Senior Building Official Elected to ICC Board of Directors

Posted on October 13, 2014
Kenton County Senior Building Official Jeff Bechtold was elected to the International Code Council (ICC) Board of Directors during the association’s recent 2014 Annual Conference. The Code Council develops codes and standards that states and local jurisdictions use in the construction of safe homes and buildings to create strong communities. The ICC Code is the basis for the Kentucky Building Code which is mandatory for all jurisdictions across the commonwealth.

“Those who serve as volunteers on the Code Council Board of Directors are leaders in the profession who devote their time, energy, and expertise to ensure public safety in the built environment,” said ICC Chief Executive Officer Dominic Sims. “We thank them for their leadership, and we thank their local jurisdictions for supporting their service.”

As Senior Building Official, Bechtold pursues both plans examinations and field inspections in all phases of construction except for plumbing and electrical in Kenton County. He is one of five building officials employed by Planning and Development Services of Kenton County (PDS), the public agency that provides building, zoning, and property maintenance services for 17 of Kenton County’s 20 local governments.

Bechtold was appointed to a two-year term by the governor to the Single-Family Dwelling Advisory Committee for Kentucky’s Department of Housing, Buildings and Construction. He was a volunteer firefighter serving the cities of Erlanger and Elsmere. Active in code development, he also has served on the ICC’s Means of Egress Code Change Committee.

“We’re very proud of Jeff’s election to this position,” said Dennis Gordon, PDS executive director. “We work hard to find and keep the best professional staff possible to serve the people of Kenton County. Jeff’s election is indicative of the professionalism and service mindedness that our staff possesses.”

The International Code Council is a member-focused association. It is dedicated to developing model codes and standards used in the design, build and compliance process to construct safe, sustainable, affordable and resilient structures. Most U.S. communities and many global markets choose the International Codes.

Kenton County comprehensive plan has been approved

Posted on September 08, 2014

The Kenton County Planning Commission last week did what none of its predecessors had done since 1972. It adopted a totally new comprehensive plan complete with a new statement of goals and objectives. Called Direction 2030: Your Voice Your Choice, the plan can be accessed here.

In addition to being totally new in content, Direction 2030 is being presented in a totally new format. 

"It is not a printed document," said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, executive director of Planning and Development Services of Kenton County (PDS). PDS is staff to the Kenton County Planning Commission.

"It’s an interactive, web-based site. Everything you want to know about the process, the goals and objectives established early on in the process and then the structure built on top of those goals, it's all there. It's a pretty robust site."

The website also includes interactive land use maps which let the user find answers to questions on a site-specific level. 

Gordon said printed copies of a comprehensive plan could cost as high as $200 each. Instead, the technology-based version will be accessible to citizens and potential developers looking to familiarize themselves with the county's planning goals and objectives.

A new look along I-71/75

Posted on August 29, 2014
Planning and Development Services of Kenton County (PDS) changed the face of its high-rise expressway sign today. The agency pursued the name change to bring clarity to its mission of serving Kenton County’s 20 local governments—a city-county planning department if you will.

As a governmental entity, PDS doesn’t need a sign of this size and visibility. The reason for it comes down to equity and the value the sign adds to the publicly-owned property.

“It was important that PDS maintain the existing sign to provide value on the property owned by our organization,” said Crestview Hills Mayor Paul Meier, vice chairman of the PDS Management Board. “If the sign was not changed, it would have had to be removed, therefore lowering any future resale value of our property.”

Losing the sign would have devalued the property by at least $100,000 according to local real estate brokers.

Council approves FY15 budget and work program; changes its name

Posted on August 15, 2014
The Northern Kentucky Area Planning Council fulfilled one of its primary statutory responsibilities in late June when it considered and then approved the organization’s budget and proposed tax rate for Fiscal Year 2015. The group of elected officials representing each of Kenton County’s 20 local jurisdictions concluded the evening by changing its name and approving a number of steps recommended earlier by the PDS Management Board (formerly the area planning commission).

Among the many facts about the proposed budget illustrated for elected officials was the FY15 bottom line. “This new fiscal year budget approximates the bottom line of our Fiscal Year 2006 budget,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, PDS executive director. “It also represents an approximation with the bottom line of our FY14 budget—the one that just ended in June.”

Because of growth since last year in the county’s real property values, Gordon asserts this bottom line will lead to a less-than-compensating rate for PDS on this fall’s Kenton County tax bills. Compensating rates produce the same amount of revenue as the preceding year’s rate.

In other action taken by the Council, members followed suit on action taken in May by the area planning commission which changed its name and those of its operations to Planning and Development Services of Kenton County. The Council approved a resolution which among other things changes its name to the PDS (Planning and Development Services) Council. Both name changes were part of a comprehensive effort aimed at clarity.

A communications assessment conducted in 2011 found that the number one problem people had with NKAPC was confusion about the services it provided and how they differed from those provided by the Kenton County Planning Commission. The other reason for the change was to reflect the true mission of the agency as a service provider on behalf of the county’s 20 local governments—a city-county planning department, if you will—and the county-wide planning commission created by those jurisdictions nearly 50 years ago.

PDS is overseen by a group of seven individuals who meet regularly to assure that direction provided by the community’s elected officials is being followed. The organization’s budget and the tax rate that funds a majority of it are reviewed and approved annually by these elected officials as required by law.

PDS provides professional staff support to the Kenton County Planning Commission. It also supports a majority of the county’s 20 local jurisdictions as their planning, engineering, and building staff. And, it serves as managing partner and provides the central hub and staffing for the multi-county LINK-GIS partnerships.

Building codes department maintains strong ISO rating for community

Posted on August 15, 2014

Every five years ISO—the Insurance Services Office—assesses building codes administration programs in communities around the world and evaluates those communities’ commitments to enforce them. Kenton County’s most recent assessment came earlier this year when ISO personnel visited PDS and met with staff in its building codes administration department.

This program assesses the risk of buildings for insurance rating purposes. Any building constructed in the year ISO classifies a community, or in a later year, is eligible for the program. Buildings in communities with classifications of 9 and lower (down to 1) receive a rating credit. A classification of 10 receives no credit. Classifications of 1–3 receive the highest credit; classifications of 4–9 receive intermediate credits.

Since 2009 when PDS was reviewed last, ISO re-evaluated its program and changed its grading system to make it more challenging to get a lower score. In the ISO grading system a 1 is exemplary and 10 needs major improvements. There are two categories of scores: commercial and residential.

“A lot of data and effort that goes into the evaluation process,” said Brian Sims, CBO, PDS’ chief building official. “It takes a good number of man hours just to collect the data and fill out the survey from. Information from our building department, zoning, GIS, engineering, PVA, and our accounting department must be submitted to complete the survey.”

The result of this year’s assessment was a 3 for PDS on commercial construction and a 4 for residential construction. These are the same ratings the agency earned in 2009 and are among the very highest granted to jurisdictions in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

“While on the outside this may seem as though no improvements have been made over the past five years,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, PDS’ executive director, “PDS maintained its scores during a period when the ratings assessment was made significantly tougher.”

Gordon says some categories are out of his staff’s hands and other local jurisdictions as the adopted building codes in the commonwealth are adopted as mini/maxi codes. That is to say that when the Legislative Research Commission adopts Kentucky’s codes, local communities by default get the score assigned to that category since they cannot make a certain section more or less stringent.

“I’m really proud of what these ratings signify for PDS and what they contribute to the communities we serve,” said Gordon. “PDS is a service organization and I can’t think of a better example of the services we provide than the financial benefits these ratings contribute to property owners.”

ISO is a provider of data, underwriting, risk management and legal/regulatory services (with special focus on community fire-protection efforts and building code effectiveness evaluation) to property-casualty insurers and other clients. The organization serves clients with offices throughout the United States, along with international operations offices in the United Kingdom, Israel, Germany, India and China. Ratings earned by rated communities can have a real world impact on insurance premiums that building and home owners pay for coverage.

To read more on ISO’s program, click here.

Enlarged joint code enforcement board ok’d, is ready to hear cases

Posted on August 15, 2014

A new interlocal agreement for Kenton County’s Joint Code Enforcement Board has been signed by all parties and approved by state authorities, enabling the board to start hearing code enforcement cases from the two newest cities to join the board, Villa Hills and Park Hills.

Since enabling legislation was passed in 1996 by the Kentucky General Assembly, most jurisdictions in Kenton County have formed code enforcement boards to help strengthen their municipal codes and keep zoning enforcement issues out of the courts. Kenton Fiscal Court and six of the county’s cities formed the joint code enforcement board in 2006.

In late 2013, the cities of Villa Hills and Park Hills decided to disband their own code enforcement boards in favor of joining the joint code enforcement board. Their decisions to do so hinged largely on the facts that the cooperative effort costs each city much less money and means that each city only has to make one appointment to the board, rather than finding three or five volunteers for their own board.

Historically, many of the cities have found it difficult to find volunteers to keep their own code enforcement boards fully operational. This can result in code violation cases being delayed for several months or even dismissed altogether.

The interlocal agreement that was signed in 2006 forming the joint code enforcement board limited the number of participating jurisdictions to seven, which was the number of communities that chose to participate at the time. The new agreement was drafted to allow additional cities to join without requiring an entirely new contract. Now that all of the cities currently wishing to participate have signed this agreement, the addition of new cities to the board can be seamless.

Current participating member jurisdictions:

City of Crescent Springs
City of Crestview Hills
City of Fort Wright
Kenton County
City of Kenton Vale
City of Park Hills
City of Ryland Heights
City of Taylor Mill
City of Villa Hills

Direction 2030 text is complete; community public hearing next

Posted on August 15, 2014

The three-year effort to develop a new comprehensive plan for Kenton County--Direction 2030: Your Voice, Your Choice--is complete. The recommendations and associated tasks has been finalized and reviewed by the task force; work on the web-based plan is being wrapped up and preparation of necessary documentation is underway for presentation to the Kenton County Planning Commission (KCPC). That hearing will take place on the evening of September 4th.

State statutes require a public hearing be held prior to action and adoption of the comprehensive plan to allow one last review and public comment.

“This comprehensive plan boasts a brand new set of goals and objectives, after functioning under the same ones for 40 years,” said Paul Darpel, KCPC chairman. “The new plan provides a roadmap and a list of planning priorities for Kenton County. But the most important aspect of this three-year process is that it provided everyone multiple opportunities to participate; and engaged community leaders, residents and elected officials in capacities like never before. We are also excited about the final product that has been produced which is completely web-based – one that may be the first of its kind in the region.”

Comprehensive planning is required to be carried out every five years in Kentucky. A comprehensive plan must be in place to enact zoning and subdivision regulations.

“We take this process very seriously and invest time into it not so much because it is required by state statute. We undertake this because it gives us a chance to interact with the people we serve – the residents of Kenton County. There are so many thoughts and opinions about the future of Kenton County in terms of planning needs; this was a great way to bring it all together,” concluded Dennis Gordon, FAICP, PDS’ executive director.

More information about the project can be found at the Direction 2030 website.

STEM: Ripe for the Picking

Posted on August 15, 2014

The Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce hosted a “Girls Day Out,” Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) outing for girls of junior high age on June 27th. Six companies in the area along with PDS participated in the event: ATech Training, Cincinnati Bell Technology Solutions, Duke Energy, Delta, Messer Construction, and Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing, NA. Over 70 girls participated with an average of eight girls visiting per site.

STEM is an acronym used in curriculum referring to academic disciplines in K-12 and college. The term is used in the US when discussing competitiveness in technology development across the nation. The idea was first introduced in 2006 with an initiative to increase America’s workforce talent toward engineering and math.

“June 27th was a great day to be at PDS!” said Trisha Brush, GISP, PDS’ director of GIS administration. “We introduced our ten girls to what a day in the geosciences career would be like, gathering data with GPS units and trying their hands at geocaching.”

“We showed them LINK-GIS maps and how local geographic data can be used in the decision-making process. Chris Gephart, a principal at Bayer and Becker Engineering and Kentucky registered land Surveyor, helped the group find a survey pin in the field by using GPS and paper map.”

The day ended with lunch, questions, and answers with the geoscience and survey professionals.

STEM Girls Day Out was a free experiential learning opportunity for female students across Northern Kentucky/Greater Cincinnati. The Girls Day Out program was designed to promote interest in STEM careers (science, technology, engineering and math). The workshops allowed for personal and in-depth career exploration.

OKI adopts new Kenton transportation priorities into regional plan

Posted on August 15, 2014

PDS and the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) staffs began updating the 2003 Kenton County Transportation Plan last summer. The project included a completely-new examination of mobility issues and recommendations for Kenton County. Upon its formal adoption in June, the new plan became the official transportation planning document for the county and part of OKI’s transportation priorities for the metro area.

The study encompassed numerous phases throughout the yearlong effort. Some of the key points of the project included: technical analysis of GIS data; outreach to the public via an online survey; working sessions with planners and transportation professionals from around the county; key-person interviews with stakeholders; a public meeting; and, direction from a multidiscipline advisory team.

The plan also involved an in-depth review of areas where land uses were expected to intensify and assess their implications on future transportation needs.

“We knew a stronger connection between land use and transportation was needed before we even got started on the plan’s text,” explained James Fausz, AICP, PDS’ lead on the study team. “A lot of transportation plans look at where development has occurred and make plans to retrofit wider roads. Our idea was to consider where future development is anticipated and use that information to help rank projects.”

The effort resulted in a Future Land Use Demands map that identifies areas where commercial, industrial, and residential uses are likely to intensify. Transportation engineers then interpreted the uses and acreages to produce trip generation figures and show how many additional vehicles might be expected in an area.

Sixty-six recommendations were crafted by the professionals and advisory team and incorporated into the final plan. Projects were multimodal in nature and included recommendations such as: sidewalk construction to fill gaps in the existing network; bicycle amenities; transit enhancements; and, new/improved roadway facilities. The recommendations also included cost estimates for design, utilities, rights of way, and construction to help provide a guide for prioritization.

“The plan does a great job of addressing the needs for Kenton County moving forward,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, who is both PDS’ executive director and a member of the OKI Board of Directors. “Not only will the recommendations be used to make our projects eligible for funding through OKI, the document also serves as the basis of the mobility section of the new Direction 2030 comprehensive plan.”

The Kenton County Transportation Plan was adopted by the OKI Board of Directors on June 12, 2014, becoming the county’s official transportation planning document. Furthermore, the plan is completely web based and available online here.

Progress for Tuscany Condominiums

Posted on August 08, 2014
Work is underway on the last sections of the Tuscany Condominiums in Covington. Major slope stabilizations and re-routing sewer lines will continue through the summer. When this phase is completed an additional three condominium buildings will be ready to build. Currently, from work done in previous phases, two buildings are in various stages of construction.

View the preliminary plan
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