Zoning rewrite in need of feedback

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A slide from a presentation on Covington’s transformation from a Zoning Ordinance to a Neighborhood Development Code. 

Website lets the public engage in middle of the process 

COVINGTON, Ky. - It’s not too late to help the City of Covington revamp its approach to zoning.
 
A new project website gives residents numerous opportunities to weigh in on the City’s ongoing transformation from a rigid and unwieldy use-based Zoning Ordinance to a flexible Neighborhood Development Code that seeks to integrate development into its surrounding context.
 
City officials are encouraging residents to check out the web page, developed by consultant Kendig Keast Collaborative and found HERE, and continue to give their opinions about what development is appropriate for the City and their neighborhoods.
 
“We really want people to engage because this is important over the long term in how the city grows, invests, and develops,” said Christopher Myers, the City’s Preservation and Planning Specialist. “This is their opportunity to have a say on the front end, rather than wait until it’s all over.”
 
The site includes an array of information, including a timeline of the 18-month process, scholarly articles on the importance of zoning, and summaries of both public input and work to date.
 
There are two places to give input:
  • On a map, HERE, where residents can put “pins” and make comments about particular areas. “It’s interactive and very easy to use,” said Jake Darpel, a student from Northern Kentucky University who is working in the City’s zoning and historic preservation office this summer. 
  • And on a nine-page document, HERE, that represents a draft annotated outline for the new Neighborhood Development Code and thus gives a feel for what the City will and won’t be trying to regulate. Thoughts on the framework can be emailed to Myers at cmyers@covingtonky.gov
Later this summer, residents will begin to see that outline filled in.
 
Feedback to date
Earlier this spring, City staff and consultants held open houses and design sessions (called “charrettes”) to engage residents.
 
What are being labeled “Big 5 Ideas” emerged from those gatherings:
  1. New development in Covington should be compatible and respectful of context.
  2. Historic structures and places should be protected and restored (even those that aren’t in historic districts).
  3. Streets should be safer, comfortable, and interesting for pedestrians and bicyclists.
  4. Covington’s various business districts and residential communities should be better connected with wayfinding signage.
  5. Covington needs to “stay authentic & unique,” and it should be easier for small businesses to thrive. 
Other feedback from residents can be seen HERE.
 
The background
Administration of a zoning ordinance is a critical process by which communities guide physical development of land in order to reduce conflicts and create complementary spaces.
 
But many people who interact with Covington’s Zoning Ordinance find it unwieldy and frustrating. They say it takes too much money and time to obtain exceptions to land-use laws in the form of variances, conditional use permits, text amendments, and map amendments.
 
City officials say that’s because the ordinance is archaic and fails to recognize the City’s historic character. It divides properties into “zones” and assigns single uses to properties in those zones without much thought to the “look” and “feel” of development.
 
The proposed Neighborhood Development Code, or NDC, will focus “less on the uses taking place on a piece of property and more on how the design of the property integrates with the surrounding neighborhood, enabling a walkable, mixed-use environment,” according to City documents. “Preservation and enhancement of community character come to the forefront, along with procedural streamlining, rather than one-size-fits-all developments and costly and uncertain public hearings.”
 
The result, theoretically, is more graceful and desired development.
 
Myers said he’s been impressed by residents who have interacted “on a deep level” with the process so far, but he said the City wants more residents to engage.
 
The NDC should be complete in mid-2020.
 
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