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2017 platting activity was strong; 2018 promises even more

Posted on December 22, 2017

Subdivision activity was on the rise in Kenton County during 2017. Staff saw activity that was on par with levels not seen since prior to the recession. That bodes well for 2018 when many of those lots will be available for sale.

“We’ve been busy the last several years,” said Scott Hiles, CPC, Director of Infrastructure Engineering with PDS. “But we haven’t seen these levels of activity for almost ten years.”

PDS staff approved 11 improvement plans in 2017. Improvement plans contain the detailed infrastructure design that is proposed within a subdivision. These plans are required to be approved prior to the construction of any infrastructure.

“Often, the work proposed within a set of improvement plans takes more than a single year to construct,” said Hiles. “So, we know that there is approved infrastructure that didn’t get installed in 2017 that will carry over to 2018.”

Hiles said that there was approximately 9,000 feet of new subdivision street that was installed in 2017. However, about half of that street total came from improvement plans that carried over from previous years. “There was over 4,200 feet of street approved in 2017 that won’t get built until next year,” said Hiles.

Infrastructure that was constructed during 2017 resulted in the creation of more than 500 new building lots on 480 acres. Staff also processed 69 minor subdivision plats totaling 440 acres. There is no public infrastructure construction associated with minor subdivision plats according to Hiles, but it is another indication that land platting activities were high.

In addition to the infrastructure contained on approved improvement plans that won’t be installed until 2018, Hiles noted several new developments that were approved in 2017 won’t be the subject of improvement plans until 2018.

“There was a combination of seven new subdivisions or new additions to existing subdivisions that was submitted this year. Four of those developers aren’t planning to begin infrastructure construction until spring of 2018. So that infrastructure will be over and above the 4,200 feet of street that will carry over from 2017 approvals,” said Hiles.

While most subdivision activity remains in the City of Independence, it’s interesting to note that several of the new developments and new additions to existing developments that will take place next year are in the Cities of Covington, Erlanger, and Villa Hills.

Applicants may submit digital plans for review beginning in 2018

Posted on December 22, 2017

Applicants for zoning and building permits, building plan reviews, subdivision plat reviews, and subdivision improvement plan reviews will be able to submit them to PDS in digital form beginning next month. They’ll be able to complete the entire application process—application and plan submission and payment of fees—online by the second quarter of the new year.

PDS acquired licenses recently for BlueBeam software to drive this digital plan review process. The program will help PDS communicate with applicants using customizable, easy-to-mark-up tools which will help project coordination by tracking mark ups and generating reports automatically. It will also store all of its records in TRAKiT, PDS’ electronic development-tracking program.

More information about Bluebeam software is available here.

“There will be a learning curve initially, but we’ll work through it and establish a process that will be better in the future,” says Brian Sims, CBO, PDS’ chief building official. “We’re living in a digital world and are committed to help the design professionals and building industry be as efficient as possible.”

Sims believes most of the learning curve process will be completed by April for those who begin submitting digital plans in January.

PDS will move to online applications later in the fiscal year when it activates eTRAKiT, a module of its TRAKiT electronic development-tracking program. Staff is in the process now of developing the application process, online payment tools, and avenues to attach documents such as plans and worker’s compensation and geo-technical reports, etc.

“Our goal for some time now has been to move the entire application process online so that design professionals, builders, developers, and engineers can submit their entire application packages and pay their fees from their offices,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, executive director of PDS. “This will help them be more efficient, save money, and allow our staff to focus on getting projects through the review process more expeditiously.”

“We believe the ability for applicants to submit applications and plans digitally is a real step forward,” said Scott Hiles, CPC, Director of Infrastructure Engineering. “Kenton County’s Subdivision Regulations require all subdivision plans to be submitted digitally already. Being able to submit the entire application electronically goes hand in hand with what’s been required for some time.”

For applicants who prefer face-to-face interactions, staff is working toward installing a kiosk in the agency’s permit office that will facilitate digital submissions with someone near to help if necessary.

Looking forward, Sims and Hiles look forward to the day when their staffs will no longer need multiple sets of plans for each project.

“We’ll be able to deliver digital plans to those individuals and agencies who require a copy of our submissions for their reviews… and we’ll be able to accomplish that without the help of the US Postal Service or a vehicle. It will be so much more efficient for all concerned,” concluded Sims.

For more information, contact Brian Sims or Scott Hiles or call them at 859.331.8980. 

IEBC Course and CEUs available

Posted on December 18, 2017
First CEU Opportunity of 2018

PDS of Kenton County, the Kentucky Department of Housing, Buildings and Construction, and AIA Northern Kentucky are pleased to announce a professional development opportunity. The 2015 International Existing Building Code (IEBC) will soon replace the premise of Chapter 34: Existing Buildings within the 2013 Kentucky Building Code. This is your opportunity to learn what this means and how you’ll benefit.

WHO: Architects, Building Officials, Developers, and Contractors

WHERE: PDS of Kenton County, 2332 Royal Drive, Fort Mitchell

WHEN: Friday, January 26; registration begins at 8 AM; class runs from 8:30 to 4 PM

COURSE DESCRIPTION: This course suits building officials and design professionals who work to restore and re-use existing buildings in Kentucky. The Kentucky Building Code and IEBC intend to provide flexible alternative approaches to safeguarding public health, safety, and welfare without compromising the original character and use of buildings as they are repaired and altered for today’s needs.

INSTRUCTOR: Winnie Blythe, Technical Director, Kentucky Department Housing, Buildings and Construction

CREDITS: This class has been approved for six (6) CEUs by AIA Northern Kentucky and the Kentucky Department
Housing, Buildings and Construction

REGISTRATION: Class size is limited. Registration is required by January 22. Contact Lori Remley at 859.331.8980
or lremley@pdskc.org

COST: $20 to cover the cost of materials, coffee and pastries in the morning, and lunch. PDS accepts all major credit
cards and will provide receipts for reimbursement purposes.

GIS staff takes on keeping RoW management data up to date

Posted on November 27, 2017

PDS’ GIS staff believes so strongly in the capabilities of a software program that it’s committed to inputting local data to help Kenton and Campbell jurisdictions save precious tax dollars. Staff members are reaching out now to the counties, the municipalities, and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet for their 2018 pavement projects so they can be uploaded to the LINK-GIS right-of-way management tool by Accela.

Once online, these project data can be viewed alongside maintenance project data entered by SD1, the Northern Kentucky Water District, Duke Energy, Owen Electric, Spectrum, and Cincinnati Bell. The goal is to increase communication and coordination for street cuts and paving projects. The result will cut down frustrations felt by the motoring public, decrease the need for pavement cuts, and ultimately save taxpayer and rate payer dollars through cooperative construction efforts.

“All participating entities will be able to see each other’s current and upcoming projects through the software program’s central dashboard. This will illustrate conflicts and opportunities to work together,” said Trisha Brush, GISP, PDS’ director for GIS administration. “Unfortunately, the system is only as good as the data that are put into it.”

“To make sure the software program functions effectively, PDS staff will input local governments’ and utilities’ projects for next season as soon as we receive them,” Brush said.

Kyle Ryan, Coordinating Engineer with the Northern Kentucky Water District commented, “Coordinating water main replacement with planned roadway improvements reduces restoration costs and helps protect the cities’ roadway investments from potential damage caused by breaks and routine maintenance of aging infrastructure.”

“It can also provide our customers with better water service because these projects often produce increased flows for the cities’ fire departments. And, it can relieve traffic congestion for residents who are burdened with one combined construction period verses two separate projects spread over several years,” concluded Ryan.

Email Trisha Brush or call her at 859.331.8980 for more information on the software program or PDS’ efforts to save local tax dollars.

NKYmapLAB product highlights Latonia ‘complete street’ proposal

Posted on November 27, 2017

The newest NKYmapLAB project explores ‘complete street’ improvements along Winston Avenue in Covington’s Latonia neighborhood. The project was released as part of National Community Planning Month, which is celebrated each October by the American Planning Association and its 50,000+ members.

A ‘complete street’ is designed to accommodate all modes of travel: bicyclists, pedestrians, mass transit, and motorized vehicles. Important sections of Winston Avenue do not accommodate pedestrians well currently.

Winston Avenue starts at Ritte’s Corner and extends south to the Latonia Centre commercial and retail strip development near Howard Litzler Drive. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has determined that Winston Avenue needs full-depth pavement replacement. Resurfacing the road will not be adequate to meet current and future transportation needs.

The complete street approach supports one of the goals of the Latonia Small Area Study; to “increase the pedestrian and bicycle amenities within the corridor, without disrupting the volume of traffic the roadway can accommodate.”

This mapLAB project explores current non-automobile conditions along Winston Avenue, the major destinations and areas that generate pedestrian traffic, and investments made in placemaking by the Center for Great Neighborhoods over the last several years. It also includes several brief video interviews highlighting key concepts of the proposed improvements.

"Winston Avenue is one of the gateways into Covington. It has unique opportunities and challenges with industrial and commercial uses on one side and residential uses on the other. Instead of using Winston Avenue as a border between the two, the complete street approach facilitates its use as a bridge,” said Ryan Kent, GISP, Principal GIS Data Analyst.

“I expect that the investments made in placemaking by the Center for Great Neighborhoods will continue to strengthen the neighborhood as a destination for people. With the upcoming branding efforts, I’m excited to see how the region responds to Latonia as it becomes more visible and more accessible from a non-automobile perspective,” said Louis Hill, AICP, GISP, Geospatial Data Analyst with PDS.

For more information about the project, email Louis Hill or Ryan Kent or call them at 859.331.8980. NKYmapLAB is available online and on Twitter @NKYmapLAB.

Work progresses on Kenton County’s bicycle/pedestrian plan

Posted on November 27, 2017

Over 400 citizens took time recently to provide their thoughts on the future of active transportation in Kenton County through an online survey. The survey was part of the public engagement portion of Kenton Connects, a study to assess bicycle and pedestrian conditions, discover potential issues, and begin to define priorities for an update of Kenton County’s bicycle and pedestrian plan.

While staff is still working on a detailed analysis, preliminary results of the survey show safety, connectivity, access, and convenience as the major themes and important issues.

“Our advisory committee will examine each of the topics as the project enters its next phase,” said Chris Schneider, AICP, a principal planner at PDS and project manager for the study. “The results will help guide the next phases of the project and provide direction moving forward.”

The survey was promoted across multiple platforms including public service announcements on Spectrum cable television, social media outreach, distribution through local jurisdiction emails and newsletters, and providing paper copies and flyers at numerous locations across the community.

“We received great feedback from the community,” Schneider continued. “We know more now about people’s biking and walking habits… and a good picture of their safety concerns.”

Complete results from the survey will be available soon on the Kenton Connects website.

Research on crashes, bicycle counts, and sidewalk and bicycle facility connectivity are just some of the many topics that have been examined already throughout the county. Identifying and understanding Kenton County’s existing infrastructure and safety conditions will facilitate more informed decisions and recommendations when creating the plan.

The next phase of the project will begin setting benchmark goals based on existing conditions and survey information. These goals will be used to create measurables that can be reviewed in the future to evaluate success and help implement future policy and planning decisions.

To stay up to date on the bicycle and pedestrian plan, visit KentonConnects.org to learn more and to join the project email list. Email Chris Schneider or call him at 859.331.8980 with questions or for more information.

Maintaining master address database is critical and frustrating work

Posted on November 27, 2017

Have you ever mistakenly received someone else’s mail or had a package delivered that wasn’t yours because your address was similar to the address on the label? Does your street name end in “Drive” while another identically-named street ends in “Road”? These are just two of many addressing situations causing problems for people every day.

Addresses are important, and therefore need to be correct, unique, and easily located. Otherwise, duplications or similarities in spelling or pronunciation can confuse even the most experienced people who deal with them every day.

In an emergency when emotions run high, the difference between “Byrd Road” and “Bird Road” can be the difference between life and death.

“Keeping address records up to date can be frustrating because there is no single, authoritative, and comprehensive list on which to base them,” said Tom East, a senior GIS specialist with PDS. “There are dozens, if not hundreds, of address lists maintained by different agencies, organizations, and companies, each with its own unique way of recording addresses.”

These different lists typically have large numbers of addresses in common, but they will also have a smaller number of addresses that are unique to their needs and purposes, which are not likely to be found in other lists.

“Trying to collect all of a community’s unique addresses in a single location is a challenging and time-consuming task,” said East. “It’s made more difficult because these address lists rarely get shared or distributed to others to use.”

PDS staff—primarily Tom East—has built and maintained a master address database for Kenton County over the past ten years. All addresses in it have been standardized to correct road misspellings, to replace incorrect suffixes (like “Rd” instead of “Dr”), and to fix transposed numbers (like “5590” instead of “5509”) along with many other issues. The database does not contain information beyond addresses.

Staff has also standardized all addresses to meet the US Postal Service’s suggested formatting guidelines. This standard doesn’t dictate what a street is named, it just recommends a standard way to write it for improving mail delivery. Millions of companies across the US use this standard every day to provide products and services to the American public.

“We’re confident enough now with the accuracy of our data that we intend to start reaching out and sharing it with those who’ll benefit from it,” said Dennis Gordon, FAICP, Executive Director of PDS. “We’ve invested a lot of work in this project and it’s time to begin seeing a return on investment… not just for PDS and its member local governments but for all of Kenton County.”

Keeping these data up to date is a critical and never-ending job that can require hours of research and field work to verify. Changes to the database occur every day according to East.

When staff finds road names that need to be corrected, based on official records likes plats or city or county ordinances, they update the information ensuring that the data is consistent, correct, and complete.

When a new address is discovered, it is verified and then added to the database. When a house or building is torn down, the address is not deleted but is marked “Retired” if the property no longer requires it. In this way, a record of previous address is maintained.

“These changes are documented literally every day at PDS,” concluded East. “We see it as a necessity for the provision of services to citizens.”

For more information on Kenton County’s master address database, email Tom East or call him at 859.331.8980.

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.


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