Planning & Zoning

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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?

Villa Hills Council adopts study 6-0, sends plan to planning commission

Posted on March 07, 2017
Another step toward the completion of the Villa Hills Study was achieved on January 18, 2017 when the Villa Hills City Council unanimously voted, six to zero, to adopt the plan. The City of Villa Hills, the Benedictine Sisters of Covington, Kentucky, Inc. and PDS have been working for more than a year on the study and it is now nearing its completion.

The Kenton County Planning Commission (KCPC) will now consider adopting the plan as an updated part of the Direction 2030: Your Voice. Your Choice comprehensive plan at their March 2, 2017 meeting. This project is the first small area study undertaken since the adoption of the Direction 2030 comprehensive plan in September 2014.

The task force that guided the study met on January 11, 2017 and approved the plan, which was then presented to the Villa Hills City Council for their consideration.

“It has been a unique and rewarding experience participating with the task force and I am pleased that everyone’s hard work resulted in a unanimous decision by council,” said Craig Bohman, City Administrator/Clerk for Villa Hills.
 
Two weeks prior to the Villa Hills Council meeting, a second public meeting/open house was held at River Ridge Elementary School, which displayed the results from the study. This provided the attendees an opportunity to see an overview of the final plan and give their thoughts on the document. Around 150 people attended the meeting and valuable feedback was obtained from the participants. The first public meeting held in May 2016 attracted nearly 250 participants.

“Turnout at both meetings was outstanding,” said James Fausz, AICP, Long Range Planning Manager at PDS and the Project Manager for the study. “The Villa Hills community definitely is interested in the project and what the future holds for the site.”

The comments and information gathered were used to help guide the decisions of the task force as they finalized the plan. The Villa Hills Study is currently in the approval phases of the project and should be completed in the coming weeks.

If you are interested in learning more about the project and/or getting updates about its progress, visit the city’s website or contact Craig Bohman at 859.331.1515.


Villa Hills task force, staff schedule open house for planning study

Posted on January 03, 2017

The City of Villa Hills, the Benedictine Sisters of Covington, Kentucky, Inc., and PDS are nearing the completion of the Villa Hills Small Area Study after nearly a year’s work. The result of that work will be displayed and explained during an open house on January 4, 2017 from 6:30 until 8:00 p.m.

The meeting will be held in the River Ridge Elementary School cafeteria (2772 Amsterdam Road). City residents may come and go at any time during the 90-minute timeframe.

The group collaborated since early 2016 on a detailed study of land on and around the Saint Walburg Monastery property in Villa Hills. The study culminates in a plan that includes recommendations on mobility, land use, and community facilities for the site. 

A task force overseeing the study held a public meeting at the beginning of summer to learn from the community their ideas and desires for the site. Since that public meeting, the task force has worked towards developing direction for the plan and refining recommendations for the site.

Members of the Task Force also sought the expert advice of regional developers, with the goal of gathering insight and understanding regarding the types of development that would be appropriate for the site. Staff conducted interviews with regional developers and the information gathered through this process was used by the task force to help guide the direction of the final plan.  

“The interviews with regional developers allowed task force members to view the site from a developer’s perspective and get a good grasp on what may be feasible on the site”, said Craig Bohman, City Administrator/Clerk for Villa Hills. Information from the developer interviews, the public meeting, and market study were all used by the task force to help guide the direction of the study.

The task force consists of Villa Hills elected officials, city employees, citizens, Saint Walburg representatives, and Madonna Manor officials. The group worked with PDS from the beginning to provide guidance for the plan and help be a voice for the larger community.

If you are interested in learning more about the project and/or getting updates about its progress, visit the city’s website or contact Bohman at 859.341.1515


Bike/Pedestrian study about to begin; will become part of comp plan

Posted on January 03, 2017

PDS staff began preliminary research recently in preparation for updating Kenton County’s plans for bicycle and pedestrian transportation. Work on the actual study will begin in earnest next month and take roughly 12 months to complete. It will replace plans adopted in 1999 and 2002.

The Kenton County Planning Commission and its 20 local governments utilize two plans currently related to active transportation. The bicycle plan was updated last in 1999 and the pedestrian plan in 2002. Neither subject was covered at length in Direction 2030. Your Voice. Your Choice.—the community’s comprehensive plan.

“These stand-alone plans no longer reflect the needs and issues affecting Kenton County’s bicycle and pedestrian modes of transportation,” said Emi Randall, AICP, RLS, Director of Planning and Zoning at PDS. “And, with growing demand for walkability and healthy lifestyles, now is the time to update these plans.”

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet aided this effort with a $10,000 Paula Nye Grant to improve safety of non-motorized transportation. As recipient of the grant, PDS will use these funds to educate the public, increase awareness of bicycle and pedestrian safety issues, and raise awareness of the countywide planning effort through a public service announcement campaign.

“Awareness of bicycle and pedestrian safety in Kenton County is becoming an important issue as these modes of transportation become more popular and the demand for these facilities increases,” said Randall.

Comments received during the Direction 2030 planning process were incorporated into the plan’s Statement of Goals and Objectives and Mobility elements of the comprehensive plan. The current bicycle/pedestrian study will be adopted into the plan once it’s completed.

As part of the study, PDS staff will study existing conditions and identify issues and concerns with Kenton County’s existing bicycle and pedestrian system. Goals for the plan include inventorying existing bicycle and pedestrian amenities such as bike lanes, bike routes, walking paths, and signage; and, improving the community’s bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

Adoption of Direction 2030 in September 2014 completed a two-year long process of research and public engagement, ultimately crafting the community’s vision for Kenton County. The adoption of the comprehensive plan was just one of many steps in making that vision become a reality for Kenton County.

If you’re interested in learning more about this study, getting involved, and/or receiving updates about its progress, visit the Direction 2030 Action website or contact Chris Schneider, AICP, Principal Planner.

PDS hosts autonomous vehicle seminar for area wide audience

Posted on January 03, 2017

“The future ain’t what it used to be.” -Yogi Berra

PDS and the Kentucky Chapter of the American Planning Association hosted an autonomous vehicle seminar earlier this month. The session began a discussion of how this advancing technology might change planning practice in Northern Kentucky. More than 30 city officials, planning professionals, and citizens from the eight-county region attended.

The event was one of the first in the region to look at how today’s vision of the future is starting to change how we interact with automobiles.

The discussion was facilitated by three professionals from Columbus, Ohio who have researched the topic extensively and presented to groups across the country. Two planners from OHM Advisors, Justin Robbins, AICP, and Jason Sudy, AICP, along with Rick Stein, AICP, of Urban Decision Group, formed the Urban Mobility Research Center to study the impacts that autonomous vehicles will have on our cities.

 “We’re nearing the end of a massive 70-year development experiment, with a new one about to begin,” said Justin Robbins, AICP. “We’ve created our cities around a specific transportation model, and the introduction of autonomous vehicles will fundamentally disrupt how that current system functions.”

The new technology will have an effect on every person who either drives or rides in a vehicle to get from place to place. With such a high potential impact, the subject is starting to gather the attention of decision makers as well.

“This technology is coming, sooner than later, and it has the potential to impact how we design our infrastructure,” said Brian Dehner, City Administrator for Edgewood. “We could construct narrower streets and not require as many parking spaces. This frees up land for additional economic development and green space. We need to get ahead of this and begin to evaluate this technology and be a region that invites the technology.”

“Autonomous vehicles will not only change how we get from place to place, but also how our cities function. And it will be happening a lot sooner than people think,” said Jason Sudy, AICP, one of the presenters at the event. “For example, significant changes to our roadway infrastructure, public transit services, and our development pattern will all come from the widespread adoption of this technology.”

The well-attended event indicates people are starting to accept the concept and take it more seriously.

“Three or four years ago when we were working on the Kenton County Transportation Study and Direction 2030 comprehensive plan, there were a lot of blank stares or chuckles when I brought up the idea of autonomous vehicles,” said James Fausz, AICP, Long Range Planning Manager for PDS, APA-KY Region 4 Representative, and organizer of the event.

“People used to think this technology was in the distant future at best, but just a few years later that isn’t the case. Today there are cars with driver assist features that are semi-autonomous and Teslas have been able to drive themselves since 2015. Within ten years we very well may see more autonomous vehicles on the road than those being driven by people,” said Fausz.

“What people tend to forget is that technology progresses on an exponential scale. You can’t get a good sense of its trajectory by looking backwards, because the pace of innovation is always accelerating,” said Rick Stein, AICP, during the presentation.

Autonomous-style features like forward automatic emergency braking, lane departure correction, and blind spot monitoring are available now on numerous auto brands and are precursors to full automation.

“As people become more familiar with these technologies, full automation will likely seem like a small step rather than a giant leap,” Sudy added.


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