Mission: ‘The Z word’ -- Residents invited to help shape zoning code rewrite

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The City of Covington wants the public’s help in fundamentally restructuring its approach to zoning, the process by which communities guide physical development of land.

Residents invited to help shape zoning code rewrite 

COVINGTON, Ky. - The City of Covington is inviting the public to four neighborhood open houses over the next two weeks to begin weighing in on “the Z word.”
 
The “Z” stands for zoning, an often misunderstood and maligned process by which communities guide physical development of land in order to reduce conflicts and create complementary spaces.
 
Covington intends to fundamentally restructure its approach to zoning. And it has begun what will amount to an 18-month rewrite of its massive Zoning Ordinance, which officials say is beset with deficiencies:
  • The ordinance can be unwieldy and frustrating.
  • It can take money and time - often too much of both - to obtain exceptions to land-use laws in the form of variances, conditional use permits, text amendments, and map amendments.
  • At its core, the current Zoning Ordinance and process doesn’t pay tribute to Covington’s historic character. 
The result, Economic Development Director Tom West has said, is a zoning code that “doesn’t get us the development and investment we want.”
 
But for the new approach to work, the City needs input.
 
“As of this week, we don’t have a single word of this new plan written, so it’s critically important that residents lend their voices and concerns - and we mean everybody from the corner-store business owner to the out-of-town developer,” said Christopher Myers, the City’s preservation and planning specialist. “We’re really depending on them to shape this.”
 
The open houses will have a drop-in format and last an hour. Anyone interested in learning more about this project and wanting to be involved is invited to spend a few minutes of the hour engaging with the consultant team, City staff, and others who are concerned with the future development of Covington.
 
The first three open houses are designed to concentrate discussion around different areas of the City, although people can attend any of the events, no matter where they live, work, or own property. The fourth event focuses on historic preservation. 
  • 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 19, at Holy Cross High School cafeteria (3617 Church St.) - focused on Latonia and South Covington. 
  • 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 20, at the Kenton County Public Library’s BB&T Meeting Room (502 Scott Blvd.) - focused on neighborhoods north of MLK Jr. Boulevard/12th Street, including on the west side of the city.
  • 8 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 20, at Kenton County Public Library’s BB&T Meeting Room - focused on neighborhoods between Latonia and MLK Jr. Boulevard/12thStreet.
  • 7 p.m., Monday, Feb. 25, at Hellmann Creative Center (321 MLK Jr. Blvd./12thSt.), focused on historic preservation. 
The open houses will be led by Kendig Keast Collaborative, the Texas-based zoning code consultant hired by Covington to oversee the transition from a Zoning Ordinance to what is known as a form-based Neighborhood Development Code.
 
Kendig Keast will introduce its team, explain the concept and goals of a form-based code, and explain how the public can get involved in the process in the months ahead. More community events will be held in April, July, and later in the year, Myers said.
 
Already Kendig Keast has begun in-depth discussions with a 13-member steering committee that includes representatives from neighborhoods and the planning, development, real estate and business community.
 
“The open houses are just the beginning of public engagement,” Myers said.
 
‘Look’ and ‘feel’:
City officials say one of the goals of the new form-based code is to incorporate historic preservation principles that are both relevant and needed, given 200-year-old Covington’s array of older commercial and residential structures.
 
A traditional Euclidean-based code separates cities into “zones” with rigid rules about what a building can be used for. But a form-based code takes into account the “look” and “feel” of neighborhoods.
 
Myers explained it like this:
 
“If you plunk me down in the middle of, say, Wallace Woods or Peaselburg or MainStrasse Village or even downtown, I’m going to know immediately where I am,” he said. “Each of these is a distinctive area of Covington, and I can tell that by the ‘look’ and ‘feel’ of my surroundings and the way it’s been developed. A form-based code picks up on those distinctions and fosters and encourages development that responds to those qualities.”
 
That can be particularly important in areas like neighborhood business districts.
 
To get connected with city staff regarding the Neighborhood Development Code effort, contact Alex Koenig, Covington Zoning and Development Specialist, at akoenig@covingtonky.gov.
 
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