Leslie Pelch is Outreach Coordinator at the Vermont Center for Geographic Information. Shecoordinates professional development events, social media, and the VCGI website content. She also teaches a very introductory GIS course during the summer, does presentations about VCGI at numerous events throughout the year, answers lots of questions about GIS and VCGI, and staffs the VCGI booth at conferences. In this article she gets BBVT up to speed on Parcel Data in Vermont.
Benchmarks for a Better Vermont: What is parcel data and why is it important?
Leslie Pelch: Parcel data is geographic data that shows the location of land ownership boundaries (the basis of tax maps). When the data is in GIS format, it is “smart data” in that it can contain or connect with information such as owner names, acreage, parcel value, parcel type, current use status, etc.
Parcel data is important because of the many different uses to which it can be put: analysis of per acre value distribution across a town; analysis of Current Use enrollment and cost on a per acre, per parcel, or town basis; Identifying state owned land suitable for solar panels, affordable housing, other uses; identifying ownership of rights of way and adjacent parcels when planning a road construction project; Identifying and contacting owners when planning a natural resources conservation project or trail development. These are just a few of the uses of parcel data.
Parcel data is a great example of how coordination of data creation and access can add value to data that is already being created, and increases opportunities for analysis that can lead to better outcomes.
BBVT: What is the current status of parcel data in Vermont?
LP: Towns are responsible for creating and updating their parcel data, and there is no requirement to do so. Most towns have created tax maps and subsequently digital parcel data (about 85% have GIS parcel data), but the data varies a great deal in age, quality, and content. There is no statewide coordination of parcel data, except to the extent that VCGI (VT Center for Geographic Information, a division of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development) publishes a voluntary data standard (followed by very few towns) and collects available data in order to make it available via one portal.
BBVT: Tell us about the project underway with Applied Geographics. What do you hope to accomplish?
LP: Applied Geographics was hired to perform a Return on Investment (ROI) Study to determine whether it would be worthwhile for the state to invest in bringing all parcel data up to the level of the published standard (and to make sure all towns have parcel data) as well as to set up an annual maintenance program. The study indicates that indeed there would be a large benefit from improving parcel data and keeping it up to date, and that benefit would be greater than the funds invested over a 5 year period. Applied Geographics also drafted a Parcel Lifecycle Report that lays out costs for two different maintenance program scenarios.
BBVT: Where can people find parcel data now?
LP: Existing parcel data can be found here: http://vcgi.vermont.gov/opendata (use the keyword search, type in parcels).
Information about the statewide parcel data effort can be found here: http://vcgi.vermont.gov/parcels
The Return on Investment and Parcel Lifecycle documents can be found here: https://outside.vermont.gov/sites/egcgeo/parcelwg/