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Cov commission to hear first reading on Airbnb licenses, Cathedral Square to be designated, more

By Ryan Clark
NKyTribune reporter

It was 2007. Two imaginative young entrepreneurs had just moved from New York to San Francisco and noticed there was a severe shortage of hotel rooms for major events. So they created a website and decided to rent out their own apartment — they even provided breakfast in the morning.

The idea of the Airbnb was born. In lay-person’s terms, these properties are called “short-term rentals.”

The industry exploded. Just before the pandemic began, it was valued at $40 billion. Now, estimates say it’s still in the $18 million range.

“Even during a pandemic, these short-term rentals are operating across the world,” City Solicitor Michael Bartlett told city Commissioners.

Covington is no exception. Last week, Bartlett reported there were 246 operating within the city limits in mid-October. Unfortunately, these can also cause problems.

Taxation, for one, Bartlett said. Overcrowding. Parking issues. There are also horror stories involving parties, noise and various illegal activities.

Tuesday at their regularly scheduled caucus meeting, Commissioners heard a proposal for a new regulation for these short-term rentals, one where owners would need a license and a proper zone for their property.

Commissioners were again meeting virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Basically, anyone operating an Airbnb would have to get a license because they don’t currently have any license at all, said Ken Smith, the city’s neighborhood services director. If residents believe someone is operating a short-term rental without a license, or is causing a nuisance, they would notify the city’s Code Enforcement.

Appeals would then be reviewed by a separate board with four-year appointments. To start the program, provisional licenses would be issued for three months until all the short-term rentals have been inspected by the city.

Commissioners agreed to hear a first reading on the topic at next week’s legislative meeting.

Cathedral Square

At the request of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington, next week the city will designate the two-block area bounded by Scott Street on the east, Eleventh Street on the north, the railroad tracks on the west, and Twelfth Street on the south, as “Cathedral Square.”

The city is recognizing that the area contains several buildings and institutions important to the city, ones that date all the way back to 1894, like:

• Covington Latin School
• The Cathedral Lyceum
• St. Mary’s Park
• The Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption

The request was put on the consent agenda for next week’s meeting

Riverfront Commons deadline extended

Commissioners heard a proposal to amend the existing contract with Prus Construction for the Riverfront Commons Phase I — Plaza Design, extending the time of the contract by four months, to May 1, 2021.

Public Works Director Chris Warneford said weather, as well as high river levels, have delayed construction on the project, and the possibility of more inclement weather in future months resulted in the request for the extension.

But Mayor Joseph U. Meyer wondered if there were more reasons for the delay, including if Duke Energy had been dragging its feet after having more than a year to remove electric poles — and still not doing so.

Warneford conceded, saying Duke has been difficult to communicate with. He told the Mayor he would try again, to see what the delay on their end could be.

The proposal was also put on the consent agenda for next week.

Duke settlement

Commissioners heard a proposed settlement with Duke Energy after the loss of three city trees on Lee Street.

In August 2019, the city’s public works department discovered three honey locust trees on Lee Street, which abutts a Duke Energy substation, had died, while similar trees across the street were still alive.

“City staff found overspray or leaching of chemicals used by Duke in maintaining vegetation within the substation caused the death of the three trees,” city documents say. The city and Duke came to a settlement agreement where:

• Duke will pay the city $7,500 for damages.
• Duke will remove the dead trees and stumps and their expense.
• The city will release all claims for damage to the trees resulting from the herbicides in the substation.

Commissioner Michelle Williams expressed relief, saying Duke has been a thorn in the city’s side before.

The request is also slated for the consent agenda next week.

New business manager

After 88 applicants were whittled down to four finalists, Covington finally has its new Business Attraction Manager — providing she is approved by the Commission next week.

The city is recommending the hiring of Susan B. Smith, who has worked for meetNKY in various roles for 22 years.

West was excited to recommend someone with extensive experience in luring organizations to host their events in Covington.

“You’re selling spaces, working with businesses,” he said. “You’re convincing folks that (Covington) is the place you want to be. We’re excited about her joining the team. She knows the community.”

The recommendation has been placed on the consent agenda for next week. If approved, Smith will start Dec. 8.

Alley closing

Commissioners heard a proposal to close a portion of an alley known as the “YMCA Alley,” located east of Madison Avenue.

This would finalize the closure of the alley, which lays between the YMCA building and Hotel Covington. However, the alley will remain open to pedestrian traffic, said city Economic Development Director Tom West.

“It will create a more pleasant experience,” he said.

The ordinance will get a first reading next week.

Animal control to get second reading

Next Tuesday, Commissioners will hear the second reading and vote on whether to incorporate Kenton County’s new stray animal regulations pertaining to community cats into the city’s ordinances.

In February, the county revised and re-enacted its animal control ordinance to, among other things, address the management of the community cat population.

Incorporating these into the city code will address Kenton County Animal Services’ Trap-Neuter-Return program, define a community cat, authorize a caretaker for community cats and set out the requirements for anyone acting as a caretaker.

The amended ordinance will be voted on at next week’s legislative meeting


Commissioner Denny Bowman was absent Tuesday night.

The next regularly scheduled Covington Commission meeting will be a legislative meeting held at 6 p.m., Dec. 1. 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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