Mysteries of zoning, revealed

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Online search tool gives land-use info for specific addresses
 
COVINGTON, Ky. – Imagine one of these scenarios:
  • You want to erect a fence around your yard, but you don’t know how close to the boundary line you’re supposed to put it, how high it can be, and what it can be made of.
  • You see a “for sale” sign in the window of a corner commercial building surrounded by houses, and you wonder whether the new business you’re going to create would be allowed to operate there.
  • You’ve fallen in love with the vacant three-story brick building down the street, but you’ve heard that it’s in a historic overlay zone, and you don’t know that means for your rehab plans. 
With a few clicks of a computer key, now you can find out the answers to these questions and hundreds of others related to “zoning” and use of properties in Covington.
 
The City of Covington has created an online search tool that allows users to zero in on a particular address, then find out how it’s treated and/or regulated by the City’s Neighborhood Development Code (NDC).
 
The Code is a new approach to land use that last year replaced a Zoning Ordinance widely criticized as outdated, ineffective, rigid, and both frustrating and costly to navigate for developers, residents, and investors.
 
“Ordinances can be overwhelming if you’re not familiar with them, but this tool in particular makes the NDC user friendly and accessible,” said Dalton Belcher, the City’s Zoning & Development Specialist. “It takes a lot of the mystery out of the Code and arms people with the information they need when making decisions about properties.”
 
In the old days, people could call the City and begin asking questions about properties and regulations, but too often those conversations started at so-called ground zero and took up a lot of time and only circled around the relevant issues.
 
“We’re certainly here to talk to people, but it’s much more efficient and effective if people come into a conversation with some basic knowledge related to their plan or idea and some specific questions,” Belcher said. “If they know the possible hurdles, we can help them jump over them or get around them. People like to know upfront what they’re getting into, and that helps them determine whether the project is worth going forward on.”
 
How it works
The online tool can be found HERE (and it’s located on the larger “Zoning” division page found HERE.)
 
Users can search by address or property identification number (PIDN) or by clicking on the map and using the cursor wheel to zoom in on a property. If “location services” are enabled on a smart phone, users can also search by “current location.”
 
From there, users can find out what zone/district a property falls into and what regulations govern that district and property.
 
Customer service
The map and search tool was created by Todd Sink, Covington’s Manager of Analytics and Intelligence. Sink said an average of 18 people per day have used the tool since it was posted to the City’s website, even though its existence hasn’t been publicized and it’s difficult to find.
 
“This tool greatly enhances the City’s commitment to improving customer service,” Sink said. “Once the word gets out, we expect that number to grow substantially.”
 
About the NDC
The City kicked off the transformation to the NDC in November 2018, when the Board of Commissioners voted to hire Kendig Keast Collaborative, a Texas-based zoning code development firm with offices in the Commonwealth.
 
With the help of a 16-member steering committee, which put in hundreds of hours of work, the firm worked with City staff to create a Covington-based set of guidelines and held 20 separate events at which it invited the public to give input. The Code was adopted in October 2020.
 
Previous releases can be found HERE and HERE.
 
Covington’s Neighborhood Development Code can be accessed HERE.
 
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Users who have questions after navigating the search tool can contact Dalton Belcher at Dalton.belcher@covingtonky.gov or (859) 292-2135.
 
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