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Covington Commission passes new zoning ordinance, votes to keep property tax rate the same

By Ryan Clark
NKyTribune reporter

It was another first for Covington Commissioners on Tuesday night.

Earlier this year, the city held its first virtual Commission meeting. Then, after deciding to return to City Hall over the summer for face-to-face meetings, they once again chose to return to the virtual environment because of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. On Tuesday night, they held their first special meeting in a virtual space, hosting a legislative meeting before their regularly-scheduled caucus.

On the special agenda were two items that Commissioners deemed essential to discuss because the topics had already been delayed to the point that they could be hindering other city work: the long-awaited new zoning ordinance, as well as the new property tax rates.

After getting first readings at the Commission’s legislative meeting last week, the city placed the items on the special agenda Tuesday night. Both topics just needed one more reading and a vote to be approved.

The new zoning code has been in the works for two years.

On June 23, the Kendig Keast Collaborative presented findings from their 16-month study, where they met with architects, Habitat for Humanity, business leaders, historic preservation advocates, Realtors, brokers, builders, developers and held two neighborhood meetings to gain opinions and input.

The development firm said the new code will be Internet-based and user-friendly, where anyone can find anything about their properties all in one place.

On Aug. 6, the Kenton County Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve the new code.

After a second reading Tuesday night, Commissioners unanimously approved the ordinance, which Mayor Joe Meyer said would go into effect as soon as it is published — which he hoped would be as soon as possible.

He also noted that new ordinances as large as this one will have “adjustments as people have experiences with it,” he said. He explained that with time, the city will learn what works and what may need to be tweaked. “We will make any adjustments that are required,” he said.

Property taxes approved

Commissioners also used the special meeting to approve the new property tax rate — or, in this case, the same tax rate.

Because for the fourth year in a row, the city’s Finance Department recommended to keep property taxes the same — .327 for real estate and .349 for personal property.

The ordinance was approved unanimously.

New Parks and Rec, code inspector hires, put on consent

Benjamin Oldiges, a 10-year veteran of Boone County Parks and Recreation and a Community Center Director for Cincinnati Recreation for four years, was recommended Tuesday night by city staff to be hired as the new Division Manager for Covington’s Parks and Recreation department.

And while his hire would eventually be slated for the consent agenda next week, it wasn’t without some discussion. After hearing there were almost 300 applicants from across the nation, Commissioner Tim Downing first wanted to know who vetted all the candidates.

Neighborhood Services Director Ken Smith responded that he himself cut the list from 300 to 10 because he felt that he should have a hand in the process — due to the fact that the position reports to him. Downing then wanted to know where the position was advertised. When city staff could not immediately produce an answer (they told him they would get back to him) Downing noted this was yet another time when he’d inquired about the city’s hiring process, only to be left without an answer.

“We’ve had repeated issues,” he said. “This does not give me confidence in this process.”

Downing went on to note that he did not doubt Oldiges’ experience, and he even said he supported the hire, but he wanted to make sure the city was casting the widest net possible to reach for the best talent.

Commissioner Michelle Williams said she understood the concern, but noted: “Getting close to 300 resumes for one job is pretty impressive,” she said.

“I was very surprised by the number of candidates we received from all over the United States,” Smith said. “From Texas to everywhere, really.”

“I wish we had more positions,” Mayor Meyer said. “It’s great hope for the next round of expansion for the program.”

Joseph Meimann was also recommended to be hired as the city’s Full-time Code Inspector.

Both hires were slated for the consent agenda next week, and if approved, both will start Oct. 1.

Façade incentives move forward

Commissioners agreed to move forward with façade incentives for two businesses as part of the city’s Small Business Program:

• ZW properties/1928 Madison Ave. Located in the Austinburg Neighborhood, the city is recommending a $4,200 façade incentive. The owners will add new paint to the exterior, and they have already added $75,000 worth of improvements on the interior, including renovations to apartments and retail space.

• CGN 131 Holman St. Located in the Westside Neighborhood, the city is recommending a $6,000 façade incentive. The owners will add new paint, windows, storefront and cornice, with an additional $176,000 of interior improvements for apartments and a coffee shop.

Tom West, the city’s economic development director, noted that CGN is a good example of the dividends brought by the expansion of the Small Business Program, as more businesses from outside of the downtown area continue to apply.

Both recommendations were put on the consent agenda for next week.

Coronavirus Relief Funding

Commissioners agreed to approve a request to the state for the city’s Coronavirus Relief Fund Reimbursement money, in the amount of $2,902,575. It was put on the consent agenda for next week.

Settlement agreement moves forward

Commissioners agreed to move forward to settle a disputed litigation involving window installation at the Stewart Iron Works building during a previous construction project. The settlement will be $39,500 and Commissioners agreed to put this on the consent agendas for next week.

Lease renewal Will be discussed

Commissioners agreed to discuss a two-year lease renewal with the Commonwealth of Kentucky for an extension between the city and the Kentucky Human Rights Commission, which leases space within City Hall. Commissioners put this on the regular agenda and will talk it over next week.

Next meeting

The next regularly scheduled Covington Commission meeting will be a legislative meeting held at 6 p.m., Sept. 29. The meeting can be followed live on Fioptics channel 815, Spectrum channel 203, the Telecommunications Board of Northern Kentucky (TBNK) website, the TBNK Facebook page @TBNKonline, and the TBNK Roku channels.

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