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Documents obtained by The River City News show that there was no research or precedent used in creating Covington's Arts District in 2005. On August 24, Covington City Commission approved the rezoning of the Arts District back to Central Business District. The Kenton County Planning Commission was supposed to hear the issue last month, but that was postponed without further explanation from the Commission. Now it is revealed that City staff has discovered a number of issues with the current Arts District, including the facts that there was never any real study performed, there was no precedent established in other cities, and that the planning commission was never used in crafting the zoning for Arts District in 2005.
From a memo dated May 4, 2011:
We start with a question:
Should the ART (ART-3P) zoning district be eliminated and replaced with Central Business District (CBD-7P) and Commercial General (CG-7P) zoning districts to promote the redevelopment of Pike Street and the implementation of the Downtown Action Plan?
Then, background and analysis:
(snip)This special zoning district was part of an initiative by the City Manager and Economic Development Office at the time, to attract artists and the creative class to Covington. The first initiatives included the ARTS District New Home Owner/ Rehabilitation Loan Program (CARD), and the ARTS & Technology District, Small Business Loan Program (CATZ), which were not tied or incentivized to the Pike Street corridor.
Then, the trouble starts:
(snip)However, a land use plan/study was not conducted in correlation the creation and adoption of the ART zoning district. The map amendment was also contentious, and it was decided that the portion of Pike Street that already possessed a handful of art and technology business—the triangular portion of Pike/7th St. from Washington to Madison—would not be a part of the ART zone as it did not require any stimulus or assistance (there are 6 operating galleries currently in this area). Therefore, the portion of the Pike Street corridor that possessed art and technology businesses was excluded, leaving a small section of the new Art-zoning district with a couple of conforming art and technology businesses, and two separate art-related economic development loan zones that surrounded the corridor. (snip)Moreover, the professional planning agency, NKAPC, was not involved in the drafting of the ART zoning district.
(snip)Staff research has discovered that 80% of current uses would be prohibited under the ART zone. This has created a major problem where the majority of properties in the district are classified as legal non-conforming, or grandfathered. Such legal non-conforming uses are difficult for property owners and tenants to sell/lease, and also difficult for the City to administer. Any changes to such legal non-conforming properties are prohibited, or require a time-consuming and costly public hearing before the BOA, where the use can be denied. A relatively new district with a majority of legal non-conforming uses, points to poor planning and a lack of research.
Only one art gallery in District:
(snip)It is clear that the current uses of the district do not correspond with the uses permitted within the zoning district. Offices and general retail that make up over 60% of the current uses are only allowed as conditional uses which require a hearing before the Board of Adjustment. Moreover, single family, storage, school and social service uses that make up to ~20% of the current uses, are not permitted in the ART district. Therefore, upwards of 80% of the current uses in the ART zone are not permitted uses. And finally, there is only one art gallery and one television production company currently in the ART zone.
Too many shelters?:
(snip)In addition, there is a high concentration of low income persons within the ART District, with six (6) existing social services (soup kitchens, drop-in centers) within this relatively small corridor. Staff finds that the existing social services account for a majority of pedestrian traffic on Pike Street, reducing the attractiveness of the ARTS District corridor to potential artists and art-related businesses.
There is also no rationale why only art and technology uses are permitted by right, when offices, retail, etc. are classified as conditional uses requiring a time-consuming and expensive Public Hearing. This discourages a variety of business, offices, and other uses required to create a thriving arts and business neighborhood. Therefore the prohibitive nature of district and the preponderance of legal non-conforming uses, promotes vacancy, not redevelopment.
The Arts District was not based on any other city?:
(snip)Staff research was unable to identify any other city or jurisdiction that has incorporated or created an art-specific zoning district. Thriving art communities around the country have not been created with zoning and have not been imposed on areas where an art-community didn’t previously exist, or in low-income areas with a concentration of social services use. In short, a myriad of other factors besides zoning, from good financial incentives, affordable rents, a hip environment, contribute to a strong and healthy art community. And moreover, such artist areas seem to spring up in areas conducive to the arts, naturally, not through land use restrictions.
The staff's recommendation:
(snip)Staff recommends eliminating the ART (ART-3P) zoning district, and a map amendment to change the zoning along the Pike Street Corridor back to Central Business District (CDB-7P) for the properties from Washington Street to Lee Street, and to Commercial General (CG-7P) to the properties from Lee to York Street, and to Urban Residential (RU-2B) for eight residential properties on Robbins Street.
Four months later. The following information comes from a follow-up memo written by a member of the City staff dated September 6, 2011:
(snip)The Pike Street Corridor is the gateway into downtown and relates heavily to the Downtown area so there is also a rational for it being CBD. It is because this corridor relates more toward downtown that we feel that it is more appropriate to be zoned CBD.
The CG-7P zone reflects the uses that already exist on the ground in that area. It abuts another CG-7P district and there are very few abutting residential areas.
Further, as noted in the memo from (name redacted by The River City News) dated May 4, 2011, the rezoning that is being recommended are the zones that the areas were prior to the creation of the ART zone in 2005.
The Arts District zoning was approved by Covington City Commission on Tuesday, September 13, 2005. At the time, the City was lead by Mayor Butch Callery, Commissioners Jerry Bamberger, Alex Edmonson, Rob Sanders, and Jerry Stricker, and City Manager Jay Fossett. Some interesting highlights from the minutes of that meeting that relate to the Arts District (in order as they appeared on the agenda that night):
PIKE STREET LOFTS RENOVATION OF 120-130 PIKE ST AN ORDER/RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING A LOAN IN THE AMOUNT OF $275,000 TO PIKE STREET LOFTS, LLC, FOR RENOVATION OF THE BUILDINGS AT 120-130 PIKE STREET, COVINGTON, KENTUCKY, SUBJECT TO A MORTGAGE ON SAID PROPERTY AND A PERSONAL GUARANTY OF THE DEVELOPER, AND FURTHER AUTHORIZING THE MAYOR AND CITY MANAGER TO ENTER INTO A DEVELOPMENT AGREEMENT WITH PIKE STREET LOFTS, LLC IN CONNECTION WITH SUCH LOAN, PAYABLE FROM INVESTOR PROGRAM FUNDS.
That ordinance/resolution passed 4 - 0 (Commissioner Alex Edmonson abstained from voting). NEXT:
AN ORDER/RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING THE FILING OF A COMMUNITY ECONOMIC GROWTH GRANT (CEGG) PROJECT PROPOSAL/GRANT APPLICATION FOR AN AMOUNT UP TO $450,195 TO THE GOVERNOR’S OFFICE FOR LOCAL DEVELOPMENT’S (GOLD) KENTUCKY COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT OFFICE (KCDO) FOR COVINGTON ARTISAN’S ENTERPRISE CENTER PROJECT; AUTHORIZING AND DIRECTING THE MAYOR TO EXECUTE ANY DOCUMENTS WHICH ARE DEEMED NECESSARY BY GOLD TO CARRY OUT THIS PROJECT INCLUDING GRANT AGREEMENT EXECUTION; AND AUTHORIZING THE MAYOR TO ACT AS THE AUTHORIZED CORRESPONDENT FOR THIS PROJECT.
That ordinance/resolution passed 4 - 0 (Commissioner Jerry Stricker abstained from voting). NEXT:
COMMISSIONERS’ ORDINANCE NO. O-51-05 AN ORDINANCE AMENDING THE TEXT OF THE OFFICIAL ZONING ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF COVINGTON, KENTUCKY (O-65-84) TO ADD A NEW ZONING DESIGNATION NAMED THE ART (ARTS AND TECHNOLOGY) ZONE.
That ordinance passed 5 - 0.
COMMISSIONERS’ ORDINANCE NO. O-52-05 AN ORDINANCE AMENDING THE OFFICIAL ZONING MAP OF THE CITY OF COVINGTON, KENTUCKY, CHANGING AN APPROXIMATE 18 ACRE AREA LOCATED ALONG THE NORTH AND SOUTH SIDES OF PIKE STREET, GENERALLY EXTENDING BETWEEN WASHINGTON STREET AND MAIN STREET, FROM CBD(HP) (A CENTRAL BUSINESS DISTRICT ZONE WITH AN HISTORIC PRESERVATION OVERLAY ZONE), GC(HP) (A GENERAL COMMERCIAL ZONE WITH AN HISTORIC PRESERVATION OVERLAY ZONE), GC (A GENERAL COMMERCIAL ZONE), AND R-3(HP) (A RESIDENTIAL THREE ZONE WITH AN HISTORIC PRESERVATION OVERLAY ZONE), TO ART(HP) (AN ARTS AND TECHNOLOGY ZONE WITH AN HISTORIC PRESERVATION OVERLAY ZONE).
That ordinance/reoslution passed 4 - 1 with Mayor Callery, Commissioners Bamberger, Edmonson and Stricker voting in favor and Commissioner Rob Sanders voting against it. NEXT:
AN ORDER/RESOLUTION AMENDING COMMISSIONERS’ ORDER/RESOLUTION NO. O/R-212-04 TO EXPAND THE BOUNDARIES OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD FAÇADE PROGRAM IN THE PIKE STREET CORRIDOR TO INCLUDE THE 100 BLOCK OF PIKE STREET.
That ordinance/resolution passed 5 - 0. NEXT:
AN ORDER/RESOLUTION ACCEPTING THE RESIGNATION OF ELLA FRYE, DIRECTOR OF PLANNING AND ZONING, EFFECTIVE AUGUST 31, 2005.
That last item indicates that the zoning specialist's resignation was accepted on the same day that new zoning was approved that current city staff communicated was without any study, precendent or use.