Wisconsin Geospatial News

Statewide parcel coordination underway

For more information

Contact Curt Pulford at (608) 261-5042.

Curt Pulford

I believe you should be aware, through community discussions or participation at recent WLIA events, of an increased interest in coordinating efforts on statewide land parcels. Of course, this interest has actually been there for a long, long while – We all recognize the need and value.

This article will try to shed some light on the future direction towards this goal. It will explain how we arrived here in 2010 ready to start, what issues there are, and the processes and working relationships that can make this the year that significantly advances us towards the elusive long desired goal of an integrated Wisconsin statewide parcel base.

Many recent activities have brought us to this point in 2010. The WLIA Parcel Data Task Force recommendations, the production of statewide data services through the Wisconsin Spatial Data Repository, the ramping up and requests from WiDOR’s Integrated Property Assessment System, and the involvement of several tireless proponents of the shared parcel idea – and ideals.

There has been a long-standing concern that a statewide parcel data set could never come to fruition due to the wide variety of custodial data policies specific to redistribution. Perhaps there is a new solution to that, or work-around, in our new plans to differentiate between custodian and statewide data.

Surely, we all recognize that there would be good and logical reasons to share this information more broadly across the state. A statewide parcel layer could help us all in some of the most basic functions of a GIS – including planning, logistics, routing, asset distribution and other analyses – with additional and very important value also provided to the statewide emergency managers.

A relatively recent development, you will also be aware of, is the Department of Revenue (DOR) mandate to collect a wide variety of assessment and valuation information tied to individual parcel records. Some of you will have already received communication regarding DOR requests for information. The Integrated Property Assessment System (IPAS) is a multi-year process improvement and computer system project that will eventually replace the State and Local Finance Division’s current processes and systems to increase efficiency and provide easy access to assessment data for internal and external stakeholders. There is ongoing dialogue between DOR, the Parcel Task Force, and the GIO on the need to bring parcel geometry, GIS and IPAS needs to an eventual common solution. Currently it is simply more efficient to work on the related pieces that will eventually incorporate.

The ultimate goal for a statewide GIS parcel layer is a completely unobtrusive, efficient, and automated system. This system should singularly handle all of the related needs through a re-distribution of the information for different needs and objectives. It would allow for the transformations, geometric unification, cartographic representation, and would produce several controlled distributions of a statewide parcel layer. That end would also need to see the appropriate checks, balances, security, reliability and performance necessary to meet our community requirements and usability needs. This goal will definitely require partnerships. Hopefully we can forge these partnerships based on common interests and very real and similar objectives.

For now, in 2010, what can we do? Well, we would like to begin the GIS challenge by addressing the relationship between custodial and unified data model attribute relationships, and the rectification of geometric irregularities along shared governmental boundaries.

To start this project, we will be asking for your assistance in two areas:

  • The completion of a short 50 item attribute crosswalk table, and
  • Providing access to your parcel GIS data for integration into the Phase I statewide compilation

It should be noted here, that the intention is not to completely replicate custodian data, or to interfere with the business drivers that have driven the grass roots development of this information. It is very clear that a strong local autonomy has been instrumental in allowing for the creation and maintenance of this valuable data, and that strength must endure.

And while it will probably easiest for the custodian if we initially use their unaltered GIS data – much of it will be stripped away from the final products. We expect you will keep your records and data as you see fit, and for how you need to use it. Keep the detailed localized information that is useful to your organization. We respect that need. What we want to provide, for you and others, is more basic information on parcels – delivered in a unified and seamless manner.

A simple mechanism will be provided for creating the crosswalks using a survey format that will map results to a database. We can then use these tables for the transformation workflows. Developing the transformation processes up front will allow us to update and maintain the layer more efficiently in the future.

We will set up a secure FTP site, and accept digital media, or file attachments for the spatial and tabular data submissions.

The Geographic Information Office role in this is one of facilitator – we have the capabilities to work through the data transformations, correct the geometric issues along borders, and distribute the information back to our partners (custodians, .gov, .edu), and to the public. Of course we also have a small staff and other work concerns, so any help and collaboration on this will be very much appreciated.

The resulting distributed versions of the statewide parcel geographic information set will take two initial forms:

  • The first will be a publicly viewable map service that only presents cartographic line work, the parcel ID, and identification of the custodial source of record.
  • The second would be a controlled access partner service available only to the custodians, .gov, and .edu domains.

In other words, the public service will be a representation of the geometry with pointers back to the owner / custodian, and the partner service will include all the fields in the data model enabling more complex spatial analyses.

Now is when we need to get this started. I believe that it is important for us to take some collective control over the destiny of our spatial data and its use in government applications. We also want to provide the very best information to the other wider audiences. The best way I can see to do that is through unification on important GIS data themes and issues. Let us now try to unify and collaborate behind this most useful and fundamental element of our world – parcel level spatial data.

Look for further information on this later in June, and please work with us on making 2010 a year where we strengthen and expand our Wisconsin statewide coordination and GIS capabilities to a higher level.