Slip Sliding Away: Northern Kentucky hillsides gain attention

Posted on May 24, 2012
After three inches of rain fell recently over a few days in Bellevue, there was a hillside behind a row of condominiums that slid into the homes. This is just one of a growing number of landslide sites Matt Crawford from Kentucky Geological Survey (KGS) has visited in Northern Kentucky.

“I got involved in this slowly at first by compiling a landslide inventory of sites all around Kentucky with data from a variety of sources,” Crawford says. “I started visiting the sites to check the information I was putting into the database.”

Northern Kentucky has become a frequent destination for his visits, because of the high number of landslides in the region. “Our job is to communicate what we know about geology, steep slopes, soils, and about activities that destabilize slopes,” stated Crawford.

Field studies also help to verify landslide locations using light detection and ranging (LiDAR) data provided to KGS by the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission on behalf of the LINK-GIS partnership. Crawford explains LiDAR data is taken from an aircraft and uses pulses of light or lasers to collect very accurate terrain information. “It allows the creation of high-resolution digital elevation models,” he says, “and there are features in this data that can indicate landslide activity not easily noted by simply looking at the terrain.”

The data helped identify susceptible areas that may not have been a problem—yet. “It may have been a creeping slope that after a large rain will be more susceptible to material sliding off.”

LiDAR may not detect some landslide-related features because of development and other changes to a landscape. But field visits have confirmed landslides at many of the 234 locations indicated by LiDAR data to be a possible risk in Northern Kentucky.

Due to the geology of the Northern Kentucky area and the LiDAR data available this made the study by KGS a perfect match. Though local government and regional planning agencies have been considering whether to enact regulations relating to landslide susceptibility, Crawford says he limits his scope to geologic work.

Collaboration on tornado aftermath

Posted on May 24, 2012
After the storms of March 2, efforts to facilitate the rebuilding of homes in that area of Kenton County began immediately. NKAPC staff began a comprehensive review of the area and of the Kenton County Zoning Ordinance to ensure that property owners would be able to rebuild their homes and barns with a minimum of red tape.

It was quickly discovered that many properties in this area had homes or barns that fall under a category known in the zoning code as a “nonconforming” structure. This means that these structures were most likely built prior to the adoption of the current zoning code and, as a result, do not meet one or more of the zoning regulations for that zone. It also means that these structures would have to go through an extra step in the process of rebuilding, with the possibility that they may not be allowed to be rebuilt as they were.

NKAPC staff quickly brought this situation to the attention of the Kenton County Fiscal Court and advised that there were options that might make this process less cumbersome for the property owners and could ultimately permit some reconstruction that would not have otherwise been allowed. The fiscal court instructed staff to work pre-emptively with the Kenton County Board of Adjustment to resolve the situation with the least amount of hassle to the affected property owners. The fiscal court also passed resolutions to support this effort and to instruct staff to halt all code enforcement activities in this area to allow property owners to get debris cleaned up without the risk of incurring code violations.

Planning staff used information gathered by NKAPC building inspectors to inventory damaged “nonconforming” buildings. Most of these were either too close to a property line or had more structures on the property than were allowed. This inventory was then presented to the Kenton County Board of Adjustment, who had the option of either discontinuing those nonconforming uses or allowing them to be rebuilt.

The Board of Adjustment voted unanimously to allow all structures on the inventory list to be rebuilt the way they were prior to the storms, provided that they would attain the appropriate permits and did not expand the nonconformity of the structure. The board also provided an 18 month window for attaining building permits. If a property owner seeks a building permit to rebuild a nonconforming structure after that 18 month period, then that request must be resubmitted to the Kenton County Board of Adjustment for further review.

It should be noted that any property owner who chooses to rebuild a structure but changes the specifications to meet the current zoning code will not be subject to the above review.

To date, 42 storm-related building permits have been issued by NKAPC in this area, 27 of which were nonconforming structures that were allowed to be rebuilt because of this process, initiated by NKAPC staff. All permit fees were also waived for these permits to help minimize the headaches involved in getting residents back to their lives.

KCPC moves toward public hearing on new subdivision regulations

Posted on May 24, 2012
Since January of this year, the Kenton County Planning Commission has been hosting all of the major stakeholders in the community that will be affected by the proposed changes to the Kenton County Subdivision Regulations. These face-to-face meetings have taken place so commissioners can hear each group’s comments and concerns. A total of six groups have made presentations to the planning commission, the last of which occurred at the end of April.

It appears that most of the expressed concerns can be addressed. However, there is one main issue that remains unresolved; the issue of how streets should be designed.

“It seems most everyone agrees that some streets are failing before their expected design life,” said Scott Hiles, Deputy Director for Infrastructure Engineering. “But little consensus between the groups has been reached as to the cause of this premature failure, or what should be done about it.”

Staff heard from the majority of local officials that they were spending taxpayer dollars to repair streets long before they should. The early consensus from staff was that water infiltrating under the streets from behind the curb line was one likely culprit. “Most front yards are graded to drain toward the street,” said Hiles. “During much of the year water from sump pumps, gutters, overwatering of irrigation systems and just rainfall can flow to the street, get behind the curb and ultimately under the street causing some of these failures that local officials are seeing.”

Staff addressed this issue by proposing an underdrain under the entirety of the curb line for all streets. From that point forward, the Northern Kentucky Homebuilder’s Association Land Development Council (LDC), Northern Kentucky Society of Professional Engineers (NKYSPE) and the Kenton County Mayors’ Group have all weighed in with different proposals.

The LDC’s position has been that the current standards for street design seem to be sufficient, but that individual situations may warrant a design upgrade. The LDC is in support of keeping the street standards as they are, but letting a geotechnical investigation determine if and where an upgrade to the standards should be provided.

“The Northern Kentucky Homebuilder’s Association Land Development Council recognizes that the current pavement regulations are performing well in other municipalities in Northern Kentucky, and that the key to reaching the design life of any pavement is proper well timed care and maintenance during the pavement’s lifecycle,” said Joe Kramer, an engineer representing the LDC. “The proposal to install underdrains and granular drainage blankets under all pavements will not add a significant benefit to the performance and lifecycle costs of the pavement.”

NKSPE did recommend requiring an underdrain under the curb, but only in street sag locations and fronting lots where 95% of the lot drained toward the street. NKSPE also recommended a change to the aggregate used in the concrete for concrete streets.

“Through our research the NKSPE Pavement review committee found that the majority of current pavement failures are the result of inconsistent materials, and therefore most of our recommendations focused on the need for better specifications and monitoring of the materials used,” said Michelle Bollman, President of the NKSPE. “We also identified the need for some subsurface drainage improvements and a better maintenance plan in our recommendations.”

The Mayors’ Group took staff’s proposal one step further. They are recommending that in addition to the underdrain under the curb, a drainage blanket under the pavement also be required to capture any additional water that may be either present in the subgrade soils or infiltrate through the pavement itself. “As local officials, our goal was to propose a street design that will stand the test of time so that city and county taxpayers aren’t required to pay to fix streets that fail prematurely,” said Crestview Hills Mayor Paul Meier, Chairman of the Kenton County Mayors’ Group. “We’re confident that our proposal accomplishes this goal.”

The planning commission recently requested that each group provide cost information for the proposals and are expecting to receive that information soon. “Cost will ultimately be one of the primary factors the planning commission has to consider when they choose which proposal to adopt,” said Paul Darpel, Chairman of the Kenton County Planning Commission.

But rather than just basing their decision on what the cost increase would be for an upgraded street standard, they’ll have the difficult job of weighing the increased cost against the benefit the overall community would receive. That decision will be made by the planning commission later this year at a special public hearing which has yet to be scheduled.

Round 2 of Direction 2030 meetings

Posted on May 24, 2012
Direction 2030 is quickly moving into the second phase of public input as planners prepare for two roundtable meetings. The first meeting will be held on June 14th at Ludlow High School and the second will be held in mid-July, details of which will be announced soon. Based on guidance from the Direction 2030 Planning Task Force, the focus of these two roundtables will be to seek expert feedback on issues expressed by residents from the first round of meetings.

As planners work toward recommending policies, input from many diverse communities within Kenton County is critical in appropriately shaping the vision for the entire county. The input gathered from the four public meetings, five targeted meetings with groups not represented at the public meetings, as well as from Direction2030’s Technical Task Force and Planning Task Force is important to articulate the main policy issues.

The Planning Task Force includes members of the Kenton County Planning Commission, Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission and the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Council. The Technical Task Force is comprised of representatives from key public agencies and those with expertise in areas that the comprehensive plan is required to address.

The two roundtable discussions will include a presentation by Dinn Force Marketing, describing market metrics that need to be considered and how those metrics align with input gathered during the first round of meetings.

“These upcoming meetings are important for elected officials, planning commission members and the general public to attend. These meetings are a good opportunity for us as a community to educate ourselves on opportunities and constraints in implementing policy issues raised by people in Kenton County. Most importantly, these meetings will provide the critical information to begin preparing countywide goals and objectives and provide direction for policy,” said Kenton County Planning Commission chair Paul Darpel.

Following the second round of sessions, a capstone meeting will be held to gather feedback from the community on the draft Goals and Objectives element for the comprehensive plan. Public input is important to ensure that the county is prepared to overcome current obstacles, particularly as it relates to market conditions, and is positioned to successfully provide a healthy community for current and future residents.

Imagery coordination with state saves local tax dollars

Posted on May 24, 2012
Citizens in Kenton and Campbell Counties will reap the benefits of lower costs for aerial photography and mapping, thanks to NKAPC / LINK-GIS participation with a new state program. The commonwealth of Kentucky has a new effort to collect aerial imagery for the entire state over a three year period. LINK-GIS coordinated with the state plan and saved approximately $90,000 in local funds. Additionally, by flying the two counties together, the partnership was able to save an estimated 15 percent. It is important to note that each county pays only for data collected for their individual counties.

The data that the partnership will acquire include: oblique photography which is taken from an airplane with the camera directed horizontally or diagonally downward, orthophotography, updated planimetric mapping, infrared,  and LiDAR which uses pulses of light or lasers to create accurate terrain information. The infrared is a new product that we have not received in the past. It is particularly useful in agricultural and vegetation classifications. The oblique products which are helpful to local law enforcement are provided by Pictometry, Inc., and will be available to the public by mid-summer. All other data products will be provided from Photoscience, Inc.

The LINK-GIS partnership: Kenton County Fiscal Court, Campbell County Fiscal Court, SD1, Northern Kentucky Water District, Kenton County PVA, Campbell County PVA and NKAPC, have come together to make the new imagery acquisition a reality. LINK-GIS already has the first delivery of the obliques from Pictometry; and due to the more involved quality control and quality assurance process, the remainder of the products will be received by the end of the year.

The last time the LINK-GIS partnership acquired these same imagery products was in 2007; five years ago. Pictometry is a two year contract and was last flown in 2010.

Ludlow joins One Stop Shop program

Posted on April 27, 2012
Ludlow City Council and the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission entered into an agreement effective March 15th that puts NKAPC in charge of the city’s building, electric, property maintenance, and zoning codes administration. Ludlow is the 14th Northern Kentucky jurisdiction to enter into NKAPC’s One Stop Shop program.

The program also provides staff support for Ludlow’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 Ludlow to this program,” said Dennis Gordon, NKAPC’s executive director. “Mayor Wynn and City Administrator Brian Richmond have given us marching orders regarding the city’s priorities; we understand code enforcement is Job 1.”

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. NKAPC can be reached at 331-8980 between 8 and 5 Monday through Friday. Considerable information in this regard is also available at

“The One Stop Shop program has helped a number of cities to increase service levels for their citizens and to reduce costs. We’re looking forward to providing those benefits to Ludlow and its citizens,” concluded Gordon.

NKAPC provides data inventory to City of Elsmere

Posted on April 27, 2012
NKAPC is nearing the end of a three-month project to inventory Elsmere’s signs, sidewalks, and streetlight assets. The sign inventory alone will assist the city in preparing for an upcoming Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) mandate.
This federal mandate requires all municipalities to have an asset management system in place by 2012, which will track  the retro reflectivity of their regulatory and warning signs. The first step in that process is to conduct an inventory to determine exactly what signs a city has, and precisely where they are located.

As part of this initial inventory, NKAPC is collecting condition data for each sign as well as whether the sign has reflective qualities at all. This will save the city time when they begin the second phase which requires retro reflectivity to be measured. “Elsmere won’t need to measure the reflectivity of the signs we have identified as being in poor condition or never being reflective to begin with,” said Scott Hiles, NKAPC’s deputy director for infrastructure engineering. “They can just slate them for replacement.”

In addition to signs, NKAPC inventoried all streetlight locations and all locations of sidewalks containing damage. The sidewalk inventory included an assessment of the repair area to determine the type and severity of each failure.

NKAPC used GPS technology to collect locations of these assets by walking 55 miles of city streets and to provide Elsmere all the information in a digital GIS map format.

“The end result of this effort will allow Elsmere to pull up a digital interactive map and see exactly where and what signs, sidewalk damage, and street lights are located within the city. They can then click on the digital asset to identify background information we collected about the asset while on-site” said Hiles.

Having that detailed information will allow Elsmere to determine budgetary needs and options available to them immediately and in the years to come.

NKAPC began this project in December 2011 and will finish later this month. “We’re on target to collect over 2,600 inventory points in total,” Hiles said. “We have the equipment and experience now that we’ve completed projects for Kenton County, the City of Covington, and the City of Elsmere” Hiles said. “We’re open to other projects that any other cities might want us to complete for them.”

Comprehensive plan effort moves forward

Posted on April 27, 2012
The second round of public meetings for Direction 2030: Your Voice, Your Choice, the new comprehensive plan for Kenton County, has been scheduled. Mark your calendars for June 14 from 6-8PM at Ludlow High School.

The first meeting will provide attendees with an overview of market forces. Cincinnati Enquirer reporter Amanda Van Benschoten will moderate a panel discussion, and the program will conclude with a work session where the public can discuss issues in greater detail. The second meeting will center on policy level issues that will be used to prepare countywide goals and objectives.

“Over 200 citizens attended and participated in the first round of meetings held between last October and December.  They provided their thoughts on Kenton County today and what they would like to see in the future,” said Sharmili Reddy, AICP, senior planner for long-range planning.

Employment was an area of interest to a majority of the respondents that attended the meeting. Concerns regarding good jobs for youth were expressed. The desire for a more comprehensive transit system and alternate modes of transportation were also discussed. The topic of accessibility was brought up in multiple meetings as it relates to the aging population in Kenton County and the need for this demographic to be close to amenities.

In two of the four meetings attendees thought the urban core needs to be strong in order to attract the younger generation. Several comments were made about the lack of amenities (night life, mass transit, and housing choices) to retain younger residents within the area.

“A big focus of Direction 2030 is to align policy with market reality. We have to be evermore mindful of the market during these tough economic times, especially when providing policy guidance for the future. We are excited about the information we received from the public and now we need to focus on how we can make that happen by having a good understanding of the market forces,” said Reddy.

To assist with providing that marketing expertise, the services of Michael Dinn with Dinn Focused Marketing have been sought. He and other local experts will provide their perspectives to the issues during the meeting on June 14.

A third round of meetings will focus on acquiring more input from the public on the plan’s goals and objectives. The feedback will be reviewed by all Kenton County legislative bodies and NKAPC, and their recommendations will be considered for adoption by the Kenton County Planning Commission.

Citizen groups report progress to Kenton County Mayors’ Group

Posted on April 27, 2012
On February 18 representatives from three citizen groups—Independence Strategic Action Committee (ISAC), Linden Gateway Oversight Committee, and the Latonia Strategic Action Committee—presented progress reports to the Kenton County Mayors’ Group.

These citizen groups were formed after the completion of small area studies in an effort to demonstrate that the implementation of these studies does not have to fall back on cities. Actively engaging citizens during the preparation of the study can enable the community to take ownership of the study and move it forward.

The NKAPC’s extensive public engagement efforts drew a large number of people to the focused nature of the studies. “Given the level of public interest in these studies it was important for us to leave these communities with a strong but easy strategy for implementation. This led to the recommendation of forming citizen groups to focus on implementation,” said Sharmili Reddy, AICP, senior planner in the long range planning department.

Butch Callery, former mayor of the City of Covington and chair of the Latonia Strategic Action Committee reported that the committee is currently focused on resolving traffic issues around Church Street in collaboration with Holy Cross High School.  They are doing this by applying for two place matters neighborhood mini-grants and conducting a survey to obtain more detailed input from residents.

Rodney Crice spoke on behalf of the ISAC and noted that the committee is working on zoning updates recommended by the small area studies’ preservation efforts around the historic downtown and farmers’ market initiatives.

Pete Nerone, representing the Linden Gateway Oversight Committee, talked about the completion of zoning code updates along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and the implementation of traffic recommendations from the study. He also noted other ongoing efforts such as completing the survey for a National Register District nomination, planning improvements to Linden Grove Cemetery which serves as prime green space for the neighborhood, and landscaping the median along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Rachel Hastings, Director of Neighborhood and Housing Initiatives at the Center for Great Neighborhoods of Covington, outlined their efforts as part of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program that rehabs abandoned and foreclosed homes. "The attention that the small area studies brought to the housing issues in the Linden Gateway neighborhood was a key factor in enabling us to focus rehabilitation grants in this area."

“It was very encouraging to hear that our citizens are so actively involved in the implementation of these small area studies. It just goes to show that if public engagement is done right, our community will step up to make sure these studies are not forgotten. Having citizens take on implementation is a huge help for cities since resources are limited,” said Paul Meier, chair of the Kenton County Mayors’ Group.

NKAPC offers assistance to tornado victims and emergency crews

Posted on April 27, 2012
As storm sirens blared Friday, March 2, Kenton County families lost their homes, barns, livestock and loved ones. A devastating F4 tornado hit Piner and leveled everything in its path. Within an hour of the storm, Jeff Bechtold, a senior building official at NKAPC arrived at Kenton County Emergency Management’s headquarters to offer assistance.

By 5:30AM the next morning, NKAPC had seven inspectors on the ground doing preliminary inspections on the storm-ravaged dwellings. “It was clear from the start that we were going to need assistance from our GIS department with maps containing the building layers so we could see where each building was located and which ones were in the storm’s path,” stated Brian Sims, Deputy Director for Building Code Administration.

Trisha Brush, Deputy Director for GIS Administration and her team created maps of the affected area with parcel lines, addresses, and building footprints. They worked all day Saturday to assemble seven sets of 54 maps for each inspection team, and deliver them to out-of-town EMS support teams in Piner.

Fire Chief Jason Schleue with Piner-Fiskburg Fire District stated, “The NKAPC was a great asset during this event. Due to the already-provided and on-hand maps that we had here at the firehouse we were able to start operations. Then when more maps were needed, NKAPC staff were here immediately to see what we needed and made sure we got it right away. The Piner-Fiskburg Fire District and community appreciate all the help from NKAPC.”

NKAPC’s building department had four inspectors and commandeered two inspectors from Boone County and one from Independence to conduct preliminary inspections on March 3. They assessed a few hundred structures in the area and classified 88 as uninhabitable with an additional 279 as being affected. Steve Hensley, Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management in Kenton County stated, “The knowledge and expertise of these individuals was very valuable, as we conducted structural inspections and damage assessments”.

Inspectors returned to Piner later that week and tagged each structure according to one of three categories: habitable, limited entry, or uninhabitable. During immediate post-recovery efforts, NKAPC also assigned one of its administrative assistants to address questions from storm victims. The building department is now pursuing more in-depth inspections on an as-needed basis.

“Again I want to commend the NKAPC for the assistance they have and continue to provide to the residents of Kenton County. In my eyes, this agency and its staff members have performed over and beyond the call of duty throughout this event,” Hensley stated.

NKAPC waived all building and HVAC permit and inspection fees, as well as all electrical permits until June 4, 2012. Electrical inspections will still need to be paid to IBI.

Page 32 of 35First   Previous   26  27  28  29  30  31  [32]  33  34  35  Next   Last