New tracking software coordinates project information

Posted on July 15, 2013
NKAPC implemented new software last month 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.

The new software package, named 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 so far for all the new engineering data we’re collecting”, said Scott Hiles, CPC, NKAPC’s director of infrastructure engineering. “It appears now that it’ll have 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 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 going to facilitate coordinating all our responsibilities,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, executive director. “That coordination is going to allow staff to be more efficient and effective. It’ll also make us more transparent in our duties because most of our records will be available online via the public web portal.”

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.

NKAPC, OKI team for new Kenton transportation plan

Posted on July 15, 2013
In the spring of 2003 gasoline prices hit a near-record high of $1.72 a gallon nationally, light rail transit was a regional hot button topic, and the global economic crisis was still five years away. It was against this backdrop that Kenton County adopted a new transportation plan—a document that guides transportation projects and provides the basis for federal funding. A lot has changed since 2003; the transportation plan hasn’t, until now.

NKAPC and the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) are embarking on a year-long process to update the Kenton County Transportation Plan. “A lot has happened in Kenton County that impacts transportation needs. Our intent is to take a comprehensive multimodal look at current needs and what is anticipated over the next 30 years,” said Robyn Bancroft, AICP, Strategic Planning Manager for OKI.

Work on the new transportation plan coincides with the Direction 2030 process that is currently examining all aspects of Kenton County’s growth and development.

“We’ve heard lots of comments in numerous Direction 2030 meetings about mobility,” said Sharmili Reddy, AICP, NKAPC’s planning manager. “Transportation is one aspect of daily life that affects everyone whether they walk, ride a bicycle, drive, or take the bus. We’re going to use all the information we have collected to date to help paint a picture of what mobility means today and what people want in the future.”

Aside from looking at mobility issues, this new transportation plan will seek to identify the impacts adjoining land uses have on the transportation network. Future anticipated land uses will be studied and included as a metric to help score and prioritize recommendations.

James Fausz, AICP, NKAPC’s lead on the project elaborated. “Hypothetically, let’s say an area is somewhat rural now but is anticipated to grow within the next ten years. Our goal is to identify areas like these, examine appropriate future recommended land uses, and help plan for what mobility upgrades might be needed.”

Ultimately, the document will produce a prioritized list of projects that will describe potential funding sources, a timeline for implementation, and agencies responsible moving parts of the plan forward. Projects contained in the plan will be considered for inclusion into OKI’s Regional Transportation Plan, which allocates funding for improvements.

When asked about project financing, Bancroft added, “Funding today is tight and we have to make smart decisions about where to invest to best meet the needs of our citizens and businesses. We want a healthy and prosperous Kenton County.”

The plan officially kicked off on July 1 and will continue through June, 2014. An extensive outreach campaign is planned for the project that will include traditional public meetings, social media events, and electronic surveying.

Villa Hills becomes One Stop Shop’s 15th jurisdiction

Posted on July 15, 2013
Villa Hills City Council and the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission entered into an interlocal agreement effective May 28th that delegates the city’s building, electric, property maintenance, and zoning codes administration to NKAPC. Villa Hills is the 15th Kenton County jurisdiction (out of 20) to be part of NKAPC’s collaborative One Stop Shop program.

The program also provides staff support for Villa Hill’s board of adjustment and code enforcement board. The program is built on NKAPC’s “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.

“We’re pleased to welcome Villa Hills to the program,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, executive director. “Mayor Mike Martin and City Clerk Craig Bohman have given us marching orders regarding the city’s priorities; we understand code enforcement is a top priority.”

Filing code enforcement complaints, seeking information about building or electric inspections, and searching for a property’s zoning classification is now one phone call away for Villa Hills residents. NKAPC can be reached at 331.8980 between 8 and 5 Monday through Friday. Considerable information in this regard is also available on the NKAPC website and the brand 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 Villa Hills and its citizens,” concluded Gordon.

Direction 2030 interviews on Local 12

Posted on May 31, 2013

On Sunday, June 2 at 11 AM, Commissioner Diane Brown and NKAPC Planning Manager will be on WKRC Local 12 Newsmakers with Dan Hurley. They will talk about Direction 2030, its goals and objectives, and specifically the Kenton County Planning Commission public hearing on June 6.
If you miss it, previously aired interviews are usually posted here:

… for whatever it’s worth…

Posted on May 14, 2013
This month we highlight a recently-released report by the American Public Transportation
Association (APTA) and the National Association of Realtors. According to its findings,
homes near public transit retained their value better during the Great Recession than their
counterparts in auto-dependent areas.

What’s impressive is the extent of it: In five metropolitan areas—Boston, Chicago,
Minneapolis-St. Paul, Phoenix, and San Francisco—residential property values performed 42
percent better on average if they were located near public transportation with frequent

The study, The New Real-Estate Mantra: Location Near Pubic Transportation, measured home values between 2006 and 2011, a period when they declined substantially overall.

“When homes are located near public transportation, it is the equivalent of creating housing as desirable as beachfront property,” says Michael Melaniphy, APTA’s president and CEO. Neighborhoods with high-frequency public transportation, Melaniphy says, provide access to three to five times as many jobs per square mile as other areas in a region. Other benefits of living near good public transit: lower transportation costs, walkable neighborhoods, and a variety of transportation choices.

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.

Independence, NKAPC Earn State Award

Posted on May 14, 2013
The City of Independence and NKAPC won the American Planning Association Kentucky Chapter’s (APA-KY) award for Outstanding Project for the Independence Zoning Update. The Independence Zoning Update was chosen from four nominated projects from across the Commonwealth by a panel of judges. The judging was based on three criteria: 1) practical use by others; 2) transferability to other communities; and 3) the quality of the project. The award was presented to the city and NKAPC recently at the 2013 APA-KY Planning Conference in Lake Cumberland State Resort Park.

“We’re quite pleased that this project was chosen, since the competition is always pretty tough,” said Martin Scribner, AICP, Director of Planning and Zoning Administration with NKAPC.

This project was the result of the city’s initiative to create a community-based vision and land use plan. From 2010 to 2012, a steering committee appointed by the city met monthly to develop regulations to implement the Independence Community Small Area Study. Public input also played a critical role in the formation of these regulations. Public meetings were held during the process and combined had over 100 different citizens in attendance. The result includes three new zoning districts that were adopted by the city in 2012.
  • The DI (Downtown Independence) Zone: This zone assists in the redevelopment of the Downtown Independence area so that it may serve as a destination for residents and those who work in this area to live, work, and access retail, office, and service uses.
  • The CD-SF (Conservation Development – Single-Family) Overlay Zone: The zone provides an alternative option for subdividing property that includes promoting the environmental, economic, social, and recreational benefits of conservation design.
  • The GMU (Gateway Mixed Use) Zone: Developments within the GMU Zone are intended to be the antithesis of traditional site-by-site strip development. Sites should be well planned with public amenities, vehicular and pedestrian transportation networks, and mixed uses. The GMU Zone has basic architectural standards that will prohibit modern strip-type buildings.
Independence Councilman Chris Reinersman states, “It has been my privilege to be a part of the Independence zoning update and I am very grateful to all involved. I believe this was an excellent example of what a major zoning initiative should be. It relied on the substantial efforts of a committee of local stakeholders under the judicious guidance of the experts at NKAPC. The end product was the result of many hours of well-researched and very thoughtful collaboration by the committee.”

Reinersman concludes, “The final recommendations sought, and were tempered by, significant public input throughout the process and resulted in a final product which represented the initial goals, gave appropriate consideration to all affected parties and, I believe, will ultimately benefit our community for years to come.”

Planning Commission schedules vote on plan’s goals

Posted on May 14, 2013
Following a public input process that began in March 2012, the Kenton County Planning Commission (KCPC) is ready to move forward on a proposed statement of goals and objectives. That proposed statement will be heard during a scheduled public hearing to be held on June 6 at 6:15 PM. As required by state law, this statement will anchor Direction 2030, Kenton County’s new comprehensive plan.

After review and recommendation by the KCPC, the statement of goals and objectives will be forwarded to each of Kenton County’s 20 legislative bodies for their consideration and action. The legislative bodies will have 90 days to take action on the KCPC proposal. This phase is anticipated to be completed in September 2013.

A preliminary draft of the statement of goals and objectives was presented at two public meetings held last October. Staff received over 180 comments on the draft which was then reviewed by the Direction 2030 task force. The task force’s responses to all of the comments as well as the final draft are posted on the project website.

This public input fostered creation of four guiding principles that will assist decision makers in using the goals and objectives effectively. Each covers a broad topic that was raised during the public engagement process.

One of these topics covers the protection of property rights. Research on other comprehensive plans locally, regionally, and nationally indicates that several communities have addressed private property rights in their comprehensive plans. The Direction 2030 task force discussed this topic and subsequently directed staff to work with concerned cities to draft language for their consideration. As a result, property rights have been added as a guiding principle.

The draft statement includes nine goals which will serve as the basis for completion of the required elements of the comprehensive plan:
  • encouraging a variety of housing options for all generations and incomes;
  • creating and maintaining places that draw talent;
  • retaining, attracting, and creating jobs;
  • celebrating the unique identity of our communities;
  • promoting a healthy lifestyle;
  • enhancing the transportation system;
  • providing access to natural systems;
  • balancing development and preservation; and
  • encouraging cooperative governance.
“This has been an important step in the process and we are very pleased with the level of participation from our legislative bodies and the community,” said Paul Darpel, Chairman of the Kenton County Planning Commission. “The draft as it stands accomplishes the task of representing the community’s voice and hopefully our cities will see it that way as well.”

Subdivision regulations go to last informal review

Posted on May 14, 2013
Members of the Kenton County Planning Commission’s subdivision regulations committee are nearing completion of a multi-year goal. Simply stated, it was to craft a completely new set of subdivision design and construction standards that will be efficient to use, provide design flexibility for developers, increase agency coordination, and protect the financial interests of local taxpayers.

The committee held a roundtable session to discuss the final draft proposal for new street design standards. Virtually all other issues before the group have been resolved to the satisfaction of stakeholders. Those interests scheduled to participate in the roundtable session are the Kenton County Mayors’ Group, the Northern Kentucky Homebuilders Association, the Northern Kentucky Society of Professional Engineers, and Henry Fischer of Fischer Homes.

The major issue facing committee members is whether edge drains and drainage blankets should be required in all new residential developments. The committee’s draft proposal currently addresses those issues by requiring:
  •  that edge drains be provided under the curb where 51% of the adjoining lot drains toward the street and also in sag locations; and
  •  that a detailed pavement analysis be performed by a geotechnical engineer for each project to determine any other pavement and drainage enhancements that should be utilized.
The goal of the roundtable meeting will be to give the stakeholders a final opportunity to discuss the proposal and to provide the committee with feedback.

Committee members will consider this feedback now that the meeting is behind them. They will then give staff a final directive on what design standards should be included in the draft regulations that will be presented to the full Kenton County Planning Commission.

Current expectations are that the planning commission will schedule a public hearing on the final document sometime this summer. The draft document that will be the subject of that hearing will be posted on the NKAPC website to provide everyone an opportunity to review them and form their opinions. At the conclusion of that hearing, planning commission members will vote to approve the standards they feel meet the community’s needs best and to set an effective date for their enforcement.

Staff pursues Kenton County sidewalk inventory

Posted on May 14, 2013
Most areas of urbanized Kenton County are served by sidewalks on one or both sides of the street. While this is due largely to local requirements for construction of sidewalks on both sides of the street, no data are available currently on where sidewalks exist.

That’s about to change.

A comprehensive inventory of sidewalks in Kenton County is being pursued currently by NKAPC staff to create documentation which can assist legislative bodies with future planning efforts.

The project involves a desktop assessment using 2012 aerial imagery. This review determines the location of sidewalks, pathways, trails, and crosswalks. It also documents materials used such as concrete, pavers, and asphalt to the extent that it can be determined from the aerial imagery.

Minimal field checks will also be pursued as part of this initial effort but will not include information on the condition of sidewalks, ownership status, ADA compliance, and presence of pedestrian signals. This information will enable legislative bodies to assess their sidewalk system, identify key missing links, and pursue efforts to improve the system.

It will also make it easier for developers to gauge the availability of sidewalks in an area and to facilitate improved connectivity. The inventory will also assist in looking at the County comprehensively and assessing the impact of sidewalks or lack thereof on the community.

“One of the main capabilities of our GIS system is the ability to analyze and provide visual reports on physical elements of our built landscape. The analysis makes it easier for communities to make informed decisions about their futures,” stated Trisha Brush, GISP, NKAPC’s director of GIS administration.

Sidewalks provide opportunities for residents to walk to places such as bus stops, to travel to their places of employment, to visit friends and neighbors in adjacent developments, to access nearby shopping centers or parks, and to provide recreation that leads to a healthier lifestyle.

Additional uses for these data could include assessments of walkability, prioritization and allocation of funding for sidewalks based on needs, and assessment of sidewalk systems around schools and populated destinations.

The project is anticipated to be completed by sometime this summer.

More work being pursued on Direction 2030 goals

Posted on March 14, 2013
Staff fanned out across Kenton County in January and February to present the final draft statement of goals and objectives to the community’s 20 local elected bodies. While most of those groups provided positive feedback, four cities asked staff to work with their economic development/zoning committees for a more in-depth review.

These responses indicated a strong desire for the statement of goals and objectives to address property rights. As a result, staff presented draft language on property rights to the Direction 2030 task force in February. That updated version of the statement now includes property rights language in the guiding principles which apply to all goals and objectives.

“We’re glad that cities and local organizations are providing feedback prior to submittal of the finished product to the county planning commission. This gives us a chance to address issues on the front end, before it becomes cumbersome to address them from a countywide perspective.  All 20 of our jurisdictions must adopt goals and objectives,” said Paul Darpel, Kenton County Planning Commission chairman.

In the meantime, the Direction 2030 task force has worked to address the 182 comments received to date on the draft. Several changes have been made based on those comments, and a response to each will be posted on the project website when the review is complete.  A research report is also being compiled, as required by state statute, which specifies that elements of the comprehensive plan be based on research, analysis, and projections. This report is being compiled by collaborating with multiple agencies across Northern Kentucky to access the best data available.

“After all concerns with the statement of goals and objectives are addressed, we’ll submit an application to the Kenton County Planning Commission.  We hope to do that in April for a public hearing and action in May,” said Sharmili Reddy, AICP, NKAPC planning manager.

Kenton County’s 20 legislative bodies will have 90 days to take action on the planning commission’s recommendation. Adoption of the statement of goals and objectives and completion of the research report will pave the way for preparation of the individual required comprehensive plan elements. This second phase will include recommendations for land use, transportation, community facilities, and natural resources. It will also provide further guidance on how to achieve the adopted goals and objectives.

The second phase is anticipated to be completed by December 2013.
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