030 and focus on implementation.” said Sharmili Reddy, AICP, Planning Manager at PDS.

Direction 2030
also revamped several land use related policies based on community needs. Implementation of these policies will require a re-evaluation of Kenton County’s many zoning ordinances. Land use categories such as mixed use were introduced for the first time in the comprehensive plan to promote the mixture of uses and recognize the flexibility needed to react to market conditions. Each of the 20 cities within Kenton County has their own zoning code which will need to be evaluated for compliance with Direction 2030.

Both projects – subarea implementation and zoning code evaluation, are slated to begin next month.

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