Why GIS is so Mission-Critical to Planning and Zoning Departments
Synopsis: Zoning and planning are two key responsibilities for any municipality. However, creating zoning and planning resources that are accessible and useful in the long term can be a complicated challenge. By using GIS resources to map and plan, municipalities can create better zoning tools. But how can municipalities make the most of GIS technology and what use cases is it applicable for?
AppGeo is using our expertise in GIS to analyze and improve how we plan our communities. This webinar (recorded on March 30, 2022) brings together Priya Sankalia, Project Manager and SIQ for MapGeo Team Member from AppGeo, and Rebecca Talamini, Project Manager and SIQ for MapGeo Team member from AppGeo, to discuss the potential for GIS use in zoning and planning.
The Impact of GIS and Geoanalytics
Sankalia: “When you’re doing Geoanalytics you’re asking a bunch of questions and trying to find these special patterns and trends in the data that you’ve got. Think of that in the planning context, do you have a specific question in mind… Where is something? How far is something from something else? It might be a specific question, but you need to know whether you have the data to answer that question and if it is structured correctly… When you start thinking about a Geoanalytics project all of these questions might come up.”
GIS provides numerous opportunities to increase efficiency and usability of planning and zoning resources. By digitizing maps and plans, municipalities can create lasting tools that will continue to be useful to both the public as well as internally. Additionally, GIS analysis can also answer complex questions about zoning, distances, and more with far less effort than traditional means. On top of this, geoanalytics provides a unique opportunity to recognize patterns and trends within data that might be invisible to the naked eye, but have significant real world implications. Even already-existing data can be analyzed to reveal new information that can inform planning decisions. So not only does geoanalytics provide faster results, but it can answer questions that would otherwise be left unanswered. For a municipality dealing with the intricacy of zoning and planning, GIS is an indispensable tool.
GIS Use Cases
Talamini: “We had done an analysis for some pretty populated areas to see the size of their sidewalks, to see if they were 6 feet to handle social distancing… In the case of West Hartford, in their downtown area, most of their sidewalks were already 6 feet or greater. In Gloucester they had a lot of sidewalks that were less than 6 feet. We had used the existing planimetric data for their sidewalks to build this analysis. Through FME we pulled out the center lines of those sidewalks to get the distance of the sidewalk width to determine the analysis of the size of the sidewalk… Certainly I think most of us have seen where businesses, mainly restaurants, have expanded and roads have been closed or partially closed to handle some expansion for social distancing during the pandemic.”
GIS and geoanalytics can be used to tackle a huge variety of issues and questions that municipalities might have. Addressing sidewalk width, zoning multi-family housing, determining speed limits, measuring tree cover, and battling food insecurity with the same set of tools might seem impossible. However, the use cases for geoanalytics and GIS in planning and zoning are nearly limitless. With geoanalytics answering tough questions and accurately assessing the real world has never been easier. Municipalities can get the most out of their GIS by working with an experienced geoanalytics firm such as AppGeo, taking advantage of years of experience and technical know-how to get the bang for their buck.