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PDS hosts autonomous vehicle seminar for area wide audience

Posted on January 03, 2017

“The future ain’t what it used to be.” -Yogi Berra

PDS and the Kentucky Chapter of the American Planning Association hosted an autonomous vehicle seminar earlier this month. The session began a discussion of how this advancing technology might change planning practice in Northern Kentucky. More than 30 city officials, planning professionals, and citizens from the eight-county region attended.

The event was one of the first in the region to look at how today’s vision of the future is starting to change how we interact with automobiles.

The discussion was facilitated by three professionals from Columbus, Ohio who have researched the topic extensively and presented to groups across the country. Two planners from OHM Advisors, Justin Robbins, AICP, and Jason Sudy, AICP, along with Rick Stein, AICP, of Urban Decision Group, formed the Urban Mobility Research Center to study the impacts that autonomous vehicles will have on our cities.

 “We’re nearing the end of a massive 70-year development experiment, with a new one about to begin,” said Justin Robbins, AICP. “We’ve created our cities around a specific transportation model, and the introduction of autonomous vehicles will fundamentally disrupt how that current system functions.”

The new technology will have an effect on every person who either drives or rides in a vehicle to get from place to place. With such a high potential impact, the subject is starting to gather the attention of decision makers as well.

“This technology is coming, sooner than later, and it has the potential to impact how we design our infrastructure,” said Brian Dehner, City Administrator for Edgewood. “We could construct narrower streets and not require as many parking spaces. This frees up land for additional economic development and green space. We need to get ahead of this and begin to evaluate this technology and be a region that invites the technology.”

“Autonomous vehicles will not only change how we get from place to place, but also how our cities function. And it will be happening a lot sooner than people think,” said Jason Sudy, AICP, one of the presenters at the event. “For example, significant changes to our roadway infrastructure, public transit services, and our development pattern will all come from the widespread adoption of this technology.”

The well-attended event indicates people are starting to accept the concept and take it more seriously.

“Three or four years ago when we were working on the Kenton County Transportation Study and Direction 2030 comprehensive plan, there were a lot of blank stares or chuckles when I brought up the idea of autonomous vehicles,” said James Fausz, AICP, Long Range Planning Manager for PDS, APA-KY Region 4 Representative, and organizer of the event.

“People used to think this technology was in the distant future at best, but just a few years later that isn’t the case. Today there are cars with driver assist features that are semi-autonomous and Teslas have been able to drive themselves since 2015. Within ten years we very well may see more autonomous vehicles on the road than those being driven by people,” said Fausz.

“What people tend to forget is that technology progresses on an exponential scale. You can’t get a good sense of its trajectory by looking backwards, because the pace of innovation is always accelerating,” said Rick Stein, AICP, during the presentation.

Autonomous-style features like forward automatic emergency braking, lane departure correction, and blind spot monitoring are available now on numerous auto brands and are precursors to full automation.

“As people become more familiar with these technologies, full automation will likely seem like a small step rather than a giant leap,” Sudy added.

Kenton Fiscal Court OKs Vacant Foreclosed Property Registry

Posted on January 03, 2017

Kenton County Fiscal Court voted unanimously last month to enact a county-wide vacant foreclosed property registration program. The program, which became effective December 9, increases 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 will save 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.

In developing the ordinance with Kenton County Attorney Stacy Tapke, staff sought information from communities that have adopted vacant property registration programs. That research showed this type of program has proven to be a useful tool for other communities.

“The benefit at the office level is allowing faster turnaround times for property clean up,” said Joseph Parson, Planning/Building Inspector for the City of Morehead, Kentucky. That jurisdiction enacted a vacant property registration ordinance in 2011.

The City of Cincinnati uses a similar program. Cincinnati issued a report two years after adopting its vacant foreclosed property registry which details the changes in code enforcement effectiveness before and after adoption. The report states that prior to adoption of the ordinance, an estimated 20-30 percent of foreclosed properties degraded in condition during the foreclosure period. Within the first year after adoption, only ten per cent of those properties degraded in condition. That number dropped to 4.5 percent in the second year.

The cost of administering this program will be the sole responsibility of the banks and lending institutions that must maintain these foreclosed properties. The program will be funded through a required $150 property registration fee. In addition, the registration will reduce 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 current system, code enforcement officials’ only option is to mail a violation letter to the lending institution which is often out of state and that rarely yields results.” 

Vacant foreclosed properties can drag down property values in an otherwise well-kept neighborhood. There are an estimated 1,321 properties currently pending foreclosure in Kenton County, some dating back to 2006. Most of these properties set vacant and unmaintained through all or part of the foreclosure process. Kenton County’s new Vacant Foreclosed Property Registry provides cities with a mechanism to require that these properties be maintained to reasonable standards while in foreclosure.

PDS staff is reaching out currently to all lending institutions doing business in the metro area to inform them of this new requirement. It is also working with each of Kenton County’s 20 jurisdictions to discuss the program and provide necessary information to local staff.

Contact Emi Randall, Director of Planning & Zoning Administration or Rob Himes, Codes Administrator, or call 859.331.8980 for more information.

Kenton County Plan4Health highlighted at national meeting

Posted on November 03, 2016
Kenton County’s Plan4Health Coalition was recognized recently at the American Planning Association’s (APA) Fall Leadership Meetings in Washington, DC. The meetings brought together chapter presidents and planners from across the country to learn about the latest topics in the field and plan for the future of the association.

James Fausz, AICP, a senior planner at PDS attended the meetings on behalf of the Kentucky Chapter of APA.

“I was pleasantly surprised to see work from our Plan4Health project presented by national APA staff to planners and chapter leaders as examples of high quality work,” Fausz said. “We know that we do good work for our communities, but it was exciting to see that work presented as an example for the rest of the country.”

The Kenton County Plan4Health project was a yearlong planning effort to increase access to nutritious food across the county. The program worked to achieve this goal through several efforts including building a better link between urban markets and rural food producers, focusing on corner stores in urban communities, and even hosting a healthy foods summit near the end of the program.

“From the start, the Kenton County team hit the ground running with a clear strategy for assessing the environment and taking a comprehensive look at the food system,” said Anna Ricklin, AICP, Manager of the Planning and Community Health Center for APA. “Their work and its results serve as excellent examples of what can happen when staff from public health and planning agencies come together with a united goal to support community needs.”

The Kenton County Plan4Health program was established by a $135,000 grant from APA via its partnership with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The program was a collaborative effort and included professional staff from the Center for Great Neighborhoods of Covington, Inc., American Planning Association-Kentucky Chapter, Northern Kentucky Health Department, Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI), and PDS.

Staff provides all 20 Jurisdictions with profiles full of information

Posted on November 03, 2016
PDS staff crafted new city data sheets this past summer to offer snapshots of demographic trends, public infrastructure, and development activity for each of Kenton County’s 20 jurisdictions. The sheets are updates of research conducted as a part of Direction 2030: Your Choice Your Voice, Kenton County’s comprehensive plan adopted in 2014.

The updated sheets are now available on the Direction 2030 Action website.
This edition of the city data sheets features information from a variety of public sources as well as local LINK-GIS data. Some of the most notable additions to the sheets are an inventory of street and sidewalk length, park and tree canopy acreage, traffic counts sourced from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, and an assessment of each city’s potential for solar energy production. The sheets also provide housing statistics, demographic data, and a two-year record of building permit requests.

PDS staff presented the sheets to city administrators in each jurisdiction, highlighting local trends within the context of the county.

“The city data sheets provided by PDS show positive trends for our city,” says Chris Moriconi, City Administrator for Independence. “Property values have increased over the past decade along with median household income. I was also excited to see that our population is expected to continue to grow into the year 2020. We are very happy to have this information as it shows our city is moving in the right direction.”

The city administrators also reviewed the information provided by PDS staff, shared local data with staff, and discussed changes they thought might be necessary for the sheets. To ensure the accuracy of statistics, housing and demographic representations were drawn from 2000 and 2010 census tables using 100% survey data.

Staff plans to incorporate some census estimates for years succeeding 2010 in the next update to the data sheets.

New ‘mini cell tower’ regulations meeting planning commission goals

Posted on November 03, 2016
The Kenton County Planning Commission adopted new cell tower regulations earlier this year with several goals in mind. The most important of these goals was to empower its incorporated communities to control the location and design of small cell towers within their jurisdictions.

The most dramatic changes to the regulations are within a new section that addresses small cell towers. These facilities are essentially telephone poles in the rights of way that have cell tower equipment attached. This new technology is exploding in the region as well as across the country.

Since adoption of the new regulations, PDS staff has reviewed and approved several new small cell towers within Kenton County jurisdictions.

As the new regulations have been applied, they are meeting this goal by requiring all parties involved to meet and discuss the potential location and design of the new small cell towers with community leaders.

The new regulations have also streamlined the approval process for these towers. Previous to the new cell tower regulations being adopted, all new cell towers – regardless of height or location – had to go through the state-mandated uniform application process. This involves very detailed engineering reports, extensive documentation, and broad reaching notification to the surrounding communities. The uniform application process was drafted at a time when tall cell towers over 150 feet tall were the norm.

While this level of detail is necessary and desirable for the traditional tall cell towers, the planning commission saw this as overreach for small cell towers. There may be dozens, if not hundreds, of these small cell towers across Kenton County sometime in the future. Holding a public hearing for each one was seen as unrealistic.

Finally, the new cell tower regulations have preserved the uniform application process for any towers over 50 feet. This means that if anything taller than a utility pole is proposed, communities can rest assured that there will be ample opportunity for review and public input through Kenton County Planning Commission’s public hearing process.

Through careful planning and involving many stakeholders, the new cell tower regulations are meeting the expectations and goals that the county planning commission set out to address. You may review the expanded cell tower regulations here.

Lakeside Park disbanding code enforcement board, joining joint board

Posted on November 03, 2016
The Lakeside Park City Council is scheduled to vote to disband its code enforcement board on November 14; an affirmative vote will be followed by action to join the Kenton County Joint Code Enforcement Board. Lakeside Park will become the 12th jurisdiction represented by the Kenton County Joint Code Enforcement Board, an alliance of local jurisdictions staffed by PDS’ One Stop Shop program.

Other members of the joint board are Kenton County, Crescent Springs, Crestview Hills, Edgewood, Fort Wright, Independence, Kenton Vale, Park Hills, Ryland Heights, Taylor Mill, and Villa Hills.

Code enforcement continues to be a growing issue in most communities. Cities struggle with serving citations legally and providing an appeal process that will hold up if the case ends up in court. By entering the Joint Code Enforcement Board, the city will benefit in getting these concerns filled.

“If property owners decide to appeal their cases, the city can rest assured that joint code enforcement board members will be trained, will have legal representation present during all meetings, and will pursue their responsibilities every month due to a combined workload,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, PDS’ executive director.

“This is far better than a local board that meets maybe one or two times a year and then questions how it is supposed to handle these matters.”

Membership of the Kenton County Joint Code Enforcement Board is comprised of an appointed representative from each jurisdiction. The Board provides an objective forum to hear appeals from property owners, order timely remediation or abatement of issues, or if necessary impose civil fines for continued, unabated violations of ordinances.

The Joint Board meets the second Thursday of every month at 6:00 p.m. in the Commission Chambers of the PDS Building in Fort Mitchell.

LINK-GIS featured in online Government Executive Publication

Posted on November 03, 2016
Esri (pronounced ez-ree), the world-wide leader in GIS software, asked PDS staff recently if it could interview and showcase PDS’ GIS story. Esri first noticed the agency’s pioneering work while it was featured at the American Planning Association’s National Planning Conference last April in Phoenix. The Kenton County Plan4Health story map was the focus of that effort.

Several PDS GIS team members attended the Esri international users’ conference in June and responded to Esri’s interview request. Company executives found PDS’ story so immediately interesting and sharable they asked to communicate its success stories with their user audience and other government publications.

On September 28 the government executive publication Route Fifty picked up the story and published it as, “Empowering a Smarter Community through GIS.”

A quote from the story reads, “Kenton County, Kentucky, is using intelligent maps and apps to provide citizens with the data intelligence they need.”

Review the entire article here.

OKI, PDS collaborate on fiscal impact analyses for local jurisdictions

Posted on November 03, 2016

How much does a new development expand a local government’s tax base? Does one type of development produce more tax revenue than another? What about services needed for the new development? How much will they cost?

Five Kenton County jurisdictions will soon be able to answer these questions and others regarding growth being experienced within their boundaries. The tool that provides these answers will be made available through the Ohio Kentucky Indiana Regional Council of Governments’ (OKI) Fiscal Impact Analysis Model.

Fiscal impact models estimate the revenues and costs associated with land use changes. They can compare alternative development scenarios and analyze effects of specific development projects. The estimates are based on revenue and expenditure trends for the jurisdiction.

The City of Independence has utilized the OKI tool since 2010 and will continue in the program.

“This tool has given us another layer of information for our decision making. It’s important to understand the city’s costs to provide services whenever there’s a development proposal on the table,” says Mayor Chris Reinersman of Independence.

PDS staff will work with OKI over the coming months to provide this tool to four additional cities in Kenton County—Covington, Edgewood, Crestview Hills, and Taylor Mill. This pilot program will run for one year after which the cities will be asked for feedback regarding the model’s usefulness.

When new businesses locate in a community or new homes are built, the new employees and residents pay new taxes. New employees pay new local income taxes. New property owners pay new real estate taxes.

These new businesses and residents also create new costs. New developments may require new roads, sewers, police and fire protection. New residents may demand new parks. Greater traffic congestion may require more roads and traffic lights.

Fiscal impact analyses use local government budgetary trends (both revenues and expenditures) as well as land use, and population and employment trends to project costs and revenues associated with new residential or non-residential growth in the community.

If new revenues exceed new costs, the fiscal impact is said to be positive. The local government can meet new demands for services. If new revenues fall short of new costs, the fiscal impact is negative and the local government must take steps to meet new service demands, or the quality of overall existing services may be impacted.

OKI’s Fiscal Impact Analyses Model can be used to compare alternative development scenarios for a jurisdiction—for example, to see whether a community will benefit more from a single family residential development or mixed use development. It can also analyze effects of specific development projects—for example, what impact will a zoning change or development approval have on the specific need for fire protection.

OKI developed the Fiscal Impact Analysis Model to give decision makers a better understanding of the budgetary implications of land use proposals. The need for a fiscal impact analysis tool was identified as part of OKI’s Strategic Regional Policy Plan, adopted in 2005.

The Fiscal Impact Analysis Model is an educational tool. Information generated from the Model will help local governments understand better the revenues and costs associated with new development and the jurisdiction’s ability to provide public facilities and services.

Board authorizes Wall of Distinguished Service to honor contributors

Posted on October 07, 2016
At 55 years of age, PDS is taking steps to acknowledge those whose distinguished service helped the agency succeed. The PDS Management Board last month authorized the creation of a Wall of Distinguished Service and set ten and 20 years as the thresholds for consideration of citizen members and staff respectively.

“We created a Wall of Honor several years ago and posted the names of all individuals who’ve served on the Area Planning Commission/PDS Management Board, the NKAPC/PDS Council, and the Kenton County Planning Commission,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, executive director at PDS. “NKAPC had just turned 50 and we thought it was entirely appropriate to honor the organization’s history.”

“What could be more appropriate than to honor the citizens whose decisions built the organization,” he asked.

Gordon says as appropriate as that step was, most agreed that some of the persons whose names appear on the wall should be singled out for their distinguished service to Kenton County and NKAPC/PDS. Many current officials also felt that some of the many professionals who served as staff over the years should be included too.

Upon its creation during October, the Wall of Distinguished Service will include resolutions honoring 18 citizens and five staff members. It will be located physically in PDS’ front corridor where all persons entering its building will be able see it.

Planners complete Ludlow study; City to review recommendations

Posted on October 07, 2016
PDS staff completed the Ludlow Parking Lot Study late last month. Ludlow’s City Administration requested the study earlier this year, with the expressed goal of identifying the most effective way to expand parking availability within its Elm Street business district.

The study identified empty lots well-suited for conversion to parking lots, existing private parking lots that may be candidates for shared parking arrangements, and parking management techniques that can increase the number of parking spaces currently available. These three options for creating additional public parking spaces should be adequate for addressing Ludlow’s parking needs into the future.

Two of the four empty lots identified for conversion into parking lots are located in the business district and, together, could provide approximately 36 spaces. The other two empty lots are located within a short distance of the business district and provide a combined total of approximately 80 spaces.

The study also recommended that the City of Ludlow pursue a shared parking agreement with the owners of two parking lots located just south of the business district. Those agreements would allow the city access to the parking lots when they are not being used by the owners, providing the city with approximately 35 additional parking spaces.

Parking management techniques discussed in the study include striping parking spaces along Elm Street within the business district. Proper street parking-space striping creates uniform, right-sized parking spaces and eliminates the wide gaps between parked cars that can waste valuable space.

Another parking management technique recommended by the study is the establishment of time limits for parking spaces within the business district. Time limits encourage individuals to use business district parking spaces for short-term business needs only, which would allow more vehicles to park in the district throughout the day.

PDS staff also recommended that the city place wayfinding signs in strategic locations to direct users to public parking lots. Wayfinding signs direct users to facilities of interest and amenities and when placed correctly, these signs can provide a convenient guide to drivers without cluttering the streetscape with too many signs. The study offers suggestions for where the city might place these signs for the best impact.

The Ludlow Parking Lot Study provides Ludlow City Administration with the information it needs when determining how best to invest in the city’s current and future parking needs. As cities seek to expand their business centers, finding effective ways to serve the increased vehicular traffic that accompanies that expansion becomes a vital concern. By leveraging the ideas and recommendations presented in the Ludlow Parking Lot study, the City of Ludlow can efficiently acquire additional parking spaces that will help accommodate residents and welcome visitors to Ludlow’s increasingly active business district.  

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