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Latest 2012 GIS digital images ready to be uploaded

Posted on January 08, 2013
Last year at this time, LINK-GIS partners were anxiously waiting for good weather so that planes equipped with special cameras could capture images for their GIS programs. The resulting images are now about to be uploaded to the LINK-GIS website next month for use by the public.

In addition to the benefits provided by the updated photography, LINK-GIS partners saved approximately $90,000 through a collaborative effort with the Commonwealth of Kentucky. By flying Kenton and Campbell counties together, the partnerships were able to save an estimated 15 percent of the projected cost.

It is important to note that each county pays only for data collected within its own territory.

Between the March 2012 aerial flight and now, the LINK-GIS team conducted quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) review of the 1,693 individual images that provide a seamless view of Kenton and Campbell Counties. Every team member reviewed each product for image stretching, blurring, and precision standards that meet standards of the American Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing. LINK-GIS data has met these standards since the first aerial acquisition in 1999.

Each of the two LINK-GIS partnerships consists of the county fiscal court and PVA along with SD1 and the Northern Kentucky Water District with NKAPC as managing partner.

The last time the LINK-GIS partnerships acquired these same imagery products was in 2007; five years ago. More information on LINK-GIS can be found on its website or nkapc.org.

KCPC committee nears completion of new regulations

Posted on January 08, 2013
Kenton County Planning Commission’s Subdivision Regulation Committee has completed its review of more than 600 suggested revisions to its draft subdivision regulations for Kenton County. That review resulted in a consensus between competing interest groups in most cases. The single issue that prompted the most discussion was street design and subsurface drainage.

“Since the Kenton County Planning Commission adopted its first subdivision regulations in the late 1970’s, the provisions haven’t included any requirement for subsurface drainage except in limited locations,” said Scott Hiles, NKAPC’s director of infrastructure engineering. “Staff was directed this time to change that and add new requirements that would achieve better performing streets that have fewer pavement failures over time.”

The draft regulations developed by staff included those provisions.

After months of review and comments from four main interest groups—the Northern Kentucky Homebuilders Association, the Northern Kentucky Society of Professional Engineers, Henry Fischer of Fischer Homes, and the Kenton County Mayor’s Group—the committee directed staff to revise the draft to:
•  limit concrete to crushed limestone aggregate to reduce D-cracking and surface deterioration;
•  increase pavement and subgrade cross-slopes for better pavement drainage;
•  increase the quality of expansion material at all expansion joints to increase their effectiveness and longevity;
•  increase amounts of expansion material at driveways, on the outside of street curves, and the terminus of the street to reduce the effects of street creep;
•  require edge drains under the curb where 51% of the adjoining lot drains toward the street and also in sag locations for increased subsurface drainage; and
•  require a detailed pavement analysis performed by a geotechnical engineer for each project to determine any other pavement and drainage enhancements that should be utilized.

The noted requirement for edge drains is similar to the design proposal made by the engineers’ group. While committee members did not direct staff to require a full drainage blanket under all pavements as the Mayor’s Group recommended, they attempted to address the issue by requiring a detailed pavement analysis on every project.

“The committee agreed that a drainage blanket is needed in certain situations,” said Hiles. “But it also believed that requiring them everywhere as a minimum standard was overkill. In the end they determined that a geotechnical engineer should decide precisely where they were needed following the required pavement analysis. The geotechnical engineer could also require other improvements such as more edge drains or longitudinal drains.”

Staff is currently in the process of crafting the new street design standards established by the committee. When complete, the committee will distribute the new standards to the four interest groups in preparation for a roundtable meeting tentatively scheduled for February 28th. The goal will be to give these four groups the opportunity to discuss the design proposal and to provide the committee with additional feedback. After this meeting, the committee will give staff a final directive on what design proposals should be included in the draft regulations.

The final step will be to schedule the resulting draft to a public hearing before the full county planning commission membership. The plan is to hold that hearing and adopt the new regulations this spring.

Envista improves online coordination of roadway projects

Posted on December 08, 2012
Local public works and utility officials have worked with NKAPC staff over the last four years to cooperate fully in scheduling pavement and roadway maintenance activities.  The increased communication and coordination has been facilitated by the LINK-GIS online tool called Envista.

This past construction season, the online tool was used by all entities in Kenton and Campbell Counties that want to use it. The result cut down frustrations felt by the commuting public, decreased the need for pavement cuts, and provided savings to locals.

Representatives from Kenton and Campbell County Fiscal Courts, 22 cities in the two counties, the water and sanitation districts, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, Duke Energy, and Cincinnati Bell are now fully enabled to use the LINK-GIS tool.

“We started a user group for the officials to learn how each agency is using the system and to keep them up to date on software changes,” said Trisha Brush, GISP, NKAPC’s director for GIS administration. All participating entities can see current and upcoming projects through the central communication tool and can identify conflicts and opportunities to work together.

Brush cautioned, “The system is only as good as the data that are put into it. So, in order to make the tool function effectively, NKAPC staff is reminding and aiding local governments and utilities to update and check their projects for any information that would be useful to others looking at the same street segment.

“The online tool has helped to save money and promote working together through coordination. The tool has also helped the participating entities to use their road construction and maintenance dollars shrewdly, which in turn has allowed significant cost savings for local citizens.”

Brochure for identifying landslides available soon

Posted on December 08, 2012
The Kentucky Geological Survey (KGS), the University of Cincinnati (UC), and the local Hillside Trust are spearheading an effort to provide landslide information to local landowners in an easy-to-understand format. The organizations believe that more understanding is needed by local landowners regarding sensitivities present for landslides in this area.

Over the past year, KGS obtained LiDAR data from the LINK-GIS partnership and used these data to determine areas where landslides have occurred. KGS worked with UC staff to develop a large foldable two-sided document that has helpful photos, maps, and information. The Hillside Trust contributed $5000 to the effort so a smaller brochure could be printed for wider distribution.

KGS, UC, and the Hillside Trust will be continuing to work together while bringing other interested parties from Ohio and Indiana into the process. These groups are also in the planning stages for a symposium on landslides that would take place in the fall of 2013.

More information about the brochure will be published as this collaborative effort continues.

Independence ok’s new zoning district

Posted on December 08, 2012
After a nearly two and a half year process, the final proposed new zoning district recommended by a small area study was adopted by the Independence City Council recently. This final district allows for types of development that were not previously anticipated by the city’s zoning code. It was heard at a public hearing before the Kenton County Planning Commission on October 4th and subsequently sent to the city council for action.

This city action is the culmination of work by a steering committee of citizens appointed in late 2009. The charge presented to the group by Independence City Council was to implement recommendations of the Independence Community Small Area Study, adopted by the city and the Kenton County Planning Commission in 2007.

The appointed steering committee met monthly to review current zoning requirements, small area study recommendations, and zoning alternatives. The members’ geographic focus was for areas around downtown Independence, McCullum Pike, and the intersection of McCullum Pike with new KY 17.

The newly-adopted district is designated the Gateway Mixed Use Zone (GMU), which permits mixed-use developments with an emphasis on aesthetics and connectivity. This district illustrates trends in current development markets that are relatively new in this part of the country.

The GMU Zone focuses on the city’s desire to create a new gateway into Independence, one that will not compete with the southern gateway commercial area and the historic downtown.

Some citizens voiced apprehension about the new zoning districts before the final vote. In the end, however, city officials responded to public sentiment heard during the small area study process.

Before any recommendations were made, months were spent focused on educating the committee and making sure everyone was on the same page.

While not all committee members were in agreement on every provision of the new district, consensus was achieved on all major issues. The committee also made several alterations based on input received from the public. One of these was the decision to increase the size of the minimum development area and to extend the boundary to the west to include more land.

Erlanger charrette process seeks public’s imagination

Posted on December 08, 2012
CommonwealthStation will develop over time within an area across Commonwealth Avenue from the Erlanger City Building according to a strategy being developed with the assistance of city residents. Under a contract between the city and NKAPC, meetings with residents were held recently to help with a community vision for this area—a vision that will be captured in a new form-based zoning code for the area.

A form-based code is a place-specific tool. Unlike conventional zoning, it cannot be applied to different, individual areas around the city.

“A form-based code would help give the area and the people and the property there a little boost,” said Erlanger Mayor Tom Rouse. “It’s an attempt to take a look at the area and give it a shot in the arm.”

The city decided to create this community vision through a process called a “charrette”. A charrette is an intensive multi-day planning and design session where citizens, designers and others collaborate on a vision for development. It provides a forum for ideas and offers the unique advantage of giving immediate feedback to the designers. More importantly, it allows everyone who participates to be a co-author of the vision.

The City of Erlanger held the charrette on November 16 and 17. A design team of professors and students from Ball State University’s College of Architecture and Planning were hired to assist in this activity. Outreach for the event included the distribution of more than 150 flyers to businesses and residents, signs posted throughout the area, notice posted online and on the electronic message board in front of the city building.

Over the two-day period, residents, business owners, and people who work in the area had the opportunity to offer their feedback and hear more formal presentations given at the end of each day. The design team worked both days to incorporate comments from the public, the steering committee, and the city into multiple development alternatives for the site. The design teams will produce refined final versions of each of the alternatives in December, which will then be presented to the public for additional feedback.

NWS invites NKAPC staff to present on tornado

Posted on December 08, 2012
The National Weather Service (NWS) office, located in Wilmington, OH, invited NKAPC staff members to make a presentation to NWS staff on its response to the tornado that struck southern Kenton County on March 2, 2012.

On December 4th, staff members from several departments, including Building Codes Administration, GIS, and Planning & Zoning described their response to the devastation. Their short- and long-term efforts for easing the burden on affected residents included: inspections and coordination with local emergency response officials; production of maps and reports used to identify damage sites; and, waiving permit fees and some regulations as the rebuilding process began.

In addition, principal GIS specialist Joe Busemeyer made a presentation on “SnowTracker”, a GIS application created to track the snow treatment and plowing status of roads for Kenton County Public Works.

After the presentation, GIS staff presented a banner map of the path of the tornado for display at the NWS office. In a follow-up message to NKAPC staff, Julia Dian-Reed, a Service Hydrologist stationed in Wilmington wrote:

“We really appreciate your visit today, and the many skills NKAPC offers to Northern Kentucky. Thank you so much for the high-resolution poster of the Piner tornado - we are discussing where to display such a great depiction of a rare EF4 tornado (since our office's existence opening in 1994, there were only 2 other F4's, in Xenia in Sept 2000 and in Blue Ash, Ohio in April 1999). With an EF4 often not survivable above ground - the message of weather safety and awareness plays a large part in our mission. Such a high quality image of the aftermath would go a long way in communicating this message to the numerous tours and visitors we have to our office each year.”

NKAPC employees elected to state, local boards

Posted on November 30, 2012
Brian Sims, Jeff Bechtold, and John Lauber have each been building inspectors for over 15 years.  Those years of experience and their willingness to serve garnered election victories recently for each of the three NKAPC staffers in the Code Administrators Association of Kentucky (CAAK) and the Northern Kentucky Building Inspectors Association (NKBIA).

Brian Sims, CBO, NKAPC’s chief building official, was elected to a seat on the CAAK board of directors while completing his current term on the NKBIA board.

Senior building official Jeff Bechtold was elected NKBIA's president for 2013; Bechtold is also a CAAK board member.

John Lauber, senior building official, was re-elected as NKBIA's treasurer.

Since 1989, NKBIA members have worked together to improve code enforcement and uniformity in the Northern Kentucky region. Over the years, NKBIA has worked with CAAK, International Code Council, Northern Kentucky Home Builders Association, and the Office of Housing Building and Construction on code changes, statewide code adoptions, and code training.

For more than 35 years, CAAK has worked to ensure consistent and professional building code enforcement in all areas across the commonwealth. Its membership includes more than 650 building inspectors, fire officials, contractors, engineers, architects and others in related fields. CAAK works directly with the Office of Housing Building and Construction on code development, code adoptions and training.

Coordination – an important function of NKAPC staff

Posted on November 30, 2012
Planning has always played an important role in coordinating efforts of various agencies, governments, private organizations, non-profits, and residents. In Kenton County, NKAPC staff works diligently to be involved with groups throughout the community and region whose missions focus on improving the quality of life for residents.

Staff has worked closely with the Kenton Conservancy board of directors—a non-profit corporation committed to protecting lands of natural, cultural, recreational, and historical significance—since its inception over a decade ago. The Conservancy has preserved over 100 acres of land to date through voluntary donations from property owners and developers.

“Often times developers call us regarding land they own as part of a development that is intended to remain in its natural state,” said Sharmili Reddy, AICP, NKAPC’s planning manager. “This land in most cases includes hillsides and areas along streams that have very high ecological value. We work to connect these developers with appropriate agencies that have the resources to focus on land preservation. This provides a win-win outcome for both parties.”

Several current zoning districts throughout Kenton County allow for greater flexibility in the type of housing product they permit and allow for a mixture of uses. This traditionally involves an open space requirement which usually becomes the responsibility of a home owners association. With the work of the Kenton Conservancy, however, early coordination during the planning phase of the development provides a developer the opportunity to donate this land in return for federal and state tax benefits.

“We know there are a lot of groups out there working on various efforts that we may not necessarily know about or have worked with in the past,” said Jim Berling of Berling Engineering Company. “NKAPC has been a crucial point of contact for us with those groups. If we can convey remnant land to a group that is working on land conservation, it benefits the community as a whole.”

Mackey McNeil, chair of the Kenton Conservancy said, “NKAPC’s involvement provides citizens and developers a regular point of contact when dealing with our board and allows volunteers to focus on outreach, maintenance, and spreading our message to the community. We don’t believe we’d be able to continue to serve the citizens of this county without the support and guidance we receive from NKAPC.”

NKAPC earns State Auditor’s ‘Compliance’ designation

Posted on November 30, 2012
State Auditor Adam Edelen’s recent push for greater accountability from the Commonwealth’s 1200+ special districts places NKAPC among those agencies in the top tier. The resulting ‘Compliance’ designation earned through this process signifies the organization meets state requirements for financial decision making and accountability.

A recent news release from the Auditor’s office said that the current system of financial oversight of these special districts treat those that comply with state laws the same way as those operating outside of it. It says “the status quo is a muddled morass of statutes, bizarre classifications, uncertain responsibilities, confusing mandates and the absence of meaningful tools to compel compliance.”

The news release announced the establishment of an online public database and accompanying report to shine new light on these districts. This category of Kentucky local governmental entities includes libraries, sanitation and water districts, public health departments, fire and ambulance districts, transit authorities, and river port authorities to name a few.

“We certainly support what the auditor’s trying to accomplish,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, executive director. “NKAPC has always pursued annual audits of its books. Our budgets have always been approved by elected officials accountable to the taxpayers, and our books have always been open and transparent for anybody with a question.”

The Citizen Auditor Initiative database and “Ghost Government: A Report on Special Districts in Kentucky” are the end results of a six-month long effort to survey known special districts and local elected officials and examine more than 1000 statutes that govern the most prevalent form of government in the commonwealth.

“To be sure, there is a difference between the districts themselves and the scandalous lack of system-wide oversight of them,” Edelen said in the news release. “Their work is critical to the communities they serve, many board members put in considerable hours on a voluntary basis and the vast majority are honest stewards of the tax dollars they spend.”

“This is the first time that information on the state's taxing districts has been made available in an online, sortable format,” said Logan Morford, vice president of transparency of the Bluegrass Institute. “As a result, citizens will be able to easily find critical information about how their hard-earned tax dollars are spent.”

The report includes legislative recommendations aimed at cleaning up the statutes that govern special districts, adding teeth to compel compliance with reporting requirements, creating an online centralized registry for special districts to report their financials and establishing education and ethics for special district board members and staff.

“This is really a significant service to the public interest,” said Richard Beliles, executive director of Common Cause of Kentucky. “This is a major, major improvement in government for the people.”

The auditor’s office worked with the Department for Local Government, members of a legislative task force studying special districts, and more than a dozen organizations that offered their support of this effort.

The full report and database can be found on the auditor’s website.

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