Planning & Zoning

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Two staffers elected to posts at the state and national levels

Posted on September 28, 2017
Two PDS staff members were honored earlier this month with votes of professional affirmation from their peers. Jeff Bechtold, Senior Building Official, and James Fausz, AICP, Long-Range Planning Manager, were elected to positions of leadership within their professional spheres.

Bechtold was re-elected to a three-year term as director at large of the International Codes Council (ICC). The ICC Board of Directors is comprised of 18 public safety professionals, building and fire, who volunteer to serve. The ICC and its family of organizations promote building safety and are the referenced building and fire codes in all 50 states; ICC codes form the basis of the Kentucky Building Code. The ICC is a member-driven organization consisting of 66,000 members and over 360 International, regional, state and local chapters.

Fausz was elected president-elect of the Kentucky Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA-Kentucky). He will serve as president-elect for one year, president for two years, and past president for one year. The American Planning Association includes 35,000 members from over 100 countries. Its governing structure includes 47 chapters throughout the US and 21 divisions that embrace the wide range of planning. The Kentucky Chapter brings together practitioners, planning officials, students, and interested citizens into a single and stronger community forum.

“NKAPC/PDS has a long and very distinguished history of service to its various disciplines,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, PDS’ executive director—himself a past president of APA-Kentucky and -Indiana and a former member of the APA Board of Directors. “I know from personal experience that these positions take a lot of personal time. But, I can say truthfully that my employing agencies and I got more out of those commitments than anyone can ever comprehend fully.”

Bechtold and Fausz join another PDS staffer, Louis Hill, AICP, GISP, Geospatial Data Analyst, who was elected President of the Kentucky Association of Mapping Professionals (KAMP). Read about Hill’s election here.

For APA-Kentucky and KAMP, these recent elections bring their presidencies full circle to where the organizations began. Trisha Brush, GISP, Director of GIS Administration, helped found and served as KAMP’s first president. Former executive director Bill Bowdy, FAICP, helped to found and served as APA-Kentucky’s first president.

Other PDS staff members giving back to their professions currently are: Steve Lilly, PLS, GISP, Land Surveying Analyst at PDS, is a member of the Kentucky Association of Professional Land Surveyors Board of Directors and is the organization’s liaison with KAMP; Brian Sims, CBO, Chief Building Official at PDS, sits on the Board of Directors of the Code Administrators’ Association of Kentucky; John Lauber, Senior Building Official, and Gary Forsyth, Associate Building Official, sit on the board of directors of the Northern Kentucky Building Inspectors’ Association. 

Code enforcement staff well on its way to total certification

Posted on September 28, 2017
Four of PDS’ five PDS zoning officials completed and passed the two-exam process over the past year to achieve the designation of Certified Code Enforcement Officer. The fifth zoning official has been with the organization for less than a year and plans to take the exams later this fall.

The four are: Rob Himes, Codes Administrator; Melissa Bradford, Senior Zoning Official; Chris Preston, Principal Zoning Official; and, Megan Bessey, Principal Zoning Official. Susan Conrad, AICP, Senior Zoning Official, has maintained a certification from the American Institute of Certified Planners for at least the last decade.

The American Association of Code Enforcement Certification (AACE) Program encourages professionalism and consistency among code enforcement personnel through a comprehensive test of knowledge of codes, standards, and practices necessary for professional competence.

“I’m very proud of our zoning officials who not only work very hard, but do it with up-to-date training and expertise,” says Emi Randall, AICP, RLA, Director of Planning and Zoning. “Certification through AACE proves they’ve got what it takes to do it right.”

Individuals may become a Certified Property Maintenance and Housing Inspector or a Certified Zoning Enforcement Officer by completing and passing competency tests. Candidates completing both examinations successfully earn the designation of Certified Code Enforcement Officer.

Once certified, staff must maintain continuing education on code enforcement processes and trends.

“Professional certification—where available—is an expectation of employment here at PDS,” stated Dennis Gordon, FAICP, Executive Director.

“I know there are a lot of qualified professionals out there who could fill openings when we have them. I’m interested only in talking with those who are willing and capable of maintaining professional certifications. I believe it says something positive about the person who’s willing to step up and prove he or she wants to prove their credentials and abide by the professional standards that go with them.”

Gordon says that PDS will soon be in the position of having every staff member certified who’s eligible to be certified by a national professional certification institute.

Staff responds to requests for research on ‘short term rentals’

Posted on September 28, 2017
PDS planners have received inquiries from multiple city officials over the past year regarding Airbnb rentals in their communities. As the number of questions increased, staff began to investigate the issue, looking at how other communities are handling the issue.

Initially, inquiries focused on whether these rentals are permitted under current zoning regulations. As the popularity of ‘short-term rentals’ has grown, additional communities have requested information as to whether they should be regulated within the community.

“Staff along with several of our city administrators participated in a recent webinar to learn more,” said Emi Randall, AICP, RLA, Director of Planning and Zoning. “The short-term rental industry has grown fifteen-fold in the last six years. Airbnb launched in 2009 with zero listings. Today the site is adding 35,000 listings each month.”

Airbnb is now the number one search site for accommodations with 31% of the market share over traditional hotel sites like Booking.com (7%) and Hotels.com (3%). One quarter of the traveling population in the US has now used a short-term rental for either leisure or business travel.

Although Airbnb is the biggest player in this market, there are a growing number of sites—now over 125—providing short-term rent listings and that number is growing every day.

There are many short-term rentals located currently in Kenton County. Most are within traditional residential neighborhoods, most of which have gone unnoticed. Some, however, have resulted in problems for neighbors. Issues of noise complaints, trash accumulations, parking violations, and a lack of occupational tax revenue has left some communities looking for ways to hold property owners more accountable.

PDS staff will continue researching best practices in the coming months and provide recommendations for communities. Contact Emi Randall or Andy Videkovich or call them at 859.331.8980 to learn more.


Planners begin public outreach for new bicycle/pedestrian plan

Posted on July 27, 2017

Kenton Connects, an update to Kenton County’s bicycle (1999) and pedestrian (2001) plans, is underway. Staff has begun its work with a public outreach effort to gather input for the upcoming study. The completed plan will include an analysis of existing bicycle and pedestrian issues and provide recommendations on how to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety in Kenton County.

The project’s website, KentonConnects.org, provides information about the study and offers options for input including an online survey and an opportunity to register to receive additional information and meeting notices about the plan. The survey is intended to help assess bicycle and pedestrian conditions in Kenton County as the study begins.

“We encourage everyone to visit the website and complete the survey,” said Chris Schneider, AICP, a PDS principal planner and project manager of the study. “The results of the survey will help guide the initial phases of the study.”

Current outreach efforts also include three bicycle and pedestrian public service announcements which have been airing on local cable television. PDS was awarded a Paula Nye Grant from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to create three bicycle and pedestrian public service announcements. These 30-second commercials focus on bicycle and pedestrian safety education and engage viewers in the Kenton Connects study.

“Bicycle and pedestrian modes of transportation have never been more popular,” says Schneider. “A big part of Kenton Connects will be helping people learn how to bike and walk safely.”

Kenton Connects will also establish benchmark goals which can be reviewed in future updates to the plan. One benchmark goal includes reviewing existing bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and identifying gaps in the current network.

Another benchmark goal is to identify bicycle and pedestrian crash locations and work towards reducing those numbers each year. The existing conditions benchmark information will be reviewed for comparison in future years as bicycle and pedestrian issues become more prevalent.

Visit KentonConnects.org to learn more, get involved and to take the survey. Contact Chris Schneider to learn more.


Summer interns and co-op students help get the work done

Posted on June 30, 2017
When you think of summer you think of going to the beach, swimming, picnics and eating al fresco. But if you’re a high school or college student you think about summer jobs or internships. PDS is supporting students this summer with employment for four special student interns.

Two of PDS’ interns have joined staff for a second time. Aileen Lawson is a student from the University of Cincinnati’s Department of Design, Art, Architecture, and Planning who is again working with the PDS’ planning staff. She says, “The Planning and Zoning department here serves such a wide variety of work, from small area studies to Kenton County Planning Commission issues to day-to-day services for all of Kenton County’s jurisdictions. My experience here has been so diverse; I’ve gotten a richer experience that will serve me well when I enter the workforce after graduation.”

Also returning is Mitchell Masarik, a recent graduate from the University of Louisville’s GIS program. He said, "When I first started at PDS last summer I was nervous and anxious as I began my first few days in the office. However, after meeting and getting to know staff members, I immediately felt at home and that I was truly part of something bigger than myself, a team, striving to give the best products and services to the customers that we serve.”

He goes on to say, “I can honestly say that thanks to PDS and its amazing staff I’m constantly putting my skills to the test in new scenarios and never feeling left out of the overall conversation of success that our team tries to deliver on a daily basis."

The other two interns are first timers to PDS. Dillion Rhodus, a GIS intern, attends Virginia Tech and is trying Cincinnati on for size with thoughts of relocating here after graduation. Many say that Cincinnati is a “hungry” city for new talent, according to Rhodus.

"I’m very excited to be working with LINK-GIS this summer. I’m eager to not only apply my skills that I've learned at Virginia Tech but also to see what I can contribute to the team and how I can grow as an individual through this opportunity,” states Dillon about his internship with PDS.

Ethan Paff, a recent graduate from Scott High School and Kenton County Academies’ Bio Medical program, is pursuing his first paid internship out of school in GIS. Ethan will be heading to Brown University in the fall. Paff said, "Having an internship means having the ability to experiment with one's own future, to walk several paths before deciding on one."

The real work and résumé builders that PDS interns are pursuing consists of many projects; addressing, land use inventories, small area studies, rights-of-way and easements, and economic development to name a few. “Having interns is essential for PDS to help us learn how to bridge our demographic gaps in reaching our audience,” said Trisha Brush, GISP, Director of GIS Administration.

While working closely with our staff, interns receive on-the-job training and knowledge. In turn, PDS gains different perspectives and fresh ideas that help bridge the generational gaps.

All in all, having interns join staff offers new energy and awareness as PDS does its share to contribute to the workforce readiness movement.

Z21; it’s all about bringing zoning codes into the 21st Century

Posted on June 30, 2017

You’re the owner of a retail business created 30 years ago. You’ve operated continuously—and successfully—under the same business plan since you first opened your doors. But, because retail today is different than back in 1987, your business is: (1) losing out on growth opportunities; (2) having difficulties in addressing new trends; and (3) finding that new fixes are only good enough to address the current problem at hand. The world has changed but you haven’t. What do you do?

Now, consider you’re an elected leader of a community. You’ve operated under a zoning ordinance that was adopted 30 years ago to guide the growth of your city. But, because citizen expectations today are different than back in 1987, your community is: (1) experiencing a surge in residential remodeling and updating in place of constructing new bigger homes; (2) receiving increasing requests for “unique and different places;” and (3) facing new calls for flexibility and efficiencies in your development review processes from businesses and developers who want to meet these new demands. The world has changed but your community hasn’t. What do you do?

The obvious answer in both scenarios is to update your plans and ways of doing business.

The second scenario is reality in most Kenton County jurisdictions. And just like in the retail business scenario, growth and development/redevelopment is sometimes hampered by outdated regulations.

PDS staff is embarking on a much-needed multi-year project to review and update many of Kenton County’s zoning ordinances. Most have served as regulatory infrastructure for nearly 40 years. And, like all aging infrastructure, they’re beginning to create problems. Almost everything has changed since the 1980s and the ordinances’ deficiencies are becoming more and more apparent.

As evidence of this point, public discussion leading to Kenton County's comprehensive plan, Direction 2030: Your Voice. Your Choice, included numerous calls for updated regulations. Those calls prompted planners to include the issue within several goals, objectives, and recommendations of that plan.

Like the efforts that created the 1980s model, this initiative will affect the county's future for years.

PDS has contracted with Rundell Ernstberger Associates out of Indianapolis to work with each of the 12 participating  jurisdictions. This collaborative process will review the current zoning ordinances and the degree to which they are meeting each jurisdictions’ development goals and those expressed in Direction 2030. It will also provide individualized reports to each jurisdiction for its review and discussion.

This information and the resulting conclusions can then be used as a guide to inform each jurisdiction where changes and updates need to occur. PDS staff will then work with each to craft tailored regulations.

The principal goal of this project, a purpose that is supported by Direction 2030, is to bring Kenton County’s zoning ordinances into the 21st Century so they can once again meet the expectations of local businesses, residents, and elected officials.


Small area study, cell tower regulations take top state honors

Posted on June 01, 2017

The Kenton County Planning Commission (KCPC) has shown once again that it is a leader in planning in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Two major PDS-managed projects won top honors from the American Planning Association Kentucky Chapter (APA-KY) in its 2017 annual planning awards competition.

Kenton County’s Regulations for Cellular Antenna Towers and Small Cell System Towers earned the Outstanding Project/Program Tool Award and the recently-adopted Villa Hills Study earned state recognition for Outstanding Achievement in a Small Jurisdiction. Both awards reflect the excellent planning efforts that were undertaken in Kenton County in 2016-2017. The two projects represented major parts of the PDS work program accomplished within the last year.

“We’re humbled that our peers selected to recognize these projects,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, Executive Director of PDS. “Our efforts are always pursued with others in mind. Whether we’re talking about the planning commission [for the cell tower regulations], the City of Villa Hills and the Benedictine Sisters [for the Villa Hills Study], or those who call Kenton County home. At the end of the day, we work to help combine ideas… to create a vision. These awards really belong to KCPC and Villa Hills.”

In response to rapid changes and growing demand of personal cell services in Kenton County, KCPC facilitated and adopted new cell tower regulations. Adopted in May 2016, these regulations represent the first update to any aspect of the regulations in nearly 15 years.

“While the personal cell service industry has advanced technology over the past 20 years, little has been done locally or statewide to address these changes,” said Andy Videkovich, AICP, PDS’ current planning manager. “KCPC recognized the paradigm shift coming and responded. It was critical to take the lead on this issue.”

The regulations were developed over a six-month period under the guidance of the planning commission. The process included input from Kenton County jurisdictions and industry experts. Through careful planning and involving many stakeholders, the resulting cell tower regulations are meeting the expectations and goals that the planning commission set out to address.

“Several jurisdictions outside of Kenton County have used components of KCPC’s regulations in their efforts,” Videkovich added.

The Villa Hills Study was a 15-month planning process that examined some of the last land within Villa Hills suitable for improvements. The planning process reviewed 240 acres within the predominantly built out community and crafted recommendations for strategic change. The final plan is different because its planning horizon is only few years rather than the several decades traditional plans examine.

The Villa Hills Study is currently moving towards implementation. The Benedictine Sisters of Covington, the major property owner in the study area, closed a request for proposals window for the sale of the property in April 2017. The Sisters are currently working through the proposals to determine the future of the site. PDS staff anticipates working with the new property owner and the city on any necessary zoning amendments in the coming months.

“We look forward to continuing this award-winning standard for all our future efforts. Even if those projects aren’t recognized formally, we see it as our responsibility to provide our communities and residents with the same standard of work,” Gordon concluded.

 



Staff preps for bicycle/pedestrian plan; grant will pay for outreach efforts

Posted on May 04, 2017
Initial steps are being taken now for a completely new bicycle and pedestrian plan for Kenton County. Preparation and preliminary research for the upcoming study has been ongoing. The public side of the study is scheduled to begin in the coming weeks and is anticipated to take about 12 months to complete. The resulting plan will replace plans adopted in 1999 and 2001.

Goals of the upcoming study include analyzing the county’s existing bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, identifying problematic crash locations, and recommending policy changes to improve bicycle and pedestrian use, safety, and access in Kenton County.

“It’s been almost 20 years since bicycle and pedestrian transportation has been reviewed,” said James Fausz, AICP, PDS’ long range planning manager. “Since that time, people have become more aware of these transportation options and chosen them more frequently for everything from recreation to daily commuting. Our goal is to make these options safer for people who want to use them.”

Coinciding with the start of the study is an outreach effort to promote education and awareness of bicycle and pedestrian safety. This effort was aided by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet with a generous $10,000 Paula Nye Grant.

The grant is funded through citizen donations during the purchase or renewal of the “Share the Road” license plates and is awarded annually to organizations interested in informing and educating Kentuckians on bicycle and pedestrian transportation. The grant will fund an outreach effort including public service announcements designed to educate the public on how they can be safe as cyclists and pedestrians.

“Bicycle and pedestrian transportation are an increasingly viable options in Kenton County,” said Chris Schneider, AICP, a principal planner at PDS and project manager for the study. “Educating the public to be safe cyclists and pedestrians is essential to continue this growth.”

The public service announcements will air on local cable television and will encourage public involvement and raise awareness for the upcoming bicycle and pedestrian study.

The adoption of the Direction 2030: Your Voice. Your Choice. comprehensive plan in 2014 recommended a comprehensive review and update of the existing bicycle and pedestrian plans. The comprehensive plan details the community’s vision for Kenton County and updating the bicycle and pedestrian plan is one step in achieving that vision.

To learn more about this study, get involved, and/or receive updates about its progress, visit the Direction 2030 Action website or contact Schneider.


After 12 years’ success, ‘One Stop Shop’ slated for major changes

Posted on May 04, 2017

PDS’ groundbreaking One Stop Shop Codes Administration Program (OSS) turned 12 years old this fiscal year. What started in FY05 as an experiment in consolidating several services and standardizing fees for seven Kenton County jurisdictions now provides numerous services for 17 jurisdictions funded by public and private dollars.

This growth in services provided, jurisdictions served, and the passage of 12 years prompted a wholesale review of the program and the manner in which it is funded. Dubbed “OSS 2.0,” the resulting changes represent the first program overhaul since the program began. OSS allows jurisdictions to provide services to their residents utilizing PDS as their professional staff. These changes become effective July 1, 2017.

These services include building and electric permits and inspections, zoning reviews and permits, enforcement of several property and nuisance codes, and staff support for code enforcement board and boards of adjustment.

Under OSS 2.0, service options for local jurisdictions have been revamped to provide greater flexibility by allowing each jurisdiction to choose the specific service options that meet its needs. Services were bundled into service packages previously that did not always provide a perfect fit. To provide those services under the new program, jurisdictions will be billed a percentage of PDS’ actual costs to provide the service. The percentages vary from zero to 55% depending on the specific type of service.

Beginning July 1, each jurisdiction will pay the same percentage rate for the same specific service. For example, each jurisdiction may receive zoning permits for 0% of PDS’ cost or code enforcement utilizing the Kenton County Joint Code Enforcement Board for 40% of PDS’ costs. Under the previous program, jurisdictions were billed a percentage rate based on the selected service bundle, which meant jurisdictions may pay a different rate for the same service.

“One of the primary goals with these program changes was to get jurisdictions contributing more fairly toward the program,” says Emi Randall, AICP, RLA, Director of Planning and Zoning. “This program does that.”

Another key goal with these changes was to keep program costs and revenue from billing to jurisdictions constant for the program overall. Estimated billing under the new program, as based on this year’s billing, would be within 0.5% of billing under the current program.

“This really is a revenue neutral change,” says Dennis Gordon, FAICP, PDS’ executive director. “Some jurisdictions that currently pay little or nothing toward the program will begin contributing a small amount. Some jurisdictions that currently contribute heavily will pay less.”

PDS is offering several new services under OSS 2.0 to meet the changing needs of local jurisdictions. For communities that would like to pursue code violations more aggressively, PDS will begin offering that option. PDS will provide a code enforcement officer to drive the community and pursue various violation on an active basis, such as tall grass and weeds, garbage accumulation or improperly parked boats and campers.

Jurisdictions will designate the amount of time to be spent on these activities and the specific types of violations—if any—to be pursued. In addition, PDS will also offer help with rental property inspections associated with rental license programs as well as verification inspections for jurisdiction that have abandoned property tax programs.

To learn more about One Stop Shop, visit the PDS website or contact Emi Randall or Rob Himes, Codes Administrator.

 


GIS, Planning directors speak to national audience on collaboration

Posted on March 07, 2017
The PDS planning and GIS teams were recognized recently at a national conference in California for their smart planning practices. Emi Randall, AICP, RLA, Planning Director and Trisha Brush, GISP, Director of GIS were asked to present on new approaches to planning and geodesign, that utilizes the power of spatial planning, web apps and maps.

The Geodesign Summit is an annual gathering of professionals seeking to use geospatial technologies by planning to arrive at the best design solutions.

Randall and Brush showcased recent projects in their presentation on which their teams have worked together over the last several years; including Direction 2030, site readiness and NKYmapLAB. The presentation featured PDS and LINK-GIS efforts in using collaborative analysis to inform local decision makers and ignite discussions on important issues. These initiatives were enriched by harnessing the power of dynamic maps and other multimedia content to tell a story.

“I believe our presentation was well received by the audience of over 200 attendees. Showing how Kenton County is bringing planning and GIS together to impact the community is powerful,” states Randall.

Brush appreciated the opportunity to share NKYmapLAB projects such as Plan4Health and Walkability with the attendees; excellent examples that demonstrate the planning and geodesign aspects of PDS.

By using multimedia technology and collaborative efforts PDS is leading data driven discussions among elected officials and citizens to tell Kenton County’s story.

What story could your community tell by using planning and GIS together to design a shared best solution?

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