One Stop Shop revenues grow with economy; fees won’t increase

Posted on June 07, 2016

When NKAPC/PDS established its One Stop Shop program in 2005, it expected to increase fees each July to keep pace with inflation. The amount of increase was to be dictated by the cost of living for the previous year. That is how the program’s financing has worked for most years since then.

“One Stop Shop was built on the premise of total cost recovery,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, PDS’ executive director. “By building the cost of living escalator into all our local government agreements, we let everyone know that there would be incremental annual increases in our fees.”

Gordon says the small annual increases were requested by area builders and developers because they can be absorbed better than huge increases every five or ten years.

Last year’s cost of living increase in the Cincinnati metro area was negligible. The expanding economy is bringing in additional workload and dollars so according to the agreements, fees in all participating One Stop Shop jurisdictions will stay the same as this year.

“Staff did a lot of homework back then to create fee schedules that would cover costs,” said Gordon, “but there were certainly no guarantees that revenue would match expenditures. The economy was obviously a huge unknown in this—and who would’ve ever predicted the Great Recession?”

Gordon says small increases have been implemented during a majority of the past ten years. He says that the agency’s goal of full cost recovery has been re-evaluated by officials and lowered to an 80 percent cost recovery rate.


Food Summit provides public with healthy food input

Posted on June 07, 2016

Eat Healthy NKY held its inaugural Food Summit on March 28th at Turkey Foot Middle School, showcasing healthy eating habits, local food production, and food preparation from across the region. Over 250 people attended the free, family-friendly event that featured 25 information booths covering a wide variety of topics important to our local food system—from production and distribution to consumption and food waste.

“We were really excited about this event,” said Michael Ionna, AICP, a principal planner at PDS. “Not only did it allow us to raise awareness and educate the public about the impacts of food and nutrition on healthy communities, it also allowed us to get input from attendees about what specific food issues are most important to them.”

If you are interested in learning more about healthy and local food initiatives in this region, visit and like the Eat Healthy NKY Facebook page which also features information about "next steps" events. At these events you will be able to provide input about food issues important to you as well as network with other individuals interested in creating positive change to our food system, all while eating some delicious chow.

“The goal is to begin initial conversations about creating a network, or coalition of individuals, groups, and organizations who have an interest in creating healthier communities in our region,” said Ionna.

The Food Summit was sponsored by Eat Healthy NKY, an outreach campaign to educate members of the public about healthy food options, and the Kenton County Plan4Health Coalition.

To learn more about this initiative, click here.

 


Staff facilitates public information with social media posts

Posted on June 07, 2016

George Bernard Shaw once opined that “the single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” Mr. Shaw was obviously not thinking of social media when he offered his assessment of the need to communicate. His opinion is nonetheless as pertinent today as it was during his lifespan in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

With the understanding that in 2015 the average time spent per adult user per day with digital media is 5.6 hours, and 51% of that time is on a mobile device, PDS staff members are growing the agency’s presence on various social media platforms. The goal is to keep the public informed on what it’s pursuing and how citizens can get engaged.

PDS’ Facebook page and Twitter page (@PDSKC) has been online for several years now and Pete Berard, the agency’s public information coordinator, has used that platform to provide timely notices to followers for some time.

The GIS team committed to social media communications last year when team members realized that hanging one of their maps in a room or hallway was not going to reach the masses and was not a very effective way to spread useful information.

Trisha Brush, GISP, Director of GIS Administration (@twbrush) was the first to tweet, “Join us for the future of trails in NKY meeting 9:00AM at NKAPC sponsored by Green Umbrella.” Members of her staff followed by creating a twitter account (@nkymaplab) for residents to follow staff’s monthly NKYmapLAB initiative. The mapLAB account is managed by Louis Hill, GISP, AICP, the agency’s geospatial data analyst.

The push to social media is a response in understanding how citizens receive their daily news, and an acknowledgement to the age and technologically savvy citizens that live in the Northern Kentucky area.

Dennis Gordon, FAICP, executive director at PDS, is gearing up for a twitter account dealing with planning issues and news of PDS’ projects.

“I read a good deal about planning in different parts of the country and am always coming across articles I believe are relevant to issues here in Kenton County,” said Gordon. “Until I witnessed what our GIS folks were able to accomplish with tweets, I wasn’t able to share those experiences with friends and acquaintances here locally. I’ll soon be tweeting along with members of my staff.

Gordon says other staff members will follow him over the course of FY17 which begins next month.

Social media posts typically cover project updates, approaches to solving new problems, and success stories. Posts can spark conversations that follow any number of directions. In many cases they can lead to new opportunities, more frequent staff interactions, and an increased awareness as to the overall capabilities of PDS.

Benefits the GIS team has realized by using apps like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and GeoNet are increased data sharing, a wider reaching audience, networking opportunities and best management practices. Keeping current on industry standards and development are major rewards as well.

“Rather than waiting for formal venues, such as conferences and organized training, to network, we are doing it on a weekly basis” said Hill. “We’ve also widened the reach of our products and services through professional social media use. We have more eyes on our work, receive more feedback, and have increased the overall quality in our products.”

PDS’ GIS team and the LINK-GIS partnerships ascertained that the good data and works of the GIS team, which seemed obvious to the partnership, failed to translate into effective external communications. The messages seldom reached outside the partnership.

Using social media as a deliberate tactic in communication has resulted in unforeseen increased revenue by 25 percent for PDS and the LINK-GIS partnerships.


House Bill 422 means big changes for local code enforcement

Posted on June 07, 2016

House Bill 422—an act relating to local code enforcement—was signed into law by Governor Matt Bevin on April 9th; the bill’s provisions take effect January 1, 2017. With this bill come several important changes to the code enforcement process across the commonwealth. PDS staff are working diligently to make sure each of the cities who depend on PDS for code enforcement are prepared for Day 1 of the new regulations.

“We’re pleased that this bill made it through this year’s session,” stated Dennis Gordon, FAICP, executive director of PDS. “Our code inspection program has come a long way over the past ten years but it’s been limited in what it can accomplish due to the fragmented structure of Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) as it’s codified today. This bill changes all that.”

First, the bill consolidates code enforcement provisions, including nuisance codes, under one chapter, KRS 65.8801 to 66.8839. Under the current scheme, provisions can be found in KRS 82.700 to 82.725 (abatement of nuisances), KRS 381.770 (abatement of nuisance) and KRS 65.8801 to 65.8839 (code enforcement boards).

This consolidation clarifies the authority of code enforcement boards to enforce all civil offences, including zoning and nuisance codes. In addition, the new law authorizes code enforcement boards to fulfill the duties of a vacant property review commission, to review and certify vacant properties as blighted or deteriorated.

Second, the bill extends lien priority provisions to all code enforcement violations, including civil and zoning code violations, not just nuisance code violations. Code enforcement liens will take precedence over all other liens, except state, county, school board and city taxes. However, in order to obtain and maintain this lien priority, local governments must implement a system for notification to lienholders and allow lienholders a timeframe to remediate or abate violations.

Newly created KRS 65.8801 to 65.8839 requires the creation of a lienholder notification system, or registry, to allow lienholders to receive information on final orders and requires the local government to send out an electronic mail notification on a monthly basis to those who have registered to receive notifications. Under the legislation adopted by the General Assembly, the lienholder has 45 days from the date of notification to correct the violation or elect to pay fines.

PDS will provide the lienholder registry service for its joint code enforcement board jurisdictions to ensure compliance with the new legislation. PDS will also pursue this as an opportunity to combine the administration of the lienholder registry with the administration of a Vacant Foreclose Property Registry, for better communication and increased compliance for properties during the foreclosure process.

PDS initiated its current code enforcement program in late 2005 with nine jurisdictions. Since then, the program has grown to include service to 15 jurisdictions and staff support to five code enforcement boards. One of those boards—the Kenton County Joint Code Enforcement Board—serves 11 jurisdictions.

“These changes to state law will certainly help us support local property owners who seek an end to code violations in their neighborhoods,” said Gordon. “The changes will also give code enforcement boards the ability to pursue a number of different violations for their communities so long as they’re considered civil cases. That’s certainly going to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of these local boards.”

Stay tuned for more information from PDS on these changes in services to be provided.


Permit numbers so far leading toward a very busy construction season

Posted on June 07, 2016

Construction activity has significantly increased this year from last year according to a recent report from TRAKiT, PDS’ comprehensive development-tracking software. If these numbers remain steady, 2016 could end as the best construction season since the housing crash in 2007-08.

“Our permit numbers have grown from 1,097 to 1,298 permits for the same time period over last year”, says Brian Sims, CBO, PDS’ chief building official.

These numbers include all permit activity including new structures, additions, renovation/alterations, HVAC, automatic fire suppression systems, manual fire alarm systems, etc. With this trend, inspections will be sure to increase. To date, inspection numbers are roughly 400 more this year than they were this time last year.

The chart below—from builderonline.comdemonstrates housing start and completion numbers.


PDS has seen new housing starts increase from 43 to 52 permits this year to date. New commercial permits have grown from two the previous year to eight this year to date.

“Hopefully, activity will increase and help drive the economy back in Northern Kentucky,” says Sims.

With the workload increasing steadily, PDS needed to hire an additional entry-level inspector to replace one of the positions laid off during 2010. That inspector started in the building department last fall in an effort to get him trained for this building season.

“Our new inspector has come along very well. He is now performing inspections on his own and is really helping out with our current workload,” says Sims.

This brings PDS’ total number of building inspectors to six. This staffing level is expected to hold for now even if permits rise slightly in the future.


NKYmapLAB earns state award for use of technology in planning

Posted on June 07, 2016

Two simple goals drove initiation of PDS’ NKYmapLAB project: to illustrate the robust analytical capabilities of LINK-GIS and to use those capabilities to support Kenton County’s economic development program. As those goals are being realized now 18 months later, NKYmapLAB has also garnered top honors during this year’s awards program of the Kentucky Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA-KY).

The 2016 APA-KY Special Merit Award for Outstanding Use of Technology in Planning was given to NKYmapLAB for the project’s ongoing effort to highlight community issues and educate the public using GIS technology.

“This award is a great recognition for our team,” said Louis Hill, GISP, AICP, geospatial data analyst for PDS and project manager for NKYmapLAB. “I’d like to think that it acknowledges not only our efforts to better use technology and GIS, but also to use it in a meaningful way—one that makes our cities, our county, and our citizens better informed and more proactive.”

In announcing NKYmapLAB’s initiation last January, PDS’ executive director Dennis Gordon said, “We’ll soon celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of LINK-GIS’ founding. That makes it one of the oldest GIS systems in this part of the country. And, because time has a way of translating into data within these systems, LINK-GIS is a veritable treasure trove of intelligence.”

Gordon went on then to say that he was banking that when the community is exposed to ongoing examples of GIS analytics, more people will come to appreciate what PDS and its partners have built for the community. Somewhat prophetically, he also asserted that outside interests would come to recognize NKYmapLAB’s capabilities.

Some of the topics covered to date include issues as diverse as: energy efficiency; landslides; urban tree canopy; and, walkability—topics that are part of Direction 2030, Kenton County’s new cutting-edge comprehensive plan.

“There’s no secret to the fact that a geographic information system (GIS) can be one of the most potent tools a community can have in its arsenal when it comes to economic development,” said Gordon last January. “The ability to provide enormous amounts of geospatial data in short periods of time can mean the difference between winning or losing a prospect.”

LINK-GIS data have been a useful resource for recent economic development discussions being pursued by members of Kenton County Fiscal Court. Future NKYmapLAB products will begin the public awareness phase of Kenton County’s economic development program.

NKYmapLAB products may be accessed here. Contact Hill and Ryan Kent, GISP, Principal Geospatial Analyst, for more information. Suggestions for future analyses are always welcome.

LINK-GIS is an interlocal partnership made up of Kenton County Fiscal Court, SD1, the Northern Kentucky Water District, and PDS. PDS is the managing partner.


Planners pick up national award for Direction 2030 plan

Posted on June 07, 2016

PDS’ planning and zoning director Emi Randall, AICP, RLA, and senior planner James Fausz, AICP, brought home a very special souvenir from the recent National Planning Conference of the American Planning Association (APA): a national award for the county’s recently-adopted comprehensive plan.

Direction 2030: Your Voice. Your Choice—was the 2016 recipient of a national Award of Excellence in the Comprehensive Plan – Large Jurisdiction category. The award was one of several accolades granted to planning projects from across the nation by the American Planning Association (APA), County Planning Division, and its sister organization the National Association of County Planners.

The award was presented April 4 during the APA National Conference in Phoenix, Arizona.

“This recognition was a nice surprise,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, executive director of Planning and Development Services of Kenton County (PDS). PDS provides professional staff support to the Kenton County Planning Commission, the board ultimately responsible for crafting and adopting the county’s comprehensive plan.

“The award recognizes the hard work by members of the planning commission, citizens and interest groups from across Kenton County, and of course staff who put in countless months on the project. This plan was truly a collaborative effort,” said Gordon.

The Kenton County Planning Commission adopted the community’s first comprehensive plan in 1972 and incorporated updates every five years thereafter according to Kentucky law. The combined 26.2-pound, 12.5-inch-thick behemoth influenced land use decisions until the Great Recession established a ‘New Normal.’

The diverse group of participants developed its replacement—Direction 2030: Your Voice. Your Choice.—through an aggressive three-year public engagement process. That process accomplished what many thought previously would be impossible: to build consensus among all 20 of the county’s local governments, their 126 elected officials, and their 20 planning commission members.

They grounded the plan in research provided by a national market analyst, most of it from sources bankers use for reviewing development-financing strategies. This established the plan as a unique resource for near-term development proposals and a baseline for state-mandated five-year updates.

Stakeholders played a critical role in crafting a number of its innovative policies. Their opposition to broad recommendations prompted planners to divide the county into four subareas—urban, firstring suburb, suburban, and rural—to reflect the community’s diversity. Policies are based now on the differing lifestyles found across these subareas.

The participants advocated for an easy-to-use final product. Planners responded with an online comprehensive plan (direction2030.org) that documents the plan’s creation, delivers guidance to anyone anywhere 24/7/365, and incorporates GIS technologies to entice users to interact with its contents.

The groups also called for accountability to assure that the plan’s objectives would be implemented. The PDS staff created a second website (action.direction2030.org) to keep participants and stakeholders up to date with information from the various implementation efforts being undertaken by the planning commission and others across the community.

This national award follows an Award of Merit for an Outstanding Comprehensive Plan given last year by the Kentucky Chapter of the American Planning Association.

Each year the American Planning Association’s County Planning Division and the National Association of County Planners gives out County Planning Project Awards. There are two types of awards, Awards of Excellence and Awards of Merit. There are seven categories of awards; Planning Project, Comprehensive Plan – Large Jurisdiction, Comprehensive Plan – Small Jurisdiction, Best Practices, Grass Roots Initiative, Small Area/Special Area Planning, and Special Focus Planning Initiative – Senior Livability.

Only one Award of Excellence and one Award of Merit may be granted per category each year. If the awards jury finds that none of the nominations in a particular category meets the desirable standards, they may withhold the award in that category for that year.

“This recognition, without question, goes ultimately to the countless residents who came out to express their hopes and dreams for Kenton County’s future. Much more than merely a title, Direction 2030: Your Voice. Your Choice. really did represent the ultimate goal for our process and our final product,” concluded Gordon. “We couldn’t be prouder that our collaborative efforts are being held up as a model.”

“Thank you, Kenton County!”


Villa Hills encourages new development through small area study

Posted on June 07, 2016

Adoption of Direction 2030, the county’s award-winning comprehensive plan, didn’t end PDS’ efforts to plan for the county’s future; it focused it on new goals and objectives. The current Villa Hills study is an in-depth analysis of the St. Walburg Monastery property in Villa Hills and a case in point. When complete, the small area plan will provide detailed recommendations for this undeveloped portion of the city and amend the comprehensive plan’s recommended land use map.

PDS staff began the planning effort earlier this year on behalf of the Benedictine Sisters of Covington, Kentucky, Inc. and the City of Villa Hills. The sisters, who have been a presence on the same site in Villa Hills for over 110 years, have recently been contemplating their retirement funding.

While they intend to stay on a large part of their property, they are preparing to sell approximately 80 mostly-vacant acres. They decided early in their deliberations to plan for the future rather than just putting a “for sale” sign out on the street; they want to provide a long-lasting contribution to the community.

“We have a great opportunity right now to do something special for the city and its residents,” explained Sr. Mary Catherine Wenstrup, Prioress of St. Walburg Monastery. “While selling a portion of our property is going to fund our retirement, we want to do so in a way that is beneficial to the city and our neighbors. After all, we’re staying here so whatever happens to the west of us impacts our lives as well.”

PDS staff began in January to research existing conditions on the site and manage the overall study. At the same time, efforts began with two additional studies to research specific aspects of the site. A market consultant was selected to look at the site’s potential for various types of land uses and determine which had the most potential for success in the community.

Likewise, a transportation study was initiated to examine existing conditions of the community’s roadways and plan for potential upgrades that might be needed.

A public meeting was held recently to inform the public of the research conducted to date and converse with attendees regarding their concerns and ideas for the future of the site. The meeting, held on May 9th at River Ridge Elementary School, was attended by approximately 250 people that wanted to learn more about the study.

“We had a great turnout for the meeting,” commented James Fausz, AICP, a PDS senior planner and project manager for the study. “In all my years with PDS we’ve never had the kind of attendance we received for this meeting. We’re very fortunate that so many people care about what’s going on in their community and came out to learn and provide input.”

Currently, staff is working to sort through hundreds of responses provided during the meeting. Those will then be taken to the task force overseeing the project for its consideration as the study moves forward into the recommendations phase. A second public meeting is anticipated later this summer to provide details about the plan’s recommendations.

If you are interested in learning more about the project and getting updates about its progress, visit the project’s website or the city’s website.


Local group presents info and stories about the March 2, 2012 tornado

Posted on April 19, 2016

Direction 2030 comprehensive plan earns national award

Posted on March 24, 2016

Kenton County’s new comprehensive plan—Direction 2030: Your Voice. Your Choiceis the 2016 recipient of a national Award of Excellence in the Comprehensive Plan – Large Jurisdiction category. The award is one of several accolades granted to planning projects from across the nation by the American Planning Association (APA) County Planning Division and its sister organization, the National Association of County Planners. The award will be presented on April 4 during the APA National Conference in Phoenix, Arizona.

“This recognition was a nice surprise,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, executive director of Planning and Development Services of Kenton County (PDS). PDS provides professional staff support to the Kenton County Planning Commission, the board ultimately responsible for crafting and adopting the comprehensive plan.

“Being acknowledged with the respect of your peers is outstanding. In this case, though, it recognizes the fact that this plan was the result of hard work by members of the planning commission, citizens and interest groups from across the county, and of course our staff. This plan was truly a collaborative effort,” said Gordon.

Direction 2030: Your Voice. Your Choice. was crafted through an aggressive three-year public engagement process. The plan was grounded in research provided by a national market analyst, most of it from sources bankers use for reviewing development-financing strategies.

Planners and technical experts from PDS’ GIS team then went to work crafting an entirely new concept for content delivery. The final plan (direction2030.org)—there is no printed product—documents its creation, delivers guidance to anyone anywhere 24/7/365, and incorporates GIS technologies to entice users to interact with its contents.

Shortly after the plan’s adoption, PDS planners and GIS professionals created a second website (action.direction2030.org) to keep participants and stakeholders up to date with information from the various implementation efforts being undertaken by the planning commission and others across the community.

This national award follows an Award of Merit for an Outstanding Comprehensive Plan given last year by the Kentucky Chapter of the American Planning Association.

Each year the American Planning Association’s County Planning Division and the National Association of County Planners gives out County Planning Project Awards. Only one Award of Excellence and one Award of Merit may be granted per category each year. If the awards jury finds that none of the nominations in a particular category meets the desirable standards, they may withhold the award in that category for that year.

“This recognition, without question, goes ultimately to the countless residents who came out to express their hopes and dreams for Kenton County’s future. Much more than merely a title, Direction 2030: Your Voice. Your Choice. really did represent the ultimate goal for our process and our final product,” concluded Gordon. “We couldn’t be prouder that our collaborative efforts are being held up as a model.”

“Thank you Kenton County!”


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