Planning & Zoning

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Zoning for the 21st Century videos

Posted on January 30, 2018
Kenton County’s 19 zoning ordinances were developed during the early 1980s based on a “model” ordinance crafted by PDS’ predecessor organization. Except for the City of Covington which rewrote its ordinance during the mid-2000s, these ordinances have not been updated in a comprehensive manner since then.

Most of these ordinances continue to regulate with their original administrative policies and protocols. While close to 80 percent of their texts remain nearly identical, individual differences have been pursued by local governments in the form of over 700 text amendments just since 2000. Almost all of these were undertaken on a reactionary basis, addressing new development trends or specific issues that were unique to them.

The Kenton County Planning Commission adopted Direction 2030: Your Voice, Your Choice, the county’s comprehensive plan, in 2014. This was the first wholesale rewriting of the communities’ comprehensive plan since their first was adopted in the early 1970s. The process that led to this new plan included over 100 opportunities for input from the public, staff from the county and cities, elected officials, developers, and other interested parties. Numerous goals, objectives, recommendations, and tasks resulted from that input, voicing the need for updating the various jurisdictions’ zoning ordinances.

PDS embarked on a project in 2016 to accomplish this—to create Zoning for the 21st Century (Z21).

Part 1: The Zoning Code Audit
Part 1 of this 3-part series summarizes PDS’ consultant team’s approach to the zoning audit process and what it looked for when it reviewed Kenton County’s zoning ordinances. This process resulted in detailed recommendations for updating those ordinances. (The full presentation was presented originally to the Z21 Task Force on June 20, 2017.)

Part 2: Analysis and Overall Recommendations
Part 2 of this 3-part series explains the consultant team’s 30,000-foot-view recommendations for Kenton County’s zoning ordinances. These recommendations were based on the team’s analysis as described in Part 1. (The full presentation was presented originally to the Z21 Task Force on September 20, 2017.)

Part 3: Detailed Recommendations
Part 3 of this 3-part series describes the consultant team’s detailed recommendations for Kenton County’s zoning ordinances. These recommendations build on the 30,000-foot-view recommendations discussed in Part 2. (The full presentation was presented originally to the Z21 Task Force on January 17, 2018.)

Crescent Springs working to implement planning study

Posted on January 25, 2018
Crescent Springs City Council is working with PDS staff to implement a key section of the 2010 Crescent Springs Gateway Study. The plan, which contains numerous recommendations on topics like streetscape to transportation, is currently being used by the city to focus on instituting zoning changes to promote economic development.

Implementation discussions began last summer to review the plan’s recommended land uses and to work towards implementing zoning revisions. Those conversations highlighted the need for more flexibility in the area through zoning for a mix of uses. City officials felt existing regulations in the area were too numerous and restrictive, leading to underutilized land. The proposed amendments will help to address issues in the area that were first formally noted in the 2010 plan.

“Working with city officials to implement some of the plan’s land use recommendations has been a great experience,” said Alex Koppelman, PDS Associate Planner. “The Mixed Commercial Zone encourages development and redevelopment with flexible regulations, allowing for a mix of commercial retail, service, and office uses while also accommodating existing residential uses.”


The city’s amendments will consolidate zoning into two zones: Mixed Commercial (MC) and Industrial Park (IP). The MC zone will include most of the uses already permitted in the current zones, lower parking minimums, and establish consistent setback and landscaping requirements. It will also allow existing single-family homes to remain in the area without facing issues of non-conformity. There are eight zoning districts currently within the approximate 44-acre area, including residential to highway commercial to office.

“It’s always exciting to see our longer-term planning efforts coming to fruition,” said James Fausz, AICP, Long Range Planning Manager for PDS. “I worked on this project during the initial study and remember the area was a challenge with lots of uses in several zones. These draft changes have the potential to provide some much-needed flexibility to allow for a more straightforward approach.”

The amendments were provided with favorable recommendations by the Kenton County Planning Commission after two public hearings. The city has adopted the text amendment to establish the MC Zone and expects to adopt the corresponding map amendment next month.

For more information about the proposed amendment, email Alex Koppelman or call him at 859.331.8980.

Work progresses on Kenton County’s bicycle/pedestrian plan

Posted on November 27, 2017

Over 400 citizens took time recently to provide their thoughts on the future of active transportation in Kenton County through an online survey. The survey was part of the public engagement portion of Kenton Connects, a study to assess bicycle and pedestrian conditions, discover potential issues, and begin to define priorities for an update of Kenton County’s bicycle and pedestrian plan.

While staff is still working on a detailed analysis, preliminary results of the survey show safety, connectivity, access, and convenience as the major themes and important issues.

“Our advisory committee will examine each of the topics as the project enters its next phase,” said Chris Schneider, AICP, a principal planner at PDS and project manager for the study. “The results will help guide the next phases of the project and provide direction moving forward.”

The survey was promoted across multiple platforms including public service announcements on Spectrum cable television, social media outreach, distribution through local jurisdiction emails and newsletters, and providing paper copies and flyers at numerous locations across the community.

“We received great feedback from the community,” Schneider continued. “We know more now about people’s biking and walking habits… and a good picture of their safety concerns.”

Complete results from the survey will be available soon on the Kenton Connects website.

Research on crashes, bicycle counts, and sidewalk and bicycle facility connectivity are just some of the many topics that have been examined already throughout the county. Identifying and understanding Kenton County’s existing infrastructure and safety conditions will facilitate more informed decisions and recommendations when creating the plan.

The next phase of the project will begin setting benchmark goals based on existing conditions and survey information. These goals will be used to create measurables that can be reviewed in the future to evaluate success and help implement future policy and planning decisions.

To stay up to date on the bicycle and pedestrian plan, visit KentonConnects.org to learn more and to join the project email list. Email Chris Schneider or call him at 859.331.8980 with questions or for more information.


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.

 



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