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 www.nkapc.org.

“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.

Code Enforcement Boards training session is an informative success

Posted on April 27, 2012
NKAPC, the City of Covington, and the Kenton County Joint Code Enforcement Board all contributed to a joint effort recently to provide an important educational opportunity to local code enforcement board officials.

On March 24 continuing education geared towards new and long-term code enforcement board members was held at the NKAPC office. Twenty-four people from ten jurisdictions attended the training. Presenters included; Stacy Tapke, Edmondson Law; Alex Mattingly, City of Covington; and Martin Scribner, AICP, NKAPC deputy director for current planning.

Since enabling legislation was passed in 1996, most municipalities in Kenton County have formed code enforcement boards to help strengthen their city codes and keep zoning enforcement issues out of the courts. Unlike their counterparts on other planning-related boards, members of code enforcement boards are not required by Kentucky Revised Statutes to get a prescribed amount of continuing education, sometimes making it difficult to offer any training at all. This leaves them at a definite legal disadvantage, and could also cause procedural issues. The training was designed to address both of these issues and make sure members know what they can and cannot do as board members.

Topics covered the history and purpose of code enforcement, the creation and organization of code enforcement boards, due process and hearing procedures, and how citations are issued. Legal issues, such as burden of proof, taking evidence, deliberation, decisions of the board and findings of fact, were also discussed.

A mock hearing was held using training attendees as board members and NKAPC staff as property owners and evidence presenters. This exercise demonstrated how an actual hearing should be run and gave a feel for how other boards conduct their hearings. Staff and presenters provided feedback to let the board members know what they were doing correctly and what might be done differently.

A video recording of this training is available to Kenton County and Cold Spring board of adjustment jurisdictions. New board members or members who were unable to attend the training are invited to check out a copy from the NKAPC office.

Feedback from attendees was positive and staff already has several requests to borrow the video or to provide another training opportunity in the near future. Attendee Frank Henn said, “It was interesting to see how other cities structure their hearings, and that the end result appears to be the same. I learned some things I didn’t know and overall found the class helpful and interesting. Job well done.”

NKAPC and Scott High School: Partners in Planning

Posted on April 27, 2012
NKAPC is involving area high school students in the development of Direction 2030: Your Voice. Your Choice. This is an innovative, forward-looking approach in the field of area planning, and NKAPC believes it is critical to the success of the plan. Dr. Brennan Sapp, Principal of Scott High School agrees. “These students will soon be fully functioning members of our community. They are going to be our leaders of tomorrow, so why not involve them now?”

As an important group of stakeholders in the community, the students participating in this project are creatively contributing to the development of the plan, partaking in interviews, group forums and collaborative learning in the classroom with their teachers and planning professionals. The aim of the forum is to find out more about how the students are living their lives today, learn more about their plans for the near future, and to be sure their input is included in the plan.

The program started last month with students from Scott High School. Their teacher, Jeff Jackson, is the faculty leader for Hanner’s Heroes, a student leadership and community engagement group for those students who want to make a difference in their community.

“This experience allows our students to interact as adults while still receiving high quality guidance from a master teacher like Mr. Jackson,” Sapp explained. “They will be much more knowledgeable and confident in similar situations in the future because of this program.”

During the first meeting at the high school, planning officials gave an educational program on planning and zoning issues, how the plan works in the real world, transportation logistics and a review of changes in our community from 1989 through today. Students were then asked to give their feedback using a web-based real-time polling tool.

James Fausz, AICP, and Ed Dietrich, AICP, planning professionals with NKAPC, facilitated the session and worked with students. “It was a great meeting,” explained Fausz. “The students are very open. They told us they want more intimate, walkable communities to live in that have a more fast-paced urban style of living. They really want to see smaller, locally-owned retail stores to shop at, unique, attractive architecture, convenient public transportation, and lots of things to do nearby.” When asked about the things they don’t like about their present-day community structure, they mostly agreed on one thing: there is nothing to do but live there. If someone wants to go out to eat, go to a park, or join friends for a cup of coffee, they have to get in their car and drive miles to do it.

The students learned a lot during the 90-minute sessions. “No one in the room knew what planning was when we first got started,” commented Dietrich. “But by the end of the session we were having a very engaging conversation about urban sprawl, quality of life, community engagement, and the things that need to be done to attract and keep young people here in our community.”

Sapp is very enthusiastic about these kinds of opportunities for his students. “This experience is an actual real-life experience that is not hypothetical or artificial. Students respond differently to real situations. They take things more seriously as they function as young adults, not as students.”

Jackson said, “Once the students realized that their thoughts and ideas were being taken serious, they began to flourish in this experience. Students are hardly ever given an opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns in a venue that has an avenue for their thoughts and concerns to make an impact on future decisions made by lawmakers, that is why this opportunity is so special.”

Dennis Gordon, FAICP, NKAPC’s executive director, says public forums are critical because they provide great opportunities for citizens to give their input to the plan. “Kenton County is going to change over the next 20 years; it’s one of those few guarantees of life,” he said. “What we as citizens need to do is help shape the change so it benefits the community’s overall quality of life. That’s what Direction 2030 is all about… reaching out and engaging citizens on how to shape the inevitable change that’s coming.”

Sapp said, “It takes many different groups working together to make good decisions for the future of our area. NKAPC is an essential member of Northern Kentucky. We need more experiences like the one they have provided for our students and our citizens. For too long, education has not been about real life. Direction 2030 is about real life.”

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