Kenton County Planning Commission

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Ludlow, Villa Hills disband their boards of adjustment

Posted on February 04, 2014
Looking for ways to reduce administrative costs and to provide funds for other city programs, elected officials in the Cities of Ludlow and Villa Hills decided recently to dissolve their respective boards of adjustment, transferring that authority to the Kenton County Board of Adjustment and the costs to NKAPC’s One Stop Shop codes administration program.

Boards of adjustment have authority to make case-by-case zoning decisions on requests by property owners. Like planning commission members, board of adjustment members are citizens appointed by their local government city; they are not professional planners.

The primary duties of boards of adjustment include hearing requests to vary from dimensional regulations of the local zoning code, hearing administrative appeals from zoning enforcement and interpretation decisions, hearing conditional use requests, and hearing requests to change from one nonconforming use to another.

Ludlow and Villa Hills have each had their own board of adjustment for many years which carries the costs of staff time, legal fees, notification costs, and payments to their board members. This has proven to be expensive, as city budgets have gotten tighter. City officials have also been challenged by having to find (and retain) the required number of members in order to make legal decisions.

The Kentucky Revised Statutes require jurisdictions that pursue planning and zoning to have a functioning board of adjustment. The 1966 agreement that created the Kenton County Planning Commission stipulates that if a city does not have its own board of adjustment, then the county board will fulfill that role for the city. The cost that would have been incurred by a city for this duty essentially disappears at that point, since additional territory does not increase costs to the county board of adjustment which are borne by the One Stop Shop program.

More information on the process of disbanding a board of adjustment can be provided by NKAPC planning and zoning director Martin Scribner, AICP.

Planning Council members conduct elections for 2014

Posted on February 04, 2014
Leadership of Kenton County’s planning council shifted last week as 18 representatives of the county’s 20 jurisdictions gathered for its annual organizational meeting. Covington Commissioner Chuck Eilerman was elected the council’s president for 2014; Edgewood Mayor John Link was elected vice president and Elsmere Mayor Marty Lenhoff was elected secretary. All terms run through January of next year.

In another voting procedure, councilmembers elected four individuals to serve two-year terms on the area planning commission. Elected were former Fort Mitchell mayor Bill Goetz, former Fort Wright mayor Tom Litzler, Crestview Hills Mayor Paul Meier, and former Independence mayor Chris Moriconi.

Three other individuals serve on the area planning commission, having been elected in 2013 to two-year terms. They are Covington Mayor Sherry Carran, former Fort Wright mayor Gene Weaver, and former Park Hills councilman Dick Spoor.

“I'm honored to have been chosen and look forward to working with my fellow council members, the Commission, and staff to build on the demonstrated strengths of the organization,” said newly-elected council president Chuck Eilerman after the meeting. “I support our core values (Service, Perseverance, Innovation, Collaboration, and Excellence). I want to focus on furthering the substantive work being carried out in refining development standards, strengthening geographic information and mapping tools, and strengthening the cause of municipal services consolidation.”

As directed by the Kentucky Revised Statutes, the area planning council provides a forum in which Kenton County planning issues can be debated and consensus can be achieved. With a membership of elected officials only, the council is also responsible for final review of the organization’s annual budget and the tax rate that funds it.

The area planning commission is the body that sets the organization’s general direction, oversees the county’s planning staff, and develops its annual work program and budget.

Others included on the council ballot were: Fort Mitchell Mayor Chris Wiest for president; and, Park Hills and Villa Hills mayors Don Catchen and Mike Martin respectively for council secretary. Others included on the commissioner ballot were: Independence Councilman Jim Bushong; Erlanger resident Louis Miller; and, Crescent Springs Councilman Tom Vergamini.

Eilerman concluded, “I look forward to coordinating the elements of our comprehensive plan with the work of the Kenton County Governance Committee, and Vision 2015's myNKY initiative.”

Subdivision street construction still underway in Kenton County

Posted on December 17, 2013
Subdivision development and new street construction during 2013 showed a dramatic increase when compared to the last several years. What’s more, both have continued late into the construction season this year.

“We haven’t seen street construction continue this late in the year for some time”, said Scott Hiles, CPC, director of infrastructure engineering. “We’re even aware of a developer of a subdivision in Independence who wants to construct another five hundred feet of street yet this year if the temperatures cooperate.”

The majority of this activity is being seen in the cities of Independence and Erlanger, where development activity was most prevalent before the decline initiated by the Great Recession. New subdivision construction has also seen this year in Villa Hills and the unincorporated portion of the County.

Undoubtedly aided by the mild temperatures and relatively low amount of rainfall in the late fall, just over 3,000 feet of new pavement was constructed in November and the first part of December.

In years past it wasn’t uncommon for some asphalt plants to shut down asphalt production before the Thanksgiving holiday, and because of the cold temperatures, concrete streets weren’t able to be constructed much later than that either.

Overall, 9,000 feet of new street was constructed in in 2013. This represents more than twice the total of all street that was constructed in 2011 and 2012 combined.

“In looking back through our records, the amount of street constructed this year puts us close to the level of subdivision activity we saw in 2008 and 2009”, Hiles said. “It’s also a good sign for future activity that developers paid inspection fees later in the year that weren’t used this year. So it’s likely that this activity will continue into next spring.”


Mayors, engineers come to agreement on street standards

Posted on December 04, 2013
In July 2013 a third roundtable discussion was held between The Kenton County Planning Commission’s Subdivision Regulation Committee, the Mayor’s Group, the NKSPE, HBA and Henry Fischer in an attempt to reach consensus on issues primarily surrounding street design, testing and subsurface drainage. For nearly three years each of these groups had varied recommendations regarding what standards should be included in the Draft Subdivision Regulations for Kenton County.

Unfortunately, the third roundtable meeting failed to find common ground between the groups. However, the Sub Reg Committee used this result as an opportunity to present the groups with a challenge. They asked the groups if they would be willing to form their own committee in one last attempt to find design solutions to these issues that all of them could support together. The groups accepted the challenge and began the task of scheduling meetings.

Within a short time after the last roundtable meeting, representatives from the Mayor’s Group, the NKSPE, HBA and Henry Fischer began meeting twice a week, and by their account they ultimately met a total of 28 times. Their discussions also included various public officials, engineers, representatives from the asphalt industry, local contractors and concrete producers. The results of their efforts culminated in a presentation of their conclusions to the Sub Reg Committee on the evening of November 21, 2013.

As the group began presenting their findings, one of the first statements made was that all of the representatives within the group had reached consensus on all of the recommendations that were about to be discussed.

“I thought it was great when I heard that,” said Paul Darpel, Kenton County Planning Commission Chair. “That was the challenge we gave them; Take the time you need, meet at your own pace and try to find solutions that will result in better infrastructure for Kenton County. It looks like that’s exactly what they did.”

Some of the presentation’s highlights included:

•    A Geotechnical Engineering report required for all projects that would determine if standards needed to be increased.
•    Increased subgrade and pavement cross-slopes to increase water flow to the outside edge of the pavement.
•    Concrete curb and gutter that is supported by an asphalt or aggregate base to increase stability and reduce the penetration of surface water.
•    New concrete curb design and jointing details for concrete streets to lesson maintenance requirements and increase joint durability.
•    Edge drains required at the curb along both sides of the street to facilitate subsurface drainage.
•    New expansion material and installation locations to reduce street creep.
•    An improved concrete and asphalt mix design to increase overall pavement life-span; and
•    New standards for asphalt testing to ensure the material conforms to the new mix design.

These represent only a partial list of the recommended improvements to the street design issue. The group stated that there are a few issues where final design parameters are still being hammered out, but that they expected to finish these details soon. Based on the presentation, the Sub Reg Committee directed staff to begin working with the group to incorporate whatever recommendations could be incorporated now in the Draft Subdivision Regulations, and help establish the final specifications for the issues still being discussed.

“It looks like we’re moving close to adoption,” said Paul Darpel. “Once we make the final revisions to the Draft Regulations and work out the final specifications for the remaining issues, we should be on track to get these adopted in the first quarter of next year.”

The committee concluded by thanking the participants for their dedication to the effort and congratulating them on their ability to find common ground on all of the issues.  

Subdivision regulations go to last informal review

Posted on May 14, 2013
Members of the Kenton County Planning Commission’s subdivision regulations committee are nearing completion of a multi-year goal. Simply stated, it was to craft a completely new set of subdivision design and construction standards that will be efficient to use, provide design flexibility for developers, increase agency coordination, and protect the financial interests of local taxpayers.

The committee held a roundtable session to discuss the final draft proposal for new street design standards. Virtually all other issues before the group have been resolved to the satisfaction of stakeholders. Those interests scheduled to participate in the roundtable session are the Kenton County Mayors’ Group, the Northern Kentucky Homebuilders Association, the Northern Kentucky Society of Professional Engineers, and Henry Fischer of Fischer Homes.

The major issue facing committee members is whether edge drains and drainage blankets should be required in all new residential developments. The committee’s draft proposal currently addresses those issues by requiring:
  •  that edge drains be provided under the curb where 51% of the adjoining lot drains toward the street and also in sag locations; and
  •  that a detailed pavement analysis be performed by a geotechnical engineer for each project to determine any other pavement and drainage enhancements that should be utilized.
The goal of the roundtable meeting will be to give the stakeholders a final opportunity to discuss the proposal and to provide the committee with feedback.

Committee members will consider this feedback now that the meeting is behind them. They will then give staff a final directive on what design standards should be included in the draft regulations that will be presented to the full Kenton County Planning Commission.

Current expectations are that the planning commission will schedule a public hearing on the final document sometime this summer. The draft document that will be the subject of that hearing will be posted on the NKAPC website to provide everyone an opportunity to review them and form their opinions. At the conclusion of that hearing, planning commission members will vote to approve the standards they feel meet the community’s needs best and to set an effective date for their enforcement.

Covington returns to the One Stop Shop program

Posted on November 30, 2012
Following a recent vote by the Covington City Commission, Northern Kentucky’s largest city returned to NKAPC’s collaborative One Stop Shop codes administration program on October 24. Building and electric permits and inspections in Covington are now part of the program that serves 14 jurisdictions in Kenton County.

“We’re very pleased to be part of a countywide approach to permitting and inspections,” said Larry Klein, Covington city manager.  “The combination of the One Stop Shop program and the convenience for our residents and businesses of being able to continue applying for their permits at Covington City Hall made this a real win-win for us”.

The One Stop Shop program unites the codes administration programs of most Kenton County local governments: building—both local and state-level jurisdiction; zoning; property maintenance; and code enforcement in a structural framework that benefits those jurisdictions and the people they serve. It also provides staff support for the jurisdictions’ boards of adjustment and code enforcement boards where they exist.

The program is built on NKAPC’s “critical mass” of professionals, providing economies of scale that are impossible for local jurisdictions to match and levels of service the local jurisdictions can’t afford.

One Stop Shop locates the primary responsibility for these programs under one roof. As this relates to construction, all applications, all fee payments, all permits, and all requests for inspections are handled from one location, one phone number, and one website. Differing fee schedules from city to city, charges at both city hall and NKAPC for the same project, and multiple interpretations of the same building code requirement were eliminated when the program began in 2005.

“We’re happy to have Covington back in the program,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, NKAPC’s executive director.  “Governments at all levels are looking for ways to be more efficient with the funds they have available to them.  The One Stop Shop program continues to prove that collaboration on efforts like this makes sense and saves tax dollars.”

More information about the One Stop Shop program is available on the NKAPC and One Stop Shop program websites.


KCPC agendas get a surge in activity

Posted on June 30, 2012
At its busiest, the number of public hearings on any given Kenton County Planning Commission agenda might have been in double digits. But over the last several years, those numbers have waned, even to the point of cancelling a handful of meetings due to lack of any agenda items at all.

However, the KCPC is seeing a new resurgence of business as more hearings are scheduled.

“In all of 2011 there were approximately 35 items heard by the Kenton County Planning Commission,” said Andy Videkovich, Senior Planner for NKAPC. “It’s hard at this point to determine if this is part of a larger trend or just an anomaly.”

June’s KCPC agenda was lengthy due to the intricate nature of the requests, and what July’s agenda lacks in intricacy, is gained in sheer volume. The majority of these requests are zoning code text amendments and a few zoning map amendments.

With the downturn in the economy and lack of development activity, came a major decrease in the number of zoning amendments.

“Because only one of these requests came from a property owner, it is likely that the cities of Kenton County are doing one of two things; either using the lull in activity to prepare their ordinances for future development that some experts have said is imminent or making compromises that might help make those predictions a reality,” said Martin Scribner, Deputy Director for Planning and Zoning Administration.

Paul Darpel, Kenton County Planning Commission Chair, said, “I’m hopeful that this is indicative of a trend that the cities are getting ready for a much needed upturn in development.”

Other major items are also on the horizon for the KCPC, such as the adoption of the updated Kenton County Subdivision Regulations and the adoption of the Kenton County Comprehensive Plan, known as Direction 2030.

KCPC moves toward public hearing on new subdivision regulations

Posted on May 24, 2012
Since January of this year, the Kenton County Planning Commission has been hosting all of the major stakeholders in the community that will be affected by the proposed changes to the Kenton County Subdivision Regulations. These face-to-face meetings have taken place so commissioners can hear each group’s comments and concerns. A total of six groups have made presentations to the planning commission, the last of which occurred at the end of April.

It appears that most of the expressed concerns can be addressed. However, there is one main issue that remains unresolved; the issue of how streets should be designed.

“It seems most everyone agrees that some streets are failing before their expected design life,” said Scott Hiles, Deputy Director for Infrastructure Engineering. “But little consensus between the groups has been reached as to the cause of this premature failure, or what should be done about it.”

Staff heard from the majority of local officials that they were spending taxpayer dollars to repair streets long before they should. The early consensus from staff was that water infiltrating under the streets from behind the curb line was one likely culprit. “Most front yards are graded to drain toward the street,” said Hiles. “During much of the year water from sump pumps, gutters, overwatering of irrigation systems and just rainfall can flow to the street, get behind the curb and ultimately under the street causing some of these failures that local officials are seeing.”

Staff addressed this issue by proposing an underdrain under the entirety of the curb line for all streets. From that point forward, the Northern Kentucky Homebuilder’s Association Land Development Council (LDC), Northern Kentucky Society of Professional Engineers (NKYSPE) and the Kenton County Mayors’ Group have all weighed in with different proposals.

The LDC’s position has been that the current standards for street design seem to be sufficient, but that individual situations may warrant a design upgrade. The LDC is in support of keeping the street standards as they are, but letting a geotechnical investigation determine if and where an upgrade to the standards should be provided.

“The Northern Kentucky Homebuilder’s Association Land Development Council recognizes that the current pavement regulations are performing well in other municipalities in Northern Kentucky, and that the key to reaching the design life of any pavement is proper well timed care and maintenance during the pavement’s lifecycle,” said Joe Kramer, an engineer representing the LDC. “The proposal to install underdrains and granular drainage blankets under all pavements will not add a significant benefit to the performance and lifecycle costs of the pavement.”

NKSPE did recommend requiring an underdrain under the curb, but only in street sag locations and fronting lots where 95% of the lot drained toward the street. NKSPE also recommended a change to the aggregate used in the concrete for concrete streets.

“Through our research the NKSPE Pavement review committee found that the majority of current pavement failures are the result of inconsistent materials, and therefore most of our recommendations focused on the need for better specifications and monitoring of the materials used,” said Michelle Bollman, President of the NKSPE. “We also identified the need for some subsurface drainage improvements and a better maintenance plan in our recommendations.”

The Mayors’ Group took staff’s proposal one step further. They are recommending that in addition to the underdrain under the curb, a drainage blanket under the pavement also be required to capture any additional water that may be either present in the subgrade soils or infiltrate through the pavement itself. “As local officials, our goal was to propose a street design that will stand the test of time so that city and county taxpayers aren’t required to pay to fix streets that fail prematurely,” said Crestview Hills Mayor Paul Meier, Chairman of the Kenton County Mayors’ Group. “We’re confident that our proposal accomplishes this goal.”

The planning commission recently requested that each group provide cost information for the proposals and are expecting to receive that information soon. “Cost will ultimately be one of the primary factors the planning commission has to consider when they choose which proposal to adopt,” said Paul Darpel, Chairman of the Kenton County Planning Commission.

But rather than just basing their decision on what the cost increase would be for an upgraded street standard, they’ll have the difficult job of weighing the increased cost against the benefit the overall community would receive. That decision will be made by the planning commission later this year at a special public hearing which has yet to be scheduled.

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.

Kenton Mayors’ Group nears recommendation to planning commission on new subdivision regs

Posted on October 19, 2011
Kenton County’s draft subdivision regulations that staff completed late last year is nearing its first test as the document is scheduled to appear on this month’s agenda of the Kenton County Mayors’ Group. A committee of that group has worked with staff and members of the Homebuilders Association since February.

Action by the Mayors’ Group will take the form of a recommendation to the Kenton County Planning Commission. The planning commission has spent the last several months reviewing the document and the changes it includes from regulations that have been in place since the late 1970s.

The new draft regulations, which are a complete rewrite of the current document, were prepared by staff to accomplish four specific goals.

•    Greater User Friendliness: (1) create regulations in a digital format, one that is easy to use via hotlinks that allow for better continuity and cross-referencing; (2) illustrate the regulations liberally.

•    Greater Design Flexibility for Developers: provide for greater design flexibility so developers can create subdivisions with character, not just cookie cutter images of their most recent design efforts.

“In addition to more design flexibility, we also provided for different green infrastructure techniques,” said Scott Hiles, NKAPC’s deputy director for infrastructure engineering, who oversaw the staff effort. “Our 1978 regulations didn’t anticipate the need for green solutions and didn’t authorize them.”

•    Greater Intergovernmental Coordination: assure that the new regulations mesh and compliment those of other agencies that play a role with new development.

•    Greater Taxpayer Protection: guarantee that all requirements provide for developments that stand the test of time so that city and county taxpayers aren’t required to pay to fix infrastructure problems prematurely.

To meet the taxpayer protection goal, staff’s draft regulations call for an increase in pavement thickness and the addition of under-drains for all new subdivision streets. Prematurely-failing streets was one of the main issues that prompted the Mayors’ Group to get involved in this rewriting process.

Based on discussions to date, staff expects the Mayors’ Group’s recommendation to the Kenton County Planning Commission to take the form of an endorsement with a number of proposals for added taxpayer protection. Hiles says planning commission members “are at a point now to hear the Mayor’s Group’s recommendation.”

It will be the Kenton County Planning Commission’s responsibility to sort through the myriad recommendations from different groups and to adopt a set of replacement regulations to serve the community in the future. That action is expected to take place in early 2012.
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