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.”

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.”
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