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Entries for 2014

Planners prepare Direction 2030 plan for final public hearing

Posted on May 23, 2014
Nearly two years in the making and over 150 public meetings later, Kenton County’s new comprehensive plan Direction 2030: Your Voice, Your Choice is in the final stages of completion. Draft policies and recommendations are being finalized, task force comments are being discussed, outreach to legislative bodies is being undertaken, and a web-based plan is in the works.

One final public input session is also currently being discussed prior to submitting an application to the Kenton County Planning Commission for consideration in September.

Draft policies and recommendations cover eight topic areas: economy, housing, mobility, land use, environment, community facilities, utility management, and regional and subarea plans. This is the first major update since the comprehensive plan was first crafted and adopted in 1972. Several major policy changes are being considered based on changing demographics and market conditions.

The recommended land use map will include new categories of mixed use and a more generalized definition of commercial to allow for market conditions to direct land usage. Jobs were indicated as the highest priority for those that provided input throughout the process. Industrial land use policies while always aiming to seek more land for economic development also strives to bring attention to the need for infrastructure in areas reserved for these uses.

In addition, the need to provide community amenities and a wider mix of housing types to attract a talented workforce is discussed.

“This plan represents the varied viewpoints of everyone in this community,” said Paul Darpel, Chairman of the Kenton County Planning Commission. “We heard everything from the need to attract jobs, provide for good housing, protection of property rights, accommodating multi-modal options, consideration of public health, and the environment throughout this process. We have tried to capture everything and present it as a vision for Kenton County.”

The draft policies also recognize the county’s four distinct subareas for the first time and the different needs of these areas. The four subareas include urban, first ring suburbs, suburban, and rural, each contributing differently to the regional and local economy.

The plan recognizes the need to focus urban development north of Walton Nicholson Pike while preserving the heritage to the south by promoting rural development and preservation policies. Increased collaboration across jurisdictional boundaries and the need for regional thinking is also addressed.

“The recommended policies also take into account other planning efforts underway such as OKI’s strategic regional planning effort, the Kenton County transportation plan, and the South Kenton planning effort in addition to the needs and vision that local jurisdictions have for their communities. This planning process brings it all together to represent one voice for Kenton County,” said Sharmili Reddy, AICP, NKAPC’s planning manager.

Draft policies will be presented to the public in late summer and then to the Kenton County Planning Commission in early fall. More information about the project can be found at the Direction 2030 website.

Planning director earns Certified Floodplain Manager status

Posted on May 23, 2014
Martin Scribner, AICP, NKAPC’s director of planning and zoning, recently passed the certification exam for national Certified Floodplain Manager designation. Scribner currently serves as floodplain manager for 13 of Kenton County’s 20 jurisdictions and this certification will aid him in those duties.

The Association of State Floodplain Managers established this national certification program. The program recognizes continuing education and professional development that enhance the knowledge and performance of local, state, federal, and private-sector floodplain managers.

The role of the nation's floodplain managers is expanding due to increases in disaster losses, the emphasis being placed upon mitigation to alleviate the cycle of damage-rebuild-damage, and a recognized need for professionals to adequately address these issues. This certification program lays the foundation for ensuring that highly-qualified individuals are available to meet the challenge of breaking the damage cycle and stopping its negative drain on the nation's human, financial, and natural resources.

The professional certification is recognized as a way to:
•    improve floodplain managers’ knowledge of floodplain management concepts;
•    promote an understanding of relevant subject matter that is consistent nationwide;
•    convey new concepts and practices; and
•    build partnerships among organizations and agencies that share the goal of advancing sound floodplain management.
“I’m proud that Martin took on this challenge and passed the exam,” stated Dennis Gordon, FAICP, NKAPC’s executive director. “Having a certified floodplain manager on staff could well have a positive financial impact for those of our constituents who own property in one of the county’s many floodplains.”

A benefit for a community that employs a Certified Floodplain Manager and is a member of the National Flood Insurance Program may be eligible for certain flood insurance discounts that are passed on to the property owners.

“This provides one more example of the value of our collaborative One Stop Shop Codes Administration Program, and ultimately of NKAPC. It would be nearly impossible—financially speaking—for each one of our 20 local governments to pursue the responsibilities we provide in their names,” Gordon concluded.

Covington fire incident illustrates value of building codes

Posted on May 23, 2014
A little-noticed event in Covington early this month provided the perfect illustration of one of the services NKAPC provides to the community. Given that May is Building Safety Month, this incident was a particularly useful illustration of the value of building codes.

A gentleman, living in a turn-of-the-century school that was converted to apartments in the 1980s and gutted and remodeled recently under a permit issued by NKAPC, survived a fire. He was lying on his couch smoking and fell asleep. He has several medical issues that include the need to be on continuously-supplied oxygen; the tube delivering the oxygen was reportedly involved in the fire.

The gentleman was able to rescue himself by reaching the corridor where he was protected by building code-rated construction and a building code-rated self-closing door. The sprinkler head above the couch opened and extinguished the fire. The only thing burned, other than the occupant, was the couch and coverings he had to stay warm. The man was admitted to the hospital with minor issues. All other occupants were allowed back in their units after a short period of time.

As building codes professionals remind people periodically, “When we do our jobs, nothing happens.”

Kenton County transportation plan nears June completion

Posted on May 23, 2014
OKI and NKAPC staffs began studies last summer for a new Kenton County transportation plan. The collaboration researched mobility issues, analyzed transportation data, prompted meetings with the project’s advisory team, and included input directly from the public. It is now yielding a plan with nearly 70 recommendations.

“Recent efforts to collect input on the plan were very successful,” explained Robyn Bancroft, AICP, Strategic Planning Manager for OKI. “Through our outreach efforts, coupled with promotion from NKAPC, we received almost 400 views of the draft recommendations page during April. Of those viewers, more than 60 individual comments were received from the public.”

The comments received during the comment period helped to further refine the draft recommendations and move them toward a more finalized product.

The advisory team met in early May to consider revisions based on public input. The team also worked to define the final list of projects and refine the recommendation rankings. Work is now underway to prepare the final document with an early-June target date for completion. The final plan should be available online in mid- to late-June.

Ranging from filling sidewalk gaps to improving major interstate interchanges, the recommendations cover a wide swath of mobility needs for the county’s citizens. Reconstructing the westbound I-275 interchange with I-71/75, creating the Licking River Greenway Trail, constructing a new Fourth Street Bridge, finishing the sidewalk along Dixie Highway in Covington, and building a new Edgewood Park & Ride are all multimodal recommendations found within the plan.

The preparation of this plan coincides with the Direction 2030 comprehensive planning project that is in the final phase. “Transportation is a major element of our comprehensive planning process,” explained Sharmili Reddy, AICP, NKAPC’s planning manager.

“In an effort to be good stewards of public money, we decided to combine both efforts and use the OKI-NKAPC transportation plan as the basis for our transportation recommendations in Direction 2030. We recognize that there are mobility needs beyond major roadways but the transportation plan is a good overview of the predominant needs in the county.”

You may check the NKAPC or OKI websites for more information on the transportation plan.

“Impressive” data, expertise aid tree canopy study

Posted on May 23, 2014
The Northern Kentucky Urban and Community Forestry Council was awarded a grant from the U.S. Forest Service in December 2013 to develop land classifications and forest canopy data for Kenton, Campbell, and Boone counties. This data will be used to develop tree planting plans for several areas in the region and can be used as models for other communities.

After pursuing a request for proposals process this spring, the Urban Forestry Council awarded a work contract to SavATree Consulting Group which includes the University of Vermont Spatial Analysis Laboratory. Project completion is expected by July 2014.

For its part, the Urban Forestry Council created a GIS and strategic planning committee; an interdisciplinary group of GIS specialists, planners, certified arborists, and others together to help with this project and beyond.

“NKAPC’s Ed Dietrich (planner) and Kyle Snyder (GIS specialist) will play integral roles on the committee; bringing Ed’s planning background, and Kyle’s GIS/forestry background. The motion to form this committee, which was unanimously voted into council that day, couldn't have happened without their support," said Mathew Frantz, ISA, co-chair of the Urban Forestry Council, and chair of the newly-formed GIS and strategic planning committee.

Local data were leveraged in order to keep project costs down and insure success with a rapid turn-around time. LINK-GIS provided LiDAR, imagery, and other data; some federal data such as National Agriculture Imagery Program data will also be used to aid in consistency.

LiDAR is a remote sensing technology that measures distance by illuminating a target with a laser and analyzing the reflected light. LINK-GIS’ LiDAR data provide extremely accurate elevations.

Upon receiving the LINK-GIS data, Jarlath O’Neil-Dunne, director of the University of Vermont’s Spatial Analysis Lab responded, “That is an impressive collection of data you have! We work with a lot of communities and few are up to the standards that you folks are. Thanks for the speedy turn-around. We look forward to adding to your collection of outstanding data.”

This project will provide the NKAPC/LINK-GIS partnership with valuable data such as: forest canopy, seven classifications of land cover data, and an inventory of potential planting areas. Some of the relative information will include canopy height and approximate age of the trees.

This data will be useful in comparisons to past canopy studies (Kenton 1995 and 1999; Campbell 1999) and future ones. Potential planting plans will be valuable for day to day planning as well as for special initiatives like
Taking Root.

Become a voice for the future!

Posted on May 09, 2014
The OKI Regional Council of Governments is updating a policy plan to improve quality of life and service to the public in southwest Ohio, northern Kentucky, and southeast Indiana, and they want to hear from you. Issues in the plan affect everyday life in the region, such as congestion on roadways, the attractiveness of communities for business and job creation, housing for all ages, income levels and family types and adequate water and sewer facilities. The draft plan and questions to invite feedback are available online. To find out more and share your opinions, visit www.howdowegrow.org

… for whatever it’s worth…

Posted on April 28, 2014
“For three generations, the American Dream was largely defined by continual suburban expansion. The dream was based on exclusivity and keeping up with the Joneses. Driving was so essential that all other means of getting around became practically impossible. Privacy was everything.”

A new America Dream has emerged in recent years. It is based on social and cultural diversity and the idea of community…”

Read about it 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, highly detailed aerial photography in the works for LINK-GIS

Posted on April 28, 2014
Over the last few weeks, new aerial photography covering both Kenton and Campbell Counties has been captured for LINK-GIS partners. This photography will provide some of the most detailed views of these counties ever seen, and will include the capability to measure the vertical heights of buildings, towers, and other objects on the ground.

While LINK-GIS partners have had vertical measurement capability for several years now, what’s different is the resolution of the new photography. These images, flown by Pictometry, are created using an updated, high resolution aerial camera system which captures finer detail than in the past. To enable the vertical measurement capability, an accurate model of ground elevation is essential, so LINK-GIS provided its highly detailed LiDAR elevation data to Pictometry for this element.

LiDAR, an acronym for Light Detection and Ranging, is a highly-accurate method of measuring ground elevation using laser distance measuring equipment mounted in a plane. As the plane flies over an area, the LiDAR equipment sends out tens of thousands of light pulses per second, painting a pattern of dots on the ground, and then measures the time required for each pulse to bounce back to the plane. At the same time, the altitude, position and orientation of the plane is continuously recorded. The collected information is then processed to produce a detailed elevation model of the earth’s surface.

“The camera system Pictometry uses captures five images at a time – one each in the forward, backward, left, and right, or ‘oblique’ perspectives from the plane, and another facing straight down,” said Tom East, Senior GIS Specialist at NKAPC. “At the time of each exposure, computers on board the plane capture the plane’s exact position over the earth using GPS and the exact time of exposure.”

“Also captured are its altitude, bearing, tip, tilt, and roll angles so that all perspectives of each image exposure are known. Later, during processing, this information is used to reduce or eliminate distortions in the imagery,” according to East.

The final result is a model consisting of thousands of images, assembled so that the viewer has a “birds-eye” view of the ground from all five cameras. The user can then move to nearly any location over the ground and see a detailed view of the earth below.

Local law enforcement and emergency response agencies find this information valuable when responding to dangerous situations. The images can also save time and money for county property valuation administration (PVA) offices by reducing the need to go into the field.

Delivery of the new imagery is expected to be complete by the end of July.

Project-tracking program now accepts credit card payments

Posted on April 28, 2014
Customers interacting with NKAPC staff now have the option of paying all fees with credit cards. This expanded use of plastic payment comes as an added benefit of the agency’s project-tracking program named TRAKiT.

NKAPC implemented the new software last July which better tracks and coordinates the activities of the agency; this includes: building and zoning permits; building, zoning, and infrastructure inspections; zoning and property maintenance code enforcement actions; subdivision platting and related infrastructure construction plans; and, planning and other large-scale projects.

These activities were tracked previously with a variety of software products, some of which carried growing annual costs, were incompatible, and required additional equipment to be maintained off-site.

TRAKiT allows for all these activities to be integrated on a GIS base, allowing NKAPC staff and outside agencies to communicate better with one another on related activities. It also facilitates all agencies involved with Kenton County development to be more knowledgeable and productive in their responsibilities. And most importantly, the system allows staff to get needed information quicker, reducing times for plan review and increasing customer service satisfaction.

“TRAKiT is working great,” said Scott Hiles, CPC, NKAPC’s director of infrastructure engineering. “It’s giving us the ability to track development information more efficiently than we’ve ever been able to before.”

While NKAPC has been the long-time managing partner of a robust geographic information system (LINK-GIS), there has always been a disconnect between that system and those that track permits, projects, and code enforcement.

TRAKiT sets atop LINK-GIS data, allowing information from different activities to be coordinated by address. This makes the GIS data all the more valuable to Kenton County communities and makes development and code enforcement data more accessible, both to staff and to the public.

TRAKiT also allows all the agency’s field inspectors to use iPads in the field to keep track of inspection activities and report results in real time. This permits inspectors to streamline their efforts, reduce time needed to input data, and ultimately to save the agency and the taxpayers money.

The software package includes a public web portal which allows contractors and citizens to access information regarding development and code enforcement activities. While the original One Stop Shop website previously included access to information, this new portal expands the agency’s online capabilities, making it possible to apply for certain permits, pay for them using a credit card, schedule inspections, report a problem, and review inspector’s field reports all directly from that website.

“TRAKiT is facilitating the coordination of all our responsibilities,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, executive director. “This added expansion of our ability to accept credit card payments is an added bonus for our customers.”

“With trends towards digitizing plans and documents, as well as streamlining processes, this new technology may eventually lead to a completely paperless mode of business,” Gordon concluded.

GIS provides much-needed analysis support for redistricting

Posted on April 28, 2014
The Kentucky Legislative Research Commission is tasked with redrawing legislative districts every ten years in conjunction with federal census results. With legislative districts changing and population shifting, voting precincts too must change and shift to match new legislative boundaries.

LRC (the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission), pursuant to KRS 7.550, is charged with maintaining and continuously updating a computerized map of census geography and election precinct boundaries. To accomplish this task, LRC works closely with Kentucky’s counties. For Kenton County, this means working with Kenton County Clerk Gabrielle Summe, and her staff.

Summe and her team work tirelessly to draw and redraw voting precinct boundaries to match new legislative boundaries and to accurately detail any and all changes in accompanying reports. To assist her in this process, Summe calls upon NKAPC’s GIS Administration department. She is also able to work from her office by taking advantage of the online mapping provided by the LINK-GIS website.

“As the county board was redrawing precincts to match the changes made by the redistricting, the online access to GIS was awesome,” Summe noted.

Utilizing LINK-GIS allows Summe to overlay multiple layers (voting precincts, city boundaries, road centerlines, census blocks, new House and Senate district boundaries) and see precisely where voting precinct line changes need to occur. Summe and the GIS staff are able to work side by side to view all the necessary data and instantly make changes to the voting precinct boundaries as needed. What once took weeks to accomplish can now be done in a matter of hours.

“NKAPC’s Joe Busemeyer was incredibly helpful in redrawing the precinct maps,” said Summe. “He made himself available on short notice for a large project that was required to be done in a short time period.”

“We could not have done it without him. His willingness to work with the county board and with LRC, so that we complied with House Bill 1, was invaluable."

Working in the GIS format enables a rapid turnaround of the data, which can be sent to LRC for a quick review. When LRC reviews the data and submits comments back to the county clerk, she and the GIS staff can make the changes quickly and get them back to LRC. This is critical on a project such as this that requires several revisions over the course of many months.

After each revision, the GIS team is able to produce simple, yet effective voting precinct maps for Summe and her team to evaluate what changes were made and explain to LRC why they were made. In the end when all the revisions have been made, LRC will have clean, accurate voting precinct data and the Kenton County Clerk can provide Kenton County voters with maps showing clear precinct boundaries and polling locations.

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