Permit numbers stay strong despite frigid temperatures

Posted on February 04, 2014
December and January weather usually prompts a decline in building activity in Kenton County due to cold temperatures and snow. Not this year, in spite of colder than normal temperatures and higher than usual snowfall.

NKAPC reports indicate that since January 6, 2014, when the polar vortex moved through Northern Kentucky, NKAPC has issued 43% of the 217 permits it processed since December 1.

Even with the subzero temperatures, contractors are braving the cold, completing projects, and calling for their inspections, according to Brian Sims, CBO, NKAPC’s chief building official. NKAPC staff performed 223 inspections within this time period.

“We don’t want to be out in this weather anymore than the next guy, but we have to make ourselves available to help our customers move their projects along,” said Sims.

New Year starts off with application for 129-lot plat

Posted on February 04, 2014
The Kenton County Planning Commission approved a 129-lot addition to Williams Woods subdivision in Independence earlier this month. This marks the first time that the City of Independence has seen a new residential development or subdivision addition of this magnitude in several years.

Williams Woods lies along Bristow Road approximately 2,000 feet east of Banklick Road, directly across from Battleridge subdivision. When the original plat of Williams Woods was approved, the site was located in unincorporated Kenton County. That subdivision plat consisted of 178 single-family lots.

The newly-approved plat will bring the development’s total to 307 lots. It will also contain approximately 5,000 feet of new public streets that will be maintained by the City of Independence.

“The number of new residential lots we’ve approved in Independence over the last four years doesn’t equal the addition to Williams Woods that we just approved,” said Scott Hiles, CPC, NKAPC’s director of infrastructure engineering. “Looking earlier than 2009 there was a mix of single and multi-family development in Independence that totaled 90 residences, but you’d have to go back to 2004 to see the really significant numbers that were off the charts. Literally, several hundred new lots were approved in that year.”

Hiles added that given the number of other new or established developments that were either just beginning construction or continuing established developments at the end of 2013, this addition to Williams Woods adds one more reason to be optimistic about continuing the steady residential growth the community began to see trending about a year ago.

Ludlow, Villa Hills disband their boards of adjustment

Posted on February 04, 2014
Looking for ways to reduce administrative costs and to provide funds for other city programs, elected officials in the Cities of Ludlow and Villa Hills decided recently to dissolve their respective boards of adjustment, transferring that authority to the Kenton County Board of Adjustment and the costs to NKAPC’s One Stop Shop codes administration program.

Boards of adjustment have authority to make case-by-case zoning decisions on requests by property owners. Like planning commission members, board of adjustment members are citizens appointed by their local government city; they are not professional planners.

The primary duties of boards of adjustment include hearing requests to vary from dimensional regulations of the local zoning code, hearing administrative appeals from zoning enforcement and interpretation decisions, hearing conditional use requests, and hearing requests to change from one nonconforming use to another.

Ludlow and Villa Hills have each had their own board of adjustment for many years which carries the costs of staff time, legal fees, notification costs, and payments to their board members. This has proven to be expensive, as city budgets have gotten tighter. City officials have also been challenged by having to find (and retain) the required number of members in order to make legal decisions.

The Kentucky Revised Statutes require jurisdictions that pursue planning and zoning to have a functioning board of adjustment. The 1966 agreement that created the Kenton County Planning Commission stipulates that if a city does not have its own board of adjustment, then the county board will fulfill that role for the city. The cost that would have been incurred by a city for this duty essentially disappears at that point, since additional territory does not increase costs to the county board of adjustment which are borne by the One Stop Shop program.

More information on the process of disbanding a board of adjustment can be provided by NKAPC planning and zoning director Martin Scribner, AICP.

Piner tornado brings people together, prompts survey

Posted on February 04, 2014
By the time a tornado struck Piner in March 2012, devastating the community and structures to the east of it, a small group of area citizens had met several times to try to bring their neighbors together. The immediate needs prompted by the Class 5 storm solidified that group’s goals and provided fuel to move it forward.

Talk of bringing neighbors and friends together was replaced quickly by actions that were more effective in helping southern Kenton County residents see the value of working together. While pursuing relief efforts, group members also sought to bring structure to residents who value individualism and privacy. The strategy worked.

As the storm’s devastation transitioned to a memory, local discussions moved on to Direction 2030, a coordinated effort by the Kenton County Planning Commission to engage as many Kenton County residents in the crafting of a new comprehensive plan for the community.

Residents got together and discussed past planning efforts and current needs. In order to get a comprehensive understanding of the area’s needs, the group decided to pursue a survey of their friends and neighbors across the southern part of the county. With the support of Kenton County Fiscal Court, NKAPC, and the Kenton County Agriculture Extension office, group members mailed approximately 3100 surveys to all households on January 10.

Three-hundred fifty responses were needed for the survey to be considered statistically significant; the community came together and returned more than a 1000 surveys.

The survey document was developed by Dr. Lori Garkovich with University of Kentucky who has extensive experience dealing with rural issues in other parts of Kentucky. Garkovich helped with a planning effort in 1996 for this part of Kenton County and has a good understanding of the community. After the survey was developed, it was shared with a group of residents for initial feedback to ensure the questions were clear and understood.

The survey includes demographic questions that will provide general information on the respondents such as how long they have lived in southern Kenton county and their reasons for moving to that part of the community.

During the preliminary planning process one of the main themes raised by residents was the need to preserve the rural heritage of the area. In order to capture the varied perceptions of rural heritage, additional questions regarding what defines rural heritage were also included in the survey so as to provide a variety of options including farms, large homes, small stores, large office buildings and retail. Also included are questions regarding respondents’ satisfaction with existing roadways, Internet access, employment centers, access to retail and residential development.

“The survey is a way for public and elected officials to understand better who we are and what our needs are,” said Bill Schneider, a resident of Cruise Creek Road in southern Kenton County. “The individual leadership that has come forth to design the survey is inspiring. We are thrilled with the huge response that shows how hungry our citizens are to be heard.”

The survey response period was closed on January 31, 2014. Staff is compiling the data that will be sent to Garkovich for analysis. Results will be available in mid-late March.

Focus groups and public meetings are being planned to seek additional input. “This is a very community- driven planning process for an area of the county that has a very strong sense of community,” said Sharmili Reddy, AICP, planning manager at NKAPC. “We are providing a service and helping the process by facilitating and bringing in resources as necessary.”

The results of the survey and information gathered from focus groups and public meetings will be used to develop policy for the southern portion of Kenton County as part of the Direction 2030 planning effort. The comprehensive plan for 40 years has promoted growth and development north of this area while encouraging the protection of the agriculture and rural nature of Southern Kenton County.

This effort will help determine if the policy is still valid or if changes need to be made to represent community desire.

Planning Council members conduct elections for 2014

Posted on February 04, 2014
Leadership of Kenton County’s planning council shifted last week as 18 representatives of the county’s 20 jurisdictions gathered for its annual organizational meeting. Covington Commissioner Chuck Eilerman was elected the council’s president for 2014; Edgewood Mayor John Link was elected vice president and Elsmere Mayor Marty Lenhoff was elected secretary. All terms run through January of next year.

In another voting procedure, councilmembers elected four individuals to serve two-year terms on the area planning commission. Elected were former Fort Mitchell mayor Bill Goetz, former Fort Wright mayor Tom Litzler, Crestview Hills Mayor Paul Meier, and former Independence mayor Chris Moriconi.

Three other individuals serve on the area planning commission, having been elected in 2013 to two-year terms. They are Covington Mayor Sherry Carran, former Fort Wright mayor Gene Weaver, and former Park Hills councilman Dick Spoor.

“I'm honored to have been chosen and look forward to working with my fellow council members, the Commission, and staff to build on the demonstrated strengths of the organization,” said newly-elected council president Chuck Eilerman after the meeting. “I support our core values (Service, Perseverance, Innovation, Collaboration, and Excellence). I want to focus on furthering the substantive work being carried out in refining development standards, strengthening geographic information and mapping tools, and strengthening the cause of municipal services consolidation.”

As directed by the Kentucky Revised Statutes, the area planning council provides a forum in which Kenton County planning issues can be debated and consensus can be achieved. With a membership of elected officials only, the council is also responsible for final review of the organization’s annual budget and the tax rate that funds it.

The area planning commission is the body that sets the organization’s general direction, oversees the county’s planning staff, and develops its annual work program and budget.

Others included on the council ballot were: Fort Mitchell Mayor Chris Wiest for president; and, Park Hills and Villa Hills mayors Don Catchen and Mike Martin respectively for council secretary. Others included on the commissioner ballot were: Independence Councilman Jim Bushong; Erlanger resident Louis Miller; and, Crescent Springs Councilman Tom Vergamini.

Eilerman concluded, “I look forward to coordinating the elements of our comprehensive plan with the work of the Kenton County Governance Committee, and Vision 2015's myNKY initiative.”

… for whatever it’s worth…

Posted on December 17, 2013
The US Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development have developed a "Location Affordability Portal" (LAI) which estimates the typical cost of housing and transportation as a percentage of household income in communities across the US including Kenton County. The bottom line is that walkable, non-car-centric areas tend to be more affordable.

You can access the portal here.

Because what is “affordable” is different for everyone, you can choose among a diverse set of family profiles—which vary by household income, size, and number of commuters—and see the affordability landscape for each one in your neighborhood, city, or region.

The housing and transportation cost estimates indicate how much a particular household profile would pay if they lived in a given block group between 2006 and 2010. To customize your housing and transportation expenses using current market costs, use My Transportation Cost Calculator.

The LAI can help individuals, planners, and researchers get a more complete understanding of the costs of living in a given location by accounting for variations between households, neighborhoods, and regions, all of which impact affordability

This portal provides some interesting scenarios regardless of whether you believe the basic premise of its existence. Check it out 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.

Staff members burnish their skills in other professional roles

Posted on December 17, 2013
NKAPC staff members have a long history of giving back to this community and to their professions—and ultimately Kenton County—through service to organizations that help further NKAPC’s goals, improve their skills, and maintain their professional certifications. That history continues through to today.

“Our elected officials have expected us to be involved in local and state organizations since back in the early 70’s,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, NKAPC’s executive director. “These involvements—which have included serving as board members and officers, state presidents, and even as a national president—provide these staff with a wealth of experiences that ultimately benefit Kenton County. Staff get to burnish their credentials and gain leadership experiences that help them be more effective in their jobs.”

Five NKAPC staffers have been elected or appointed to leadership roles with outside organizations recently.

Martin Scribner, AICP, the agency’s planning and zoning director, was elected chair of the New Urbanism Division of the American Planning Association (APA). The APA provides leadership for citizen and professional planners in the development of vital communities. The New Urbanism Division provides planners, public officials, and other decision makers with the information, support, and tools needed to eliminate restrictive conventional development regulations and allow New Urbanism patterns to be incorporated in all communities.

Sharmili Reddy, AICP, planning manager at NKAPC was elected chair of the Northern Kentucky Forum for 2014 after serving on the board for two years. The Forum is a nonpartisan, non-advocacy partnership whose mission is to inform, educate, and engage citizens of Northern Kentucky in free forums on topics, issues, current events, and policies that affect Northern Kentucky. As chair, she will oversee events scheduled to be held in 2014 and assist board members in planning and implementing events on topics that are pertinent to the Northern Kentucky community.

James Fausz, AICP, principal planner at NKAPC, was elected a regional representative to the board of APA Kentucky Chapter. In this role, he will represent citizen and professional planners in northern and northeastern Kentucky. Fausz looks forward to the opportunity of setting up and coordinating training events and networking sessions so that planners in our area can be engaged. Aside from representing planners and planning events, Fausz will be responsible for working on the chapter development plan, reviewing and adopting the annual budget, and helping set overall direction.

Principal planner Jenna LeCount, AICP, has served as a member of the Leadership Steering Committee for LEGACY for more than a year. LEGACY is a young professionals’ network in Greater Cincinnati / Northern Kentucky which provides opportunities for YPs to develop professionally and personally and to contribute more fully to their community. LeCount was recently appointed as the Community Committee chair where she will focus her efforts on projects intended to impact and improve the Greater Cincinnati / Northern Kentucky area. Currently, LeCount is leading this committee to establish an annual Row-n-Run event to enhance LEGACY’s visibility and outreach in the community.

John Lauber, one of NKAPC’s senior building code officials, was re-elected to the office of Treasurer for Northern Kentucky Building Inspectors Association (NKBIA).  The NKBIA is an association dedicated to improving the standards of building code enforcement practices and establishing uniform interpretations of all applicable codes in Northern Kentucky. NKBIA’s mission is to bring together individuals engaged in the administration and enforcement of building and other related codes to share information, experience and policy, exchange ideas, discuss mutual problems, and establish uniform interpretation of all applicable codes.


Staff provides hands-on GIS support for NKU and TMC students

Posted on December 17, 2013
Helping users get the most of their interactions with LINK-GIS has always been a goal of NKAPC staffers. During the month of November, they stepped up their efforts and took to the road for several technical venues.

Christy Powell, GISP, senior GIS programmer, and Joe Busemeyer, GISP, principal GIS programmer led hands-on workshops for those wanting to expand their usage of linkgis.org. Morning and afternoon sessions filled quickly with employees from public and private entities. The two-hour sessions covered basic and advanced tips and tricks for the website and offered the attendees the opportunity to provide feedback and ask questions of the website developers. Some of the suggestions from the workshop have already been implemented on the website.

Kyle Snyder, GISP, principal GIS specialist facilitated GIS training at Northern Kentucky University on November 21st and 22nd. The first day provided an introduction/refresher to those using Esri’s Arc Map and LINK-GIS data; the second day focused on editing in Esri’s Arc Map. Esri is the industry leader in GIS software. This training session focused on increasing familiarity not only the Esri’s products but also showing GIS professionals from around area data that is available through the LINK-GIS partnership. Participants attended from Tri-Ed, Kenton County Public Works, Northern Kentucky Water, Campbell County Planning, NKU’s Center of Environmental Restoration, Kenton County Schools, and the Campbell County Solid Waste Department.

Nick Brophy, manager of economic development at Northern Kentucky Tri-ED said, "I felt the ArcMap training session was very well organized and structured in a way where we gained relevant knowledge through practical application projects assigned to each topic of the course.”

Powell and Busemeyer visited Thomas More College later in the month to demonstrate the LINK-GIS website map-viewer capabilities to Professor Shannon Galbraith-Kent’s class. That class consisted of about 15 students (mostly environmental science and biology majors) in one of the available computer labs on campus. The students picked up the capabilities of the LINK-GIS website map viewer quickly and what it has to offer.

Students explored areas they are familiar with in Northern Kentucky. They compared current aerial photography with historic aerial photography. They also learned how to query multiple data layers to gather information about their community, including the intricacies of the many tools available on the interactive map.

The visit sparked additional interest with Thomas More College to acquire GIS software and begin providing classes to their students on how to use it. Feedback from this class was very positive and new relationships were formed.

If you are interested in attending a future workshop or would like the GIS staff to conduct a workshop at your location, contact a staff member for details.

Subdivision street construction still underway in Kenton County

Posted on December 17, 2013
Subdivision development and new street construction during 2013 showed a dramatic increase when compared to the last several years. What’s more, both have continued late into the construction season this year.

“We haven’t seen street construction continue this late in the year for some time”, said Scott Hiles, CPC, director of infrastructure engineering. “We’re even aware of a developer of a subdivision in Independence who wants to construct another five hundred feet of street yet this year if the temperatures cooperate.”

The majority of this activity is being seen in the cities of Independence and Erlanger, where development activity was most prevalent before the decline initiated by the Great Recession. New subdivision construction has also seen this year in Villa Hills and the unincorporated portion of the County.

Undoubtedly aided by the mild temperatures and relatively low amount of rainfall in the late fall, just over 3,000 feet of new pavement was constructed in November and the first part of December.

In years past it wasn’t uncommon for some asphalt plants to shut down asphalt production before the Thanksgiving holiday, and because of the cold temperatures, concrete streets weren’t able to be constructed much later than that either.

Overall, 9,000 feet of new street was constructed in in 2013. This represents more than twice the total of all street that was constructed in 2011 and 2012 combined.

“In looking back through our records, the amount of street constructed this year puts us close to the level of subdivision activity we saw in 2008 and 2009”, Hiles said. “It’s also a good sign for future activity that developers paid inspection fees later in the year that weren’t used this year. So it’s likely that this activity will continue into next spring.”


Input and collaboration move transportation plan forward

Posted on December 17, 2013
NKAPC and OKI staff knew that engaging Kenton County drivers was critical to the crafting of a new transportation plan for the county. So, they asked them for their opinions on mobility in the county including all modes from pedestrians to freight.

“We wanted to hear about issues from people who are traveling around the county every day,” said Robyn Bancroft, AICP, Strategic Planning Manager for the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments. “We created an online survey that was open for over two months and received about 500 responses. They included opinions about pedestrian and bicycle traffic, commuting patterns, and even freight transportation concerns. We’re currently reviewing them to make sure we consider all concerns as we begin drafting improvement recommendations.”

Planners from both agencies met recently with residents and officials in southern Kenton County to discuss the unique needs of that section of the county. The Southern Kenton County Citizens Group, which arose from interest stemming from a Direction 2030 public meeting, has been meeting regularly since that meeting in December 2011; its members participated in this meeting.

“The group has been very active on a variety of issues, and they were particularly interested in discussing transportation,” explained James Fausz, AICP, a principal planner for NKAPC. “We met, discussed their interests and concerns, and came away with a clear picture of what the attendees desired – safer and better maintained roadways.”

A cooperative effort was started as a result of the meeting to review maintenance issues and work to prioritize potential solutions for inclusion into the plan. The Kenton County Fiscal Court, Kenton County Public Works, NKAPC, and local residents are now joining forces to create real solutions for rural Kenton County.

Beyond the online survey and south Kenton County meeting, staff has worked with an Advisory Team to provide direction for the study. The team, comprised of local officials, transportation agency representatives, and citizens, meets at key points in the study process and provides insight to further refine areas and issues that need additional study. Input from this team, combined with public outreach efforts and the professional experience of NKAPC and OKI staff, is truly a collaborative effort designed to help make Kenton County multi-modal transportation systems as efficient as possible – today and into the future.

The study is currently wrapping up research into existing and future conditions and is beginning to move into the analysis and recommendations phase of the plan.

There is still time to participate by in the online survey by visiting www.oki.org/kenton/ and sharing your comments through the form at the bottom of the page.

If you would like to receive information regarding the plan via email newsletters, contact James Fausz at jfausz@nkapc.org. For the latest information on the plan, check the NKAPC and OKI websites.
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