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UC planning students begin study work on land uses in KY 536 corridor

Posted on February 02, 2015

A $4,000 grant from the Murray and Agnes Seasongood Good Government Foundation will cover costs associated with an upcoming study of land uses in Kenton County’s KY 536 corridor. Work will be pursued by planning students from a University of Cincinnati studio class in the department of art, architecture, and planning.

The project entitled “Vision Plan for KY 536 Environs” is scheduled to last the entire spring semester (16 weeks) with formal class times twice a week. The final four weeks of the studio will include numerous presentations to the public and to Kenton County planning and legislative bodies.

The class’s report will be used by PDS and the Kenton County Planning Commission as the foundation for future land use and planning studies of the corridor.

“The focus of this studio is on planning and design practices at the regional scale,” said Dr. Vikas Mehta, Associate Professor with the School of Planning and faculty for the studio course. “Its main goal is to expose students to the complexity of working with multiple jurisdictions, regional spatial patterns, land use activities at regional scale, and its impacts on regional resources.”

During the semester, students will explore a number of planning issues that are critical in understanding the cultural, natural, economic, and political structure of the corridor. As an important part of the studio, students will analyze social and physical factors such as the stakeholders’ needs and interests, the natural ecology, urban growth, land use and transportation, public space, and associated patterns in the region. Learning from their analyses, the students are expected to develop a vision for the corridor. Given the significance of current discourse, this studio will emphasize the promotion of planning and design principles, policies and actions that enhance the physical conditions of the region and improve the human experience in it.

The studio will be organized into a five-step structure:

SENSING: information and data collection; mapping - people, places, phenomena;
ANALYZING: organizing, structuring and synthesizing information and data;
THEORIZING: values, goals, objectives, visions;
MAKING: processes, products; and
COMMUNICATING: writing, speaking, graphics.

“The five steps provide a basic structure for the studio. Although these are listed in a sequence, the steps do not suggest a linear process,” states Dr. Mehta.


NKAPC completes review of operations effort with name change

Posted on July 01, 2014
In a move that more effectively describes the scope of services it provides, the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission (NKAPC) is changing its name to Planning and Development Services of Kenton County, or PDS.

The change is effective July 1, 2014 and will bring clarity to an organization that while important to the community is often misunderstood.

“Planning and Development Services of Kenton County reflects the true mission of the organization as a service provider on behalf of the county’s 20 local governments,” said former Fort Wright Mayor Tom Litzler, Chairman of the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission.

“The new name truly reflects the service area of the organization, not the greater Northern Kentucky community, which was the original mission of the Northern Kentucky Planning Commission as envisioned by Northern Kentucky’s legislative delegation in 1960,” Litzler said.

The name change to PDS will put an end to the confusion created by two connected organizations that both used the term ‘planning commission’ in their names: the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission and the Kenton County Planning Commission.

“The confusion that surrounded those two names was always present,” said Dennis Gordon, executive director of the organization. “That unfortunate fact seemed to always cloud the real story which was that as parts of a team, the planning commission and staff were working together to serve the citizens of Kenton County as the law intended.”

Responsibilities assigned to the two bodies by state statute never overlapped over the years, said Gordon. They actually complemented each but “you’d never have known that based on public perception,” he asserted.

A communications assessment conducted for NKAPC in 2011 found that the public’s number one problem with the organization was confusion about the services that NKAPC provides and how they differ from those provided by the Kenton County Planning Commission.

Two other planning bodies will also have new names:
•    The Northern Kentucky Area Planning Council—the agency’s governing body made up of one elected official from each of the County’s 20 jurisdictions—will now be known as the Planning and Development Services Council.
•    Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission—the seven-member board selected by the Council to oversee the day-to-day affairs of the agency and staff—will now be known as the Planning and Development Services Management Board.

The name of the Kenton County Planning Commission will remain the same since it is this body charged by state statutes with pursuing planning and zoning responsibilities for all Kenton County communities.

Consideration of the name change began following a 2011 petition drive focused on eliminating NKAPC. The Northern Kentucky Area Planning Council launched a comprehensive look at the organization and how it was operating.

The agency’s finances, staffing, administration, operations, and more were included in the assessment, and 16 recommendations to improve the organization’s efficiencies and effectiveness were made.

After a two-year effort completing the objectives set forth in those recommendations, officials turned to the confusion and false perceptions created by the NKAPC name. In the end, they decided that the name needed to be changed.

“The operational changes were made to make the organization more efficient, understandable, accountable, and transparent,” said Crestview Hills Mayor Paul Meier, Vice-Chairman of the newly-christened PDS Management Board. “They provide a more responsive way of providing services to residents, communities, and businesses… and the name is reflective of that fact.

“Accountability is a hallmark of PDS,” Meier said. “These changes were made in part to ensure that the organization continues to be responsive to the concerns of the community as it has for the past 53 years.”

PDS offers a wide array of services – planning and zoning, infrastructure engineering, building codes administration, GIS mapping, and a One Stop Shop program for codes enforcement. It also provides technical support to first-responders in times of emergency, all of which makes the community better, safer, and more professionally planned and developed.

PDS also facilitates economic development by working closely and professionally with elected officials, economic development professionals, real-estate developers, utility providers, and the construction industry in general.

“This collaborative services model saves taxpayer dollars by providing planning and development services on behalf of Kenton County’s 20 local governments, which don’t have to hire staff individually to provide these services,” Litzler said. “PDS works in concert with these local governments to provide services, answer questions and concerns, staffs their planning commission, and ensures that these communities are developed (and redeveloped) in a healthy, safe, and effective way.”

Steve Hensley, Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for Kenton County, said PDS plays a vital role in public safety, including planning for and responding to natural disasters.

As an example, Hensley points to the 2012 tornadoes in Southern Kenton County that took four lives, destroyed 88 homes, and damaged 257 more.

PDS building inspectors arrived immediately after the storms subsided and assisted the relief effort by ensuring that storm-damaged buildings were inhabitable.

“At one time we had 15 building inspectors, checking on structures that were damaged,” Hensley said. “We needed to know if the buildings were safe or unsafe and if they needed to be condemned. They were there without hesitation, and stayed until job was done. To me that shows dedication to the community.”

PDS also assists local emergency planning and response efforts by helping identify storm warning siren locations, mapping flood plains, and using its GIS system to help first responders in emergency situations.

“Most people don’t realize all that (PDS) does in this community,” said Hensley, the former police chief and city administrator of Fort Mitchell. “They are very, very good when it comes to planning and zoning, but they also make our community safer and they make local government more efficient.”

NKAPC work prepares Covington for sidewalk repairs

Posted on April 11, 2014
Sidewalk reconstruction began last week in Latonia. The city’s contractor began replacing sidewalks with the lowest condition rating based on a citywide assessment of sidewalks that was conducted by NKAPC staff. The assessment prioritized sidewalks with significant tree root damage, cracking, and crumbling.

The Latonia portion of the project is estimated to be completed during early summer, pending weather conditions. The contractor’s contract also includes work on sidewalks in South Covington, where construction initially began in November. Due to weather delays after a particularly harsh winter, construction is expected to be completed in South Covington in May.

“We’re proud to have been a part of this effort in Covington,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, Executive Director. “The pursuit of these data amounted to a win-win for both the city and NKAPC. The city got highly-accurate information and we were able to utilize infrastructure inspectors to pursue the work during their down time. Our GIS system made it all so simple.”

The focus on improving sidewalks is part of Covington’s five-year community investment plan which culminated from citizen requests. It is meant to facilitate the city's commitment to being a walkable community and improving property values.

The Community Investment Plan, which was adopted by the city commission in June of 2013, will invest more than $30 million in infrastructure improvements alone over the next five years. Covington's Community Services Division kicked off its $2.4 million sidewalk replacement project in southern Covington in November of 2013. The project is just one of the $72 million Community Investment Plan projects planned over the next five years.

Social media initiative aims for an informed citizenry

Posted on February 26, 2014
Keeping citizens informed and encouraging public dialog is always a challenge, however technology is playing a growing role in addressing those issues. Since late last year, NKAPC has expanded its online communications and initiated a new social medial strategy.

From the seemingly endless list of social websites, NKAPC is utilizing five familiar avenues now—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and YouTube. “This isn’t a permanent list, necessarily,” said public information coordinator Pete Berard. “As the popularity, target audiences, and usefulness of these services change over time, so will our use of them.”

These online connections were established to invite discussions regarding local topics and relay information to the public in a more effective way, according to Berard. The posts will include topics such as upcoming meetings, interactive maps, current events, and opinions about new plans for the community.

Berard suggests these outreach efforts will also enhance the functionality of the organization’s website. NKAPC.org already houses thousands of important and useful documents, plans, reports, and forms. It also includes webpages for newsletter registration, discussion forums, and information requests. Adding social media will highlight the website and encourage its use as an informative resource.

Check out these links and stay connected.

Inspectors implement new building code requirements

Posted on February 26, 2014
January not only brought on a new year, it also brought the commonwealth new building code regulations. NKAPC building inspectors are administering those new building regulations now as required by law.

Kentucky moved from the 2006 model of the International Building Code to the 2012 model code. This code remains a mini/maxi code, meaning no local jurisdiction can enforce a code more or less restrictive than the model code. And for the first time since its printing of the 2002 Kentucky codes, Kentucky printed its own code with the help of the Code Administrators Association of Kentucky (CAAK), which can be purchased online.

“This is great a thing for all code users in Kentucky,” said Tim Tholemeier, one of NKAPC’s senior building officials. “No longer does one need to read the code and then go to Kentucky’s changes to see if a section has been modified.”

For a complete list of the current codes in Kentucky, click here.

One of the major changes in this new edition is that Kentucky included definitive language relevant to tents and permitting procedures for them. Tents not only need local site placement permits, but must also have model approval from the Department of Housing, Buildings and Construction. All tents larger than 400 square feet need to be permitted for installation with the exception of private tents.

If you have questions on whether or not a permit is needed, call NKAPC at 859. 957.2408, or you can view the code sections here.

Previous upgrades to the residential code have tried to get automatic fire suppression systems installed in all residential structures. The Commonwealth of Kentucky has not adopted this method yet, but other factors now have been added to protect a home.

For instance, floor systems now require a ½ inch gypsum wallboard, 5/8 inch wood structural panel or equivalent applied to the bottom side of all floor framing member unless the building is suppressed, over a crawlspace or the floor assembly uses dimensional lumber equal to or greater than 2-inch by 10-inch nominal lumber.

With more home builders using engineered wood framing members to help with labor costs and use less construction material, other factors which would help ensure the home’s integrity under fire conditions are needed soon.


Staff develop app for collection of field data using GIS

Posted on February 26, 2014
Integrating field-collected data seamlessly into the LINK-GIS system has been a long-held goal for NKAPC staff members. Now, new software from Esri gives GIS department members the ability to roll out applications to anyone with a smartphone or tablet with GPS capabilities.

Christy Powell, GISP, NKAPC’s senior GIS programmer has created two projects to show how this capability can be utilized. The first project is a bike and pedestrian count application for the NKAPC Planning and Zoning department. This application will be used during the semi-annual audit in May of this year.

The second project is a building damage assessment application. During an emergency situation this application would be used to collect information such as number of people affected, contact names, and extent of damage. Since this information is stored in the cloud, even if the NKAPC building was affecting during a disaster, the maps and data would still be available. Another advantage of the application being in the cloud is that in a large disaster, inspectors from outside NKAPC would have access to the data.

In addition to geographic and tabular data, the user can capture photos and video tied to the location. The application also has built-in routing and directions.

“I’ve shown this application to people who collected building damage assessments in the past and the response has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Powell. “We are currently working from a template provided by Esri. With input from building inspectors over the next few weeks, we will be refining the database to better meet NKAPC’s needs.”

The GIS staff has been showing this capability internally and externally over the past month. Several groups have expressed interest in creating projects. Steve Lilly, NKAPC’s land surveying analyst, says, “I’m working with the GIS department to create a survey control monument reconnaissance application. The way we collected this data in the past did not tie the photos to the field data. This system will save us time in the field, streamline our process, and cut out data entry errors.”

The ArcGIS Collector application is available from the Apple App Store or Google Play (formerly Android Market).  This application is free to download and has sample data from Esri available. A username and password provided by NKAPC are needed to connect with maps published by NKAPC and begin collecting data.


Permit numbers stay strong despite frigid temperatures

Posted on February 04, 2014
December and January weather usually prompts a decline in building activity in Kenton County due to cold temperatures and snow. Not this year, in spite of colder than normal temperatures and higher than usual snowfall.

NKAPC reports indicate that since January 6, 2014, when the polar vortex moved through Northern Kentucky, NKAPC has issued 43% of the 217 permits it processed since December 1.

Even with the subzero temperatures, contractors are braving the cold, completing projects, and calling for their inspections, according to Brian Sims, CBO, NKAPC’s chief building official. NKAPC staff performed 223 inspections within this time period.

“We don’t want to be out in this weather anymore than the next guy, but we have to make ourselves available to help our customers move their projects along,” said Sims.

New Year starts off with application for 129-lot plat

Posted on February 04, 2014
The Kenton County Planning Commission approved a 129-lot addition to Williams Woods subdivision in Independence earlier this month. This marks the first time that the City of Independence has seen a new residential development or subdivision addition of this magnitude in several years.

Williams Woods lies along Bristow Road approximately 2,000 feet east of Banklick Road, directly across from Battleridge subdivision. When the original plat of Williams Woods was approved, the site was located in unincorporated Kenton County. That subdivision plat consisted of 178 single-family lots.

The newly-approved plat will bring the development’s total to 307 lots. It will also contain approximately 5,000 feet of new public streets that will be maintained by the City of Independence.

“The number of new residential lots we’ve approved in Independence over the last four years doesn’t equal the addition to Williams Woods that we just approved,” said Scott Hiles, CPC, NKAPC’s director of infrastructure engineering. “Looking earlier than 2009 there was a mix of single and multi-family development in Independence that totaled 90 residences, but you’d have to go back to 2004 to see the really significant numbers that were off the charts. Literally, several hundred new lots were approved in that year.”

Hiles added that given the number of other new or established developments that were either just beginning construction or continuing established developments at the end of 2013, this addition to Williams Woods adds one more reason to be optimistic about continuing the steady residential growth the community began to see trending about a year ago.

Piner tornado brings people together, prompts survey

Posted on February 04, 2014
By the time a tornado struck Piner in March 2012, devastating the community and structures to the east of it, a small group of area citizens had met several times to try to bring their neighbors together. The immediate needs prompted by the Class 5 storm solidified that group’s goals and provided fuel to move it forward.

Talk of bringing neighbors and friends together was replaced quickly by actions that were more effective in helping southern Kenton County residents see the value of working together. While pursuing relief efforts, group members also sought to bring structure to residents who value individualism and privacy. The strategy worked.

As the storm’s devastation transitioned to a memory, local discussions moved on to Direction 2030, a coordinated effort by the Kenton County Planning Commission to engage as many Kenton County residents in the crafting of a new comprehensive plan for the community.

Residents got together and discussed past planning efforts and current needs. In order to get a comprehensive understanding of the area’s needs, the group decided to pursue a survey of their friends and neighbors across the southern part of the county. With the support of Kenton County Fiscal Court, NKAPC, and the Kenton County Agriculture Extension office, group members mailed approximately 3100 surveys to all households on January 10.

Three-hundred fifty responses were needed for the survey to be considered statistically significant; the community came together and returned more than a 1000 surveys.

The survey document was developed by Dr. Lori Garkovich with University of Kentucky who has extensive experience dealing with rural issues in other parts of Kentucky. Garkovich helped with a planning effort in 1996 for this part of Kenton County and has a good understanding of the community. After the survey was developed, it was shared with a group of residents for initial feedback to ensure the questions were clear and understood.

The survey includes demographic questions that will provide general information on the respondents such as how long they have lived in southern Kenton county and their reasons for moving to that part of the community.

During the preliminary planning process one of the main themes raised by residents was the need to preserve the rural heritage of the area. In order to capture the varied perceptions of rural heritage, additional questions regarding what defines rural heritage were also included in the survey so as to provide a variety of options including farms, large homes, small stores, large office buildings and retail. Also included are questions regarding respondents’ satisfaction with existing roadways, Internet access, employment centers, access to retail and residential development.

“The survey is a way for public and elected officials to understand better who we are and what our needs are,” said Bill Schneider, a resident of Cruise Creek Road in southern Kenton County. “The individual leadership that has come forth to design the survey is inspiring. We are thrilled with the huge response that shows how hungry our citizens are to be heard.”

The survey response period was closed on January 31, 2014. Staff is compiling the data that will be sent to Garkovich for analysis. Results will be available in mid-late March.

Focus groups and public meetings are being planned to seek additional input. “This is a very community- driven planning process for an area of the county that has a very strong sense of community,” said Sharmili Reddy, AICP, planning manager at NKAPC. “We are providing a service and helping the process by facilitating and bringing in resources as necessary.”

The results of the survey and information gathered from focus groups and public meetings will be used to develop policy for the southern portion of Kenton County as part of the Direction 2030 planning effort. The comprehensive plan for 40 years has promoted growth and development north of this area while encouraging the protection of the agriculture and rural nature of Southern Kenton County.

This effort will help determine if the policy is still valid or if changes need to be made to represent community desire.

Staff members burnish their skills in other professional roles

Posted on December 17, 2013
NKAPC staff members have a long history of giving back to this community and to their professions—and ultimately Kenton County—through service to organizations that help further NKAPC’s goals, improve their skills, and maintain their professional certifications. That history continues through to today.

“Our elected officials have expected us to be involved in local and state organizations since back in the early 70’s,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, NKAPC’s executive director. “These involvements—which have included serving as board members and officers, state presidents, and even as a national president—provide these staff with a wealth of experiences that ultimately benefit Kenton County. Staff get to burnish their credentials and gain leadership experiences that help them be more effective in their jobs.”

Five NKAPC staffers have been elected or appointed to leadership roles with outside organizations recently.

Martin Scribner, AICP, the agency’s planning and zoning director, was elected chair of the New Urbanism Division of the American Planning Association (APA). The APA provides leadership for citizen and professional planners in the development of vital communities. The New Urbanism Division provides planners, public officials, and other decision makers with the information, support, and tools needed to eliminate restrictive conventional development regulations and allow New Urbanism patterns to be incorporated in all communities.

Sharmili Reddy, AICP, planning manager at NKAPC was elected chair of the Northern Kentucky Forum for 2014 after serving on the board for two years. The Forum is a nonpartisan, non-advocacy partnership whose mission is to inform, educate, and engage citizens of Northern Kentucky in free forums on topics, issues, current events, and policies that affect Northern Kentucky. As chair, she will oversee events scheduled to be held in 2014 and assist board members in planning and implementing events on topics that are pertinent to the Northern Kentucky community.

James Fausz, AICP, principal planner at NKAPC, was elected a regional representative to the board of APA Kentucky Chapter. In this role, he will represent citizen and professional planners in northern and northeastern Kentucky. Fausz looks forward to the opportunity of setting up and coordinating training events and networking sessions so that planners in our area can be engaged. Aside from representing planners and planning events, Fausz will be responsible for working on the chapter development plan, reviewing and adopting the annual budget, and helping set overall direction.

Principal planner Jenna LeCount, AICP, has served as a member of the Leadership Steering Committee for LEGACY for more than a year. LEGACY is a young professionals’ network in Greater Cincinnati / Northern Kentucky which provides opportunities for YPs to develop professionally and personally and to contribute more fully to their community. LeCount was recently appointed as the Community Committee chair where she will focus her efforts on projects intended to impact and improve the Greater Cincinnati / Northern Kentucky area. Currently, LeCount is leading this committee to establish an annual Row-n-Run event to enhance LEGACY’s visibility and outreach in the community.

John Lauber, one of NKAPC’s senior building code officials, was re-elected to the office of Treasurer for Northern Kentucky Building Inspectors Association (NKBIA).  The NKBIA is an association dedicated to improving the standards of building code enforcement practices and establishing uniform interpretations of all applicable codes in Northern Kentucky. NKBIA’s mission is to bring together individuals engaged in the administration and enforcement of building and other related codes to share information, experience and policy, exchange ideas, discuss mutual problems, and establish uniform interpretation of all applicable codes.


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