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.”

Final version of county subdivision regulations is near completion

Posted on April 27, 2012
The Kenton County Planning Commission is entering the home stretch as its members begin deliberation on draft subdivision regulations. This marks the near culmination of a several-year effort led by the NKAPC staff to create an updated set of regulations that are more efficient, provide more options for creative design, and strengthen standards to protect the taxpayer from unnecessary expenses.

Since the draft was published for public review in the fall of 2010, planning commission members have been busy on several fronts. Their first effort was to establish a committee and begin a series of informational meetings with staff to learn about the differences between the existing and proposed regulations. “Staff handles most of the administration of the existing regulations,” said Scott Hiles, Deputy Director for Infrastructure Engineering. “It was important to educate the committee on the reason we have subdivision regulations and what they were required by law to contain.” The committee met throughout the early spring and summer to accomplish this goal.

The committee then decided to invite all of the major stakeholders in the community that would be affected by the proposed regulations to address them during face-to-face meetings. “It was very important to me to see that everyone that would be affected by the regulations would be heard by this committee,” said Paul Darpel, Chairman of the Kenton County Planning Commission. “We may not always agree to include all the ideas that we hear, but I wanted these groups to know that they were heard, their ideas were carefully considered and based on their input we were able to make an informed decision.”

Several groups have taken advantage of this opportunity. Because of their shared interest in storm water runoff and water quality issues, the Kenton County Conservation District teamed up with the Banklick Watershed Council and the Sanitation District to present their ideas to the committee in January. They were followed by the Home Builders Association in early February and the Kenton County Mayors’ Group later that same month. One group remains to meet with the committee, the Northern Kentucky Society of Professional Engineers which is scheduled to present to the committee on April 24.

In the interim, the committee has instructed staff to begin the process of revising the document to include those issues where consensus has been reached between all groups. In May, the committee will begin the final deliberation to decide what changes need to be made to the draft.

The one issue that has received the most debate thus far is whether or not the new standards for subdivision streets should be strengthened, and if so, to what degree. “It seems most everyone agrees that streets are failing before their expected design life,” said Hiles. “But little consensus between the groups has been reached as to the cause of this premature failure, or what should be done about it.”

That will ultimately be a decision the planning commission must make. After staff revises the draft for the final time it will be published again for public review. KCPC members will then take action on the issue at a public hearing which has yet to be scheduled.

Independence Steering Committee continues presentations to council

Posted on April 27, 2012
In January 2012 the Independence Zoning Update Steering Committee began a series of presentations to the Independence City Council with the purpose of introducing recommended updates to the city’s zoning code based on the Independence Community Small Area Study.

So far, the first three components of the steering committee’s recommendations have been presented: the Downtown Independence Zone, the Conservation Development – Single-Family Zone, and Design Review Board Regulations. Still to be presented is the Gateway Mixed Use Zone.

This process has prompted some hurdles. Thus far, the main concerns have been about individual property rights and opposition from neighbors to the proposed optional Conservation Development Single-Family Overlay Zone.

While the steering committee has been taking the initiative to present its recommendations to the city council, NKAPC staff has been assisting by presenting the more technical aspects of each zone, and helping city council members gain a better understanding of each proposed zone.

After the presentations, city council will have the opportunity to send each zone to the Kenton County Planning Commission for a public hearing on the issue, which it will then offer recommendations back to the city council.

The Independence City Council will make the final decisions on the applications based on all of the planning commission’s recommendations.

Tornado Damage Assistance

Posted on March 07, 2012
The storms communities experienced on March 2nd left behind a great deal of destruction and tragedy. NKAPC offers services and assistance to Kenton County residents to help repair and rebuild damaged homes.
Details regarding waived fees and permit applications can be found here.

Kenton Co mayors take unanimous stand for subdivision regulations, with changes

Posted on January 25, 2012
The Kenton County Mayors’ Group recently endorsed the new, draft Kenton County Subdivision Regulations crafted by NKAPC staff. The group’s unanimous endorsement includes 13 modifications that its members want to see adopted by the Kenton County Planning Commission. Among them are tougher street standards that provide underdrains beneath all curbs and a full drainage mat beneath the street pavement.

Underdrain systems and drainage mats have been used in other jurisdictions for years to relieve subsurface water problems. Kenton County’s mayors believe that subsurface water is a major cause of streets that fail long before their expected design life.

“Most lots that are created today are graded to drain toward the street,” said Scott Hiles, NKAPC’s deputy director for infrastructure engineering. “Over-watering lawns, discharging sump pumps, and rainfall drain to the street and destroy the integrity of the street’s foundation. Underdrain systems can relieve this problem by giving the water a way to drain into a storm sewer and away from the street.”

New subdivision streets are designed and built with the expectation that they will last at least 20 years before needing major repairs. Many cities in Kenton County have reported that a significant number of new streets aren’t lasting half that time before requiring thousands of dollars of repairs. Because cities own these failing streets, repairs must be funded with tax dollars.

Kenton County’s Mayors’ Group believes that developers should pay to construct these streets to a higher standard in the first place rather than the entire community paying to rebuild them later with limited tax dollars. The group says that constructing to a higher standard will produce streets that last which will ultimately save taxpayer dollars for more critical needs.

The November 19th vote by the Mayors’ Group represented a culmination of work that began late last winter. Since July, a committee of Mayors’ Group representatives worked with representatives of the Home Builders Association to reach consensus on the 13 recommended additions to the draft document. Other recommended modifications included increasing flexibility with respect to curbs and multi-use paths and eliminating old design practices that have proved problematic for street maintenance and snow removal. With the exception of the street underdrain issue, the Mayors’ Group reached consensus with local builders on all of the other recommended modifications.

The Mayors’ Group recommendation is now in the hands of the Kenton County Planning Commission, the group that is ultimately responsible for adopting the new regulations. The Planning Commission is well into a several-month process of its own to review the staff’s document and recommendations from a number of groups including homebuilders and mayors.

A public hearing and final action on the draft document is slated for the spring of 2012. Copies of staff’s draft regulations are available on

Archived aerial photos being put online to facilitate greater analysis of growth

Posted on January 25, 2012
Ever wonder what your property looked like before it was developed? Ever need an historical aerial photo but weren’t sure where to find it? LINK-GIS is now your online go-to place for help.

NKAPC staff added a tool recently to the LINK-GIS website mapping service. The site’s GIS Viewer now includes a tool to view historical aerials from 1999, 2004, and 2007 in addition to those from 2010. Aerials from 1962, 1973, and 1989 will be uploaded and available soon.

Historical aerials provide windows into the past. Clues on how land was managed and how growth occurred in a community are often used by planners to predict how future land use should take form. Having a glimpse of the past helps unlock evidence to understand cultures and landscape challenges that have prompted changes in neighborhoods.

“Our goal is to serve up as many resources—both historical and current—on our website as possible,” said Trisha Brush, GISP, NKAPC’s deputy director for GIS administration. “Helping the public to understand the past through historical aerials and maps can empower decision makers and community leaders of the future. It’s important to know where we came from in order to know where we’re growing.”  

The historical aerials may be accessed by visiting To access the tutorial and video on how to use the historic image slider, click the ‘How to Find’ tab and choose LINK-GIS Map Viewer. An additional menu will appear to the side with more options; choose ‘Historic Image Slider.’ This will lead to step-by-step instructions on how to access and use the new Historic Image Slider.

Increased number of permits available on walk in/take the permit with you basis

Posted on January 25, 2012
Staff in NKAPC’s current planning and building codes departments have increased substantially the number of zoning and building permits available on a walk in/walk out basis. This achieves a long-held goal of the organization’s annual work program.

“What this means is that a permit that used to take a couple days to process, can be completed now while you wait… if there are no extenuating circumstances,” said Martin Scribner, AICP, NKAPC’s deputy director for current planning. His team manages zoning permits.

Brian Sims, CBO, NKAPC’s deputy director for building codes administration, says, “If a licensed contractor comes in for an HVAC replacement or new installation permit, we review the application for minimum code requirements and issue the permit if everything meets code.”

Sims says electrical permits are also available on a walk-in/walk-out basis as long as all necessary information is submitted at the time of application. This includes workers compensation and occupational license information.

The primary catalyst for this increased efficiency is greater staff coordination and a staffing change that moved Mike Carpenter from the building codes department to current planning. Carpenter is both a certified zoning and building inspector, which means he can review a variety of applications.

“Now, if you’re building something that doesn’t require a building permit—like building a fence under six feet, or making some electrical upgrades, or putting in an above-ground pool or patio, or making a change of use (ownership)—we can process that on a walk-in, walk-out basis,” said Scribner. “Mike’s two hats and our greater coordination between departments have really helped us speed up the process.”

Independence citizen taskforce sends update to council

Posted on January 25, 2012

A steering committee of citizens appointed in late 2009 by Independence City Council has completed its work and sent its findings and recommendations back to council for consideration and action. The results from that review by the city’s elected officials will be sent to the Kenton County Planning Commission for consideration before being amended into the city’s zoning ordinance.

The catalyst for this citizen effort was the 2007 adoption of the Independence Community Small Area Study by City Council and the Kenton County Planning Commission. The planning commission’s action incorporated the study’s contents into the Kenton County comprehensive plan.

“The Independence Community Small Area Study included land use recommendations that did not conform to our existing zoning code,” said Rodney Crice, citizen member of the steering committee. “Those who were charged with implementing the study recommended that city council conduct a zoning update process to create zoning more compatible with the recommendations of the study.”

The appointed steering committee met almost monthly for a year and a half to review current zoning requirements, small area study recommendations, and zoning alternatives. The members’ geographic focus was for areas around downtown Independence, McCullum Pike, and the intersection of McCullum Pike with new KY 17.

The steering committee wrapped up its work last month and is now in the process of presenting its recommendations to the Independence City Council. Those recommendations include the following three new zoning districts and the formation of a design review board.

*  DI/Downtown Independence zone
*  CD-SF/Conservation Development Single-Family overlay zone
*  GMU/Gateway Mixed Use zone

Crice states, “Our committee worked diligently to reach consensus on these recommendations. Our process was open and included two public forum opportunities for community input. The public input definitely influenced our final recommendations and I think helped create a better end product.”

Crice concludes that he is pleased with the final recommendations. “If council approves the new zoning codes, we will have achieved a primary goal for implementing and realizing the small area study recommendations.”

More information on this project including the draft regulations, additional information, and public comments are available on

Market place analyst to assist with comprehensive plan

Posted on January 25, 2012

Direction 2030: Your Voice, Your Choice, the Kenton County Planning Commission’s effort to create a new countywide comprehensive plan is gaining momentum following completion of four first-round public meetings. Analysis of the public input and comparisons with national trends are now underway by staff with the assistance of a market place analyst.

“We’re committed to recommending policy in this plan that’s rooted in market reality,” said Keith Logsdon, AICP, NKAPC’s deputy director for long-range planning. “In order to do that and take the public’s desires into consideration, we’ve contracted with Michael Dinn, CRE, of Dinn Focused Marketing Inc. in Wilder.”

Dinn has over two decades of experience in residential and community development and has worked extensively with developers in Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati. He has also been a part of development projects all over the country, according to Logsdon.

Dinn has established himself as an expert in housing and community development with an emphasis on market performance, product positioning, and alignment. He was recognized in 2003 with an invitation and certification into the prestigious Counselors of Real Estate®. CRE is the widely-recognized organization of the finest real property advisors with only 1,100 members worldwide.

According to NKAPC’s executive director Dennis Gordon, FAICP, the Great Recession has made it more important than ever to analyze market conditions while crafting long-range comprehensive plans. Housing statistics such as foreclosures and vacancies, data on commercial real estate, and generational preferences are key factors in attracting growth and development. Gordon says that Dinn will assist in evaluating and understanding the dynamics of the local market and ensuring that the new comprehensive plan makes Kenton County economically competitive, affordable, and attractive.

National trends on generational preferences indicate that different generations desire different job types and housing. Those trends show that baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964), for example, are trending toward smaller lots, smaller homes, and less maintenance. This generation represents approximately 25 percent of Kenton County’s current population. This begs the obvious question of whether Kenton County’s housing market can provide the product that this generation desires.

Dinn’s market place assessment will provide planners an opportunity to understand the current housing market—including the products available—and to include in the comprehensive plan an indication of what products and amenities may be needed to retain and attract different generations to Kenton County.

“The last full housing cycle took 20 years, with the last ten seeing a wave of housing change, said Dinn. “The next 20 years will see a different, shifting marketplace. It’s critical now to measure our local market depth and chart its changing direction.”

“We’ll employ the best local datasets and collaborative professionals to trend our marketplace, striving to face forward and bring genuine forecasting to the Direction 2030 plan,” he said. “We believe our changing marketplace will demand a greater choice in neighborhoods and a better connection to their lifestyle and experiences. Without choice, many motivated householders will choose with their feet by relocating out of Northern Kentucky.”

Second-round public meetings for Direction 2030 will begin in March. Stay up to date on the progress of the comprehensive planning effort on NKAPC’s website, the Direction 2030 website, or Facebook.

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