In West Hartford, this meant very large maps measuring four feet wide by more than six feet tall that were posted on the wall of the conference room where hearings were held. One large format map illustrated how the Assessing department mapped its neighborhoods. A second map of similar size illustrated individual property level valuations (each property colored using a color gradient related to valuation), which made it easy to compare the valuation of properties within and between each neighborhood. A third map showed the degree of valuation change from the prior period (percent).
Studying a neighborhood map can be a revelation. Residents have different interpretations about which properties constitute a neighborhood. Some people perceive their neighborhood as the street they live on. Others might think of it in terms of their association with a local feature or landmark, a hill or pond or park. Assessors interpret neighborhoods using a number of variables – physical location, adjacency to or proximity to schools, parks, and central business districts, architectural styles, age of development, lot size restrictions, waterfront, and so forth. The different geographies of neighborhoods imagined by residents and studied by assessors don’t always match up. For certain situations, the maps helped residents quickly see what constitutes their neighborhood (as defined by the Assessor) and the range of valuations. These maps helped to resolve questions, provided useful information to residents, and made the process proceed more smoothly.
By Tom Harrington based on discussion with Joseph Dakers Sr, Director of Assessments, West Hartford, CT, and support from Michele Giorgianni, AppGeo Project Manager
Photo Credit: Kathleen Schassler/westhartfordnews.com.