GIS: The Planner’s Parcel Puzzle

APA Alaska Chapter


Monday, November 17, 2014, 2:45 p.m.
Monday, November 17, 2014, 3:45 p.m. AKST

CM | 1

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Geographical Information Systems (GIS) are an integral part of planning, but their use depends on the accuracy of the layers. The Fairbanks North Star Borough has known for a long time that our parcel layer needed to be updated. Our aerials were updated in 2012 and are well controlled, yet the parcel layer has only been updated as individual properties are subdivided and any corrections have been imprecise ad hoc adjustments. In many of the rural areas of the borough, the parcel layer is noticeably misaligned when compared to the aerials—it’s like a puzzle whose pieces don’t fit together. The inaccuracies between the 2 layers have been problematic for both planners and the public. Our GIS is used daily in our office to help the public find information about their properties, such as zoning and boundary lines; it is also available online for the public to use at home—but if it isn’t accurate the information isn’t very helpful. We rely on our GIS to provide us the information for our reports, plans and projects, so it is vital to correct the misalignment of the layers so the information we provide in these documents and to the public can be both accurate and useful. Funding has finally been secured that has allowed us to use GPS technicians to gather data in a selected area of the borough. The data that is gathered will allow us to correctly align our parcel layer with our aerials by locating survey monuments with GPS and tying them to the parcel layer. We have begun our project in Harding Lake, a rural area that is especially problematic. We plan to use the results from this first stage to attempt to procure funding for a continuation of the project, as it is expected to take several years to complete. The ultimate goal is to have GPS controls on the parcel layer throughout the entire borough that more closely align it to our aerial layer. Through the examples of our experiences, this presentation will show the issues between the Fairbanks North Star Borough’s aerial and parcel GIS layers, and will take you step by step through the process by which the borough plans to greatly reduce the misalignment of the layers, ensuring that we have all the pieces to the puzzle and that they fit together; thereby improving the tools that are used in the planning process. This session “GIS: meets CM criteria as follows: a. This session fulfills the planning related training objective by providing information on how to improve our work with GIS technology. GIS is an important tool for planners, as it allows us to create reports and add meaning to projects using maps and models. It is important that we understand how to improve the data that we rely on in GIS, and that it may not be the perfect data we expect it to be. This session also demonstrates the importance of our relationships with experts in other fields such as surveying and GIS. b. The subject matter of this session requires an intermediate knowledge of GIS as well as knowledge of how the parcels are created as a layer in GIS. Maps and models are created by planners using GIS, but the average citizen viewing the maps and models may not be aware of possible inaccuracies and views the maps as absolute truth. This session provides an in-depth description of one solution to those inaccuracies, which results in more accurate maps and models that can be relied on by citizens. c. This session does not promote any products, only a method of improving the information we have so that it is more accurate. d. Objectives include: the step-by-step explanation of the process we went through to start updating our parcel layer, using examples and demonstrations, provides an appropriate learning methodology. e. We all need to keep up with technology, which is constantly changing. Our data also needs to be accurate and up-to-date. This session demonstrates how better accuracy can be achieved without starting from scratch and gives planners information and ideas to take home.