Planning & Zoning

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House Bill 422 means big changes for local code enforcement

Posted on June 07, 2016

House Bill 422—an act relating to local code enforcement—was signed into law by Governor Matt Bevin on April 9th; the bill’s provisions take effect January 1, 2017. With this bill come several important changes to the code enforcement process across the commonwealth. PDS staff are working diligently to make sure each of the cities who depend on PDS for code enforcement are prepared for Day 1 of the new regulations.

“We’re pleased that this bill made it through this year’s session,” stated Dennis Gordon, FAICP, executive director of PDS. “Our code inspection program has come a long way over the past ten years but it’s been limited in what it can accomplish due to the fragmented structure of Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) as it’s codified today. This bill changes all that.”

First, the bill consolidates code enforcement provisions, including nuisance codes, under one chapter, KRS 65.8801 to 66.8839. Under the current scheme, provisions can be found in KRS 82.700 to 82.725 (abatement of nuisances), KRS 381.770 (abatement of nuisance) and KRS 65.8801 to 65.8839 (code enforcement boards).

This consolidation clarifies the authority of code enforcement boards to enforce all civil offences, including zoning and nuisance codes. In addition, the new law authorizes code enforcement boards to fulfill the duties of a vacant property review commission, to review and certify vacant properties as blighted or deteriorated.

Second, the bill extends lien priority provisions to all code enforcement violations, including civil and zoning code violations, not just nuisance code violations. Code enforcement liens will take precedence over all other liens, except state, county, school board and city taxes. However, in order to obtain and maintain this lien priority, local governments must implement a system for notification to lienholders and allow lienholders a timeframe to remediate or abate violations.

Newly created KRS 65.8801 to 65.8839 requires the creation of a lienholder notification system, or registry, to allow lienholders to receive information on final orders and requires the local government to send out an electronic mail notification on a monthly basis to those who have registered to receive notifications. Under the legislation adopted by the General Assembly, the lienholder has 45 days from the date of notification to correct the violation or elect to pay fines.

PDS will provide the lienholder registry service for its joint code enforcement board jurisdictions to ensure compliance with the new legislation. PDS will also pursue this as an opportunity to combine the administration of the lienholder registry with the administration of a Vacant Foreclose Property Registry, for better communication and increased compliance for properties during the foreclosure process.

PDS initiated its current code enforcement program in late 2005 with nine jurisdictions. Since then, the program has grown to include service to 15 jurisdictions and staff support to five code enforcement boards. One of those boards—the Kenton County Joint Code Enforcement Board—serves 11 jurisdictions.

“These changes to state law will certainly help us support local property owners who seek an end to code violations in their neighborhoods,” said Gordon. “The changes will also give code enforcement boards the ability to pursue a number of different violations for their communities so long as they’re considered civil cases. That’s certainly going to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of these local boards.”

Stay tuned for more information from PDS on these changes in services to be provided.


Planners pick up national award for Direction 2030 plan

Posted on June 07, 2016

PDS’ planning and zoning director Emi Randall, AICP, RLA, and senior planner James Fausz, AICP, brought home a very special souvenir from the recent National Planning Conference of the American Planning Association (APA): a national award for the county’s recently-adopted comprehensive plan.

Direction 2030: Your Voice. Your Choice—was the 2016 recipient of a national Award of Excellence in the Comprehensive Plan – Large Jurisdiction category. The award was one of several accolades granted to planning projects from across the nation by the American Planning Association (APA), County Planning Division, and its sister organization the National Association of County Planners.

The award was presented April 4 during the APA National Conference in Phoenix, Arizona.

“This recognition was a nice surprise,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, executive director of Planning and Development Services of Kenton County (PDS). PDS provides professional staff support to the Kenton County Planning Commission, the board ultimately responsible for crafting and adopting the county’s comprehensive plan.

“The award recognizes the hard work by members of the planning commission, citizens and interest groups from across Kenton County, and of course staff who put in countless months on the project. This plan was truly a collaborative effort,” said Gordon.

The Kenton County Planning Commission adopted the community’s first comprehensive plan in 1972 and incorporated updates every five years thereafter according to Kentucky law. The combined 26.2-pound, 12.5-inch-thick behemoth influenced land use decisions until the Great Recession established a ‘New Normal.’

The diverse group of participants developed its replacement—Direction 2030: Your Voice. Your Choice.—through an aggressive three-year public engagement process. That process accomplished what many thought previously would be impossible: to build consensus among all 20 of the county’s local governments, their 126 elected officials, and their 20 planning commission members.

They grounded the plan in research provided by a national market analyst, most of it from sources bankers use for reviewing development-financing strategies. This established the plan as a unique resource for near-term development proposals and a baseline for state-mandated five-year updates.

Stakeholders played a critical role in crafting a number of its innovative policies. Their opposition to broad recommendations prompted planners to divide the county into four subareas—urban, firstring suburb, suburban, and rural—to reflect the community’s diversity. Policies are based now on the differing lifestyles found across these subareas.

The participants advocated for an easy-to-use final product. Planners responded with an online comprehensive plan (direction2030.org) that documents the plan’s creation, delivers guidance to anyone anywhere 24/7/365, and incorporates GIS technologies to entice users to interact with its contents.

The groups also called for accountability to assure that the plan’s objectives would be implemented. The PDS staff created a second website (action.direction2030.org) to keep participants and stakeholders up to date with information from the various implementation efforts being undertaken by the planning commission and others across the community.

This national award follows an Award of Merit for an Outstanding Comprehensive Plan given last year by the Kentucky Chapter of the American Planning Association.

Each year the American Planning Association’s County Planning Division and the National Association of County Planners gives out County Planning Project Awards. There are two types of awards, Awards of Excellence and Awards of Merit. There are seven categories of awards; Planning Project, Comprehensive Plan – Large Jurisdiction, Comprehensive Plan – Small Jurisdiction, Best Practices, Grass Roots Initiative, Small Area/Special Area Planning, and Special Focus Planning Initiative – Senior Livability.

Only one Award of Excellence and one Award of Merit may be granted per category each year. If the awards jury finds that none of the nominations in a particular category meets the desirable standards, they may withhold the award in that category for that year.

“This recognition, without question, goes ultimately to the countless residents who came out to express their hopes and dreams for Kenton County’s future. Much more than merely a title, Direction 2030: Your Voice. Your Choice. really did represent the ultimate goal for our process and our final product,” concluded Gordon. “We couldn’t be prouder that our collaborative efforts are being held up as a model.”

“Thank you, Kenton County!”


Villa Hills encourages new development through small area study

Posted on June 07, 2016

Adoption of Direction 2030, the county’s award-winning comprehensive plan, didn’t end PDS’ efforts to plan for the county’s future; it focused it on new goals and objectives. The current Villa Hills study is an in-depth analysis of the St. Walburg Monastery property in Villa Hills and a case in point. When complete, the small area plan will provide detailed recommendations for this undeveloped portion of the city and amend the comprehensive plan’s recommended land use map.

PDS staff began the planning effort earlier this year on behalf of the Benedictine Sisters of Covington, Kentucky, Inc. and the City of Villa Hills. The sisters, who have been a presence on the same site in Villa Hills for over 110 years, have recently been contemplating their retirement funding.

While they intend to stay on a large part of their property, they are preparing to sell approximately 80 mostly-vacant acres. They decided early in their deliberations to plan for the future rather than just putting a “for sale” sign out on the street; they want to provide a long-lasting contribution to the community.

“We have a great opportunity right now to do something special for the city and its residents,” explained Sr. Mary Catherine Wenstrup, Prioress of St. Walburg Monastery. “While selling a portion of our property is going to fund our retirement, we want to do so in a way that is beneficial to the city and our neighbors. After all, we’re staying here so whatever happens to the west of us impacts our lives as well.”

PDS staff began in January to research existing conditions on the site and manage the overall study. At the same time, efforts began with two additional studies to research specific aspects of the site. A market consultant was selected to look at the site’s potential for various types of land uses and determine which had the most potential for success in the community.

Likewise, a transportation study was initiated to examine existing conditions of the community’s roadways and plan for potential upgrades that might be needed.

A public meeting was held recently to inform the public of the research conducted to date and converse with attendees regarding their concerns and ideas for the future of the site. The meeting, held on May 9th at River Ridge Elementary School, was attended by approximately 250 people that wanted to learn more about the study.

“We had a great turnout for the meeting,” commented James Fausz, AICP, a PDS senior planner and project manager for the study. “In all my years with PDS we’ve never had the kind of attendance we received for this meeting. We’re very fortunate that so many people care about what’s going on in their community and came out to learn and provide input.”

Currently, staff is working to sort through hundreds of responses provided during the meeting. Those will then be taken to the task force overseeing the project for its consideration as the study moves forward into the recommendations phase. A second public meeting is anticipated later this summer to provide details about the plan’s recommendations.

If you are interested in learning more about the project and getting updates about its progress, visit the project’s website or the city’s website.


Direction 2030 comprehensive plan earns national award

Posted on March 24, 2016

Kenton County’s new comprehensive plan—Direction 2030: Your Voice. Your Choiceis the 2016 recipient of a national Award of Excellence in the Comprehensive Plan – Large Jurisdiction category. The award is one of several accolades granted to planning projects from across the nation by the American Planning Association (APA) County Planning Division and its sister organization, the National Association of County Planners. The award will be presented on April 4 during the APA National Conference in Phoenix, Arizona.

“This recognition was a nice surprise,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, executive director of Planning and Development Services of Kenton County (PDS). PDS provides professional staff support to the Kenton County Planning Commission, the board ultimately responsible for crafting and adopting the comprehensive plan.

“Being acknowledged with the respect of your peers is outstanding. In this case, though, it recognizes the fact that this plan was the result of hard work by members of the planning commission, citizens and interest groups from across the county, and of course our staff. This plan was truly a collaborative effort,” said Gordon.

Direction 2030: Your Voice. Your Choice. was crafted through an aggressive three-year public engagement process. The plan was grounded in research provided by a national market analyst, most of it from sources bankers use for reviewing development-financing strategies.

Planners and technical experts from PDS’ GIS team then went to work crafting an entirely new concept for content delivery. The final plan (direction2030.org)—there is no printed product—documents its creation, delivers guidance to anyone anywhere 24/7/365, and incorporates GIS technologies to entice users to interact with its contents.

Shortly after the plan’s adoption, PDS planners and GIS professionals created a second website (action.direction2030.org) to keep participants and stakeholders up to date with information from the various implementation efforts being undertaken by the planning commission and others across the community.

This national award follows an Award of Merit for an Outstanding Comprehensive Plan given last year by the Kentucky Chapter of the American Planning Association.

Each year the American Planning Association’s County Planning Division and the National Association of County Planners gives out County Planning Project Awards. Only one Award of Excellence and one Award of Merit may be granted per category each year. If the awards jury finds that none of the nominations in a particular category meets the desirable standards, they may withhold the award in that category for that year.

“This recognition, without question, goes ultimately to the countless residents who came out to express their hopes and dreams for Kenton County’s future. Much more than merely a title, Direction 2030: Your Voice. Your Choice. really did represent the ultimate goal for our process and our final product,” concluded Gordon. “We couldn’t be prouder that our collaborative efforts are being held up as a model.”

“Thank you Kenton County!”


Officials work toward countywide foreclosed property registration

Posted on March 04, 2016

PDS staff, working closely with the Kenton County Attorney’s staff, is proposing a county-wide foreclosed vacant properties registration ordinance. If approved by the Fiscal Court, the ordinance would increase the efficiency and effectiveness of code enforcement throughout Kenton County.

The resulting registry would save tax dollars for Kenton County’s 20 local jurisdictions by requiring properties that are in the foreclosure process to name a responsible party to maintain the vacant property. It would also go a long way toward precluding frustrations felt by owners of properties neighboring foreclosed sites, according to Dennis Gordon, FAICP, PDS’ executive director.

Vacant foreclosed properties drag down property values in otherwise well-kept neighborhoods. An estimated 1,100 properties throughout Kenton County were in foreclosure during 2015. Most of these properties sat vacant and unmaintained through all or part of the foreclosure process. The proposed ordinance provides code enforcement officials with a mechanism to require that these properties be maintained to reasonable standards while in foreclosure.

PDS staff provides code enforcement staff for 16 of Kenton County’s 20 local governments. Although the other four pursue other means for code enforcement within their jurisdictions, they would still benefit from the proposed ordinance since its coverage would be countywide.

Foreclosed vacant properties registration ordinances have been proven a useful tool for other communities both in the metro region and across the country. In developing the proposed ordinance, PDS staff sought information from communities which have adopted vacant property registration programs.

“The benefit at the office level is allowing faster turnaround times for property clean up,” said Joseph Parson, Planning/Building Inspector for the City of Morehead, which enacted a vacant property registration ordinance in 2011.

The City of Cincinnati issued a report two years after adopting that city’s vacant foreclosed property registration which details the changes in code enforcement effectiveness before and after adoption. It states that prior to adoption of the ordinance, an estimated 20 to 30 percent of foreclosed properties degraded in condition during the foreclosure period. Within the first year after adoption, only ten percent of foreclosed properties degraded in condition. That number dropped to 4.5 percent in the second year of enforcement. Those are “compelling numbers” according to Gordon.

The cost of administering the proposed ordinance will fall entirely to the banks and lending institutions responsible for maintenance of these foreclosed properties. Registration will also reduce costs related to code enforcement activities by increasing staff efficiency in dealing with vacant, foreclosed properties.

“Requiring a local contact for these properties will allow us to contact a person who has the authority to address issues such as tall grass or maintenance violations in a timely manner” says Rob Himes, PDS’ codes administrator. “Under the current system, code enforcement officials’ only option is to mail a violation letter to a faraway lending institution, which rarely yield results.” 

At the request of Kenton County Fiscal Court, PDS has reached out to the municipalities to determine if this ordinance would be of benefit to them.

Contact Emi Randall, Director of Planning & Zoning Administration, or Rob Himes, Codes Administrator, at 859.331.8980 for more information.

Regional ‘Food Summit’ to bring groups together on healthy food issues

Posted on March 04, 2016

Save the date Monday, March 28th! Eat Healthy NKY is holding a Food Summit at Turkey Foot Middle School from 3:00 to 8:00 PM showcasing healthy eating habits, local food production, and food preparation in our region.

“We’re really excited to be organizing this event,” said Michael Ionna, AICP, a PDS principal planner.  “Our guests can expect an open house with information booths covering a wide variety of topics important to our local food system—from production and distribution to consumption and food waste.”

The summit will cover several topics like how to eat healthy on the go, where to purchase local food, the benefits school and community gardens, and what is food policy and how can it improve our community’s quality of life. Speakers and panel discussions will be featured throughout the event.

“Attendees should plan on bringing their appetites,” explained Emi Randall, AICP, PDS’ director of planning and zoning. “Part of what we want people to see is that eating healthier can include eating delicious food. The cuisine provided will highlight food production in our region utilizing a variety of ingredients and products produced by local artisans and farmers.”

The event is also family friendly. A kids’ zone will be available from 5:00 to 8 PM and will feature a variety of fun activities including a seed starting booth hosted by the UK Agriculture Extension Office. Additionally, the Northern Kentucky Health Department’s mascot will be at the event and guests are encouraged to let the world know they are at the event!

“We have a full slate of events scheduled for the evening so no matter when you attend there will be something exciting going on,” Ionna continued. “Ultimately, the goal of the event is to reach as many people as possible and provide them with a positive experience where they can educate themselves about food system issues and of course, enjoy some tasty chow while doing so!”

Full details for the event and registration is available online at this Evenbrite.com webpage. Because of the large turnout expected, space is limited so make sure that you reserve your place by registering early.

The event is being sponsored by Eat Healthy NKY, an outreach campaign to educate members of the public about healthy food options. To learn more about this initiative, click here.

Done! OKI Board approves final section of KY 536 corridor alignment

Posted on March 04, 2016

The KY 536 Scoping Study, begun by the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments in fall 2014, was adopted last month on a unanimous vote by the OKI Board of Directors. The vote was the last action step necessary to identify the full alignment for improvement of the corridor across Boone, Kenton, and Campbell Counties.

OKI launched this study to identify the transportation issues in this corridor that need to be addressed in order to improve access, mobility and safe travel while enhancing the economic vitality of the region. The goal of the KY 536 Scoping Study was to reach consensus on a recommended alternative for the corridor from KY 17 to the Licking River.

The improvement plan recommended by the study’s project development team—which echoed the public’s responses—is the off-alignment option. This alternative follows the existing KY 536 east from KY 17 and shifts north onto a new segment as it approaches KY 16 to realign with KY 536 near Maverick Road. This shift redirects traffic north of White’s Tower Elementary School in accordance with feedback received from the public.

The alternative then follows the existing KY 536 until one-half mile west of Staffordsburg Road where it veers north onto a new alignment connecting directly with the existing Visalia Bridge. Between KY 17 and Staffordsburg Road Connector, this alternative is a three-lane road. From the Staffordsburg Road Connector to the Campbell County line, this alternative become a two-lane road, with the exception of an 11-foot climbing lane that would be constructed to assist trucks traveling westward from KY 177 to the crest of the Visalia Hill west of Mann Road.

To accommodate bicycle and pedestrian travel, this alternative includes eight-foot multi-use paths on both sides of KY 536, from KY 17 to KY 16, and a ten-foot multi-use path on one side of the roadway east of KY 16. The estimated cost of this off-alignment option is $86.5 million.

Public input was integral to this study. Through three open houses, three online public comment periods, and input from residents and stakeholders shared by the project development team, a good deal of feedback was received from the public.

Robyn Bancroft, the study’s project manager, believes the “entire KY 536 Scoping Study process has resulted in a recommendation that balances the concerns of local property owners who will be most directly impacted by future improvements with the transportation needs of the region at large.”

The identification of an improvement plan for this regionally-significant corridor prepares it for the future phases of development, engineering, design and funding.

The KY 536 Scoping Study Final Report and supporting documents can be found by visiting the OKI website

PDS receives $10,000 education grant for bicycling/walking initiative

Posted on December 29, 2015

The Kentucky Bicycle and Bikeway Commission announced last month it is awarding a $10,000 Paula Nye Memorial Grant for 2015 to PDS of Kenton County. Funds will be used to educate citizens about bicycle and pedestrian safety and to raise awareness of an upcoming bicycle and pedestrian planning project.

“We’re thrilled to get this opportunity to help increase the safety of cyclists and pedestrians in our county,” said James Fausz, AICP, a senior planner at PDS. “We knew we wanted to get the word out about the upcoming planning project to as many people as possible. This grant will make a major impact in the number of people we can reach and maximize our chances for success with the plan.”

Fausz explained that funding from the grant will be used in a multifaceted approach that will include public service announcements on Time Warner Cable, an educational video, and face-to-face staff interactions with local public officials. It will also provide for a social media / internet outreach program for enhanced interaction with the community.

“Our goal is to launch the educational campaign just before we kick off the planning project and website to get people interested in participating either online or in person,” he said. “If all goes as planned, heightened awareness of the issues facing Kenton County will encourage more citizens to participate.”

Data from the 2010 Census indicates that Kenton County residents overwhelmingly choose single occupancy vehicles for trips, having serious impacts on roadway congestion and pollution. In fact, currently just slightly over one percent of residents commute to work by walking or other means like bicycles.

“Outreach provided through grant funding will ideally lead to more people considering and choosing to bike or walk for trips that are appropriate for those modes,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, PDS’ executive director. “If we build awareness with outreach and the plan then we should see those percentages increase in the 2020 Census.”

The application for the grant was part of a joint effort between Northern Kentucky University and PDS. Staff worked with Thomas Jacobs, a second year Master of Public Administration student, to craft the successful proposal for this outreach effort.

“Thomas was a real asset to the application process. His efforts were much appreciated,” said Gordon.

The Paula Nye Grant was established to improve the safety of non-motorized transportation (bicycle and pedestrian) and is funded solely by contributions of Kentuckians purchasing “Share the Road” specialty license plates.


Planner elected officer of APA’s New Urbanism Division

Posted on October 12, 2015

Michael Ionna, AICP, PDS principal planner, was notified recently that he was elected treasurer/secretary of the American Planning Association’s (APA) New Urbanism Division. The division is one of the APA’s core groups aimed at bringing together communities of professionals who have shared interests in the many issues related to planning and land use.

The division also provides an area where members have the opportunity to discuss ideas, contribute to national policy work, develop conference sessions, and build beneficial partnerships. The purpose of the New Urbanism Division is to provide planners, public officials, and other decision makers with the information, support, and tools needed to eliminate restrictive conventional development regulations. It also encourages new urbanism patterns to be incorporated in appropriate communities throughout the country.

Ionna ran on a platform centered on promoting the goals and objectives of the division, increasing networking opportunities for members, collaborating with other divisions to establish meaningful relationships, promoting opportunities for continued education, and working to increase division membership.

Following release of the election results, Ionna stated, “During my one year term I look forward to the opportunity to interact with exceptional individuals from all over the country to develop solutions and policies that have an impact on a national and local level.”

“I’m proud of Mike for deciding to pursue this opportunity for service,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, PDS’ executive director. “We encourage all staff to become engaged in the professional associations to which they belong—if they’re willing to commit the time necessary. It’s a great way to burnish their professional skills while gaining information and contacts that can help them do their jobs in the best way possible.”

Whichever the case, Gordon concludes, Kenton County benefits from their involvement.

 


Parks initiative kicks off comprehensive plan’s urban implementation

Posted on July 09, 2015
PDS staff embarked recently on an effort to help inventory and improve Kenton County’s urban parks. The project is a collaborative effort with the Cities of Covington, Ludlow, and Bromley and marks a major step forward for implementation of Kenton County’s Direction 2030: Your Voice, Your Choice comprehensive plan.

The first step of the project involved identifying the location of all park facilities, inventorying the types of amenities provided at each location, and documenting the condition of all existing equipment and structures. This was completed in May.

The second phase of the project focuses on providing a website meant for use as an ongoing public resource and input tool.

“Throughout the Direction 2030 process, we focused on having conversations with citizens to learn what they wanted in the future. This input was a great asset to the plan and provided a springboard for what we’re pursuing now with this urban sub area parks project,” said Michael Ionna, AICP, a principal planner with PDS. “The new website will be a great way for us to continue those conversations and to learn how they feel about park improvements.”

The new website is dedicated solely to the urban parks project. One of its primary features is a survey to gather public input that will serve as a guide for future investment and improvements. Another is an interactive map that will display each park’s location, a corresponding picture, and a description and list of amenities and provided at that location.

“While the site provides a mechanism for collecting public input, it also provides information on the parks themselves,” Ionna elaborated. “We encourage residents to visit RiverCityParks.org to check out the features of the interactive map and to take the survey to “Help Plan Your Parks!”

Watch for future reports on the progress of the plan and be sure to visit the website for more information. For more details on the project, contact Michael Ionna at mionna@pdskc.org or 859.331.8980.


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