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Entries for 2013

APA National Community Planning Month

Posted on October 04, 2013
APA National Community Planning Month

… for whatever it’s worth…

Posted on September 19, 2013
Local officials and citizens wanting to help upgrade their existing communities might want to read up on the concept of ‘walkability’ as they consider their options.

This month we highlight the topic of ‘walkability’ as explored by Jeff Speck in his new book The Walkable City. The analysis comes from an online blog published by the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City. In it Speck writes, “There are real benefits to the local community when cities decide to become more walkable.”

Want to know about the economic, health, and environmental benefits Speck asserts come with walkability? You can access the article here… for whatever it’s worth.

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

New sidewalk inventory provides valuable information

Posted on September 19, 2013
NKAPC staff undertook and completed a county-wide sidewalk inventory earlier this year. Locations of all sidewalks, pathways, trails, and crosswalks were documented along with materials to the extent that they can be determined from aerial imagery.

This information has already proven valuable in various planning projects including assessment of existing conditions for the Direction 2030 comprehensive plan and the Kenton County Transportation Plan update efforts that is currently underway.

A preliminary review of the sidewalk inventory indicates that the urban cities of Covington, Ludlow and Bromley are well served by sidewalks on both sides of the street. The density and grid pattern of streets in the urban areas create an environment that is conducive to walkability.

Approximately 60 percent of the first ring suburbs that are located just outside of the urban core are served by sidewalks either one or both sides of the street.

Suburban areas including the Cities of Independence and Taylor Mill include streets with sidewalks in most of the newer subdivisions. However it is important to note that compared to the urban and first ring suburbs there is still land available for development in the suburbs.

The rural area which is predominantly south of Walton Nicholson Pike is not served by sidewalks due to the rural nature of the roadways and lower density of homes.

The next step in the process is to do a cursory evaluation of locations within the county where there are missing sidewalk linkages. A prioritization of these locations based on their proximity to schools and other key destinations will be evaluated. This could assist in pursuing funding strategically to improve connectivity.

National trends indicate that people want a healthier lifestyle and providing places that are walkable is one way of promoting that. “We felt that if this community desires to have a conversation about walkability and healthy lifestyles, we need to have some baseline documentation on our existing infrastructure,” said Sharmili Reddy, AICP, NKAPC’s planning manager. “Now that we have this information, we can work with legislative bodies on key locations where sidewalks may be missing and pursue those opportunities.”

These data will also be used in the update to the Kenton County transportation plan which will be multi-modal in nature, analyzing the need for all forms of transportation. This includes driving, walking and biking. Additionally, when transportation dollars are sought, this information will be useful to illustrate the need for infrastructure.

Staff participates in disaster preparedness exercise

Posted on September 19, 2013
During the past two months, three GIS personnel from NKAPC were trained to assist emergency responders during emergencies while a fourth staff member participated in a regional training exercise using these same tools.

 “We have found GIS mapping to be one of the most important tools needed when responding to a major disaster: centralized, readily available, highly accurate information is mission critical,” said Steve Hensley, Director of Kenton County Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

“During these events we have utilized the dedicated staff of the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission to assist us with GIS mapping and structural inspections. On every occasion, where we have utilized their services, Dennis Gordon and his staff have performed over and above expectation.”
Joe Busemeyer, GISP, Principal GIS Programmer; Gretchen Brown, Associate GIS Specialist; and Kathy Stephens, GISP, Associate GIS Specialist, attended training seminars for WebEOC (Web Emergency Operation Control) and RAVEN911 (Regional Asset Verification & Emergency Network). Ryan Kent, GISP, Principal GIS Specialist; Christy Powell, GISP, Senior GIS Programmer; and Tom East, Senior GIS Specialist, have also been trained on these systems. Training is administered by the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI). Its coverage area consists of 12 counties in the Tri-State area referred to as SOSINK (Southwestern Ohio, Southeastern Indiana and Northern Kentucky).

The main purpose of UASI is to address the unique planning, equipment, training, and exercise needs of high-threat, high-density urban areas. The initiative also assists in building an enhanced and sustainable capacity to prevent, respond to, and recover from threats or acts of terrorism. The UASI headquarters for the Cincinnati metro area is located the Regional Operations Center (ROC) in Cincinnati.

Training for the WebEOC and RAVEN911 software components was conducted by Steven C. Siereveld (ROC Technology Planner). The WebEOC software is an incident management system that can be accessed through the internet. This enables WebEOC software users to assist in disaster management from anywhere there is internet access; thus not having to be at the ROC.

UASI uses WebEOC to coordinate the use of the region’s assets. It provides a link from UASI to local Emergency Operation Centers during real-time events and exercises. It allows multiple emergency personnel agencies to have access to real-time information simultaneously.

RAVEN911 is an internet based mapping system developed from the perspective of an emergency operator utilizing exemplary technical expertise, and the latest in GIS (Geographic Information Systems) computer technology. The RAVEN911 mapping system brings together responder defined critical data sets with easy to use mapping tools (or widgets), thus allowing users to interact with the map in a meaningful and efficient way during an emergency.

Some of the tools include RSS feeds of weather warnings, radar loops, earthquakes, wildfires and more. Other tools assist emergency personnel in dealing with bomb threats, plume areas, using Twitter to gather information, finding missing persons and setting up containment zones. RAVEN911 offers users access to the location of critical infrastructure and assets as well as a host of tools to gather information and analyze particular situations.

Christy Powell participated in a training exercise in Latonia that used the RAVEN911 system to determine affected properties, containment zones, and compromised infrastructure during a simulated train wreck. CSX hosted this training exercise to train local emergency responders how to safely respond to incidents on and around railroad property.

First responders from many local and state agencies spent the morning developing plans to deal with an unfolding situation involving fire and leaking chemicals. The data from the RAVEN911 system and linkgis.org were projected onto the wall for all to view. Additionally, an iPad with a custom LINK-GIS map application was in use by one of the groups.

“The devastation of the Piner tornado in 2012 and the flooding event in 2011 are sobering reminders that we always need to be prepared to respond to large-scale natural disasters. When faced with incidents of this size, we investigate all available resources in preparation, including those it we don’t typically utilize under normal conditions,” said Hensley.

WebEOC and RAVEN911 are critical components for putting emergency personnel in the right place at the right time during tragic events. With the training received by NKAPC staff, they can assist UASI with their mission to prevent, respond to, and recover from disasters that may occur in the SOSINK region.

Real World Dixie Fix improvements move forward

Posted on September 19, 2013
“Have a plan. Follow the plan, and you'll be surprised how successful you can be.” –Paul Bear Bryant

Success in planning is often measured by implementation of adopted studies and reports. A great example of implementation currently taking place can be found along Dixie Highway. Continued efforts have been underway to implement recommendations from The Dixie Fix plan, which studied Dixie Highway from Covington to Boone County. Projects ranging from median beautification to intersection realignment have taken place this year, all stemming from recommendations of the 2006 plan.

One major change to the roadway is currently under construction in the Erlanger / Elsmere area of the roadway. The realignment of side streets in this area eliminates an offset intersection and consolidates two traffic signals into one. The improved intersection will help increase safety by reducing turning conflicts.

“Realigning this intersection was the number 3 improvement out of all 36 ranked regional priorities in the study and will go a long way to help reduce travel times and improve safety,” said Robyn Bancroft, Strategic Planning Manager for OKI and project manager of The Dixie Fix study.

Another change already made is median improvements in front of Crestview Hills Town Center, near the southern city limit with Edgewood. “The median on Dixie needed repair and we wanted to do something to make this heavily traveled entrance to our city more aesthetically pleasing,” said Crestview Hills Mayor Paul Meier. “We applied for grants and were awarded funds that helped calm traffic and visually improve the roadway.”

Additionally, a new bus stop was added in front of the Town Center and the city worked with Edgewood to install new sidewalks along Dixie. Mayor Meier added, “We go back to the study recommendations frequently and are very interested in seeing the study implemented to help improve this vital road within our city.”

While these two projects are very noticeable, much work is going on behind the scenes that will result in new construction and renovation. Intersection improvements at Kyles Lane are currently being designed by KYTC and the City of Fort Wright. These improvements will assist drivers turning left onto Kyles from southbound Dixie Highway.

KYTC reports that the needed property is currently being appraised and work is taking place on utility design. The Transportation Cabinet anticipates construction at Dixie and Kyles in late 2014.

The City of Covington is also seeking funding for improvements to the Pike Street - Main Street area of Dixie Highway.

While priorities and external factors can change the details of any plan over time, the overall goals of the project remain intact. Addressing the main goals of improving safety, mobility, maintain reasonable and adequate access from adjoining properties, fostering economic development, increasing multimodal options, and improving aesthetics remain as important today as they were in 2006.

Keeping that vision in mind and addressing improvements that help all travelers along and through the Dixie Highway corridor is, and will continue to be an important standard for Kenton County communities to strive to achieve.

The Dixie Fix plan is available online.

… for whatever it’s worth…

Posted on August 28, 2013
Discussions on planning in Kenton County often prompt someone involved to question the need for land use planning when so much of the county’s developable land is “already built out.”

This month we highlight the value of that question in light of a growing local interest in revitalizing these suburbs developed in the 1950s and 1960s. (See the previous article relating how the City of Erlanger is addressing this challenge.) Interestingly, cities that developed before the advent of the automobile are providing a useful model for this redevelopment.

The July edition of UrbanLand magazine, published by the Urban Land Institute, speaks to this issue in an article titled “New Suburbanism: Reinventing Inner-Ring Suburbs.”  You can access the article here… for whatever it’s worth.
Views expressed in this article do not reflect an official position or policy of the NKAPC. The article is presented here to provide input for those interested in land use planning issues.

Erlanger form district provisions near completion

Posted on August 28, 2013
The City of Erlanger and NKAPC staff are near completion of a project to help revitalize the commercial areas along Commonwealth Avenue, Erlanger Road, and Baker Street near the I-71/75 interchange. The city will host an open house on Tuesday, September 10 at the Erlanger City Building from 6 to 7:30 PM to update citizens on the project and to seek their feedback.

“The project was anticipated to take a year to complete. There have not been any major unanticipated issues, and the project is moving into its final phase,” said Andy Videkovich, AICP, senior planner and manager for the Commonwealth Station project.

To review progress to date, citizens should access the city website and link into the Commonwealth Station section. All comments received during this open house will be considered by the steering committee before finalizing proposed changes to the city’s zoning code.

After the public input meeting, and once the steering committee has considered all the comments, the new zoning text will be presented to the Erlanger City Council for its consideration and feedback. Finally, there will be an additional public meeting before the Kenton County Planning Commission after the city council authorizes the map and text amendment applications. The planning commission will make a recommendation back to the city where the council takes the final action.

This project is being pursued by the city through NKAPC staff with assistance from the College of Architecture and Planning at Ball State University. It began with a multi-day workshop where property owners and city residents showed up to provide input and guide the vision for what they would like to see occur in the study area.

Following the workshop, city officials realized that the city’s existing zoning ordinance would not allow for the type of pedestrian-oriented mixed-use development that was envisioned by those who attended the workshop. (Read the following article for a link to UrbanLand magazine for more on how communities across the US are pursuing similar projects.)

New zoning regulations were drafted by NKAPC staff using input taken from a steering committee comprised of both property owners within the project area and city officials. The main consensus of the committee is allowing for more flexibility for what individual property owners can do with their property, from allowing more land to be developed to permitting additional uses. In exchange for the additional flexibility in area and uses, there are some basic form standards that new have to adhere to in order to create a more inviting public realm for pedestrians and visitors to the area.

 “We expect that the regulations will begin the formal adoption process later this year, most likely in November or December,” concluded Videkovich.

Collaboration produces brochure on landslides

Posted on August 28, 2013
“Are you interested in buying property with a view? Are you considering a new townhouse along the river? Are you a developer looking to take advantage of the expansion of infrastructure into the hills of Northern Kentucky? Then you need information about landslides—what causes them, how to recognize them, and how to manage their effects.”

So begins a new brochure created through collaboration by the University of Cincinnati, the Ohio Division of Geological Survey, the Indiana Geological Survey, and the Kentucky Geological Survey. Their full-color product provides its readers with about everything they need to know about landslides in a ten-county region surrounding Cincinnati/Hamilton County.

Copies may be acquired from the Kentucky Geological Survey at 859.257.3896. They can also be downloaded in pdf format from www.uky.edu/KGS/.

Change facilitates NKAPC.org on mobile devices

Posted on August 28, 2013
With the ever-increasing number of people using mobile devices comes a better way of presenting and transferring information. It’s called responsive design. And recently, NKAPC.org has joined the trend.

Responsive design is a way of developing a website in such a way that it can be easily viewed and navigated, regardless of the device or screen resolution being used. While this is particularly beneficial when using tablets or smart phones, this concept also carries over to desktop monitors, laptops, and even some newer televisions.

Essentially, the screen size dictates the amount and type of information that is presented quickly instead of putting all of a webpage’s links, text, and images on the screen at once. Everything on the website is still available, but it has been organized into easily-navigable menus.

As an example on NKAPC.org, if screen space or bandwidth is limited, non-essential images are not downloaded. This allows zoning ordinances, meeting information, and other documents to be viewed quickly.

“This is a great way to improve the availability of our website to mobile device users, without compromising its functionality,” said Pete Berard, Public Information Coordinator.

Wellness program takes staffers on 8,000-mile walk

Posted on August 28, 2013
NKAPC staff members logged enough individual steps recently to equal walking over 8,000 miles in a 24-week period. This was one of several recent health initiatives undertaken by staff to get fit and hold down the rising costs of health insurance premiums.

Rolled out early this spring under the banner “Fit Happens,” the program was the latest in a series of initiatives by NKAPC’s health and wellness committee to improve staff health and impact annual insurance premiums. The committee is comprised of employee representatives from each department.

The campaign began with a voluntary health risk assessment in January which included a biometric screening. Following the health risk assessment, the wellness committee challenged co-workers and teammates to “Step it up” and “Take it off”.

The “Step It Up” program asked each staff member to set a weekly step goal and then to meet or exceed that goal each week.  Twenty-two staff members rose to the challenge and armed with pedometers, hit the street. The results were better than anticipated. In logging the 8,000+ miles, participants contributed a little over 15 miles per week per person.

Steve Dahlheimer, a principal building official, won in the category of most steps with 4,811,190 steps. Trisha Brush, GISP, the director of GIS administration, won in the category of exceeding weekly step goals; she exceeded her weekly goal by 151%. Her total was 3,082,659 steps.

The “Take it off” program encouraged staff to lose excess pounds they have wanted to take off. John Lauber, a senior building official, won that challenge by losing ten percent of his body weight.

“These are just the most recent examples of the many health initiatives undertaken by the employees at NKAPC,” according to Jan Crabb, PHR, finance/HR administrator. “According to the 2013 Compensation and Benefits Survey commissioned by the Northern Kentucky City/County Management Association, our premiums are now equal to or in most cases lower than those paid by other local jurisdictions offering similar or even less coverage.”

Crabb points to the fact that NKAPC experienced no rate increase for the organization’s July 2013 renewal as proof that the programs are working.

“We hope it’s the beginning of a very welcome trend,” she concluded.

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