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Entries for 2017

State working toward effective date for new Kentucky Building Code

Posted on October 19, 2017

Kentucky’s Department of Housing, Buildings and Construction’s (DHBC) newly organized Advisory Committee heard and approved testimony last month for the Commonwealth to advance to the 2015 International Code Council’s (ICC) family of codes. Members did not, however, take action on an effective date for the change.

The International Codes are model codes published by ICC and developed by ICC members to provide minimum safeguards for homes, buildings, and other structures.

DHBC organized two task force committees to examine both the International Building Code and the International Residential Code. Both committees were represented by code officials, architects, engineers, contractors, home builders, and other stakeholders who have interests in the built environment.

Each committee reviewed the documents within their respective groups and came together then to review the proposed changes. The goal was to try to stay as close to the International Codes as possible to help alleviate any disparities in the code.

“The task force didn’t want to change one code section that could affect another one,” said Brian Sims CBO, PDS’ chief building official.

These proposed codes will be submitted now to the Legislative Research Commission for hearing and adoption. Upon approval, DHBC typically establishes a grace period for those projects currently in design to be submitted for permitting. This helps design professionals from having to redesign parts of their structures half way through a project. This grace period is between 90 to 180 days and then adhering to the new code will be mandatory.


Latonia Lakes’ residents celebrate milestone in their community’s revitalization

Posted on October 19, 2017

It’s been a years’-long process of rehabilitating their community, but residents of Latonia Lakes have accomplished a lot. So, on a beautiful fall weekend last month, they got together with representatives of the agencies that helped make it happen, and they celebrated.

With backing from The Center for Great Neighborhoods of Covington, Oak Ridge Baptist Lighthouse Church, the Kenton County Police Department, and PDS, the New Hope for Latonia Lakes Neighborhood Association garnered support from the Kenton County Fiscal Court and its public works staff to complete new streets and upgraded utility service. Private contractors and utility providers also played a role in helping the group meet one of its revitalization goals.

Brother Byron Lile of the Oakridge Baptist Church, Judge-Executive Kris Knochelmann and Commissioner Beth Sewell of Kenton Fiscal Court, and Latonia Lakes resident Jamie Twehues were on hand to speak and cut the ceremonial ribbon.

“The reason why it happens is because people come together… people work together… people cooperate together,” said Knochelmann.

“Three and half years ago we found ourselves in deep distress as a community,” commented Lile. “Things were very bad in this community as far as the road conditions, and the living conditions. People couldn't access their homes very well, especially in the winter time. Emergency equipment couldn't get in and garbage trucks couldn't service our community.”

“We have reached out to the county and throughout the state and we have found tremendous support for this community and today we want to celebrate all that's happened.”

The parade was led by Kenton County Police Department community liaison Officer Charles Duncan and lifelong resident Linda Coyle, who was honored as the Grand Marshall. A large group of children from the community followed, riding the newly paved streets on bicycles decorated with streamers and balloons. Lile brought up the rear pulling a trailer of full of residents to complete the route at the Oak Ridge Baptist Church for a community cookout.

The celebratory event was made possible by the generous donations of local businesses, including Bridges Northern Kentucky, Costco of Florence, El Jinete of Taylor Mill, Galerie Candy and Gifts of Hebron, JTM Food Group, Kona Ice, LaRosa’s Pizzeria of Taylor Mill, Monmouth Street Antique Gallery, the Northern Kentucky Baptist Association, Perfetti Van Melle USA, Sam’s Club of Florence, and St. Elizabeth Healthcare.

While the celebration commemorated a significant milestone for the community, most residents believe that this is the beginning of more great things to come in Latonia Lakes. The New Hope for Latonia Lakes Neighborhood Association plans to continue working towards its goal to make Latonia Lakes a family-oriented, neighborly place to live.

The New Hope for Latonia Lakes Neighborhood Association holds regular community meetings on the third Thursday of the month at 6:30 p.m. at the Oak Ridge Baptist Lighthouse Church. Meetings are open to everyone. Residents looking to make a positive impact on the community are encouraged to attend!

Fiscal Court okays citizen-led zoning amendments for South Kenton

Posted on October 19, 2017

Kenton County Fiscal Court voted unanimously this month to adopt text amendments to the Rural Commercial (RC) zoning district in the county’s zoning ordinance. The changes, which were crafted by a group of rural county residents, address one of the goals in Direction 2030: Your Voice. Your Choice., the countywide comprehensive plan. 

Fiscal court’s action marks the culmination of almost two years of work by the South Kenton County Citizens’ Group to review, analyze, and recommend changes to the Rural Commercial Zone. Goal #5 of the comprehensive plan’s Rural Subarea states, “Rural commercial and industrial development policies need to be tailored to align with the recommended land use map and community preservation, scale, and values.”

As crafted and enacted, these text amendments align the rural commercial regulations to preserve rural character and ensure that any new development reflects the desired scale, character, and form in the community.

“We studied other rural areas to see what communities are doing to preserve rural character,” explained Kathleen Donohoue, chair of the South Kenton Citizens’ Group’s zoning committee. One of the key text changes is a cap on the square footage for retailers serving rural residents. Those include convenience stores, bakeries, and restaurants. Larger buildings are permitted for businesses that support farming operations such as farm equipment stores, feed and seed stores, and lumber yards.

“Our goal is to make the rural commercial areas conducive to small, independent businesses. The rural community is a place for them to thrive without the pressures and competition of larger retailers,” said Donohoue.   

PDS staff and Kenton County Commissioner Beth Sewell assisted the committee in drafting the changes.

“It’s not every day you see a community group stepping up to propose changes to their community’s zoning ordinance,” said Emi Randall, AICP, RLS, Director of Planning & Zoning. “This group took an active role in making changes necessary to fulfill the vision for the community included in Direction 2030. I applaud them for the hard work and dedication it took to get this done.”

Former PDS Principal Planner Edward Dietrich, AICP, and Chris Schneider, AICP, Principal Planner, supported the group by providing research on rural zoning trends, drafting proposed text, and attending monthly meetings of the zoning committee.

Commissioner Sewell provided input and facilitated necessary discussions with other Fiscal Court members. The project is a great example of community members, PDS planners, and Fiscal Court members working together to implement an important element of Direction 2030, according to Sewell.

As enacted, the Rural Commercial (RC) text amendment will impact several small commercial nodes in southern Kenton County. They are located primarily at roadway intersections in Nicholson, Piner, Kenton, Visalia and White’s Tower. Three additional rural commercial zones are located along Dixie Highway near the intersections of York, Green, and Bracht-Piner Roads.

For questions regarding these changes, email Emi Randall or Chris Schneider, or call them at 859.331.8980.


Planning Commission sends new sign regulations to elected officials

Posted on October 19, 2017

The Kenton County Planning Commission voted unanimously this month to send new sign regulations to every jurisdiction in Kenton County. That action was prompted by a late 2015 US Supreme Court Decision that rendered most sign regulations across the country unconstitutional (Reed v. Town of Gilbert).

The Supreme Court’s decision clarified:

1.    when municipalities may impose content-based restrictions on signage; and

2.    the level of constitutional scrutiny when a content-based distinction is challenged.

“The last overhaul of sign regulations in Kenton County was in 2008,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, PDS’ executive director. “Staff recognized that a number of our communities had some serious issues with their sign regulations that could lead to constitutional challenges.”

The need was so imperative that the PDS Management Board hired a nationally-known consultant on sign regulations to propose a new set that would conform to the constitutional principles and federal court rulings of that time.

Fourteen of Kenton County’s 19 jurisdictions adopted that proposed overhaul, according to Gordon. Due to the ruling in the Gilbert case, PDS staff once again recommended and the Board retained the services of the same consultant to review those 2008 sign regulations and advise the jurisdictions on necessary changes.

“Jurisdictions that adopted the recommended 2008 regulations are mostly in good shape today because they removed many of the content-based distinctions that were ruled unconstitutional in the Gilbert case,” said Gordon. “This proposed 2017 update will get all our communities up to the standard that will pass constitutional review.”

Each of Kenton County’s 19 jurisdiction will receive a copy of the Planning Commission’s recommendation within the next week. It will be accompanied by an individualized copy of the new sign regulations tailored specifically to each jurisdiction’s zoning ordinance. Staff will work with each jurisdiction over the next several months to enact these proposed changes.

For more information on this recommended update, contact Andy Videkovich, AICP, current planning manager at PDS.

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.

Board authorizes going electronic with plan reviews

Posted on September 28, 2017
As reported here last summer, PDS is going electronic with its plan review process. The PDS Management Board approved a proposal last week that authorizes the purchase of software to review CAD drawings and store the resulting data in the agency’s development tracking system.

“Our original goal was to start this transition last fiscal year,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, Executive Director. “Unfortunately, our workload last year wasn’t conducive to transitioning to a new process. And, since service is our primary goal, we kept things moving the old way while we prepared for a new, more-efficient system.”

As Gordon suggested in last year’s article, “Handling plans in electronic format is going to improve workflow in several ways. Staff will be able to receive plans, applications, and payments via email using PayPal. Those same time savers will apply to customers who won’t need to drive to our office any longer. They won’t have to buy paper and print plans—some that look more like small logs than anything else—and we won’t have to scan and eventually dispose of them.”

Transitioning to electronic plan review will begin this fall, once the software is functioning fully. As staff are trained on the software, they will eventually move away from paper plans toward CAD drawings on their computer screens.

“We intend to pursue this transition in a slow and methodical manner,” concluded Gordon. “We’ll all have things to learn—customers and staff alike. We want this to go as smoothly as possible.”

PDS will continue to accept plans on paper for the foreseeable future.

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.

Construction underway for county’s first ‘rural subdivision’

Posted on September 28, 2017
Developers of Kenton County’s first “rural subdivision” broke ground in July and worked on earthwork and infrastructure improvements through the balance of summer. Those improvements are nearing completion now and home building is about to begin.

The development called Bentley Park is located on 34 acres along the west side of Staffordsburg Road, approximately 1,500 feet north of Visalia Road in unincorporated Kenton County. It will contain 14 new single-family homes served by a new public roadway and five additional homes served by a common driveway.

“When staff drafted the new subdivision regulations, we received a lot of input from the South Kenton County Citizens Group,” said Scott Hiles, CPC, Director of Infrastructure Engineering. “Its members were concerned that new subdivision development could affect the rural nature of their part of the county.”

Most of southern Kenton County’s zoning permits residential subdivisions that contain one-acre lots with at least 100 feet of frontage.

“The citizens’ group expressed concerns that one-acre subdivision lots felt more suburban than rural,” said Hiles. “Staff determined that regulations encouraging developers to choose larger lot sizes would be less dense and more rural, meeting the requests of the citizens’ group.”

Staff also recognized that it was not only lot sizes that determined whether a subdivision had a more rural feel.

“Improvements to the subdivision streets such as curb, gutter, and sidewalk also made the development look more suburban than rural,” said Hiles. “We had to consider how new streets could be designed so that they looked more like county roads than subdivision streets.”

The result was new rural subdivision development regulations that were made a part of Kenton County’s subdivision regulations. The rural regulations allow developments to contain roadways without curb and gutter, mirroring the look of most county rural roadways.

Storm water is handled by grassy swales that run along each side of the roadway instead of using catch basins that are part of typical subdivision streets. Also, sidewalks are not required if the roadway serves less than 50 lots.

“The benefits to this design go beyond just looking more rural,” said Hiles. “There’s also a benefit to water quality from using swales to collect and channel storm water runoff. Swales can absorb some of the storm water and add an element of filtration that helps clean the water of harmful particulates like road grease and oil. You don’t get that benefit when water is collected in a traditional storm water pipe. This filtration helps the storm water to be cleaner when it ultimately reaches a receiving stream.”

  “The rural regulations also result in subdivisions lots that are twice as large as the one-acre lots permitted by zoning,” said Hiles. “That means these rural developments are generally half as dense as they otherwise could have been.”
Hiles said that the 14 lots served by the new roadway in Bentley Park are all at least two acres in size and 200 hundred feet wide which allowed them to utilize the rural roadway design. Lots are expected to be available later this month and home building will begin soon after.

Building inspectors end fiscal year 2017 on a very busy note

Posted on July 27, 2017

Fiscal Year 2017 was very busy for those involved with construction in the county. Permits from PDS’ building department were up 12 percent over those issued during FY16. PDS issued roughly 3,900 building permits and logged over 5,500 inspections between July 2016 and June 2017.

“This was a very busy year for us… one of the busiest we’ve ever had,” said Brian Sims, CBO, PDS’ chief building official. “We have six inspectors trying to keep up with the workload while also paying special attention to the level of service we provide to our customers.”

PDS building codes staff worked hard during FY17 to keep permit turn-around time to a minimum and to get to each requested inspection within a 24-hour window of request. For the most part, they succeeded.

With an increased workload and the new vacant foreclosed properties registration, PDS filled an administrative staff position recently that had been vacant since the early days of the Great Recession. Staff is also reviewing all workflow procedures to expedite processes as best possible without losing any aspect of service they provide to their customers.

“Besides following all statutory requirements, providing a great level of service is one of our top priorities here at PDS,” according to Sims.

If construction activity continues, PDS may need to fill an inspector position that was also a casualty of the recession. Staff will monitor the activity levels over the next month or so and make an assessment later in the year.

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