Current Newsletter

January 2018

Planning Commission acts on Villa Hills planned unit development

The Kenton County Planning Commission (KCPC) issued two favorable recommendations last week on a proposed mixed-use development in the City of Villa Hills. The applications will be heard next by the city council at its February meeting, where council members will have final authority over the application.

The two requests seek to amend the city’s zoning text and to place the new zoning classification on the 86-acre site. In its action to approve, the KCPC found the development will implement goals, objectives, and recommendations of both the Direction 2030 comprehensive plan and the 2017 Villa Hills Study.

A marathon public hearing lasting over five hours preceded the KCPC vote. It included presentations and testimony from dozens of people. Over 350 people attended. Those who spoke on the record included the current property owner, applicant team, proponents of the project, representatives from an organized opposition group, and opponents of the project.

The property, currently owned by the Benedictine Sisters of St. Walburg Monastery, was the subject of a recent comprehensive planning analysis conducted by PDS on behalf of the Sisters and the City of Villa Hills.

“The Villa Hills Study examined multiple existing conditions, marketplace trends, and future projections to provide guidance for potential uses on the site,” said James Fausz, AICP, Long Range Planning Manager.

“The study’s task force reviewed the site’s physical attributes, gathered and assessed public input from two open forums, considered findings of an independent market analysis and a traffic study, evaluated interviews of local and regional development experts, and contemplated fiscal examinations of different land use types before making recommendations. Those recommendations were unanimously approved by the city and KCPC, making the study the official comprehensive plan for the area.”

After the plan was approved in March 2017, the Sisters issued a request for proposals from developers.

“It was important to us that we use the study that had just been approved as we looked for someone to develop the site,” explained Sister Mary Catherine Wenstrup, Prioress of the St. Walburg Monastery. “We initiated the project for the purpose of funding our retirement liability then shortly learned this [development] could be a way to do something new and special for the area. Of the proposals we received, Ashley's met all our goals. We are grateful to all who worked so hard to implement the study.”

Ashley Commercial Group’s Sanctuary development proposal encompasses 86 acres of mostly vacant land in northwestern Villa Hills. The company’s design incorporates elements of traditional neighborhood design such as varying housing types, houses oriented closer to the street, alleyways, neighborhood commercial that adds value to the development, active transportation amenities, and recreation and open space that is accessible to everyone in Villa Hills.

The project’s approved plan includes single- and multi-family residential, detached and attached housing, senior cottages, two buildings totaling approximately 43,000 square feet of mixed commercial and residential uses, over 17 acres of open space, and a public overlook of the Ohio River. Ashley indicated the anticipated price points will range from $250,000 to over $1M.

The date, time, and location of the Villa Hills City Council meeting to take final action on the plan are yet to be determined. Visit the city’s website for the latest information.

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Crescent Springs working to implement planning study

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.

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PDS is now encouraging CAD file submissions for plan review

Applicants for zoning and building permits, building plan reviews, subdivision plat reviews, and subdivision improvement plan reviews may now submit them to PDS in digital form. They’ll be able to complete the entire application process—application and plan submission and payment of fees—online within the next couple months.

“Our goal for some time now has been to move the entire application process online so that design professionals, builders, developers, and engineers can submit their entire application packages and pay their fees from their offices,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, executive director of PDS. “This will help them be more efficient, save money, and allow our staff to focus on getting projects through the review process more expeditiously.”

For applicants who prefer face-to-face interactions, staff is working toward installing a kiosk in the agency’s permit office that will facilitate digital submissions with someone near to help if necessary.

Looking forward, Brian Sims and Scott Hiles, directors of building codes administration and infrastructure engineering respectively, look forward to the day when their staffs will no longer need multiple sets of plans for each project.

For more information, email Brian Sims or Scott Hiles or call them at 859.331.8980.

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Public, staff making progress on Kenton Connects plan

Progress is being made on the countywide Kenton Connects bicycle and pedestrian study. Results from a recent public survey are being used to guide the next phase of the project. Advisory committee members are currently working on setting actionable, measurable and achievable benchmarks and goals.

The process for identifying benchmarks includes an analysis of existing conditions in Kenton County, reviewing national trends, and considering survey results.

With results from the fall 2017 survey as a guide, four key topics were identified as areas of focus; safety, usership, existing infrastructure, and education.

“The benchmarks, goals, and policies identified in Kenton Connects will help guide bicycle and pedestrian conditions here for many years to come, and will be used to implement future policy decisions in the county,” said Chris Schneider, AICP, Principal Planner and project manager for the study.

While much of the work has already been done, there is still more to do. The study’s next steps include drafting the existing conditions report, formulating goals, and holding a public open house anticipated for the spring. The study is on track to conclude in the summer of 2018.

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

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Vacant foreclosed property registry succeeding after first year

The countywide Kenton County Vacant Foreclosed Property Registration (VFPR) ordinance has been in place for over a year now. After starting slowly, registrations have grown steadily with PDS having registered 217 vacant foreclosed properties in 19 jurisdictions to date.

Kenton County Fiscal Court enacted the ordinance in November 2016. The program, which became effective December 9, 2016, increased the tools available to PDS staff for effective code enforcement activities. Most Kenton County cities advocated for the approval since early 2016.

Implementation of the new program saved tax dollars for PDS’ 16 One Stop Shop program jurisdictions by requiring lenders pursuing foreclosures to register a responsible party to maintain the vacant property. Knowing whom to contact reduces the time spent locating a responsible party when violations arise. The ordinance applies to all Kenton County communities regardless of whether they’re part of the PDS program.

The cost of administering this program is the responsibility of the banks and lending institutions that must maintain these foreclosed properties. The program is funded through a required $150 property registration fee. In addition, the registration reduces costs related to code enforcement activities by increasing staff efficiency in dealing with vacant and foreclosed properties.

“Requiring a local contact for these properties allows us to contact a person who has the authority to address issues such as tall grass or maintenance violations in a timely manner,” said Rob Himes, PDS’ codes administrator. “Under the old system, code enforcement officials’ only option was to mail a violation letter to the lending institution which is often out of state and that rarely yields results.”

Lenders, servicing companies, and local realtors/maintenance providers have been very receptive and supportive of the program, according to Himes. He and Safeguard Properties’ Heather Lazar and Michael Halpern presented on the subject during the American Association of Code Enforcement’s Annual Education Conference late last year. Safeguard Properties, headquartered in Cleveland, is the mortgage field services’ industry leader, preserving vacant and foreclosed properties across the U.S., Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, and Guam.

When speaking of Kenton County’s ordinance, Anne Salvatore of Safeguard Properties stated, “Quite frequently I have a great deal of difficulty determining the intent of an ordinance’s provisions and need to contact the jurisdiction for clarification.”

“Oftentimes it’s a challenge to find anyone able to assist me as the persons implementing the registration program are not the same as the persons that established the requirements. Your ordinance is clear, cohesive in its elements, and consistent with the information required on the form.”

Kenton County’s VFPR program has been well-received by staff and property stakeholders; the program has opened communication regarding these foreclosed properties, lessening the number of code enforcement complaints due to property preservation or maintenance issues.

PDS staff recently sent out the first round of annual renewal notices for the program.

“We’re looking forward to a successful 2018. The VFPR program promotes communication between staff and lenders/servicing companies, ensuring that foreclosed properties are maintained in a manner that protects the integrity of our neighborhoods,” concluded Himes.

Email Rob Himes or call him at 859.331.8980 for more information on the registration program.

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… for whatever it’s worth…

Ever hear the term ‘stroad?’ It’s a hybrid of ‘street’ and ‘road’ that speaks more to the issue of community than to technical definitions. How does it speak to the issue of community? Check out this blog Slow the Cars from the Small Towns Institute. As always, this commentary is presented for whatever it’s worth.

Views expressed here do not reflect an official position or policy of PDS. The hyperlink is presented here to provide input for those interested in land use planning issues.

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Calendar Events

Kenton County Planning Commission
Public Hearing and Business Meeting
Thursday, February 1 at 6:15 p.m.
Commission Chambers, PDS Building in Fort Mitchell

Kenton County Code Enforcement Board
Business Meeting
Thursday, February 8 at 6:00 p.m.
Commission Chambers, PDS Building in Fort Mitchell

PDS Management Board
Business Meeting
Thursday, February 15 at 5:15 p.m.
Commission Chambers, PDS Building in Fort Mitchell

Presidents’ Day
Monday, February 19
Office closed – Visit

Kenton County Board of Adjustment
Business Meeting
Wednesday, February 21 at 2:00 p.m.
Commission Chambers, PDS Building in Fort Mitchell

PDS Council
Business Meeting
Thursday, February 22 at 5:45 p.m.
Commission Chambers, PDS Building in Fort Mitchell

For more meeting and event information, check out our online calendar.

* Banner photo provided by Tri-ED