Direction 2030 goals and objectives now in final draft form

Posted on December 08, 2012
In November, the third and final round of public meetings regarding the draft statement of goals and objectives yielded over 180 comments from the general public, local officials and organizations. Approximately 40 residents stopped by during the course of two public meetings and discussed their thoughts and concerns regarding the draft.

This statement of goals and objectives is intended as a guide to develop policies and implementation measures in the comprehensive plan. Those currently in place were adopted in 1972 during the preparation of the first Kenton County Comprehensive Plan.

The proposed statement is based on three guiding principles; public participation, economy, and relationship between goals. These are applicable to all the goals and objectives and are expected to be used in moving forward. The proposed goals focus on seven different topics including; healthy communities, economy, health, mobility, natural systems, community identity and governance. Each of these categories includes several objectives that will be used in preparing the remaining elements of the comprehensive plan.

Immediately following the last round of public meetings in November, the Direction 2030 Task Force met to discuss the submitted comments. The task force will address all public comments and post its responses on the project’s website. The draft will then be presented to each of the required legislative bodies as an additional review opportunity prior to submitting an official application for adoption.

In accordance with state statutes, an application will be submitted to the Kenton County Planning Commission (KCPC) for review. The KCPC will offer recommendations to the legislative bodies, which will have 90 days to review the proposed statement of goals and objectives and take action.

“Our process has been open and transparent to date. We have held meetings in multiple locations throughout the county to make it easy for people to attend. We have met with anyone or any organization that has had concerns. We hope that our cities have been following this process closely and offer their support,” said Sharmili Reddy, AICP, planning manager.

NWS invites NKAPC staff to present on tornado

Posted on December 08, 2012
The National Weather Service (NWS) office, located in Wilmington, OH, invited NKAPC staff members to make a presentation to NWS staff on its response to the tornado that struck southern Kenton County on March 2, 2012.

On December 4th, staff members from several departments, including Building Codes Administration, GIS, and Planning & Zoning described their response to the devastation. Their short- and long-term efforts for easing the burden on affected residents included: inspections and coordination with local emergency response officials; production of maps and reports used to identify damage sites; and, waiving permit fees and some regulations as the rebuilding process began.

In addition, principal GIS specialist Joe Busemeyer made a presentation on “SnowTracker”, a GIS application created to track the snow treatment and plowing status of roads for Kenton County Public Works.

After the presentation, GIS staff presented a banner map of the path of the tornado for display at the NWS office. In a follow-up message to NKAPC staff, Julia Dian-Reed, a Service Hydrologist stationed in Wilmington wrote:

“We really appreciate your visit today, and the many skills NKAPC offers to Northern Kentucky. Thank you so much for the high-resolution poster of the Piner tornado - we are discussing where to display such a great depiction of a rare EF4 tornado (since our office's existence opening in 1994, there were only 2 other F4's, in Xenia in Sept 2000 and in Blue Ash, Ohio in April 1999). With an EF4 often not survivable above ground - the message of weather safety and awareness plays a large part in our mission. Such a high quality image of the aftermath would go a long way in communicating this message to the numerous tours and visitors we have to our office each year.”

Senior GIS staffer elected state association treasurer

Posted on December 08, 2012
At the recent annual Kentucky GIS Conference, senior GIS specialist Tom East, GISP was elected to the position of treasurer for the Kentucky Association of Mapping Professionals. East has been in the GIS field for over 35 years. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Mississippi State University and began his GIS career with the US Army Corps of Engineers at the Waterways Experiment Station in Vicksburg, MS. Since 1990, East has worked at NKAPC and earned his GISP certification in 2009.

KAMP was founded in 2003 and has nearly 250 members from both the public and private sectors throughout Kentucky. Its purpose is to foster the understanding and use of geospatial information in all levels of government, academia, and the private sector in Kentucky. It also serves as a mechanism to promote dialogue and education to professionals involved in the collection, processing, analysis, use, and maintenance of geospatial information.

Market data for Direction 2030 may have additional uses

Posted on December 08, 2012
Staff took steps in a new direction when it contracted a market analyst for technical assistance with Kenton County’s first totally-new comprehensive plan since 1972. Based on initial responses to the nature and quality of the data, staff is looking into an ongoing program to marry this type of data with LINK-GIS mapping capabilities for use by local communities, businesses, and economic development officials.

“Our initial reason for engaging the market analyst was relevance,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, executive director. “The free market is one of the most important factors determining whether a comprehensive plan is viable and likely to be implemented. The Great Recession and the ‘new normal’ it’s created makes it all the more critical that we have our finger on the pulse of the local market.

“What we got from our analyst met our initial goal. It also gave us an idea that if we could keep the data updated and available, we could assist a number of interests that work in support of Kenton County’s economic future.”

According to the program strategy being developed by staff, data developed recently by Dinn Focused Marketing would be kept up to date regularly and made available to local interests along with mapping that would make the data all the more relevant. The result, according to the draft strategy, would be more jobs and more business for the local economy.

Gordon says the idea for a “data clearinghouse” came to staff following a meeting with local homebuilders. They acknowledged that the nature and quality of the data are what they typically use when determining where to locate their next residential projects and the price range on which they should focus.

“Our development community takes huge amounts of risk on their own behalf. That means they need data to make the most accurate prediction of what the market is telling them,” said Brian Miller, executive vice president of the Homebuilders Association of Northern Kentucky. “If this data is maintained and regularly updated, we foresee the ability to heat map any demographic and economic changes in areas within the County in order to facilitate a dialogue for a number of reasons.”

Miller continued, “Zone changes, comprehensive plans, and subdivision regulations are relevant by supportive data and adaptation to changes in the local market. Flexibility is key in a more responsive planning process and it is difficult to be flexible without data that bears your assumption out.”

A recent meeting with a Covington task force looking into redeveloping neighborhoods within that city’s urban core validated the idea further, according to Gordon. “Seeing economic indicators on a neighbor-by-neighborhood basis showed these folks where they needed to focus their efforts.”

When asked when such a program might be up and running, Gordon responded that the strategy would be put on the table during upcoming discussions about NKAPC’s budget for fiscal year 2014 (that begins in July 2013). He said that while the funding necessary to make the strategy work would be minimal, he hoped to be able to raise funds outside the agency budget to help with its costs.

“These data could help private sector businesses and, as such, would make public-private partnerships totally appropriate as a funding source to keep the program going,” he concluded.

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

Posted on November 30, 2012
With this month’s edition we continue a new feature initiated in September… for whatever it’s worth. NKAPC staffers keep themselves up to date on an ongoing basis regarding what’s happening in other communities of the tri-state, the commonwealth, and the US. Their goal is to keep abreast of events and offerings that can improve the efficiencies of their efforts.

In this quest, they find reports periodically that deserve a local audience because of relevance to a topic being discussed here, because of applicability to an issue here, or to inform local readers of something new and possibly relevant to Kenton County.

This month we provide a blog posting from the website Better! Cities & Towns. The website is dedicated to providing the best news, analysis, and intelligence on compact, mixed-use growth and development available in any medium. This blog posting entitled ‘Walk Appeal: the series’ considers the question of how far today’s typical citizens are willing to walk as developers nationwide propose more and more mixed-use “walkable communities.”

You can access the article here… for whatever it’s worth.

OKI pursues updating strategic regional policy plan

Posted on November 30, 2012
The OKI Regional Council of Governments is updating its strategic policy plan for southwest Ohio, northern Kentucky, and southeast Indiana, and hoping to hear your opinions. OKI’s original policy plan was undertaken to improve quality of life and service to the public in the Cincinnati metropolitan region.

Much has changed since the policy plan was adopted in 2005, and OKI is re-visiting some strategic issues and considering others for the first time. In the process, OKI is inviting public feedback through a brief questionnaire that takes about five minutes to complete. The questionnaire can be found at the initiative’s website which will be available until the end of the year.

The 2005 Strategic Regional Policy Plan contains a 20-year vision for regional vitality, sustainability, and competitiveness, focusing on the land use–transportation connection. The strategic planning process addressed four questions: Where are we as a region? Where are we going given current trends? Where do we want to go? How do we get there?

Six strategic subject areas were selected to focus planning to achieve the overall regional vision: transportation, public facilities and services, natural systems or resources, housing, economic development and land use. Experts and stakeholders in all of these areas were involved in the original planning effort along with OKI’s board, peer reviewers, and the public. The resulting plan called for public-private sector partnerships and recommended actions by OKI, local governments, and by both for-profit and non-profit organizations.

“As we talk with officials around the tri-state area about economic competitiveness issues, we constantly hear about the ongoing need to address certain issues at a regional level,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, NKAPC’s executive director. “We have a strong partnership with OKI and appreciate the regional perspective its staff brings to our efforts in Kenton County.”

While much has been accomplished since the plan’s adoption in 2005, much remains to be done to reach its goals and new issues have arisen with some urgency. For example, the plan is currently being revisited to consider the impacts of subsequent events like the Great Recession, the housing foreclosure crisis, and significant changes in regional demographics and expectations as baby boomers retire and more millennials affect the regional work force.

The current How Do We Grow From Here? campaign and public questionnaire are designed to provide OKI with direction while revisiting the plan’s strategic regional issues. Future opportunities for gathering additional public input will be scheduled and announced at

NKAPC employees elected to state, local boards

Posted on November 30, 2012
Brian Sims, Jeff Bechtold, and John Lauber have each been building inspectors for over 15 years.  Those years of experience and their willingness to serve garnered election victories recently for each of the three NKAPC staffers in the Code Administrators Association of Kentucky (CAAK) and the Northern Kentucky Building Inspectors Association (NKBIA).

Brian Sims, CBO, NKAPC’s chief building official, was elected to a seat on the CAAK board of directors while completing his current term on the NKBIA board.

Senior building official Jeff Bechtold was elected NKBIA's president for 2013; Bechtold is also a CAAK board member.

John Lauber, senior building official, was re-elected as NKBIA's treasurer.

Since 1989, NKBIA members have worked together to improve code enforcement and uniformity in the Northern Kentucky region. Over the years, NKBIA has worked with CAAK, International Code Council, Northern Kentucky Home Builders Association, and the Office of Housing Building and Construction on code changes, statewide code adoptions, and code training.

For more than 35 years, CAAK has worked to ensure consistent and professional building code enforcement in all areas across the commonwealth. Its membership includes more than 650 building inspectors, fire officials, contractors, engineers, architects and others in related fields. CAAK works directly with the Office of Housing Building and Construction on code development, code adoptions and training.

Local leaders reconvene The Dixie Fix oversight team

Posted on November 30, 2012
The Dixie Fix plan was a cooperative study conducted by the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI) and NKAPC. The plan—approved in 2006—covers an eight-mile stretch of Dixie Highway through Covington, Park Hills, Fort Wright, Fort Mitchell, Lakeside Park, Crestview Hills, Edgewood, Elsmere, Erlanger, and Florence. These cities, as well as NKAPC, the Boone County Planning Commission, and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, examined access management and land use throughout the corridor. Each city also signed a Memorandum of Understanding to help better coordinate efforts to increase safety and reduce travel times.

The study focused on two major goals: a prioritized list of projects ranging from short- to long-term site specific access management recommendations and critical guidelines for implementation standards such as transit stop improvements, increased streetscape improvements, and future right-of-way widths. Another key recommendation of the study was to form an oversight team to encourage and coordinate implementation efforts suggested in the plan. This team was envisioned to meet on a recurring basis to help share information and ideas, as well as track progress of changes throughout the corridor.

Quarterly meetings began soon after the plan’s approval in 2006 and continued regularly until March 2011. The oversight team went on a temporary hiatus in mid-2011 due to the lack of improvements along the corridor due to economic recession and a slow-down in available redevelopment investments from state and federal funding.

Recently, there has been increased interest in the plan and in reconvening the oversight team. “We wanted to get the team back together because new funding opportunities had come to light on the federal and state level. Also, changes in the local elected leadership of cities along the route offered new energy and a renewed level of excitement in the overall study,” said Larry Klein, Covington city manager and vice-chair of the oversight team.

The team met in September, which provided members an opportunity to recap the study since 2006. The meeting also allowed the team to discuss new developments along the route, learn about new funding sources available for the prioritized list of projects, and talk to representatives from the Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky about potential corridor transit enhancements.

Robyn Bancroft, OKI strategic projects manager and project manager of The Dixie Fix, said, “I think everyone in attendance at the September meeting found the discussion very beneficial and a great investment of their limited time. Much was discussed that can support travel improvements in every Dixie Highway community.”

To date The Dixie Fix has helped coordinate efforts such as new sidewalks in Edgewood and Crestview Hills near the Town Center, the installation of new streetscape improvements at the I-275 interchange, preliminary work on realigning Garvey and McAlpin Avenues in Erlanger, elimination of redundant bus stops, and efforts to make access safer and more efficient throughout the route.

Coordination – an important function of NKAPC staff

Posted on November 30, 2012
Planning has always played an important role in coordinating efforts of various agencies, governments, private organizations, non-profits, and residents. In Kenton County, NKAPC staff works diligently to be involved with groups throughout the community and region whose missions focus on improving the quality of life for residents.

Staff has worked closely with the Kenton Conservancy board of directors—a non-profit corporation committed to protecting lands of natural, cultural, recreational, and historical significance—since its inception over a decade ago. The Conservancy has preserved over 100 acres of land to date through voluntary donations from property owners and developers.

“Often times developers call us regarding land they own as part of a development that is intended to remain in its natural state,” said Sharmili Reddy, AICP, NKAPC’s planning manager. “This land in most cases includes hillsides and areas along streams that have very high ecological value. We work to connect these developers with appropriate agencies that have the resources to focus on land preservation. This provides a win-win outcome for both parties.”

Several current zoning districts throughout Kenton County allow for greater flexibility in the type of housing product they permit and allow for a mixture of uses. This traditionally involves an open space requirement which usually becomes the responsibility of a home owners association. With the work of the Kenton Conservancy, however, early coordination during the planning phase of the development provides a developer the opportunity to donate this land in return for federal and state tax benefits.

“We know there are a lot of groups out there working on various efforts that we may not necessarily know about or have worked with in the past,” said Jim Berling of Berling Engineering Company. “NKAPC has been a crucial point of contact for us with those groups. If we can convey remnant land to a group that is working on land conservation, it benefits the community as a whole.”

Mackey McNeil, chair of the Kenton Conservancy said, “NKAPC’s involvement provides citizens and developers a regular point of contact when dealing with our board and allows volunteers to focus on outreach, maintenance, and spreading our message to the community. We don’t believe we’d be able to continue to serve the citizens of this county without the support and guidance we receive from NKAPC.”

NKAPC earns State Auditor’s ‘Compliance’ designation

Posted on November 30, 2012
State Auditor Adam Edelen’s recent push for greater accountability from the Commonwealth’s 1200+ special districts places NKAPC among those agencies in the top tier. The resulting ‘Compliance’ designation earned through this process signifies the organization meets state requirements for financial decision making and accountability.

A recent news release from the Auditor’s office said that the current system of financial oversight of these special districts treat those that comply with state laws the same way as those operating outside of it. It says “the status quo is a muddled morass of statutes, bizarre classifications, uncertain responsibilities, confusing mandates and the absence of meaningful tools to compel compliance.”

The news release announced the establishment of an online public database and accompanying report to shine new light on these districts. This category of Kentucky local governmental entities includes libraries, sanitation and water districts, public health departments, fire and ambulance districts, transit authorities, and river port authorities to name a few.

“We certainly support what the auditor’s trying to accomplish,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, executive director. “NKAPC has always pursued annual audits of its books. Our budgets have always been approved by elected officials accountable to the taxpayers, and our books have always been open and transparent for anybody with a question.”

The Citizen Auditor Initiative database and “Ghost Government: A Report on Special Districts in Kentucky” are the end results of a six-month long effort to survey known special districts and local elected officials and examine more than 1000 statutes that govern the most prevalent form of government in the commonwealth.

“To be sure, there is a difference between the districts themselves and the scandalous lack of system-wide oversight of them,” Edelen said in the news release. “Their work is critical to the communities they serve, many board members put in considerable hours on a voluntary basis and the vast majority are honest stewards of the tax dollars they spend.”

“This is the first time that information on the state's taxing districts has been made available in an online, sortable format,” said Logan Morford, vice president of transparency of the Bluegrass Institute. “As a result, citizens will be able to easily find critical information about how their hard-earned tax dollars are spent.”

The report includes legislative recommendations aimed at cleaning up the statutes that govern special districts, adding teeth to compel compliance with reporting requirements, creating an online centralized registry for special districts to report their financials and establishing education and ethics for special district board members and staff.

“This is really a significant service to the public interest,” said Richard Beliles, executive director of Common Cause of Kentucky. “This is a major, major improvement in government for the people.”

The auditor’s office worked with the Department for Local Government, members of a legislative task force studying special districts, and more than a dozen organizations that offered their support of this effort.

The full report and database can be found on the auditor’s website.

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