Project-tracking program now accepts credit card payments

Posted on April 28, 2014
Customers interacting with NKAPC staff now have the option of paying all fees with credit cards. This expanded use of plastic payment comes as an added benefit of the agency’s project-tracking program named TRAKiT.

NKAPC implemented the new software last July which better tracks and coordinates the activities of the agency; this includes: building and zoning permits; building, zoning, and infrastructure inspections; zoning and property maintenance code enforcement actions; subdivision platting and related infrastructure construction plans; and, planning and other large-scale projects.

These activities were tracked previously with a variety of software products, some of which carried growing annual costs, were incompatible, and required additional equipment to be maintained off-site.

TRAKiT allows for all these activities to be integrated on a GIS base, allowing NKAPC staff and outside agencies to communicate better with one another on related activities. It also facilitates all agencies involved with Kenton County development to be more knowledgeable and productive in their responsibilities. And most importantly, the system allows staff to get needed information quicker, reducing times for plan review and increasing customer service satisfaction.

“TRAKiT is working great,” said Scott Hiles, CPC, NKAPC’s director of infrastructure engineering. “It’s giving us the ability to track development information more efficiently than we’ve ever been able to before.”

While NKAPC has been the long-time managing partner of a robust geographic information system (LINK-GIS), there has always been a disconnect between that system and those that track permits, projects, and code enforcement.

TRAKiT sets atop LINK-GIS data, allowing information from different activities to be coordinated by address. This makes the GIS data all the more valuable to Kenton County communities and makes development and code enforcement data more accessible, both to staff and to the public.

TRAKiT also allows all the agency’s field inspectors to use iPads in the field to keep track of inspection activities and report results in real time. This permits inspectors to streamline their efforts, reduce time needed to input data, and ultimately to save the agency and the taxpayers money.

The software package includes a public web portal which allows contractors and citizens to access information regarding development and code enforcement activities. While the original One Stop Shop website previously included access to information, this new portal expands the agency’s online capabilities, making it possible to apply for certain permits, pay for them using a credit card, schedule inspections, report a problem, and review inspector’s field reports all directly from that website.

“TRAKiT is facilitating the coordination of all our responsibilities,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, executive director. “This added expansion of our ability to accept credit card payments is an added bonus for our customers.”

“With trends towards digitizing plans and documents, as well as streamlining processes, this new technology may eventually lead to a completely paperless mode of business,” Gordon concluded.

GIS provides much-needed analysis support for redistricting

Posted on April 28, 2014
The Kentucky Legislative Research Commission is tasked with redrawing legislative districts every ten years in conjunction with federal census results. With legislative districts changing and population shifting, voting precincts too must change and shift to match new legislative boundaries.

LRC (the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission), pursuant to KRS 7.550, is charged with maintaining and continuously updating a computerized map of census geography and election precinct boundaries. To accomplish this task, LRC works closely with Kentucky’s counties. For Kenton County, this means working with Kenton County Clerk Gabrielle Summe, and her staff.

Summe and her team work tirelessly to draw and redraw voting precinct boundaries to match new legislative boundaries and to accurately detail any and all changes in accompanying reports. To assist her in this process, Summe calls upon NKAPC’s GIS Administration department. She is also able to work from her office by taking advantage of the online mapping provided by the LINK-GIS website.

“As the county board was redrawing precincts to match the changes made by the redistricting, the online access to GIS was awesome,” Summe noted.

Utilizing LINK-GIS allows Summe to overlay multiple layers (voting precincts, city boundaries, road centerlines, census blocks, new House and Senate district boundaries) and see precisely where voting precinct line changes need to occur. Summe and the GIS staff are able to work side by side to view all the necessary data and instantly make changes to the voting precinct boundaries as needed. What once took weeks to accomplish can now be done in a matter of hours.

“NKAPC’s Joe Busemeyer was incredibly helpful in redrawing the precinct maps,” said Summe. “He made himself available on short notice for a large project that was required to be done in a short time period.”

“We could not have done it without him. His willingness to work with the county board and with LRC, so that we complied with House Bill 1, was invaluable."

Working in the GIS format enables a rapid turnaround of the data, which can be sent to LRC for a quick review. When LRC reviews the data and submits comments back to the county clerk, she and the GIS staff can make the changes quickly and get them back to LRC. This is critical on a project such as this that requires several revisions over the course of many months.

After each revision, the GIS team is able to produce simple, yet effective voting precinct maps for Summe and her team to evaluate what changes were made and explain to LRC why they were made. In the end when all the revisions have been made, LRC will have clean, accurate voting precinct data and the Kenton County Clerk can provide Kenton County voters with maps showing clear precinct boundaries and polling locations.

South Kenton County residents speak up… “Keep it rural”

Posted on April 28, 2014
Citizen opinion surveys are often met with indifference in this age of electronics and instant polling. And yet, a recent questionnaire sent through the mail to more than 3000 South Kenton County residents sparked a good deal of interest and an unprecedented response. Over 1000 were completed and returned.

“I have worked with surveys on many topics around the state of Kentucky for 35 years and have never seen this level of agreement in responses to a survey,” said Dr. Lori Garkovich, Professor and State Extension Specialist in the Department of Community and Leadership Development at the University of Kentucky. “In analyzing the results it is apparent that the general message from the community to public officials is pretty straightforward - keep the area rural.”

Over 94 percent of the responses came from residents who live in southern Kenton County and more than 80 percent of those have lived in the community for over ten years. Garkovich calls this response “unprecedented.”

Respondents were asked to indicate their level of agreement or disagreement with a series of statements that presented conditions and issues in South Kenton County. Among the most telling responses were these.

"It is important to keep agriculture a viable part of the South Kenton economy."
Strongly Agree: 68.7%        Agree: 23.5%        TOTAL AGREE: 92.2%

"It is important to maintain the rural character of South Kenton County."
Strongly Agree: 70.7%        Agree: 19.3%        TOTAL AGREE: 90.3%

"I am satisfied with my access to commercial and retail stores where I live."
Strongly Agree: 49.3%        Agree: 37.5%        TOTAL AGREE: 86.8%

"Subdivisions and other residential development should be directed away from land which is being used for preservation or conservation purposes."
Strongly Agree: 52.2%        Agree: 31.7%        TOTAL AGREE: 83.9%

"Subdivisions and other residential should be directed away from land which is being used for agriculture."
Strongly Agree: 49.6%        Agree: 30.4%        TOTAL AGREE: 80.0%

"If residential and retail development occurs around these existing communities, it should maintain the small community character of these places."
Strongly Agree: 41.8%        Agree: 38.0%        TOTAL AGREE: 79.8%

On the other hand, when presented with a set of statements that describe development patterns the respondents see as unacceptable, they clearly express their disagreement.

"Subdivisions should be allowed in undeveloped areas."
Strongly Disagree: 36.2%    Disagree: 26.3%    TOTAL DISAGREE: 62.5%

"South Kenton County needs to have more employment centers (e.g., clusters of large employers)."
Strongly Disagree: 28.5%    Disagree: 32.1%    TOTAL DISAGREE: 60.6%

"If the opportunity arose to sell my farm for development, I would take it."
Strongly Disagree: 42.9%    Disagree: 16.0%    TOTAL DISAGREE: 58.9%

Detailed survey results of all questions are available for viewing at on the NKAPC website or in the community section of the Kenton County's Fiscal Court website.

“This survey provides us with a clear message from the community. Citizen responses will have implications on the recommendations we’re crafting for the Direction 2030 comprehensive planning effort,” said Sharmili Reddy, AICP, Planning Manager at NKAPC.

Additional focus group meetings are being planned to extend the conversation beyond the scope of the survey.


...for whatever it's worth...

Posted on April 11, 2014
Who would ever have thought that Walmart shoppers could sleep upstairs and shop downstairs, but that is exactly what residents of the building housing a new Walmart in downtown Washington, D.C., will be able to do. In December, Walmart opened its first two stores in the nation’s capital, and they illustrate the lengths to which brick-and-mortar retailers will go to get into rapidly growing urban markets.

The 80,000-square-foot store, built in partnership with JBG Rosenfeld Retail, is in a mixed-use building topped by four stories of apartments. Parking is located in a garage directly below the store. Another 10,000 square feet of retail space is wrapped around the outside of the Walmart; initial tenants include a Starbucks and a bank.

Could this concept work in Kenton County, perhaps as an anchor in one of the new form-based code districts adopted by Covington and Independence, or soon in Erlanger? Check out an article that appeared last month in UrbanLand published by the Urban Land Institute… for whatever it’s worth.

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

Direction 2030 seeks input from university population

Posted on April 11, 2014
In response to a growing concern with the exodus of well-educated people from the region, and the lack of participation in past public meetings, NKAPC planners focused a recent online survey on university populations to gauge their preferences in the character of the community in which they live. It also sought preferences on the importance of amenities available to them in the surrounding area.

Those who participated were students and educators attending Northern Kentucky University, Thomas More College, and Gateway Community and Technical College.

The results are intended to offer a snapshot of the way young people in Northern Kentucky view our area and how they assess its benefits and shortcomings as a place to live, work, and raise their families. One-hundred one people took the survey, including 47 men and 54 women.

A slight majority of participants (54) reports that they are planning to stay in Northern Kentucky, while 16 plan on moving away, stating reasons such as not enough amenities in the area or not enough employment opportunities. Thirty-one survey participants report that they are uncertain as to their future plans for leaving or remaining in the area.

The majority of participants (54) report that they prefer living in an urban setting; 29 prefer the suburbs; and 14 report that they prefer living in a rural environment.

Participants were asked to rank a series of amenities in categories of importance. Participant responses indicate that these individuals feel very strongly about the amenities listed in the survey.

Category                 Important            Unimportant
Earning potential            83%                     10%
After-hour options          88%                      7%
Green living                    68%                     17%
Walkability                      75%                     14%
Mass transit                   59%                     19%
Outdoor rec facilities     74%                     13%

Unfortunately, Northern Kentucky did not fare well in the respondents’ assessments of the area’s provision of these amenities.

Category                 Favorable             Unfavorable
Earning potential              52%                    38%
After-hour options            54%                    45%
Green living                      23%                    65%
Walkability                        24%                    71%
Mass transit                     30%                    54%
Outdoor rec facilities       47%                    44%

Results of this survey support the conclusion that young adults desire amenities such as after-hour options, walkability, and outdoor recreation facilities. To ensure that Northern Kentucky is a desirable place to live and attracts people to the area, planners, civic leaders, and government officials need to give more attention to the amenities that appeal to the vibrant, young, and highly educated people we want to attract to and retain in this area.

The information obtained through this survey will be incorporated into Direction 2030 along with other public input gleaned throughout the planning process.

Spring brings daffodils, orange barrels, and Envista

Posted on April 11, 2014
As spring approaches, the warmer weather brings daffodils, orange barrels, and traffic slowdowns to Northern Kentucky. To local public works and utility officials, this spring brings the continued opportunity to coordinate pavement and roadway maintenance activities planned for the next six to seven months.

The online LINK-GIS tool called Envista will aid to increase communication and coordination for street cuts and paving projects in Kenton and Campbell Counties. This is the fourth construction season that the online tool will be available. The result will cut down frustrations felt by the motoring public and decrease the need for pavement cuts. Currently Envista shows 211 pavement projects slated for the upcoming 2014 construction season.

Representatives from Kenton and Campbell County Fiscal Courts, 22 cities, the water and sanitation districts, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet District 6, Duke Energy, Owen Electric, Insight Cable and Cincinnati Bell are using the software-as-a-service tool to manage projects.

“All participating entities can see current and upcoming projects through the central communication dashboard and can identify conflicts and opportunities to work together,” said Trisha Brush, GISP, NKAPC’s director for LINK-GIS administration.

“The system is only as good as the data that are put into it,” said Brush. “So, in order to make the tool function effectively, NKAPC staff is aiding local governments and utilities currently with project updates and checking their data for information that would be pertinent and useful to others who might be looking at the same street segment.

“Besides the fact that we’re working to save money through coordination, we’re also working to cut down on traffic aggravation and total construction time,” Brush said. “The tool will also help participating entities to use their road construction and maintenance dollars wisely, allowing significant cost savings for rate- and tax-payers.

NKAPC has hosted an Envista user’s group regularly for the past several years for all jurisdictions participating in the program. The user’s group meetings show enhancements to the software and offer face time with the Envista representative for a question and answer period. The user group offers an open environment to provide feedback and best practices, while allowing users to put a face with a name for those with whom they’re coordinating.

“Envista staff are incredibly approachable, and have provided a level of personal service and contact that has enabled us to make good use of Envista,” said Jessica Moss, GIS specialist in Covington’s Community Service Department. “Each time I’ve had a question or an issue, they have been very responsive, usually walking me through every process step by step.”

“When I first started using Envista, it was somewhat overwhelming, but the customer service and technical feedback has allowed me to put it into good use quickly. He takes all of our feedback, questions, and suggestions seriously, finding ways to customize Envista to our specific needs.”

Contact NKAPC staff at 859.331.8980 if you would like to learn more about Envista and how it can assist in saving tax dollars for your community.

NKAPC work prepares Covington for sidewalk repairs

Posted on April 11, 2014
Sidewalk reconstruction began last week in Latonia. The city’s contractor began replacing sidewalks with the lowest condition rating based on a citywide assessment of sidewalks that was conducted by NKAPC staff. The assessment prioritized sidewalks with significant tree root damage, cracking, and crumbling.

The Latonia portion of the project is estimated to be completed during early summer, pending weather conditions. The contractor’s contract also includes work on sidewalks in South Covington, where construction initially began in November. Due to weather delays after a particularly harsh winter, construction is expected to be completed in South Covington in May.

“We’re proud to have been a part of this effort in Covington,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, Executive Director. “The pursuit of these data amounted to a win-win for both the city and NKAPC. The city got highly-accurate information and we were able to utilize infrastructure inspectors to pursue the work during their down time. Our GIS system made it all so simple.”

The focus on improving sidewalks is part of Covington’s five-year community investment plan which culminated from citizen requests. It is meant to facilitate the city's commitment to being a walkable community and improving property values.

The Community Investment Plan, which was adopted by the city commission in June of 2013, will invest more than $30 million in infrastructure improvements alone over the next five years. Covington's Community Services Division kicked off its $2.4 million sidewalk replacement project in southern Covington in November of 2013. The project is just one of the $72 million Community Investment Plan projects planned over the next five years.

Villa Hills readies for new development

Posted on April 11, 2014
The first new subdivision in Villa Hills in a decade was approved for construction in April 2012. Named Stillbrooke, the subdivision encompasses nine acres along the east side of Collins Road, approximately 1,700 feet north of Buttermilk Pike. Residents could be moving into their new homes there before Christmas.

The development includes 26 single-family lots and three small areas set aside for park space. Click here to view this preliminary plat.

Construction of the proposed infrastructure continued relatively steadily after subdivision approval throughout 2012 and 2013 and included just over 1,000 feet of new public street and associated public utilities such as water main, fire hydrants, and sanitary and storm sewers.

A unique feature of this subdivision involves sidewalks. In conjunction with support from the city, the developer proposed providing sidewalk along just one side of the new street. Normally sidewalk is required along both sides of all new streets. In exchange the proposal included the commitment to fill in a gap in the sidewalk network along Collins Road.

Subdivision regulations already required new sidewalk to be provided along the portion of the subdivision that fronted Collins Road, which totaled about 500 feet. But from that point, heading toward Buttermilk Pike, there was a gap in the sidewalk network for another 500 feet.

“It was important to the city that this gap in the sidewalk get completed”, said Scott Hiles, CPC, NKAPC’s director of infrastructure engineering. “So with the city’s support, the developer obtained a waiver from the Kenton County Planning Commission that allowed him to put sidewalks on one side of the new internal street in exchange for filling this sidewalk gap”.

When this gap is filled, residents will be able walk to nearby amenities such as the community park at the corner of Collins Road and Buttermilk Pike, and shopping and restaurant accommodations as well. Discussion with the developer has recently resolved that this sidewalk gap will be constructed sometime this year.

The recordable plat that will create the 26 lots is pending approval from staff. This approval is required before lots can be transferred to new owners. A few outstanding items have yet to be completed but it appears that the plat will be able to be approved soon. Staff understands that once that approval occurs, builders will be ready to obtain the necessary permits to break ground and begin construction.

Taking Root initiative in tri-state region

Posted on April 09, 2014

Taking Root is an initiative to replace, retain and expand trees in the eight-county Greater Cincinnati tri-state region. The campaign is ramping up to educate the public on the need for trees, to value and care for them, and to plant them — by the millions!

Here’s how to join in:
  • Sign the Taking Root pledge as an individual.
  • Encourage your community or organization to sign the Taking Root pledge, too.
  • Plant a tree and register them to count toward the 2 million tree goal.
  • Donate to help advance the Taking Root campaign.
Visit Taking Root today to learn more!

Social media initiative aims for an informed citizenry

Posted on February 26, 2014
Keeping citizens informed and encouraging public dialog is always a challenge, however technology is playing a growing role in addressing those issues. Since late last year, NKAPC has expanded its online communications and initiated a new social medial strategy.

From the seemingly endless list of social websites, NKAPC is utilizing five familiar avenues now—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and YouTube. “This isn’t a permanent list, necessarily,” said public information coordinator Pete Berard. “As the popularity, target audiences, and usefulness of these services change over time, so will our use of them.”

These online connections were established to invite discussions regarding local topics and relay information to the public in a more effective way, according to Berard. The posts will include topics such as upcoming meetings, interactive maps, current events, and opinions about new plans for the community.

Berard suggests these outreach efforts will also enhance the functionality of the organization’s website. NKAPC.org already houses thousands of important and useful documents, plans, reports, and forms. It also includes webpages for newsletter registration, discussion forums, and information requests. Adding social media will highlight the website and encourage its use as an informative resource.

Check out these links and stay connected.

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