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New subdivisions springing up in “built-out” communities

Posted on June 30, 2017
Fort Mitchell, Lakeside Park, and Park Hills—three communities that most would agree are “built out”—have joined Independence as locations for new residential development. Over the course of the last 12 months PDS staff has seen developers propose subdivisions in those cities to meet demand for locations in more established areas.

“The majority of new subdivision development that we see occurs in the City of Independence,” said Scott Hiles, CPC, Director of Infrastructure Engineering. “On average, we see about one-half to two-thirds of all subdivision development occur in Independence on large acreage tracts that were generally farm or pasture land. The bulk of the remaining subdivisions occur in Erlanger, Taylor Mill, and South Covington.”

During the past year, however, staff has reviewed three developments proposed in unlikely cities.

“Staff saw new subdivisions proposed in Fort Mitchell, Lakeside Park, and Park Hills,” said Hiles. “The new subdivision in Fort Mitchell was very recent. In fact, we’ve just had an initial meeting with the developer and we’re told that the plans are currently being drawn to submit to staff. The new subdivision in Lakeside Park was approved in June of 2016 and the one in Park Hills was approved in October of 2016.”

Since these are in-fill developments, they tend to occur on smaller tracts of land as opposed to those staff sees normally. Hiles says a typical development in the cities in which subdivisions routinely occur may be as many as 50 acres at a time. But the largest of the recent in-fill developments is ten acres and the smallest is just over four acres in size.

The eight-acre subdivision in Park Hills called Audubon Forest is along Audubon Road and has been approved for 25 single-family lots. The four-acre subdivision in Lakeside Park called Saint James Place is along Turkeyfoot Road and has been approved for seven single-family lots.

“Because Saint James Place was a relatively small subdivision, all of the infrastructure and lot creation was completed by the end of 2016. Homes are ready to be built along this new street in Lakeside Park today,” said Hiles.

Staff noted that the exact details for the new subdivision in Fort Mitchell aren’t available since the formal development plan hasn’t been submitted, but the subdivision will likely not exceed ten new home sites.

“Of the three communities where these in-fill developments are occurring, there hasn’t been a new development in well over a decade,” said Hiles. “In the case of one of the communities, it’s been 20 years since that community has seen a new subdivision.”

For a list of approved, ongoing subdivisions as well as the status of their progress—including how many lots have been approved and created—visit the LINK-GIS website.

Geotechnical requirements providing guidance for new streets

Posted on June 01, 2017

Much has been written and said about Kenton County’s now two-year-old subdivision regulations and the specifications it includes for new street construction. One of the main reasons for the increased focus is the application of geotechnical engineering testing and reporting standards included in the regulations.

“Staff recommended increasing the geotechnical engineering standards in the subdivision development process from the beginning of the effort to write the new regulations,” said Scott Hiles, CPC, Director of Infrastructure Engineering. “We knew that getting the geotechnical engineer involved to evaluate the suitability of the soils that supported the pavements was an important part of providing pavements that didn’t break down prematurely.”

The results of the new standards are becoming apparent just now.

“The Kenton County Planning Commission was concerned about subdivisions that had already been approved at the time the new regulations were adopted,” said Hiles. “For those developments, changing the rules that governed them mid-stream didn’t seem fair.”

Members of the planning commission approved a grace period for most subdivisions that were approved at the time the new regulations were adopted. Those developments were allowed to continue using the old regulations under certain conditions.

“That meant those previously-approved developments didn’t have to provide the additional engineering to evaluate the suitability of the soils,” said Hiles. This grace period initially limited the number of subdivision developments that were required to have the additional geotechnical engineering.

Even with the grace period, there have been 13 subdivisions since the increased standards were adopted that were required to get a geotechnical engineer’s report that evaluated the soils.

“Staff had long suspected that a major contributing factor to premature street failure was the presence of poor soils incapable of supporting the standard pavement design,” said Hiles. “But without the geotechnical assessment and oversight there was no way to require that the poor soils supporting the new streets be improved.”

Of the 13 subdivisions required to get a geotechnical engineer’s report, eight were identified as containing problem soils that would not produce the strengths necessary to adequately support the street pavements.

“That means that without the additional geotechnical engineering required by the new regulations, some of the new streets would have been constructed on soils incapable of providing proper support. Those streets could have failed prematurely because of those poor soils.”

Hiles said that of the eight subdivisions where poor soils were identified, the recommendations to remedy the issue ranged between a combination of undercutting the poor soils and replacing them with new soil capable of producing adequate strengths, to chemical stabilization of the poor soils.


Engineering staff scheduling seminar on street maintenance issues

Posted on April 04, 2017

PDS will be hosting an upcoming seminar on the importance of performing preventative and routine maintenance on streets as it relates to street longevity. The target audience for the seminar will be mayors and city administrators.

Staff has reached out to professionals at the Kentucky Transportation Center (KTC) in Lexington to lead the discussion. KTC is the research division for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and focuses on a wide range of transportation-related issues including pavement maintenance.

“A new set of subdivision regulations were recently adopted by the Kenton County Planning Commission,” said Scott Hiles, Director of Infrastructure Engineering. “These regulations contained more stringent street standards. Now that new streets are starting to be constructed using these new standards there’s no doubt that cities are starting to get higher quality streets that have the potential to last longer. We want to help cities understand that regardless of the fact they are now getting higher quality streets, if routine and preventative maintenance isn’t provided these high quality streets will still fail prematurely.”

The seminar will touch on the specific types of pavement maintenance, but will primarily focus on the importance of factoring the need for preventative maintenance into annual budgets. One graph that is often used to illustrate the need for preventive maintenance is shown below.

"This graph clearly shows that dollars used for maintenance early in the life of a pavement when it’s still in good condition, grow exponentially to address the rehabilitation that will be needed if the maintenance isn’t done,” said Hiles. “Staff worked for several years to ensure that cities would get better street standards and ultimately, better streets. Now that it is happening, we just want to make sure cities understand the role that maintenance plays in keeping those pavements in good condition.”

The seminar will likely take place in May. Discussions about the event’s details are ongoing with KTC staff.


Developers give feedback on two-year-old subdivision regulations

Posted on April 04, 2017

The PDS Infrastructure Engineering department hosted a roundtable discussion with local subdivision contractors on March 7th. The purpose of the event was to identify any areas where improvements could be made to the new Kenton County Subdivision Regulations or to how they’re administered, and to share any ideas to help make the process more efficient.

“Since it had been two years since the new Kenton County Subdivision Regulations were adopted we thought now would be a good time to sit down with the contractors and discuss how they are adapting to them, or if they have suggested improvements,” said Scott Hiles, Director of Infrastructure Engineering.

In the two years since the adoption of the new regulations there have been eight subdivisions with construction improvements that were required to comply with the new regulations. “Within those eight subdivisions there has been more than 6,500 feet of street constructed that was required to comply with the new regulations,” said Hiles. “So we knew based on our activity level that both the staff and the contractors had experiences they would like to discuss.”

About 40 individuals attended the roundtable discussion. Most of the group were contractors, while PDS staff, KCPC members, developers and engineers also attended.

A wide range of issues were discussed at the meeting. The more serious issues focused on specification tolerances. Hiles explained, “Many of the specifications in the new regulations are ‘absolute’. This means the results have no ability to vary slightly above or below the specification. Some of the contractors asked that amendments be considered to add tolerances where there are currently none.”

KCPC Chair Paul Darpel stated that the meeting’s focus was to identify and discuss these issues, but that it would take future meetings with the Subdivision Regulations Committee of the Kenton County Planning Commission to discuss possible solutions.

“Although there are still some issues that will have to be addressed, the most positive outcome from the meeting was the general concurrence that the new regulations were producing quality streets. That was the goal from the beginning so by all accounts it seems the new regulations are hitting their mark,” said Hiles.


Staff rolls out database of subdivision lots available, developed

Posted on April 04, 2017
Want to know more about lot availability of subdivisions in Kenton County? Through the collaborative efforts of PDS staff, new subdivision data has been created and is now available on the new LINK-GIS Development Analyst map viewer.

Two members of the GIS team, Joe Busemeyer, GISP and Steve Lilly, PLS, GISP, CPII; have utilized the power of GIS Model Builder to extract “vacant” and “developed” parcel information in the active subdivisions of Kenton County.

The project began as a discussion regarding information that is commonly requested at PDS. What subdivisions have lots available? How many parcels are available and how many have been developed in said subdivision? Is the subdivision single or multi-family? From there Busemeyer began looking at the GIS data layers that already exist. Using the Model Builder technology in the ESRI GIS software, he was able to create a series of models that intersect existing GIS data layers, run calculations, extract new information and generate a series of new GIS database layers to answer these questions. During this process Busemeyer realized that some of the GIS data needed some updates and upgrades.

Lilly, who maintains many of the GIS layers involving development in Kenton County, utilized his expertise of this information for this project. He performed extensive quality control on the Preliminary Plat layer, which represents active and non-active subdivisions in the county and is one of the key GIS layers used in the models Busemeyer developed.

After many rounds of testing and tweaking the data and models, they were able to create the GIS layers needed to answer the subdivision questions.

Busemeyer then created the new Development Analyst map viewer, added the new subdivision GIS data, and configured pop-ups for the new GIS layers. Now when users click on a subdivision in the map viewer, they will see a window showing information pertaining to that subdivision. Adding these dynamic layers allow users to interact with the data, such as turning the layers on and off and clicking on the features for more information.

In addition to the map viewer, Lilly developed a user-friendly spreadsheet that could be exported onto the website. The document displays commonly requested key pieces of information. Developments are organized by their city and display the acreage, total lots planned, and total lots built. Each development name is also hyperlinked and will open to its location on the over-all development plan.

Through the collaboration of PDS staff members and innovative use of GIS technology, subdivision information is readily available in just a few clicks of the mouse.

To try out this new function, visit linkgis.org and start exploring today!


New subdivision regulations phase in closes; rules apply to all now

Posted on February 02, 2017
Kenton County’s new subdivision regulations adopted in March 2015 changed the way infrastructure is built in the county. Not all developers had to use the new standards right away. A phase-in period was included in the document’s text adopted by the Kenton County Planning Commission (KCPC).

“Planning commission members were concerned about subdivisions that had been approved already but not yet built when they adopted the new regulations,” said Scott Hiles, CPC, PDS’ director of infrastructure engineering. “For those developments, changing the rules that governed them mid-stream didn’t seem fair.”

The KCPC allowed a “grace period” for these subdivisions, according to Hiles. Those developments were allowed to continue using the old regulations.

“There was a lot of discussion whether or not those previously-approved developments should be allowed to continue using the old regulations indefinitely until the subdivision was complete, or if there should be a pre-determined deadline. Ultimately, the commission decided to impose a deadline.”

Commission members decided ultimately that previously-approved developments could continue using the old regulations until the end of 2016. That way, those subdivision developers had two full construction seasons to finish the required infrastructure.

Hiles said there were a total of 17 previously approved subdivisions that took advantage of the ability to continue using the old regulations. Eight of those subdivisions were located in Independence, and the others existed in unincorporated Kenton County, Erlanger, Walton, Taylor Mill and Covington.

“Developers of ten of the 17 subdivisions to which this grace period applied didn’t complete construction before the December 31st deadline,” said Hiles. “Two are in unincorporated Kenton County, six in Independence, one in Covington, and one is in Walton”.

Developers of these subdivisions will now be required to submit new improvement plans that contain upgraded infrastructure according to the new subdivision regulations. They will also be required to construct to the new standards.

“These ten developments will have a mix of old and new infrastructure,” Hiles concluded. “But at least we know that from this point forward, only the new infrastructure is permitted.”

Kenton County’s new subdivision regulations may be found online.

New subdivision construction approaches pre-recession levels

Posted on January 03, 2017
Subdivision construction activity in Kenton County increased in 2016 to levels not seen in almost a decade according to PDS’ Infrastructure Engineering Department. The department and its staff are responsible to review and inspect new subdivision streets and storm sewer infrastructure in those new subdivisions.

“One of the ways we track subdivision activity is by keeping track of the length of new street pavement that we inspect in subdivisions”, said Scott Hiles, CPC, PDS’ director of infrastructure engineering. “Streets have to be constructed first in order for lots to be created and new homes to be built. So when subdivision street construction is up, we know all of the activity that follows will also be up.”

There was just under 12,000 feet of new subdivision street constructed in Kenton County in 2016. This number neared levels not seen since 2007, when approximately 15,000 feet of new subdivision street was constructed. By contrast in 2015, there was 7,095 feet of new subdivision street constructed.

“The majority of these new streets were constructed in the City of Independence which has been the norm for a number of years now,” said Hiles. “Of that total constructed county-wide, almost 8,000 feet was constructed in Independence throughout nine different subdivisions.”

“We even had a small amount of street constructed in one subdivision in the unincorporated portion of the county this year,” said Hiles.

The 4,000 feet of new subdivision streets that were constructed outside Independence were located in six subdivisions located in the Cities of Lakeside Park, Taylor Mill, Erlanger, and Covington.

The subdivision streets constructed county-wide during 2016 will serve 150 acres of developed land and result in 312 new residences. “Three hundred of those residences will be single-family homes,” said Hiles. “The remaining 12 will be condominiums.”

Based on all projections, it appears subdivision activity levels should be as busy next year as they were in 2016, according to Hiles.

Value of tougher subdivision regulations proven with submittal

Posted on August 28, 2015

Less than six months after adoption, Kenton County’s brand new subdivision regulations are accomplishing one of their primary goals. Streets in Crestview Hills’ newest subdivision will be built on newly-placed subsoils that will provide necessary support for the long term. The city’s taxpayers are the true beneficiaries of the changes.

“One of staff’s original objectives (in working toward new construction standards) was to extend street life and preclude the taxpayers from having to pay for premature failures,” said Scott Hiles, CPC, Director of Infrastructure Engineering. “The new regulations require an evaluation of the subgrade soils’ suitability to determine whether they can provide the strength necessary to support the pavement.”

The types of soils that are problematic and contribute to street failure are common throughout Northern Kentucky.

The first development to be submitted after the new regulations took effort was a 42-lot development on 22 acres in Crestview Hills to be named Crown Point. It includes a single new street of slightly more than 2,300 feet. Not surprisingly, when the required soil evaluation was performed, its findings identified problematic subgrade soils that would not provide the required strengths to support the pavement.

“Staff was surprised that the very first development submitted under the new regulations was located on a site with the problem soils we wanted to keep an eye-out for,” said Hiles. “But, it allowed us to quickly recognize that the process we put in place worked. Had these new regulations not been in place, we wouldn’t have known about the soils until after the streets began to fail prematurely.”

“We were quite pleased that this first subdivision proved that the new regulations brought value to the community right out of the gate.”

Hiles said the developer plans to remove the problem subgrade soils from the site and replace them with soils that will provide the support necessary for the street. The developer plans to finish the earthwork and construct the street yet this year which should result in the availability of new building lots late in 2015 or early 2016.

Adoption of the new subdivision regulations completed a multi-year effort by the Kenton County Planning Commission and PDS staff. It was kicked off in 2011 with several identified goals, the most important being to create a set of regulations that provided enhanced material specifications and design controls to ensure that new streets would last a minimum of 20 years as designed. Extending the lives of these streets would reduce the cost borne by taxpayers to repair premature and costly failures.

Working with a committee of planning commission members, engineers, local mayors, and homebuilders, staff was successful in seeing that the requirement to evaluate the strength of a development’s subgrade soils was included in the adopted regulations.

“Based on the individual circumstances and test results, when poor subgrade soils are identified by the required evaluation, the regulations establish procedures to either increase subgrade soil strengths or the design of the pavement itself,” Hiles concluded.

Kenton County’s new Subdivision Regulations can be found online.



Demand for lots, spring weather prompt more subdivision plats

Posted on May 05, 2015
Developers have submitted three new preliminary subdivision plans over the last several months; each represents a significant addition to existing developments. Additionally, other developers have submitted plans for subdivisions that received approval in prior years.

“We’re seeing more residential development activity right now than we’ve seen in years,” said Scott Hiles, CPC, director of infrastructure engineering with PDS. “Based on what’s already been submitted and what we’re hearing is on the way, we’re planning for a very busy year.”

Much of this new activity is centered in the Cities of Taylor Mill and Independence. Taylor Creek Subdivision, whose entrance is along Pride Parkway in Taylor Mill, will gain 20 lots. This preliminary subdivision plan is the first submitted since Kenton County’s new subdivision regulations took effect last month. The approximate 400 feet of proposed new street will be the first built under the county’s new street construction standards.

The second new development—also in Taylor Mill—is a 60-lot addition to High Ridge Park. The entrance to High Ridge Park is along Wayman Branch Road very near to the point at which Wayman Branch intersects Pride Parkway. This development, which is just south of Taylor Creek Subdivision, will result in almost 2,500 feet of new public street.

The other of these newest new development plans is for land in the City of Independence; it will add 23 new lots to the Spring Meadows Subdivision. Its entrance is along Lakefield Drive just east of Taylor Mill Road. The infrastructure for this addition is already in place so this will include an addition of lots, not street.

In other recent submittals, Ashford Village, whose original preliminary subdivision approval dates back to 2002, will soon see the addition of approximately 350 feet of new public street and ten new lots. The entrance to Ashford Village is along Mills Road, opposite Mills Park. The entrance to Ashford Village is what prompted the city to make this new intersection a three-way stop controlled intersection.

Staff has also spoken with developers about two additional subdivisions in Independence that have yet to be submitted but are expected in the next couple of months.

Independence and Taylor Mill are not the only cities seeing new subdivision activity. Other previously approved subdivisions are moving forward in Covington and Erlanger, and most notably, Crestview Hills. Although a subdivision plan hasn’t been submitted yet formally, staff is aware of a new 43-lot subdivision that will include over 2,000 feet of new public street, all of which will be constructed to the new street standards.

Subdivision activity last year in Kenton County showed a marked increase over the last several years and the activity PDS is seeing early this year is a good indication that it’s likely to continue.


Done! County Planning Commission adopts new subdivision regulations

Posted on March 25, 2015

On March 10 the Kenton County Planning Commission voted unanimously to adopt new subdivision regulations for all Kenton County jurisdictions; those new provisions became effective at midnight that night. This is the first time a comprehensive rewrite of the regulations has been pursued since they were put into effect originally in 1978.

This vote completed a year-long effort by staff, the Kenton County Mayors’ Group, and a committee of the planning commission that began with four overriding goals: to produce a document that is efficient to use for developers and staff alike; to provide greater design flexibility for developers and ultimately the buying public; to promote better coordination with other governmental agencies that play a role in the subdivision review and approval process; and most importantly, to provide greater taxpayer protection. 

The public effort began when staff posted the initial rough draft of the document online for review in December 2010. Since that time staff and a committee of planning commissioners worked through hundreds of suggested revisions made by various stakeholder groups such as the Home Builders Association and Engineering Society.

“It was a primary concern of the planning commission committee to be open to all the comments that stakeholders wanted to present,” said Scott Hiles, CPC, PDS’ director of infrastructure engineering. “Members knew that the process would be grueling but they wanted all of the groups that participated to understand that they had a voice and that their suggestions were given proper consideration.”

As this process to reach consensus moved forward, the final draft began to take shape slowly, with the exception of the proposed standards for streets and the earthwork that supports them.

“There was a major disagreement between the groups with respect to street design,” said Hiles. “The rest of the document was coming together, but no one could agree on common ground when it came to streets and particularly the drainage improvements that were needed to make them last.”

Providing new and improved street design standards was the reason for one of staff’s original and arguably most important goals—greater taxpayer protection.

“When streets fail prematurely, it’s the taxpayers that ultimately pay to fix them,” said Hiles. “Creating a set of regulations that resulted in better streets to preclude premature street failures that must be borne by the taxpayer was one of the motivations for this whole project.” 

In response to the impasse on street design, Planning Commission Chair Paul Darpel challenged a group of engineers along with representatives of the Kenton County Mayor’s Group and the Home Builders Association to tackle the issue. The group, made up of Henry Fischer, Jim Viox, Ted Vogelpohl, Joe Kramer, and Mark Brueggemann, began work in the middle of 2013 and presented its final recommendations to staff in late 2014. Those standards were endorsed by both the Mayor’s Group and planning commission committee.

“The planning commission committee and all involved were impressed with their work,” said Darpel. “They did exactly what we asked them to do. To reach consensus on such a difficult topic was no easy task. The planning commission has a great deal of appreciation for their effort and the results they achieved.”

The consensus reached on street standards was the last piece of the puzzle staff needed to move the regulations on to a public hearing and adoption. The new regulations are now viewable online and staff is available to answer questions.


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