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NKAPC completes review of operations effort with name change

In a move that more effectively describes the scope of services it provides, the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission (NKAPC) is changing its name to Planning and Development Services of Kenton County, or PDS.

The change is effective July 1, 2014 and will bring clarity to an organization that while important to the community is often misunderstood.

“Planning and Development Services of Kenton County reflects the true mission of the organization as a service provider on behalf of the county’s 20 local governments,” said former Fort Wright Mayor Tom Litzler, Chairman of the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission.

“The new name truly reflects the service area of the organization, not the greater Northern Kentucky community, which was the original mission of the Northern Kentucky Planning Commission as envisioned by Northern Kentucky’s legislative delegation in 1960,” Litzler said.

The name change to PDS will put an end to the confusion created by two connected organizations that both used the term ‘planning commission’ in their names: the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission and the Kenton County Planning Commission.

“The confusion that surrounded those two names was always present,” said Dennis Gordon, executive director of the organization. “That unfortunate fact seemed to always cloud the real story which was that as parts of a team, the planning commission and staff were working together to serve the citizens of Kenton County as the law intended.”

Responsibilities assigned to the two bodies by state statute never overlapped over the years, said Gordon. They actually complemented each but “you’d never have known that based on public perception,” he asserted.

A communications assessment conducted for NKAPC in 2011 found that the public’s number one problem with the organization was confusion about the services that NKAPC provides and how they differ from those provided by the Kenton County Planning Commission.

Two other planning bodies will also have new names:
•    The Northern Kentucky Area Planning Council—the agency’s governing body made up of one elected official from each of the County’s 20 jurisdictions—will now be known as the Planning and Development Services Council.
•    Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission—the seven-member board selected by the Council to oversee the day-to-day affairs of the agency and staff—will now be known as the Planning and Development Services Management Board.

The name of the Kenton County Planning Commission will remain the same since it is this body charged by state statutes with pursuing planning and zoning responsibilities for all Kenton County communities.

Consideration of the name change began following a 2011 petition drive focused on eliminating NKAPC. The Northern Kentucky Area Planning Council launched a comprehensive look at the organization and how it was operating.

The agency’s finances, staffing, administration, operations, and more were included in the assessment, and 16 recommendations to improve the organization’s efficiencies and effectiveness were made.

After a two-year effort completing the objectives set forth in those recommendations, officials turned to the confusion and false perceptions created by the NKAPC name. In the end, they decided that the name needed to be changed.

“The operational changes were made to make the organization more efficient, understandable, accountable, and transparent,” said Crestview Hills Mayor Paul Meier, Vice-Chairman of the newly-christened PDS Management Board. “They provide a more responsive way of providing services to residents, communities, and businesses… and the name is reflective of that fact.

“Accountability is a hallmark of PDS,” Meier said. “These changes were made in part to ensure that the organization continues to be responsive to the concerns of the community as it has for the past 53 years.”

PDS offers a wide array of services – planning and zoning, infrastructure engineering, building codes administration, GIS mapping, and a One Stop Shop program for codes enforcement. It also provides technical support to first-responders in times of emergency, all of which makes the community better, safer, and more professionally planned and developed.

PDS also facilitates economic development by working closely and professionally with elected officials, economic development professionals, real-estate developers, utility providers, and the construction industry in general.

“This collaborative services model saves taxpayer dollars by providing planning and development services on behalf of Kenton County’s 20 local governments, which don’t have to hire staff individually to provide these services,” Litzler said. “PDS works in concert with these local governments to provide services, answer questions and concerns, staffs their planning commission, and ensures that these communities are developed (and redeveloped) in a healthy, safe, and effective way.”

Steve Hensley, Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for Kenton County, said PDS plays a vital role in public safety, including planning for and responding to natural disasters.

As an example, Hensley points to the 2012 tornadoes in Southern Kenton County that took four lives, destroyed 88 homes, and damaged 257 more.

PDS building inspectors arrived immediately after the storms subsided and assisted the relief effort by ensuring that storm-damaged buildings were inhabitable.

“At one time we had 15 building inspectors, checking on structures that were damaged,” Hensley said. “We needed to know if the buildings were safe or unsafe and if they needed to be condemned. They were there without hesitation, and stayed until job was done. To me that shows dedication to the community.”

PDS also assists local emergency planning and response efforts by helping identify storm warning siren locations, mapping flood plains, and using its GIS system to help first responders in emergency situations.

“Most people don’t realize all that (PDS) does in this community,” said Hensley, the former police chief and city administrator of Fort Mitchell. “They are very, very good when it comes to planning and zoning, but they also make our community safer and they make local government more efficient.”