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LINK-GIS accepts new oblique imagery

Posted on June 30, 2012
The LINK-GIS partnership signed contracts recently with Pictometry International Corp. to update aerial images of Campbell and Kenton Counties. When uploaded into its system, these new digital images will provide jurisdictions in both counties with two ways to view their territories—the traditional bird’s-eye view and now a 3-D view.

Pictometry captures high-resolution images obliquely—or from an angle—allowing users such as emergency services personnel, property assessors, and zoning officials to see land features and structures clearly and in their entirety.

“Pictometry gives me five ways to view a parcel, compared to the traditional one top-down shot. These new images will be really helpful for firefighters and police responding to calls,” said Ben Campbell, Campbell County Property Valuation Administration’s, Chief Deputy in charge of mapping. “Pictometry is a new angle on an old product.”

Pictometry’s interactive measuring tool will also be helpful for zoning and property valuation staff. They can measure buildings from the ground up, see how many stories a house has, and measure the perimeter around a structure, for example. Traditional bird’s-eye view images don’t provide this ability.

This 3-D ability to see properties from their desk will help assessors save time and money by cutting field costs. It will also allow them to see restricted properties, verify records, and resolve claim disputes. This technology will not be available on the website due to licensing costs that are expensive to maintain.

An added benefit that was realized this March was that Pictometry International Corp. will re-fly the two counties without charge in the event of a natural disaster and provide the resulting photos quickly. Due to the tornado that hit the Piner area in Kenton County and the National Weather Service declaring it an F4, we receive updated aerials of the affected area in as little as two weeks after the event. This aided in faster cleanup efforts and insurance claim processing.

“The ability to give the citizens of Kenton County immediate assistance after the tornado was a huge benefit that we gained from the photos provided by Pictometry,” stated Mark Vogt, Kenton County Property Valuation Administrator.

The 3-D aerial images were shot in March and delivered to the LINK-GIS partnership in May for immediate review and utility. By joining the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s efforts to fly imagery for the entire state, the partnership was able to save $21,000 on oblique imagery and an additional 15 percent by flying the two counties together.

The LINK-GIS partnership is a multi-jurisdictional relationship made up of the Fiscal Courts of Kenton and Campbell Counties, the PVAs of Kenton and Campbell Counties, the Northern Kentucky Water District, SD1, and the Area Planning Commission. NKAPC is the managing partner and provides centralized support services to the others as well as assistance to the public.

Slip Sliding Away: Northern Kentucky hillsides gain attention

Posted on May 24, 2012
After three inches of rain fell recently over a few days in Bellevue, there was a hillside behind a row of condominiums that slid into the homes. This is just one of a growing number of landslide sites Matt Crawford from Kentucky Geological Survey (KGS) has visited in Northern Kentucky.

“I got involved in this slowly at first by compiling a landslide inventory of sites all around Kentucky with data from a variety of sources,” Crawford says. “I started visiting the sites to check the information I was putting into the database.”

Northern Kentucky has become a frequent destination for his visits, because of the high number of landslides in the region. “Our job is to communicate what we know about geology, steep slopes, soils, and about activities that destabilize slopes,” stated Crawford.

Field studies also help to verify landslide locations using light detection and ranging (LiDAR) data provided to KGS by the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission on behalf of the LINK-GIS partnership. Crawford explains LiDAR data is taken from an aircraft and uses pulses of light or lasers to collect very accurate terrain information. “It allows the creation of high-resolution digital elevation models,” he says, “and there are features in this data that can indicate landslide activity not easily noted by simply looking at the terrain.”

The data helped identify susceptible areas that may not have been a problem—yet. “It may have been a creeping slope that after a large rain will be more susceptible to material sliding off.”

LiDAR may not detect some landslide-related features because of development and other changes to a landscape. But field visits have confirmed landslides at many of the 234 locations indicated by LiDAR data to be a possible risk in Northern Kentucky.

Due to the geology of the Northern Kentucky area and the LiDAR data available this made the study by KGS a perfect match. Though local government and regional planning agencies have been considering whether to enact regulations relating to landslide susceptibility, Crawford says he limits his scope to geologic work.

Collaboration on tornado aftermath

Posted on May 24, 2012
After the storms of March 2, efforts to facilitate the rebuilding of homes in that area of Kenton County began immediately. NKAPC staff began a comprehensive review of the area and of the Kenton County Zoning Ordinance to ensure that property owners would be able to rebuild their homes and barns with a minimum of red tape.

It was quickly discovered that many properties in this area had homes or barns that fall under a category known in the zoning code as a “nonconforming” structure. This means that these structures were most likely built prior to the adoption of the current zoning code and, as a result, do not meet one or more of the zoning regulations for that zone. It also means that these structures would have to go through an extra step in the process of rebuilding, with the possibility that they may not be allowed to be rebuilt as they were.

NKAPC staff quickly brought this situation to the attention of the Kenton County Fiscal Court and advised that there were options that might make this process less cumbersome for the property owners and could ultimately permit some reconstruction that would not have otherwise been allowed. The fiscal court instructed staff to work pre-emptively with the Kenton County Board of Adjustment to resolve the situation with the least amount of hassle to the affected property owners. The fiscal court also passed resolutions to support this effort and to instruct staff to halt all code enforcement activities in this area to allow property owners to get debris cleaned up without the risk of incurring code violations.

Planning staff used information gathered by NKAPC building inspectors to inventory damaged “nonconforming” buildings. Most of these were either too close to a property line or had more structures on the property than were allowed. This inventory was then presented to the Kenton County Board of Adjustment, who had the option of either discontinuing those nonconforming uses or allowing them to be rebuilt.

The Board of Adjustment voted unanimously to allow all structures on the inventory list to be rebuilt the way they were prior to the storms, provided that they would attain the appropriate permits and did not expand the nonconformity of the structure. The board also provided an 18 month window for attaining building permits. If a property owner seeks a building permit to rebuild a nonconforming structure after that 18 month period, then that request must be resubmitted to the Kenton County Board of Adjustment for further review.

It should be noted that any property owner who chooses to rebuild a structure but changes the specifications to meet the current zoning code will not be subject to the above review.

To date, 42 storm-related building permits have been issued by NKAPC in this area, 27 of which were nonconforming structures that were allowed to be rebuilt because of this process, initiated by NKAPC staff. All permit fees were also waived for these permits to help minimize the headaches involved in getting residents back to their lives.

Imagery coordination with state saves local tax dollars

Posted on May 24, 2012
Citizens in Kenton and Campbell Counties will reap the benefits of lower costs for aerial photography and mapping, thanks to NKAPC / LINK-GIS participation with a new state program. The commonwealth of Kentucky has a new effort to collect aerial imagery for the entire state over a three year period. LINK-GIS coordinated with the state plan and saved approximately $90,000 in local funds. Additionally, by flying the two counties together, the partnership was able to save an estimated 15 percent. It is important to note that each county pays only for data collected for their individual counties.

The data that the partnership will acquire include: oblique photography which is taken from an airplane with the camera directed horizontally or diagonally downward, orthophotography, updated planimetric mapping, infrared,  and LiDAR which uses pulses of light or lasers to create accurate terrain information. The infrared is a new product that we have not received in the past. It is particularly useful in agricultural and vegetation classifications. The oblique products which are helpful to local law enforcement are provided by Pictometry, Inc., and will be available to the public by mid-summer. All other data products will be provided from Photoscience, Inc.

The LINK-GIS partnership: Kenton County Fiscal Court, Campbell County Fiscal Court, SD1, Northern Kentucky Water District, Kenton County PVA, Campbell County PVA and NKAPC, have come together to make the new imagery acquisition a reality. LINK-GIS already has the first delivery of the obliques from Pictometry; and due to the more involved quality control and quality assurance process, the remainder of the products will be received by the end of the year.

The last time the LINK-GIS partnership acquired these same imagery products was in 2007; five years ago. Pictometry is a two year contract and was last flown in 2010.

Ludlow joins One Stop Shop program

Posted on April 27, 2012
Ludlow City Council and the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission entered into an agreement effective March 15th that puts NKAPC in charge of the city’s building, electric, property maintenance, and zoning codes administration. Ludlow is the 14th Northern Kentucky jurisdiction to enter into NKAPC’s One Stop Shop program.

The program also provides staff support for Ludlow’s board of adjustment and code enforcement board. 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.

“We’re pleased to welcome Ludlow to this program,” said Dennis Gordon, NKAPC’s executive director. “Mayor Wynn and City Administrator Brian Richmond have given us marching orders regarding the city’s priorities; we understand code enforcement is Job 1.”

Filing code enforcement complaints, seeking information about building or electric inspections, and searching for a property’s zoning classification is now one phone call away. NKAPC can be reached at 331-8980 between 8 and 5 Monday through Friday. Considerable information in this regard is also available at www.nkapc.org.

“The One Stop Shop program has helped a number of cities to increase service levels for their citizens and to reduce costs. We’re looking forward to providing those benefits to Ludlow and its citizens,” concluded Gordon.

NKAPC provides data inventory to City of Elsmere

Posted on April 27, 2012
NKAPC is nearing the end of a three-month project to inventory Elsmere’s signs, sidewalks, and streetlight assets. The sign inventory alone will assist the city in preparing for an upcoming Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) mandate.
 
This federal mandate requires all municipalities to have an asset management system in place by 2012, which will track  the retro reflectivity of their regulatory and warning signs. The first step in that process is to conduct an inventory to determine exactly what signs a city has, and precisely where they are located.

As part of this initial inventory, NKAPC is collecting condition data for each sign as well as whether the sign has reflective qualities at all. This will save the city time when they begin the second phase which requires retro reflectivity to be measured. “Elsmere won’t need to measure the reflectivity of the signs we have identified as being in poor condition or never being reflective to begin with,” said Scott Hiles, NKAPC’s deputy director for infrastructure engineering. “They can just slate them for replacement.”

In addition to signs, NKAPC inventoried all streetlight locations and all locations of sidewalks containing damage. The sidewalk inventory included an assessment of the repair area to determine the type and severity of each failure.

NKAPC used GPS technology to collect locations of these assets by walking 55 miles of city streets and to provide Elsmere all the information in a digital GIS map format.

“The end result of this effort will allow Elsmere to pull up a digital interactive map and see exactly where and what signs, sidewalk damage, and street lights are located within the city. They can then click on the digital asset to identify background information we collected about the asset while on-site” said Hiles.

Having that detailed information will allow Elsmere to determine budgetary needs and options available to them immediately and in the years to come.

NKAPC began this project in December 2011 and will finish later this month. “We’re on target to collect over 2,600 inventory points in total,” Hiles said. “We have the equipment and experience now that we’ve completed projects for Kenton County, the City of Covington, and the City of Elsmere” Hiles said. “We’re open to other projects that any other cities might want us to complete for them.”

NKAPC offers assistance to tornado victims and emergency crews

Posted on April 27, 2012
As storm sirens blared Friday, March 2, Kenton County families lost their homes, barns, livestock and loved ones. A devastating F4 tornado hit Piner and leveled everything in its path. Within an hour of the storm, Jeff Bechtold, a senior building official at NKAPC arrived at Kenton County Emergency Management’s headquarters to offer assistance.

By 5:30AM the next morning, NKAPC had seven inspectors on the ground doing preliminary inspections on the storm-ravaged dwellings. “It was clear from the start that we were going to need assistance from our GIS department with maps containing the building layers so we could see where each building was located and which ones were in the storm’s path,” stated Brian Sims, Deputy Director for Building Code Administration.

Trisha Brush, Deputy Director for GIS Administration and her team created maps of the affected area with parcel lines, addresses, and building footprints. They worked all day Saturday to assemble seven sets of 54 maps for each inspection team, and deliver them to out-of-town EMS support teams in Piner.

Fire Chief Jason Schleue with Piner-Fiskburg Fire District stated, “The NKAPC was a great asset during this event. Due to the already-provided and on-hand maps that we had here at the firehouse we were able to start operations. Then when more maps were needed, NKAPC staff were here immediately to see what we needed and made sure we got it right away. The Piner-Fiskburg Fire District and community appreciate all the help from NKAPC.”

NKAPC’s building department had four inspectors and commandeered two inspectors from Boone County and one from Independence to conduct preliminary inspections on March 3. They assessed a few hundred structures in the area and classified 88 as uninhabitable with an additional 279 as being affected. Steve Hensley, Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management in Kenton County stated, “The knowledge and expertise of these individuals was very valuable, as we conducted structural inspections and damage assessments”.

Inspectors returned to Piner later that week and tagged each structure according to one of three categories: habitable, limited entry, or uninhabitable. During immediate post-recovery efforts, NKAPC also assigned one of its administrative assistants to address questions from storm victims. The building department is now pursuing more in-depth inspections on an as-needed basis.

“Again I want to commend the NKAPC for the assistance they have and continue to provide to the residents of Kenton County. In my eyes, this agency and its staff members have performed over and beyond the call of duty throughout this event,” Hensley stated.

NKAPC waived all building and HVAC permit and inspection fees, as well as all electrical permits until June 4, 2012. Electrical inspections will still need to be paid to IBI.

Code Enforcement Boards training session is an informative success

Posted on April 27, 2012
NKAPC, the City of Covington, and the Kenton County Joint Code Enforcement Board all contributed to a joint effort recently to provide an important educational opportunity to local code enforcement board officials.

On March 24 continuing education geared towards new and long-term code enforcement board members was held at the NKAPC office. Twenty-four people from ten jurisdictions attended the training. Presenters included; Stacy Tapke, Edmondson Law; Alex Mattingly, City of Covington; and Martin Scribner, AICP, NKAPC deputy director for current planning.

Since enabling legislation was passed in 1996, most municipalities in Kenton County have formed code enforcement boards to help strengthen their city codes and keep zoning enforcement issues out of the courts. Unlike their counterparts on other planning-related boards, members of code enforcement boards are not required by Kentucky Revised Statutes to get a prescribed amount of continuing education, sometimes making it difficult to offer any training at all. This leaves them at a definite legal disadvantage, and could also cause procedural issues. The training was designed to address both of these issues and make sure members know what they can and cannot do as board members.

Topics covered the history and purpose of code enforcement, the creation and organization of code enforcement boards, due process and hearing procedures, and how citations are issued. Legal issues, such as burden of proof, taking evidence, deliberation, decisions of the board and findings of fact, were also discussed.

A mock hearing was held using training attendees as board members and NKAPC staff as property owners and evidence presenters. This exercise demonstrated how an actual hearing should be run and gave a feel for how other boards conduct their hearings. Staff and presenters provided feedback to let the board members know what they were doing correctly and what might be done differently.

A video recording of this training is available to Kenton County and Cold Spring board of adjustment jurisdictions. New board members or members who were unable to attend the training are invited to check out a copy from the NKAPC office.

Feedback from attendees was positive and staff already has several requests to borrow the video or to provide another training opportunity in the near future. Attendee Frank Henn said, “It was interesting to see how other cities structure their hearings, and that the end result appears to be the same. I learned some things I didn’t know and overall found the class helpful and interesting. Job well done.”

Increased number of permits available on walk in/take the permit with you basis

Posted on January 25, 2012
Staff in NKAPC’s current planning and building codes departments have increased substantially the number of zoning and building permits available on a walk in/walk out basis. This achieves a long-held goal of the organization’s annual work program.

“What this means is that a permit that used to take a couple days to process, can be completed now while you wait… if there are no extenuating circumstances,” said Martin Scribner, AICP, NKAPC’s deputy director for current planning. His team manages zoning permits.

Brian Sims, CBO, NKAPC’s deputy director for building codes administration, says, “If a licensed contractor comes in for an HVAC replacement or new installation permit, we review the application for minimum code requirements and issue the permit if everything meets code.”

Sims says electrical permits are also available on a walk-in/walk-out basis as long as all necessary information is submitted at the time of application. This includes workers compensation and occupational license information.

The primary catalyst for this increased efficiency is greater staff coordination and a staffing change that moved Mike Carpenter from the building codes department to current planning. Carpenter is both a certified zoning and building inspector, which means he can review a variety of applications.

“Now, if you’re building something that doesn’t require a building permit—like building a fence under six feet, or making some electrical upgrades, or putting in an above-ground pool or patio, or making a change of use (ownership)—we can process that on a walk-in, walk-out basis,” said Scribner. “Mike’s two hats and our greater coordination between departments have really helped us speed up the process.”
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